Hometown Tourist: Castro Valley

We wanted to go on some hyper-local “vacations” this year. It helps us to see the beauty right where we are when we can see it through a different lens. Of course, if we were on a real vacation, we would probably pack it in and do some more exciting things, but after the last few months we’ve had lots of activity, we kept it simple for our first “Hometown Tourist” day. (You can click on the place/restaurant name to check out their website.)

Denica’s Real Food Kitchen

We got a later start than we had planned and most of the tables were taken by the time we got there so we opted to take it back home (aka our pretend Airbnb 😛) to eat. Lots of tables freed up after we had already ordered. If we were on vacation, there are lots of breakfasts we like to eat in our hotel room so we can multi-task getting ready to be out all day. We wanted to keep it light since we are wannabe foodies since we’d be eating most of the day. Trying new foods or foods from different places is something we do on our trips. We have been to Denica’s before but we have never had their ube pancakes and guava pancakes. The Ube Pancakes were purple yam pancakes with ube coconut sauce, Denica’s whipped cream, banana, and mixed berries. The Pink Guava Pancakes were guava chiffon pancakes, with tropical pink guava sauce, Denica’s whipped cream, and fresh strawberries and kiwi. We also ordered Ube-Bae cookies, a Mango malasada, and a Pineapple Jam malasada. (I think the malasadas are from Bay House Cakery.) Tip for Denica’s: It’s not too bad, but go earlier than later. The parking lot fills up quickly.

Castro Valley Farmers’ Market

We haven’t been to the farmers’ market in a long time. We got our sunscreen on and walked there. A few years ago, we won a Halloween photo contest and were able to try items from every single vendor there. Some are no longer there, but it brought back memories of the yummy, local foods we tried. Norm got The Cutest Gift Box (3pc) from Bun Bao. “Three different types of buns in a box. Upon opening, you will find Panda Red Bean Bun, Piggy Cream Custard Bun, and Chicken Cream Custard Bun with the cutest presentation.” I chose tomato focaccia from Beckman’s Bakery, which also has the most amazing granola. Melody chose a Strawberry Cream Cheese Kouign Amann (similar to a puff pastry) from Starter Bakery. Emily got some delicious white peaches which we ate later in the week with vanilla ice cream. I can’t remember the vendor. Eco-Tip for the Farmers’ Market: Bring reusable bags for all your fresh, local-ish, small biz purchases.


Portales TaqueriaLuccas Deli

Norm and I ordered from Portales Taqueria for lunch. I can’t believe we haven’t tried this place before. We have heard good things and also wanted to give them our business since they had a lot of problems with smashed windows last year. Norm had the Super Nachos with carne asada, cheese, sour cream, and guacamole. I got the Taco Plate with three tacos/proteins (pastor, pollo, carne asada, extra onions) with refried beans, rice, and some veggies. There is seating indoors and two tables outside. It only took 10 minutes for our food to be served. It was a late lunch for us but there was quite a bit of business after we arrived. Eco-Tip for Portales: We didn’t have leftovers since we ate a light breakfast, but if you have leftovers, bring your own containers for them.

Surprisingly, the girls have never had a sandwich from Luccas before and since it was just two doors down from Portales, they shared a sandwich from there. It was a long wait and there was a constant stream of people going in and coming out. Most people were buying items from the aisles. The girls shared a Honey Glazed Ham sandwich with sweet roll, sharp cheddar, and mayonnaise. They wanted an onion roll but there wasn’t anymore left. Besides the wait, it was all good. It was not a huge sandwich so they will probably get their own next time if we’re not eating out for every single meal of the day. There is outdoor seating here as well. Tip for Luccas: Order online and eat outside at the tables or on the little seating areas along the Boulevard.

Mei Mei Chinese Market

It is so exciting to have an Asian market in town. Norm has been there a few times but the girls and I went there for the first time for this trip. I was delighted to see so many childhood treats there as well as the essentials for a good Asian meal. Like most markets you’d see in Chinatown, the aisles are tight and there are boxes of inventory wherever there is space to stack them up. Someone on Yelp mentioned the loud club music was not their jam, but I enjoyed it. It’s not typical of Asian markets (at least I don’t think so), but I’d go there for the beats…and the AC on a hot day. 🤪 Our chosen goodies were: Garden Ube Cream Wafers, Philippine Brand Dried Mangoes, SauTao Egg Noodle, and Sheng Kee Bakery raisin custard bread. I can’t really say much about the produce or meat/seafood for now, but the baby bok choy we got the last time was fresh and yummy. Eco-Tip for Mei Mei: Bring your own reusable bags.

