Matt's Restaurant Guide to eating well at Davis

Disclaimer: I no longer live in Davis and hence no longer maintain this list. All the opinions below were formed during the periods of fall of 2004 - summer of 2008. That being said, I assume this page will be relevant for a while.

Here I rate the restaurants in davis on a numerical scale of 1-10. The number generally reflects the taste of the food and not its price or quantity or the atmosphere of the place or the service of the workers. However, if food is especially pricey that may make me in a more judgmental mood while eating, so these places (unintentionally may be held to a slightly higher standard) the reverse is obviously true for cheap food. The restaurants are ranked in order of best food to worse food within a given category.

(i did not rate fast food chains because most people know what their food tastes like anyway)

dollar signs do not take into account lunch specials. $ = most entrees under 7 $$ = entrees in the 7-10 range $$$ = entrees in the 10-13 range $$$$ = entrees in the 13-18 range $$$$$ = most entrees 18+

Buffets

  • Nobu Hiro - $$$ (7.5) As far as all you can eat sushi goes (which is probably the food least suited for a buffet), this place is the best in Davis. The freshest fish (out of the buffets) and probably has the most variety now that they changed the menu.
  • Kathmandu Kitchen - $$$ (7.5) The food here is quite good. Their lunch buffet is a good deal, and the quality and selection is better than the other places in Davis.
  • Raja's - $$ (5) cheap Indian food during the all you can eat buffet, but the quality and selection is not so good.
  • Fuji Chef- $$$ (5) The only reason to go here over Nobu is if you want to order a lot of soft shell crab. Everything else, including sashimi, can be found at Nobu done way fresher without the long wait for a table.
  • Davis Sushi Buffet Japanese Restaurant - $$$ (4.5) same stuff as Fuji's (meaning unfresh fish), nicer atmosphere by default, but worse soft shell crab. Therefore, there is no chance you will find me in this restaurant.
  • Great Wall of China II - $$ (4) Lots of selection but the increase in price and the lack of quality makes this place a pretty bad deal.

California eclectic

  • Seasons - $$$$$ (8.5) I think this place is one of the best in Davis, a lot of tasty, unique, seasonal dishes. The prices are reasonable for the high quality of service, food, and ambiance.
  • Tucos Wine Market and Cafe - $$$$$ (8) Almost as good as Seasons. The flavors are at seasons level, but the price/portion ratio is much higher. I love that they use only free range chicken and pasture raised beef. Lots of local ingredients as well, and the food is very good. The portions are small, but not totally unreasonable
  • Pluto's - $ (7.5) good salad for a decent price. I love their balsamic dressing.
  • Delta of Venus - $$ (7) I like the fresh flavors of this place. Portions are small but still reasonable. And hurray their wireless works the best out of the places i have brought my computer in town.
  • Farmer's Kitchen Cafe - $$$$ (7) I love the food, which features fresh, local, organic produce and local free-range meat, but the prices do not reflect the atmosphere.
  • Cafe Bernardo - $$ (6.5) i like their butternut squash soup, and some of their tasty sandwiches. However, a lot of their food is pretty average California eclectic fair and slightly overpriced for an order at the counter place.
  • Burgers and Brew - (6.5) $$ a pretty good burger with good quality meat. Their turkey was not good at all though.
  • Crepeville - $$ (6.5) huge portions and decent food. However, many items are overly greasy and i have occasionally gotten a burnt crepe.
  • 3rd & U Cafe - $$ (6.5) prices are reasonable and the food is pretty good. The menu isn't very exciting, but the flavors are fresh and clean. Servers are a little clueless though.
  • Stone's Cafe & Catering - $ (6.5) pretty decent food at a good price. Clean flavors, but a lot of their food can be a little too sweet
  • Fuzio - $$$ (6.5) Decent food, but small portions for dishes that are just thrown haphazardly in a bowl.
  • Coffee House - $ (6.5) cheap, healthy, fast food and you can sample anything so there is no risk. Loved the grilled eggplant with roasted red pepper sandwich.
  • Mustard Seed - $$$$$ (6.5) A nice atmosphere, but Seasons and Tucos are far more consistent. Great fancy side salads though.
  • Bistro 33 - $$$$ (5.5) has some good moments, but over all it is overpriced pretentious food gone awry in a sports bar setting.
  • Bakers Square - $$$ (4.5) your average Americana place. A little above Denny's quality.

