Diversity and the beholder

Calm down. It’s a food post.

Our local weekly had brief notes on all the candidates for council this fall–an unusual election in which there are no sitting councilfolk running for re-election.

One (of quite a few) apparently moved to Mountain View fairly recently, and this person has a complaint.

Namely, that downtown Mountain View doesn’t have diverse dining choices.

Now, if you’ve been in downtown MV–which I’ll take as being Castro Street and two blocks either side of Castro–this may seem like an odd complaint. Just from memory, I know of:

  • Several Chinese restaurants, mostly region-specific, with one or two pan-Chinese.
  • Several Indian restaurants at various price points.
  • A couple of Thai restaurants.
  • Several Vietnamese restaurants–some Pho places, some not.
  • Some Japanese restaurants
  • At least three good Mexican restaurants (probably more), various cuisines
  • At least three Italian restaurants
  • A couple of mediterranean places–at least one halal kebab grill, at least one mostly-Greek
  • A good brewpub with an expansive menu–burgers, excellent fish, salads, what have you
  • An “Irish” pub and an adjacent “Irish” nightclub
  • A good “East coast” pizza place and a good California pizza/calzone/grill place
  • A very-high-end California/continental restaurant.
  • A fairly high-end fish place
  • A tapas & large-plate place
  • And I’m sure I could go on for a while. I believe there are at least 80 restaurants in the six-block stretch.

Ah, but there was another sentence explaining what this person meant by “diversity.” She said there weren’t enough places serving traditional American food.

And, you know, I think I know what this person means by “traditional American food”–and it is indeed in short supply in downtown MV, although readily available with a minute or two’s driving, to such an extent that snobbish San Franciscans delight in claiming that the Peninsula has nothing but this kind of restaurant.

What we don’t have in downtown MV:

  • Denny’s
  • IHOP
  • McDonald’s
  • Burger King
  • Sizzler
  • Macaroni Grill
  • Applebee’s
  • Cheesecake Factory
  • Olive Garden
  • Chili’s
  • and all the rest…

Not saying anything negative about those, but it is true: Castro and adjacent streets are low on chain outlets, other than (of course) overpriced over-roasted coffee places (both Starbuck’s and Peet’s).

Too bad the candidate doesn’t come out with her true platform: “Downtown Mountain View needs more Chain Restaurants! We need more predictable food!”

Somehow, it doesn’t sound like a winning platform. There are loads of these chain outlets all around downtown–but the more distinctive places seem to be doing just fine in the heart of downtown. I have problems feeling bad about that.

6 Responses to “Diversity and the beholder”

  1. Susan V says:

    Fine… I’ll gladly ship them all our chain restaurants for just ONE good Thai place. 🙂

  2. rcn says:

    I know Mountain View and find this post hysterical, thank you for sharing.

    Is Clarke’s still there? It’s a small chain with good American food. Frankie Johnnie & Luigi is a small chain with Italian food – that’s practically American, isn’t it? Posh Bagel? OK, maybe these are a far cry from Denny’s or Red Lobster, ’tis true, but there IS a Jack in the Box and a KFC.

  3. walt says:

    Clarke’s main location is still there, as is KFC, but those aren’t quite in the core downtown area, although they’re close. (The nearest Jack in the Box I’m aware of is several blocks away, on Shoreline.) I think of the core downtown area as Castro from El Camino to the train tracks, and the immediate side streets…but that may be too limiting.

    Once you get down to El Camino and start spreading out, there are lots of the “traditional” restaurants to help you start…spreading out. (My memory of Frankie Johnnie & Luigi is that it serves food to help you spread out–enormous servings of mediocre food. But that’s just my memory; clearly lots of people love it.)

  4. Jon Gorman says:

    I’m a little jealous, but only a little. Champaign-Urbana has a nice variety of restaurants, though leaning towards mostly Asian foods.

    Still, a bit jealous. We’ve got plenty of the chains and I’m not a big fan of nearly any of them. (Thankfully they’re mostly isolated out in the big shopping area, which I also hate 😉 )

    I also know some folks who complain about the decline of of the “steakhouse” type of places and also local Denny/Perkins type places. Doesn’t bother me, but I’ve never been a huge fan of those type of places.

  5. Angel says:

    Man, that sounds like a great place to find places to eat. Sounds like I could eat out there every day and not eat the same thing twice for a while, as the saying goes (not that I would. Economy is tight, but it is nice to have the option). So, his problem is not enough IHOPs and Mickey D’s?

    Anyhow, I don’t think diversity is really his problem. All you need out there is some nice Puerto Rican food restaurant, and you’d be set.


    Best, and keep on blogging.

  6. walt says:

    Well, “her,” actually.

    Hmm. I don’t know of a Puerto Rican restaurant–but there is a Filipino place (apparently very authentic), and a Salvadorean restaurant, and one serving Singapore cuisine, and a Korean BBQ place, and a Mongolian BBQ place…

    Most of these restaurants are also pretty reasonably priced–not Mickey D cheap, but lunches usually in the $6 to $8 range, with some notable exceptions.