Raziel's favorite Burlingame Restaurants & Places to Eat

Raziel Ungar

October 31st, 2011 - 6 min read
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I'm asked pretty often what are some of my favorite places to eat in Burlingame. Though I don't have children (yet!), I would imagine it'd be like asking me which child is my favorite. However, I do have some favorites that I can share here. To skip directly to the Sandwich Shops & Fast Casual section, click here, and to skip to the Lunch/Dinner Restaurants section click here.

Breakfast Places

My favorite bakery (in the world!) just happens to be located right in downtown Burlingame: Copenhagen Bakery. The bakery was founded over thirty years ago by its current owners Ben, Ralf, and Shari Nielsen. It's hard not to fall in love with the buttery aroma and Danish ambience that greet you upon your arrival. My favorite dessert is the chocolate pizza (also known as the chocolate chip coffee cake), though I love the chocolate snail, cinnamon danish, their Dutch Crunch fresh baked bread, lingonberry pancakes, tuna sandwich, and Chinese Chicken Salad (they're famous for it). Copenhagen is open for lunch and dinner as well (closed Monday and Tuesday).

Christie's (on California Drive half a block south of Burlingame Ave) has been around for forever and has a diner feel to it. Their friendly, eager staff make you feel right at home (my friend and his grandma have been going there for years for their "bonding" time), and their large portions will keep you full. Christie's is open for breakfast and lunch and on the weekends always has a solid 20 minute wait going on outside. It's easy place to bring kids to as well.

Okay, so even though Nini's is not technically in Burlingame (it's across the street), if the residents of Burlingame had the choice to redraw the city boundaries so Nini's could be in Burlingame, we would, we love it that much. Nini's hasn't changed at all since it open a really long time ago when every patron in the place knew each other, and they've worked hard to keep the same spirit and ambience so even today nearly everyone who goes to Nini's is a regular in some sense. Nini's serves awesome homestyle traditional breakfast and lunch, with everything from omelettes and coffee to french toast, sandwiches, and homemade milk shakes. It's not the place to go to if you're watching what you eat but then again, you know what you're getting at Nini's. Nini's has been owned by the same family since Nini started it herself all those years ago.

Alana's is on the western half of Burlingame Ave on the north side of the street, and its warm atmosphere is a fun place to go with a friend for a casual bite to eat. Alana's has fresh soups, quiches, omelettes, and excellent sandwiches. The restaurant is narrow and deep and the bustling kitchen is on the right side when you walk in, and if you sit at the bar it's fun to watch the chefs in action.

We recently had a new arrival to the breakfast scene on Burlingame Avenue, La Boulange. La Boulange is a bakery/coffee shop and lunch spot. It's a fun, bright space, and while the nice reclaimed wood tables are close together it's a good place to go for a quick bite.

Coffee
While I'm not a coffee drinker, I must say if I had to guess by the size of the line and popularity, Il Piccolo on Broadway would easily win. Il Piccolo is locally owned, and has tons of regulars. In their shop alone they sell over 600 cups of coffee a day, so you know it's good stuff. The ambience is warm and cozy, and you can relax inside or sit in the outdoor patio and people watch or just read a book or newspaper. Other Burlingame coffee shops include Starbucks on both Burlingame Avenue and Broadway, Peets on the corner of Burlingame Ave and Park Road (always a popular meet up spot), and It's A Grind on Primrose next to Safeway.

Sandwich Shops & Fast Casual

Bonne Sante has only been in Burlingame for a few years but it's fast becoming one of my favorite places to go to. It's run by a friendly couple who personally make your sandwich for you, and they have this secret killer sauce that is to die for (it is some kind of balsamic vinegar/olive oil/green leafy thing concoction). Their sandwiches are the biggest I've experienced in Burlingame (easily enough for two) and also among the best. When you ask for avocado, they don't give you three dinky slices, they actually put a whole avocado on there. Now that's what I'm talking about!

CJs Gourmet Delicatessen is the best sandwich spot if you're on Burlingame Avenue; it's a few stores off the Ave at 290 Primrose right next to Aida's Opera Candies. They have so many sandwich options displayed on their whole wall menu but once you figure out what you want, it's well worth it. There's only a few tables inside and a few umbrella'ed tables on the street, but you can also take your sandwich next door to the little park (just to the south of CJs and across from the new Safeway) and eat there. I love their Hot Tuna sandwich in particular.

Sam's Sandwiches is another Burlingame favorite. Housed in the famous bus depot on the corner of California Drive and Howard Avenue, Sam's has a small yet hearty menu with daily specials. Their sandwiches are pretty big and usually on fresh baguette roll.

One of my new favorite places to eat in Burlingame is A Taste in Mediterranean on Broadway. Hands down, they have the best Mediterranean food in Burlingame. Everything from their homemade hummus, falafel, dolmas, to eggplant stew is unbelievably tasty and fresh. The owner, Nadal, is the chef, and he works hard to make you feel welcome, which you definitely will! I've been there multiple times to grab a quick bite, for a sit down meal with a friend, and even had them cater my wife's birthday party (everyone kept asking where our food was from it was that good!).