Chinese

  • Hometown Chinese Food - $ (8) The best take out Chinese place in Davis. I absolutely love the garlic eggplant and the meat gravey over rice. Limited menu, smaller than lets say noodle express, but everything is done extremely well.
  • Noodle Express - $$ (8) best variety of Chinese food at Davis. Their green beans are out of this world. The reason why i choose this place over shanghai town is that they also do many of their americanized dishes well. Other recommended items include: bock choy with whole garlic (off menu), noodles with pork and sweet bean paste, fish fillet in black bean sauce, Szechuan tofu, and Mongolian chicken.
  • Shanghai Town - $ (8) good Chinese food for a great price, and can you believe it? Dim Sum in Davis... yay :). 12 steamed dumplings for 4 and change. I recommend the Tan Tan noodles, spicy string beans, shanghai chow mein, various dim sum items. Bad service (nice people though) and bad Americanized dishes prevent this place from being number one.
  • Davis Noodle City - $$ (7.5) love the chef's noodle salad, schichuan eggplant, and also like their weak kim chi. Everything else is pretty average.
  • Ding How - $$ (5.5) decent Chinese food. The specialty here is the fake meats. I am a carnivore all the way but this fake meat tasted better than their real stuff (real meat dishes are bellow average though). Ask for their vegetarian menu.
  • Wok of Flame - $$ (5.5) Best quality meat used in a Davis Chinese restaurant. They actually use pure breast meat in their fried chicken dishes, and still keep it very tender. However, the sauces make the flavors just average.
  • Jade Garden - $$ (5.5) this place is decent, but not quite up there with the top 4. Some dishes are very good, others are big fat losers; choose wisely. I do like their Chinese broccoli a lot, but overall their vegetables seem to be slightly overcooked.
  • Silver Dragon - $$ (5) ok Chinese food at a reasonable price. However, the waiter with the blushed face always seems drunk and is quite annoying.
  • Red Orchid Restaurant- $$ (5) bad dim sum. Shabu shabu is decent (although not Chinese). They have a limited number of the tasty noodle city dishes.
  • House of Chang - $$ (4.5) maybe its what i ordered but this place did not live up to the Wiki hipe and seemed more generic than people suggest
  • Great Wall of China II - $$ (4.5) their fried chicken dishes are decent because they’re crispier than other places, but the food is overall kind of greasy and generic. Also a fairly cheap lunch buffet with a lot of selection but marginal quality.
  • Orange Hut - $ (4.5) a hint better than Wolk'N roll, but also a little more expensive and less selection.
  • Hunan - $$ (4.5) speaking of generic, this place's food is only slightly better than panda express. Plus they have been known for shady business practices, but you do get tons of food for little $$ during the lunch hours, so i do find self eating here with friends for lunch (if they choose the place).
  • Old Teahouse - $ (3) a few decent dishes amongst a sea of really bad tasting food. Plus their boba has gotten worse in the last few years.

Dessert

  • Swirl Frozen Yogurt - (7.5) I love the fact that you can get a tasty healthy dessert.
  • Icekrimski Cafe - (7.5) tasty gelato and sorbeto. I like to go half and half with dark chocolate and a fruity flavor.
  • Yogurt Shack - (5.5) The flavors are a little bland, but they have a ton of toppings. Some of the candies are not available as toppings though.

European

  • London Fish'n Chips - $ (6.5) good fried food, however it doesn't take that much skill to make fried food taste good. Their oysters and fish seem to be the freshest of the items.
  • Aioli Bodega Espanola - $$$$$ (6) This place is decent. Most of the tapas are hit and miss, but the grilled vegetables were the best I have ever had. Overall there are other better upscale places in Davis.

Indian

  • Kathmandu Kitchen - $$$$ (6.5) The food here is quite good. Their buffet is a good deal, and the quality and selection is better than the other places in Davis. However, the dinners are way too expensive for the rude service and mediocre atmosphere.
  • Indyna Bistro - $$$ (5) The Indian food in Davis is by no means spectacular. Back when this place was called the Chat Cafe it was the best indian for the money in Davis. Ever since the ownership changed this place has gone down hill.
  • Raja's - $$ (5) cheap Indian food during the all you can eat buffet, but the quality and selection is not so good.

