Skip to content

Food and loathing

Mediocre restaurants are unavoidable. But some of the baddies, ah, how they stick in my mind. Some of these are favorites for some of my friends. Oh well! To each their own (1).

A rather short list of restaurants considered as enjoyable as rotting liver (2)

Hobee’s, throughout the Bay Area. One of the first things that pop into my head about Hobee’s is how much I hate the smell of their cinnamon tea, filling the rooms like nasty scented candles. The next thing that follows is how bored I get of their food, and how aggravating it is to stand and wait wait wait for a table of their uninspired food. A childhood and adulthood filled with Hobee’s, because that’s one of the few places both family and friends wanted to go. Over and over. Hobee’s doesn’t serve bad food, and they have admirable community-oriented standards. But I am not a morning person, and unless the food of the day’s first meal is remarkable in quality (or offers unusually interesting items like popovers or crêpes), I am loath to go out for breakfast or brunch.

Hunan Home, Los Altos. I just couldn’t find anything to enjoy eating here. Want another stir-fry disappointment over rice? No, thanks. In spite of being a Silicon Valley favorite, a place like this emphasizes how uninspired Chinese food could become. There are better Chinese eateries! (Try Café Yulong, Ming’s, Yank Sing, or even Chef Chu’s down the road.)

Il Postale, Sunnyvale. A downtown district ought to have at least a couple good restaurants. It saddens me that there are no decent Italian restaurants in downtown Sunnyvale. Gumba’s is mediocre, but at least the cost is low. Il Postale, however, truly frustrates. For an upscale place, their risotto and pasta were uninspired and felt like a chore to consume. The clincher for loser status was their bread: “Italian” bread whose flavor and texture reminded me of WonderBread. It turned out that the bread came from Wilson’s Jewel Bakery, a place whose cakes I found worse than Safeway’s. (For a place that failed at making either bread and cake, I shed no tears for Wilson’s closure.)

Suraj, Redwood City. Somehow the ingredients appear…old and stale. And I’ve gone there several times over the last decade. The chicken dishes frightened me, often tasting rancid. There are better Indian places: Dasaprakash, Shiva’s, etc….even the erratic service nightmare at Saravana Bhavan yields much superior comestables. Really. Let’s go somewhere else, please.

I generally don’t frequent chain restaurants. That is, defining those as part of a big corporate conglomerate (e.g., the Pizza Hut / Taco Bell / McDonald’s consumption mills). However, a few do stand out as vomitoria (3):

  • The Olive Garden. Nastily salty food. Dishes described as vegetarian containing obvious lumps of meat. Slow service. True, I went here only once; but it was enough. This chain is an embarrassment to decent Italian restaurants (and home cooked meals of pasta and pizza) everywhere.
  • Yoshinoya Beef Bowl. When Japanese food franchises go wrong. This one gets the prize for most nauseating appearance, smell and taste.
  • The Cheesecake Factory. The odd bit was my first time at the Old Pasadena location: The wait was long (reservations not accepted), but the food wasn’t half bad. But since then, visits to the Cheesecake Factory have epitomized the travesty that is over-sweetened, cowardly blandified, obscenely huge servings of American cuisine (4). For example, they take a simple Southeast Asian dish such as salad rolls, and manage to render it unpalatable. They can’t even do cheesecake right. Their asinine no-reservation policy (unless that’s changed recently) doesn’t improve their image in my eyes, either.


  1. Don’t take the above as aspersions on your tastes, of course. Opinions are good: After all, how would we find more and interesting things to eat? (Unless one dislikes food. Pity them.)
  2. For the curious, much of this article originated from a restaurant list I had on my old website (circa 1998).
  3. Not in the (misconceived!) ancient Roman “eat and party to exhaustion” sense. Rather, in the “Wow, I wasted my time, money and now I feel rather sick to my stomach” sense.
  4. Obviously, not all American cooking falls under the OSCBOHS label. Much of it doesn’t, thankfully.


  1. Anita wrote:

    I used to like (not love, but like) Hobee’s, but I’d say maybe 10 years ago the quality really took a dive. The last time I was in one, the food was outright inedible -and- there was a cockroach dancing on the table. Gah!

    I think I can say the same for Yoshinoya. It was fabulous when I was living in L.A., 20 years ago. But now even the southern California locations are beyond hope. Luckily, they’re still as delicious as ever in Japan! (

    Wednesday, 21 May 2008 at 1:46 pm | Permalink
  2. Marcin Mazurek wrote:

    As far as eating out, staying away from chains is a great basic, My brother has worked a large amount of them and I have…taken a passing glance at his preparatory menus, to say the least: I don’t ever want to eat at Chilies, even if its just their tortilla chip appetizer, and beware : them grill marks be painted on.

    Tuesday, 7 October 2008 at 11:50 am | Permalink
  3. JB wrote:

    THANK YOU!!!

    Hobees’ makes me feel like puking because of that hideously overpowering cinnamon tea!


    Sunday, 23 September 2012 at 8:40 am | Permalink

Submit a comment

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked with a red diamond, .