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.

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.