La Corneta Taqueria came to Burlingame a few years ago from the Mission, and they've done really well. The line is frequently out the door during the lunch hour. They have everything from burritos to tacos, quesadillas to carne asada, and their pico de gallo (mild, can't stand the spicy) is so fresh. If you're in a rush, you can always phone in your order and hop to the front of the line at the register and pay so it's nice and convenient. There's plenty of tables and it's very kid friendly as well. If there's a good international soccer match going on, they'll always have it playing on their large TV (on mute).

Lunch/Dinner Restaurants

Mingalaba is one of the most popular places on Burlingame Avenue, dishing up uber-tasty authentic Burmese food. The setting is not fancy or overdone, it's just simple and to the point. Your food is served fast by their pleasant servers. I've had many social and business lunches at Mingalaba with many people who were coming for the first time, and they've always remarked how good it was and that they'd love to go back again. While Mingalaba is only a few years old, the owners have figured it out how to get us yearning to come back for more, and deservedly so their business is thriving.

The next five places are my favorite Italian restaurants in Burlingame. I've hosted three of my Thank You Dinners at these restaurants and been very happy at each.

Run by the husband and wife team of Mateo and Alisa Ferrari, Stella Alpina Osteria is one of my favorites on the whole peninsula. The ambience and service are first class, and their wine list is extensive. One of my favorite dishes is their ravioli, which is what I'd imagine a pillow in heaven would feel like, though they always sell out nightly of their famous ossobuco. It's the kind of place you'd visit to celebrate a special occasion or a birthday because you know how tasty their food will be. I also like how the restaurant is about half a story below ground which gives it a fun feel as well. Stella Alpina is located across the street from the Burlingame Public Library on the corner of Primrose and Chapin.

Trapeze is one of the most understated white tablecloth restaurants in Burlingame. Right next to Bay Area Bagels (formerly House of Bagels) and Urban Bistro on Lorton, Trapeze serves excellent European food, and some of my favorites include their mushroom polenta (WOW) and bruschetta. For private events, Trapeze has a quiet back room with candles and it's own speakers, and it's great for a private business lunch, happy hour get together or mixer, or birthday party. The wonderful owner, Steve Tosun, is actively involved in the restaurant so don't be surprised if he pops by your table and asks you how you're enjoying your food!

Cafe Figaro is probably one of the oldest restaurants in Burlingame, located on Broadway. While it's decor may not be the fanciest, this small old fashioned Italian restaurant consistently serves high quality fare including all types of pasta (ravioli, tortellini, rigatoni, spaghetti, etc) and meat dishes. Their caprese salad is one of my favorites, and if you ask, they can even do your pasta dish with three very taste homemade sauces: marina, cream, and pesto.

Though Il Fornaio is a chain restaurant, they've been a presence in Burlingame for a long time because of their intimate feel, delicious entrees, and classy setting. It's also one of the very few higher end establishments that has a private room, which is ideal for private events and dinner parties (can seat up to 35 comfortably); the walls on the way to the private room have tons of black and white photographs of Old Italy and it makes you feel like you're in Godfather country. I also love their outdoor patio which is great for munching on a croissant and enjoying your coffee.

While I've only been to Rocca on Broadway a few times (once for a birthday and a couple times with other friends), each time I thoroughly enjoyed my meal, so it's therefore making this list. Service is excellent, and it has an authentic feel: the walls are an Italian yellow with a large pastoral mural above the full bar.

The Steelhead Brewing Company is one of the most unique settings to enjoy a meal in Burlingame. Housed in an old brick factory building with hundred foot high ceilings, this excellent burger and beer place is popular amongst Burlingame residents and visitors alike. The cavernous front room is a great place for lunch or dinner on your own, with friends, or your family. Tucked away in the back is a large tastefully decorated pool hall with its own full bar. I've been to quite a few unofficial high school reunions in the pool room traditionally the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving as that's when everyone is always in town visiting family.

Max's Opera Cafe is the original Max's in the Bay Area. I remember when my dad and grandfather would take me here as a kid. They have some of the best comfort food around, and all of their seating are in comfy booths that you don't ever want to leave. Their desserts are amazing as is their super fresh raisin bread, one of my favorites that comes hot to the table right when you get there. I also love how all the servers double as amateur singers, and at night they all take a turn singing a song or two with the pianist, so it's a fun place to even go solo if you're looking for a relaxing evening with good food.
To quote some of my favorite Max's Laws, which are posted on the wall and on every table:
This restaurant is run for the enjoyment and pleasure of our customers, not the convenience of the staff or the owners.
You get a free round of drinks if anyone on our staff comes up and says, "is everything all right?"  When we ask questions, they'll be good ones.
Our ice cream sauces are a point of pride.  They're made in New York by a certified chocoholic who refuses therapy. They are simply the best in the country.  And we don't boast idly.
We agree that the customer is always right.  If there is a  problem with your food or service, call for the manager--we'll fix it in a flash. But, if you finish  your plate--it couldn't have been all that bad!  Now, could it?
And for my personal favorite: We hate soggy fries.  If yours aren't crisp, the way you like them-send them back--maybe the kitchen will get the message.

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