Dollar Car Wash?! Wow! American Canyon Car Wash – John Gamboa

On the way down highway 29 in Napa, CA my family and I passed American Canyon Car Wash and there was a special. One Dollar quick car washes! (Update: No more dollar deal. Boo!)

YES!

Our cars rarely get washed. I mean rarely like once or twice a year. With nary a cloud of rain anytime in the near future and a couple bucks to spare our truck full of kids turned into the driveway and paid our $1.

American Canyon Car Wash Entrance from Hwy 29

American Canyon Car Wash Off Hwy 29

Car washes aren’t all that exciting really but for us it was fun. Remember, we have 5 kids and for 4 of them, it was quite an experience. The baby sat quietly wondering what was going on. Number two, screamed in fear at the sights and noises attacking every panel and window. Number 3 and 4 were all smiles and keenly observing each phase of the wash from the initial spray of mist by the two guys at the beginning of the wash, they sprayed front, top, sides, wheels, and rear with their misting hoses, to shifting into neutral as the conveyor took the wheels and started pulling the truck forward.

For a buck it was a nice family event that the kids won’t soon forget. Not to mention that the vehicle now looks spotless – at least on the outside. The inside is a different story and it will cost way more than a dollar to clean that up. Nasty!

American Canyon Waiting Lounge

The waiting room

The quick wash even came with free use of their vacuums. That’s quite a deal if you ask me. But just like all good deals this dollar wash ended the same day. That being the case as soon as we got home, I took my car there. Numbers 3 and 4 came along for that one, too! I don’t know what it is about car washes but I remember trips to the car wash when I was a kid and that one was the kind where you had to get out and go into a room where you could follow your car through the wash through the windows. Even though you had to get out of the car it was still a fun experience.

American Canyon Car Wash Final Touch Area

With my car I decided to splurge and pay $3 for the extra foam wash and some other thing that I forgot but it sounded clean. Then after that my kids and vacuumed the interior. That was a fun thing to do with them and to be able to watch them work together at something was a pleasure to see.

I guess seeing something dirty and gross transform into something clean and shiny is a nice thing to witness. I know when I watch shows like Overhaulin’ where Chip Foose transforms ugly cars into works of art or Flipping Vegas when Scott and Amie Yancey take a junky house and morph it into beautiful homes that sell for top dollar, I really enjoy watching the process of the transformation.

In a small way, getting your car washed is kind of the same thing.

View of the main lot

Green Valley’s Sticky Rice Chinese Bistro

Nestled in a little town called Green Valley between American Canyon, Vallejo, and Fairfield is a Chinese bistro called Sticky Rice. It’s not typical Chinese restaurant, at least the typical ones I’ve been to. This establishment is quite nice and has a high end feel. The good news for me and my big family is that prices aren’t high end.

Its owners opted not to place their eatery in a strip mall but in an office building. But its location does not suffer from lack of traffic and once you’ve had the opportunity to eat there, you’ll most likely add it to your list of restaurants to come back to.

Sticky Rice Chinese Bistro

Glass waterfall in Green Valley (near American Canyon, Vallejo, and Fairfield)

As you enter the restaurant you’ll notice right off the bat that this is going to be a different dining experience. The decor is modern and classy. Nice contrasting colors and textures throughout. The dining area is open and surprisingly there are no dividing walls between tables. The only walls that are there exist between the dining area and the entry and bar.

And the dividing walls are very nicely made with wood, metal, and frosted glass. Their bar exudes quality and class. Something you might see at a nice hotel.

Sticky Rice Bar

Very classy looking bar

There’s also an outdoor patio if you decide to have the outdoor dining experience. It feels secluded and comfortable and they probably make it available for reservations I imagine.

Patio | John Gamboa

Patio

On to the food. For our appetizers we had hot and sour soup, wor wonton soup, and ahi tuna bites. The soups were good and expected. But the tuna bites were out of this world good! The presentation was top notch but the way they combined cucumber, tuna, seaweed, and how the Sriracha and aioli (I’m guessing) was to die for. Highly recommended if you ever decide to eat there.