Italian/Pizza

  • Village Bakery - $ (9) this place has the best pizza in Davis by far. if you prefer New York style pizza there is finally a place to go. $2.00 french and sourdough baguettes are also an good deal.
  • Symposium - $$ (7.5) this is the best place for pizza in Davis if you like a thicker crust. This rating does not include the Greek food, which is not so good.
  • Zia's Delicatessen - $$ (6.5) good quality Italian deli sandwiches
  • Caffe Italia - $$$ (4.5) bad Italian seems to be Davis's specialty, unfortunately other places don't get any better
  • Woodstock's Pizza - $ (4.5) not as bad as some people say, but village bakery puts them to shame
  • Mountain Mike's Pizza - $$$ (4.5) decent pizza but still not as good as village bakery or symposium
  • Strings Italian Cafe - $$$ (3) mushy overcooked pasta at an Italian place? I wouldn't eat at their all you can eat pasta dinner if it were 1.99.

Japanese/Korean

  • Zen Toro - (7.5) $$$$ Probably the best quality fish and Japanese dinner entrees in Davis. Every dish is quite good, but minor details often seem somewhat off.
  • Moshi Moshi - $$$$ (7.5) most innovative rolls, but the rest of the food is nothing special.
  • Nobu Hiro - $$$ (7.5) The quality is not as good as the two above but the price might make it the best value for Japanese in Davis. 9 and change for a double sashimi bento box is the cheapest sashimi you can find in town.
  • Davis Oshio Cafe - $$ (6.5) good deal and close to campus. This may be the cheapest Japanese food in town.
  • Fuji Chef- $$$ (5.5) huge selection in their lunch buffet, just a little lacking in quality, and a long wait for a table. For regular service their Saba Shioyaki is pretty good, everything else was very disappointing.
  • Davis Sushi Buffet Japanese Restaurant - $$$ (5.5) same stuff as Fuji's, nicer atmosphere by default.
  • Osaka Sushi - $$$$ (5) if you want to fork over the money go to Moshi Moshi or Zen Toro, this place is overpriced for the quality.
  • Sushi Unlimited - $$$$$ (4) like Osaka but more expensive and poor quality. When dishes are this expensive they should not be food court quality.
  • Jusco - $$$$ (3.5) If you thought Sushi Unlimited had crudy sushi, you need to try this place. Atmosphere is also horrible.

Mexican/Southwestern (see woodland restaurants for better Mexican food)

  • Taqueria Guadalajara - $ (6.5) the pastor is pretty good, but some of the food can be somewhat bland. Best chips in Davis, thick, freshly fried, free and all you can eat. How do you beat that.
  • Taqueria Davis- $$ (6) This place is good for Davis. I like their asada and Mexico City tacos. However, their chips taste like tostitos and their salsa isn't that good either.
  • El Mariachi - $$ (5) Nice people. Also they have a great salsa bar and the best liquados and horchata, but if you took out the salsa bar the food is not good.
  • Chuy's Taqueria - $ (5) probably the best lengua in Davis. Like the salsa as well, but the fish tacos were very overrated by other wikians.
  • Dos Coyotes - $$ (4) blahness. mildly decent southwest food if you get a salad, but the burritos leave something to be desired.
  • La Esperanza - $$$ (2.5) all i can say is that this place is low quality food for high prices. You'd be tough to find a meal here under ten dollars and better quality chicken can be found to the left and right of this place (subway and teriyaki express).

Middle eastern/Mediterranean

  • Sam's Mediterranean Cuisine - $ (7) this is the best place to get a pita in Davis (especially the falafel), the humus is not good though.
  • Ali Baba - $ (6.5) solid food at a decent price. you may have to wait a while for your food during the dinner hour
  • Cafe Mediterranee - $$ (6.5) great menu, on paper, that allows you to sample many items on one plate. however, some of the food is inconsistent. the chicken was great, falafels were burnt and dry, and the humus was just ok.
  • Symposium - $$$$ (6) the Greek food is not as good as the Greek places in LA. i don't think they make their own pita, since it is served cold with their dips and tastes store bought. But their pizza is the 2nd best in Davis (behind village bakery) and cheaper than the entrees.
  • Pita Pit- $ (5) thank god there is a place other than old teahouse open late in Davis. The Pita Pit is open until 3am. the food is decent and healthy but the service isn't good.

