Plus, the return of Specialty’s Cafe and Bakery, a new project for the Los Carnalitos taco truck….and more!


Turkey sando wizardry returns with the re-opening of Specialty’s Cafe & Bakery. (Image via Specialty’s Cafe and Bakery Facebook Page)

The Six Fifty’s Restaurant Roundup series is a monthly collection of the latest in breaking food news curated by food reporter and Peninsula Foodist author Elena Kadvany.

In this issue:

  • The Los Carnalitos taco truck owners go brick & mortar in RWC
  • Ludwig’s German Table surmounts numerous hurdles to open in MV
  • Specialty’s Cafe and Bakery is back in MV
  • Masala Desi Cafe opens in RWC
  • Flea Street’s Jesse Cool hosts event with renowned chef José Andrés

Ludwig’s German Table is gearing up to open on Castro Street in Mountain View. (Photo by Magali Gauthier)

At long last, Ludwig’s German Table opens with beer and brats in Mountain View

fter 26 months and one pandemic, Ludwig’s German Table has finally opened its much-anticipated downtown Mountain View beer garden.

Ludwig’s opened on Thursday, March 11, at 383 Castro St. The German restaurant and beer garden, the owners’ second location after the original in San Jose, has been under construction in fits and starts since 2019, and faced major delays even before the coronavirus shutdown.

“It’s unbelievable relief to finally get here,” co-owner Ben Bate said the week before opening. “It’s starting to feel like a beer garden and not a construction site.”

Bate and co-owner Nicole Jacobi took over the prominent corner space after Bierhaus closed several years ago. They first opened Ludwig’s in San Jose’s historic Germania Hall in 2016. Jacobi hails from Hamburg, Germany, and Bate from England.

The Mountain View Ludwig’s has 16 beers on tap, which will focus heavily on German beers to start but rotate in local brews as well. With double the tap capacity of the San Jose location, Bate has more room to play around with the draft offerings. Draft beers are available in 0.2 liter, half liter, liter or 2-liter “das boot” sizes.

Beer glasses inside Ludwig’s in downtown Mountain View. (Photo by Magali Gauthier)

The bar is also serving wine, aperol spritzes and Ludwig’s “house hugo,” prosecco mixed with lime, mint elderflower syrup and sparkling water.

The food menu is a German culinary celebration, including pretzels with obazda (a Bavarian dish made from brie, cream cheese, butter, paprika and onion); wiener schnitzel (diners can choose veal, pork or chicken) served with lingonberry jam, potato salad and cucumber dill salad; and sausages, including a vegan Beyond Meat currywurst. Weekend specials include schweinehaxe, crispy pork knuckle served with sauerkraut, beer sauce and potato salad; and elsässer flammkuchen, crispy flatbread topped with cultured cream, gruyere cheese, bacon and onions. For dessert, there’s apple strudel and berliner pfannkuchen, a German filled donut.

Customers can preorder food and drinks online and dine outdoors or pick it up to go. Ludwig’s has ample outdoor seating, including a few extra tables on Castro Street due to the street closure, and will offer table service. Following county public health guidelines, no more than six people can share a table. They don’t plan to serve people indoors yet, Bate said.

Bate and Jacobi temporarily closed Ludwig’s in San Jose in late November to keep the business afloat during the pandemic. They saw business drop during the winter months and were starting to lose money, Bate said.

But they reopened in early February, and are already optimistically planning for major events at both locations this year. They hope to safely host Oktoberfest and an annual Christmas market in Mountain View.

Ludwig’s Mountain View is open Thursday through Friday from 4–9 p.m and Saturday through Sunday noon to 9 p.m. For more information and to place an order, go to ludwigsmv.com.


The famed Specialty’s cookies. (Image via Specialty’s Cafe and Bakery Facebook Page)

Specialty’s Cafe and Bakery comes back to life in Mountain View (cookies included)

Specialty’s is back.

The Bay Area-born cafe chain, which filed for bankruptcy and closed all locations last May, reopened Monday, March 1, at 645 Ellis St. in Mountain View.