Ahi Tuna Bites Appetizer

Ahi Tuna Bites Appetizer

The a la carte dishes we had were the pan-fried noodle chow mein, orange beef, fried rice, and honey walnut prawns. Everything was good. It was the first time I tried the orange beef and that was just OK. The honey walnut prawns, however, were perfect. Crunchy shrimp, great tasting honey mayonnaise sauce, and nicely candied walnuts. Honey walnut prawns are a family favorite and I’d say the way Sticky Rice prepares it is among the top 2 or 3 I’ve had. Not too much batter and just the right amount of sweetness to the sauce.

Honey Walnut Prawns | Sticky Rice | John Gamboa

Honey Walnut Prawns | Sticky Rice

Now my favorite part of all my meals: dessert. The two we decided to try were the cheesecake which had a raspberry drizzle. The other was the fried banana with ice cream. First, the cheesecake. It was really good. Can’t really mess up a cheesecake but then again, I don’t have very high standards when it comes to sweets.

Raspberry Cheesecake | Sticky Rice

Raspberry Cheesecake

The fried banana and ice cream was very, very good. Usually if it’s on the menu, I get the fried banana with ice cream. I’ll ask for ice cream if it’s not part of the dish normally. The surprising thing about Sticky Rice’s version is not the presentation or the taste, both of which were excellent, but it was the amount of dessert you get for the order. I don’t remember the price but I’m pretty sure it was less than 10 bucks! It was enough for 4 of us to share it and be satisfied with the quantity we were able to consume. That is value for your money!

Sticky Rice Fried Banana and Ice Cream

Sticky Rice Fried Banana and Ice Cream | Six Pieces and a large scoop of vanilla ice cream!

I would say that Sticky Rice should be on your list of places to east if you’re every passing by Solano County. It’s about 15 minutes away from Benicia and Vallejo, and the same drive from the other direction in Fairfield. I highly recommended you do it!

Oxbow Public Market in Napa

My family and I went to Gott’s (wrote about it here) one day and decided to check out the Oxbow Public Market and that place is cool. It’s like a little mall with specialty stores and food places. I wanted to get some cupcakes at Kara’s Cupcakes and they were excellent as gourmet cupcakes tend to be. Who would’ve thought cupcakes would ever be a big business? Having just watched my first episode of Cupcake Wars, I guess I can see why.

Located just north of Vallejo and American Canyon and east of Sonoma in the city of Napa, Oxbow Public Market contains a variety of shops and eateries inside a large warehouse. Upon entering the warehouse in which the Oxbow Public Market exists my family and I were pleasantly surprised by what was inside. Although I only had cupcakes from Kara Cupcakes’s which were really good if I haven’t mentioned, I really was drawn to the feel of the place. Bustling with activity and the cacophony of merchants and visitors that you only get from a marketplace with concrete floors and a metal roof, the combination of colors and sounds gives Oxbow a unique appeal. Merchants of different kinds fill the place with tasty goods and confections for those of us with a sweet tooth.

John Gamboa, Napa, Oxbow Public Market

John Gamboa and his wife at the Oxbow Public Market in Napa

There are two butcher shops located in the Oxbow Public Market. One called called The Fatted Calf and the other Five Dot Ranch. At one of them is where we learned what 42-day aged beef was and why it tastes so good and why it’s expensive. The beef is actually left to sit in a room controlled room for 42 days and the reason why it’s expensive is because the water gets drawn out and what’s left is the meat without the water content (or much of it anyway). The carcass actually build a layer of inedible “skin” with mold that gets cut and thrown out hence adding to the per pound cost of the aged beef. Once that is removed you are left with a rich, flavorful, and hearty cut of beef. Maybe one day will pick up a cut and taste test that process and see if it’s worth the premium in price. I couldn’t tell you the difference between a choice, select, or kobe ribeye steak. Honestly. So for me at least it may not be worth the extra cost.

There’s also a fish market and an oyster bar in Oxbow! We’re definitely going back to try Hog Island Oyster Bar out because I’m a big oyster fan. Raw, fried, grilled, bar-b-queued – it’s all good. Another great find is a Triple D (Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives) reviewed joint called Pica Pica Maize Kitchen. I think it has something to do with corn since that’s what maize means. We’ll be eating there some time in the near future hopefully to find out what signature dish drew the Triple D crew to Pica Pica.