Thai

  • Thai Recipes - $$$ (8) The Thai food here is less sweet than standard Americanized Thai food and offers a spicy scale that can suite anyone's tastes. Slightly more expensive than Nakorn and 2K, but well worth it.
  • Thai Nakorn - $$ (7.5) best value for Thai lunch in Davis. Also, all dinner entrees come with free rice, unlike the other Thai and Chinese restaurants in Davis.
  • Thai Bistro - $$$ (7.5) decent fresh tasting Thai food and the ambiance is nice. The food is at the same level as the other good Thai places, just a tad bit pricier. Although their Pad Kee Moa is the best in town.
  • 2K Thai Food - $$$ (7.5) all the thai food in Davis is pretty good and this one is pretty much on par with the rest. The all black dress of the servers really classed up the place as well.
  • Sophia's Thai Kitchen - $$ (6) not bad, but other Thai places in Davis are better. Bottomless Thai tea is good though

Vietnamese

  • Hoa Viet - $$ (7) good Vietnamese food for Davis at fairly cheap prices
  • Huong Lan Sandwiches - $ (7) I love their veggie sandwich and its only 2.49, sandwiches range in price from $1.99 - $2.49
  • Sunrise Restaurant - $ (4.5) the food is ok (sandwiches worse than Huong Lan and entrees worse than hoa viet) and the service is kind of slow.

Sac Restaurants

  • New Canton - $$$ (9) best dim sum in sac/yolo county by far, and actually the best dim sum i have had in California
  • Andy Nguyen - $$ (8.5) excellent fake meat vegetarian menu, and the food is nicely presented. I love the salmon teriyaki dish. Rivals the best places in SF.
  • OZ - $$$$$ (8) The best Korean BBQ around, equipped with table top BBQ. Although the ambiance is nice its quite pricey compared to places in LA
  • Kaveri Madras Cuisine - $$$ (8) Best Indian i have had in the Davis/Sac area. The dinner buffet is great for $11.99. However not as good as the Indian places in the LA area.
  • Tapa the World - $$$$ (7.5) Many good dishes, and a cool atmosphere. However, the deserts weren't very good.
  • Frank Fat's - $$$ (7.5) The atmosphere is nice, and they have a lot of good dishes. But overall the menu is somewhat hit and miss.
  • Mikuni - $$$$ (7) A really hip atmosphere, and the food is pretty decent, but a little pricey for what you get. I like Zen Toro and Moshi Moshi a little better, but this place can be fun.
  • Arigato sushi - $$$ (5.5) the sushi rolls are good for the money (half off rolls pretty much all the time), but the quality is overall not so great, and the pictures on the menu don't look anything like what you get.

Woodland/Winters/Dixon Restaurants

  • El Paisano Taco Truck - $ (8.5) just off the main st. exit in woodland (make a left, and its right there on your left) best tacos, and only a buck including tax. The horchata is not very good, but its only a buck as well. Best tacos ive had since I lived in LA.
  • Pad Thai Restaurant - $$ (8) better curry than the Davis restaurants, but worse pad Thai (isn't that ironic).
  • Quetzal - $ (8) best overall Mexican i have had in the yolo area. Excellent homemade tortillas and gorditas.
  • Putah Creek Cafe - $$ (6.5) located in winters, this is the best diner food in the yolo area, but nothing too amazing. Next time im getting there early to try their breakfast.
  • China Doll - $ (6.5) excellent lamb dish, a unique taste as for a Chinese dish, makes the trip worth while (especially if you're studying next door at Java). The food in bins is less appetizing though.
  • El Jubilete - $$ (6) excellent Lengua, and really nice people. The rest of the food we had was average for a Mexican restaurant in the yolo area.
  • Ono Teriyaki - $ (6) pretty good food for a reasonable price, and the people are really nice. I have only tried the fried items, i will be back for the grilled ones, so the rating may change soon.
  • Sizzling Hot Mongolian BBQ - $$$ (5.5) decent Mongolian BBQ, but one bowl for 6.75 is kind of pricey for lunch (considering how much it shrinks down after cooking)
  • Golden Dragon Restaurant - $$ (5.5) This place serves average Chinese food at a decent price. However, considering that 7/16 of the places in Davis are better, it is not worth the drive.
  • Super Burrito & Taqueria - $$ (5.5) This is the first mexican place I have tried in Woodland, that is worse than the average place in Davis. they make their burritos sans rice and beans which is how many down south like them. Too bad their meat is tough and is not flavored that well.