Lake Chabot Regional Park

Since there’s a fee for parking, we usually try to find street parking, and we were able to get a spot as someone was leaving. We weren’t sure if we wanted to do any boating but it was fairly hot when we got there so we decided not to rent a boat. It was pretty crowded but that’s not surprising for a Saturday. As usual, we saw lots of folks picnicking and BBQing. There were many boats out when we got there and quite the line formed to rent them when we were leaving. We took a usual route which meant there were lots of people ahead of us and behind us but most of the time, it wasn’t too crowded on the path. There were one or two bicyclists, which is fewer than on other days we’ve been there. We enjoyed a lovely walk, even though it was a bit hot, and conversation. The bonus was that we all hit our steps goal for the day. There were lots of people enjoying a cold treat from the Lake Chabot Marina & Café. We also saw a few people using the outdoor Fitness Zone which has six interactive exercise machines. There are bathrooms along the main path. If you want to walk all the way around, plan for it to spend 4-5 hours at the park at a casual pace (this is what we saw on a sign but have not yet gone all the way around). There are small ups and downs. Tip for Lake Chabot: Wear sunscreen (unless it’s the wintertime and rainy, then bundle up) and bring water.

Akemi Sushi

Dinner was definitely a treat after our short trek. We got to the Castro Valley Marketplace right before the main dinner crowd but all the regular seating was taken. Good thing we had planned to go to Akemi already. It’s not new but new-ish since the CV Marketplace opened at the beginning of the pandemic, and then had a grand re-opening last year. It didn’t take too long for our order to be taken and for it to come out. We ordered our usual plus their namesake roll. Norm likes to get Amaebi (sweet shrimp). The girls enjoy Inari (sweet fried tofu) Kappa maki (a cucumber roll). I like a Lion King roll (crab, avocado, top: salmon & garlic sauce, torched, tobiko). The girls also decided to try Philadelphia roll (salmon, avocado, cream cheese) with the raw salmon. Sometimes they have it cooked. The namesake roll Akemi (yellowtail, tuna, salmon, avocado, cucumber wrap, ponzu, kewpie) was very uniquely presented. Everything was fabulous. If you want to go a bit spendy in good old CV and you like sushi, Akemi is amazing. (We really like all the places that have sushi in CV.) They had a pop-up shave ice stand on the Paseo this weekend. Sometimes there’s music and sidewalk chalk art. Tip for Akemi: If you don’t want to eat on the Paseo at the Castro Valley Marketplace or you know it’ll be crowded, you can also order online or pick up some Grab-N-Go boxes.

Castro Village

After dinner, we walked across the street to Castro Village. There wasn’t anything, in particular, we were planning to buy since we are working on clearing things from our home but it was fun to do some window shopping. It looks like Ross has a new outdoor setup on the side of the building. There are some chairs and maybe a table. I can’t remember because I saw a plant trellis thing that you can use for a photo op. 😛 There is at least one new shop opening soon. We stopped in at TJ Maxx for fun. Tip for Castro Village: It can be a challenge to find parking but there are usually more spots over by TJ Maxx.

Always Yours Bakery Cafe

Our last stop was at this cute new-ish bakery cafe. We each picked out a treat – tiger sugar macaron for me, corgi passionfruit macaron for Emily, a strawberry cream puff for Melody, and pineapple macaron for Norm. It’s a really cute shop and there is outdoor seating. You can also order drinks, other desserts, cakes, and cute merch. It looks like they were doing a shoot for something new that’s coming, or maybe just for the socials. If it’s something new, you heard it here first. Tip for Always Yours: If you really want to get a certain treat, go early in the day. Most of the macarons were cleared out by the time we got there. It was an hour to closing time.

On to Our Next Adventure

I would have loved to go somewhere to watch the sunset but we were beat from being in the sun at the lake and the sunset is so late since we just had the summer solstice. I already have some ideas on what to do for our next Hometown Tourist excursion, as well as our next day out in Castro Valley.

Have you ever played tourists in your hometown and/or surrounding areas? What would your day look like if you were a tourist there? Where would you eat? Where would you go?


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