Oxbow Public Market has ample parking around the area and with all the different stores you may have to make several trips into Napa to try everything. To learn more visit their website at http://oxbowpublicmarket.com.

Ali’i Sushi and Japanese in Benicia – John Gamboa

Craving Japanese cuisine? How about Hawaiian? How about both? In the Benicia/Vallejo area? Yes you can have both at Ali’i Sushi and BBQ. Just off the 780 freeway and in the city of Benicia, Ali’i offers residents and visitors to Solano County, Benicia, and Vallejo areas a taste of the Hawaiian islands and Japan in one place.

When you walk in you know it’s going to be home cooked good food. We had a chance to try this place out and we were not disappointed. Our big family was hungry and some of us wanted Japanese while some wanted Hawaiian (namely a Loco Moco). It’s a good thing my wife quickly got on her Windows Phone (yes, we have Windows Phones!) and Yelp’ed for some Hawaiian/Japanese food and found Ali’i.

If you want in and out fast food, forget it. Not here. You have to remember you’re visiting the islands when you come to Ali’i. That means leisurely pace. That means take your time. Everything is chill. Just like the islands. Some people take that as a negative, but if you’ve ever taken a trip to Hawaii, you will appreciate the non-hectic mood of Ali’i.

The first thing that hit me was the price of the Loco Moco. It as posted on a whiteboard. $9.95! Now if you’ve had a loco moco at another franchised Hawaiian joint, you know that $9.95 is pretty pricey for that meal. For Ali’i though, that price is worth it. You get one huge hand prepared beef patty. I mean huge enough that 3 of our kids were able to share it and not finish! The meat was nicely seasoned and the rice serving was large. My wife and I could’ve shared it and not been able to finish. That’s how big it was. Granted we aren’t big eaters but still.

We also had the Ahi Poke and boy it was good. Just the right amount of flavor and a little kick of spice. Large chunks of ahi too. That went super fast and was gone within a couple minutes. No complaints although the lighting made the fish look a little grayish. Not to worry though, the fish tasted fresh. Not sure if it’s the fluorescent lighting or the ambient color of the restaurant. We also shared a dragon roll. The dragon roll is one of our family’s favorites. We order whenever we go out for sushi and their dragon roll is top notch. The flavor and texture was well-mated and delicious.

I had the chicken kara age with shrimp tempura. It’s one of my go to dishes at Japanese restaurants and it was among the best. The chicken was seasoned just right, crispy, and well made. The shrimp tempura was great, I’d say the best I’ve had in a while. The batter wasn’t too thick and the shrimp was a pretty good size.

My wife had the kara age’s cousin, the tonkatsu and shrimp tempura. My son had the chicken teriyaki and the chicken was chargrilled with the charred corners and edges which my son likes. It didn’t look precooked either. I have to say that I believe all the meals were pretty much made to order. It took a little longer, sure, but the food was well worth it.

I really enjoyed the food and the homey feel of the place and I know we will be going there again. Please support this family run restaurant if your ever in the Benicia-Vallejo area if you’re in the mood for good Hawaiian and Japanese cooking.

Golf at Blue Rock Springs in Vallejo

Blue Rocks Springs Golf Course is a municipal course in Solano County in the city of Vallejo. I’ve played several times there over the last several years. This is also the very first 18 hole golf course I ever played.

Located off of Columbus Parkway on the Benicia side of Vallejo, Blue Rock Springs G.C. offers a decent golfer venue at a reasonable price. Golf carts are available and for the East course, it is highly recommended as it is fairly hilly. There are two courses at Blue Rock simply named the East and West courses and both play very nicely for the recreational and beginner golfer. It’s got some challenging holes on both sides with doglegs and water holes as well so it’s fun enough for more serious golfers. The rough isn’t too crazy as most public courses tend to have them which for me, makes it more fun to play anyway. And most fairways are forgiving that if you slice or hook a little, you’ll still have a playable ball for your next shot.

I’m not a devout golfer and only play maybe 4 to 6 times a year if I’m lucky especially since I’ve got five kids now. A busy family life makes sure I don’t get out to the golf course too often but I am hitting the range more often nowadays though. It’s fun to take the kids along with me to hit some golf balls down the range. So take this post as an amateur’s review of a golf course he’s played maybe a dozen times throughout the last decade.