Comments:

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2006-08-20 13:21:53   Dear Matt: I was reading some of your restaurant reviews, and wanted to thank you for your review of Huon lan- I didn't know it existed! Thanks. But as for the mustard seed: I must warn you that I've spoken/worked with 2-3 people who've cooked there, and the kitchen is bar none, one of the filthiest in Davis. In addition to that: there is a commonly used sysco-distributed frozen pesto (that obviously needs to be stored in the freezer or refrigerator) which the owner/kitchen manager of the mustard seed insisted needed only to be stored at room temp....weird. I would strongly recommend against eating there-for food safety reasons. —DianaChristofersen


2007-02-22 09:40:51   This is the coolest page I have ever seen. —JoshFernandez


2007-03-21 11:19:22   I like your coice of Noodle Express. People of Davis keep trying other chinese. They should just stay where it's good. Nice reviews! —KipMeade


2007-04-06 22:08:34   Wow. I'm very impressed with your list. I'm going to use it as a guide to checking out new places. Thanks so much! —ThuHo


2007-11-16 22:43:10   I've noticed that when you adjust your ratings, they almost always get lower. I know that I tend to "burn out" on restaurants after awhile — a hazard in a place like Davis where there are not tons of restaurant. (Although it does have a lot of restaurants for its size). Although it could be that your tastes have changed or that the restaurants have gone down in quality, you might also want to consider the burn-out factor. —CovertProfessor


2007-11-25 16:14:02   As a fellow foodie I just wanted to make some comments and suggestions: (1) I noticed Tucos is not up there, it took me forever to try it since my other favorite "Californian" cuisine was Seasons, but I find Tucos a bit more consistent (I've always had good food at Seasons, but my friends have had some ho-hum dishes — we all take bites of each other's plates), (2) Give Symposium's pizza a try, Village Bakery is good, but I think this place has the best pizza, (3) There's a Sacramento mexican restaurant/drive-thru that I've recently been introduced to called Aldaberto's you might want to take a look at (since you're overall Mexican food scores seem lower than other ethnic cuisines), (4) The duck I had Biba's in Sacramento two years ago was the best dish I've had in my life — though I haven't tried their new menu this season, (5) try the turkey burger and Sam's with Tahini and "Spicy Sauce", (6) I remembered Tapas the World desserts being ho-hum too, but recently I had the Chocolate Strawberry addiction and we all loved it, (7) finally I'm on a mission for you to bump Zen Toro up to an 8 or better (Yes, I work at Zen Toro, but I was a weekly regular for over a year before I started there), the macaroni side got upgraded to a cold noodle side (since that seemed to be a chief complaint), and while the fish is the freshest in town (though before ZT I did enjoy Moshi Moshi), you have to try the Japanese entrees which is where a restaurant run by Japanese people differs then the other restaurants in Davis...I suggest the Miso Yaki Butter fish (has a very strong asian, salty taste to it though), the Sesame Chicken, Saba Yakizakana (if you want something simpler), Pan Fried Thai Fish, Crab and Salmon fish cake appetizer, the Poke Salad, the Lobster roll (before I worked there the price kept me from trying it, but it's worth it), and if you're looking for a combo I think the Mini Don combo is the best deal. —AlvinTsao


2007-11-25 19:21:52   Ah, ok, I understand your relative ranking system. Glad to know that things aren't getting worse. :)

CovertProfessor


2007-12-28 21:30:55   In my experience, Asian restaurants in Northern California almost always charge extra for rice, although once you've ordered it, asking for more doesn't tend to generate a new charge (sort of like the bottomless cup of coffee). And, you have to make sure to ask for rice, or you may not get it. —CovertProfessor


2008-03-21 23:57:34   Hey Matt, I recommend trying Tuco's, they have a nice menu that changes a lot and all my experiences there have been great. They have a good wine selection/knowledge too. Nice reviews. —davistudent