By Liz Wickham
A recent article in Castro Valley Patch announced that Pizza Hut will soon be opening in town. The resulting avalanche of comments indicated overwhelming disgust at the news.
Letter-writers decried the arrival of yet another fast-food outlet…why can’t Castro Valley support healthier and more interesting culinary options? One comment, however, summed it up accurately: Pizza Hut, the writer noted, wouldn’t be opening here if there were not a demand.
The parent company is successful and profitable (which, after all, is what the shareholders of this public company expect it to be!) and did its due diligence before committing to invest in a new location.
Bottom line: Castro Valley is a fast-food Mecca because the residents make it so.
But we do have choices — wonderful, unique eateries, restaurateurs committed to creating a high-quality dining experience, and fast-food options that are also healthy and delicious. You know they’re good because people line up to get in the door, and tables are almost always full.
Start with Aroma Cuisine of India in Castro Village. Indian food options have blossomed in the area with the burgeoning tech world. Many of them are in Dublin and Pleasanton, but why drive 20 minutes when Aroma is right here? All your favorite Indian dishes prepared to your preferred level of spiciness.
iSushi has been serving amazing sushi and other Japanese favorites in Castro Valley (Castro Village) for 10 years. As with Aroma, it’s often tough to get a table. While iSushi doesn’t exactly qualify as a low-cost dining option, dishes are created with care, and ingredients are fresh and delicious. Totally worth the extra bucks.
Another good Japanese option is Katsu on Redwood Road — less expensive than iSushi, but offering good, traditional dishes. Service is attentive, and the atmosphere is friendly and casual.
Want to talk about culinary home-town heroes? Meet Michael Wiesner, a restaurateur who clearly wants to raise regional standards. Late last year he opened Boulevard Burger No. 2 on Castro Valley Blvd. No. 1 one is in San Leandro. Boulevard Burger offers healthy fast-food choices including burgers made from grass-fed beef, and low-carb sweet potato fries — yum! His Paradiso Restaurant has been a San Leandro landmark since 1996, and the Paradise Grill & BBQ in the Willow Park Event Center offers some of the same world-class menu choices. The same chefs cook at both locations at various times.
Now, what about the chains? They’re not all bad. One reason people patronize the chain places is because of the cost, but Chipotle proves you can eat fresh, well-prepared food without spending a lot — although it’s admittedly on the higher end.
Rigatoni's? Yeah, it’s a chain, but you can get a decent pasta dish for less than 10 bucks.
The Burrito Shop on Castro Valley Boulevard is one of three locations — does that make it a chain? Doesn’t matter. Order two tacos for $4.50, an over-the-top steak-and-prawns burrito for $7.95, or plenty of price-conscious items in between. Authentic Mexican? Nope…just fresh and tasty food, served up quickly.
My family used to be among Pyzano’s most ardent fans – no finer pizza in the East Bay. We’re still mystified about its demise; clearly it had little to do with the quality of the food or the amount of business since the place was always packed. Now that they’re gone, our guilty pleasure is Round Table Pizza. When the work day runs long and you’re the one getting dinner on the table, order online and pick it up on the way home. Fast and fresh.
And then there are the home-town groceries – such as the always-wonderful El Rancho Supermercado on Castro Valley Boulevard that features a tacqueria – shop for groceries, and pick up dinner for the fam while you’re at it!
Or just go to Safeway or Trader Joe’s and throw dinner together yourself. I confess I was not a fan of bringing a second Safeway to Castro Valley, but once again, it seems to be what the town will support, and truthfully the new one provides a pleasant shopping experience.
So, Pizza Hut…or not? Who cares? If you don’t want to eat there, don’t. But rather than griping, do consider patronizing some of our existing Castro Valley options. The local businesspeople and their families will appreciate it…and so will your palate.
Now: What are your home-town favorites?