The West course is a little flatter and if you intend to walk, then this is the easier of the two to walk on. The East course is more difficult with more hills and built an the foothill of a small mountain (or big hill) and offers nice views on some holes. This course gave me my very first birdie on one of the par 3s.

The driving range is nice with plenty of stalls and I never seem to have any trouble finding a stall even on weekends. Sometimes I can find 3 next to each other if the kids are with me. It doesn’t have a sand or a real pitching green though which would make it a pretty top notch municipal golf course. But even with that missing, it’s still a good place to practice and play if your nearby in one of the surrounding cities like American Canyon or Benicia.

Napa’s Gott’s Roadside

Napa, Gott's, diner, burgers - John Gamboa

Gott’s Roadside

One of the coolest and fun places to eat in Napa is Gott’s Roadside, formally Taylor’s Automatic Refreshers. First established as Taylor’s in St. Helena, then later sold, it’s named changed to Gott’s Roadside. Gott’s Roadside expanded to a location in Napa and most recently in Palo Alto where they serve some of the most delicious dishes around the Bay Area. When the weather is favorable we love eating in the outdoor dining area.

They’ve got good burgers no doubt. Their meat is fresh, their bread is mmm-mmm freshly baked good! Garlic fries and sweet potato fries are excellent. But one of the things that makes this place truly an awesome place to eat are the interestingly unique menu items. The first one is a signature burger.

Burgers, Gott's, Roadside

Juicy burgers

It is their Ahi tuna burger. Oh my goodness! My family and I first heard of this place on Diners, Dives, and Drive-ins. Triple D and Guy Fieri went to the one in St. Helena (30 to 40 minutes north of Vallejo and American Canyon) where they featured the Ahi Burger. The wasabi mayonnaise is crazy good and makes the sandwich amazing! They also add a cole slaw to add crispiness to the burger. The mixture of flavors and textures is such an unexpectedly wonderful surprise.

Next is another signature item I enjoyed on our last trip there. The ahi poke crispy tacos and they are incredible! So tasty! What a mouthwatering delight. You get three per order and you WILL finish all three. If you’re a fan of ahi poke, you’ll love how Gott’s combined that with Mexican flair.

Gott's, roadside, napa, ahi, poke, tacos

Ahi Poke Crispy Tacos

As for your sides, they have much to choose from. Check out Gott’s menu here. When our large family goes there, we are lucky enough that there’s enough variety in what we all order that we get to try many dishes in one trip. My favorite side dish is the garlic fries. My wife’s are the sweet potatoes. I’m sure you’ll find something you’ll enjoy.

For drinks, I highly recommend their shakes and malts. It’s just a nice accompaniment to an appetizing meal. Their strawberry shakes have little chunks of strawberries and the chocolate ones are rich and thick. They also have root beer floats, another favorite of mine.

When you’re done, you can chill in their outdoor dining area or walk around downtown Napa, St. Helena, or Palo Alto. It’s a good trip no matter which one you go to.

Wing Stop in American Canyon combines with Over The Top yogurt shop

Napa-American-Canyon-1If you love good, crispy wings then you probably have eaten at Wing Stop. Their deep fried wings are delicious. Well, the Wing Stop in American Canyon north of Vallejo in Solano County combined with Over The Top yogurt shop which is right next door to it. Wing Stop is located off of highway 29 in the Napa Junction Shopping Center just north of Vallejo. By combining the two together, the seating area has just about tripled and you can get your yogurt for dessert without stepping foot outside. They conveniently carved a doorway in between the two establishments which makes it easy to go between both establishments.

Over the Top is a self serve yogurt parlor. You pick the flavor of yogurt from the soft serve machines and add as many toppings as you like. Add sprinkles, Oreo crumbs, nuts, sauces, or whatever suits your taste buds.

So if you’re ever in travelling up highway 29, driving through Vallejo in towards Napa or Sonoma, and craving some fried wings and yogurt, please stop by and support them.

My favorite are the lemon pepper wings (bone-in), well done with Ranch dressing. Since we’ve got a large family we get the 40 piece family pack with fries and veggie sticks.