“Specialty’s original founders, Craig and Dawn, missed the business so they’ve returned and they’ve brought their (now grown!) kids with them,” the Specialty’s website reads. “We’ve downsized to just one location and have updated the menu with new delicious creations. This will allow us to focus on the great food and customer experience.”

The owners did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The company, which Dawn Sandnes and Craig Saxton founded in San Francisco in 1987, once ran more than 50 cafes in California, Washington and Illinois. Specialty’s was a work-day lunch favorite, particularly for its cookies. When the business announced it would give away frozen cookie dough before shutting down last spring, people flocked to the Specialty’s warehouse in Redwood City. According to a Facebook post, 2,000 lucky customers got boxes of frozen cookie dough.

The reopened Specialty’s has new sandwiches, salads and pastries — from a porchetta sandwich to a Moroccan kale salad and morning buns — but the “same cookies — we’re not crazy!” the company wrote on Facebook. Cookie flavors include semi-sweet chocolate chunk, oatmeal wheat germ chocolate chip, chai snickerdoodle and salted rye whiskey dark chocolate. The cafe also serves Peet’s coffee and has seating on an outdoor patio. Catering services are also available again.

The owners plan to reopen more locations “based on customer demand,” the Specialty’s website states.

Specialty’s is open Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Orders can be placed online or in person.


The newly opened Masala Desi Cafe serves coffee, teas and Indian fare. (Photo via Yelp)

All-day Indian cafe opens in Redwood City with a focus on takeout

An Indian cafe serving dosa, chicken tikka sliders and coffee brewed with spices is now open in Redwood City.

Masala Desi Cafe opened in February at 2137 Roosevelt Ave., replacing Summit Cafe. Owner Srihari (who asked to only be identified by his first name) is a software engineer turned restaurateur from Hyderabad in southern India.

He created Masala Desi Cafe to be geared toward coffee, snacks and takeout-friendly food, not just for the duration of the pandemic but beyond.

“After this pandemic, (there will be) more focus on takeout. It is the trend,” he said. “People may not be that comfortable to eat at the restaurant … it may take some time.”

Srihari lives in Fremont but often comes to the Peninsula to eat, and said he felt Redwood City in particular needed more Indian restaurants.

Masala Desi Cafe serves coffee brewed with cinnamon, cardamom, clove and star anise; as well as masala chai, masala chaas (a spiced yogurt drink), mango lassi and popular Indian soda Thums Up. Coffee and espresso drinks are also available.

The food menu includes curries, biryani, butter chicken, chana masala, several types of naan and roti baked in a clay oven. Masala Desi Cafe also makes “fusion” items like a curry burrito (chicken tikka masala or paneer wrapped in naan), chicken wings tossed in Indian spices and those sliders, served on soft pav bread.

For dessert, look for Indian cakes, rasamalai (paneer cheese soaked in sweet milk with spices) and gulab jamun (deep-fried balls soaked in honey and syrup).

Masala Desi Cafe is open Tuesday-Sunday 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5–9 p.m. The cafe is open for takeout and delivery and has a few tables for outdoor dining.


A cochinita de pibil taco and quesadilla with huitlacoche (corn smut), squash blossom, mushroom and nopales (cactus) from Los Carnalitos truck in Redwood City. (Photo by Elena Kadvany)

Owners of Los Carnalitos taco truck to open Redwood City restaurant

The family behind the popular Los Carnalitos taco truck in Redwood City is opening a new restaurant a few miles away.

La Fonda de Los Carnalitos will open this spring at 820 Veterans Blvd., Suite B. The space was last occupied by Frida Colibries.

The new eatery will pay homage to the fondas, or neighborhood mom-and-pop restaurants, of the owners’ native Mexico City. Fondas typically serve set “menus of the day” — soup, a main and side dish — co-owner Luis Santos said, but they plan to focus more on plates, like mole and mole verde with handmade corn tortillas.

“This opportunity came and we decided it was a good location to try the new ideas we have,” said Santos, who runs Los Carnalitos with his brother, Alfredo. “We wanted to give people the same type of Mexico City food but a little more complex.”

La Fonda de Los Carnalitos will also serve smaller, appetizer versions of the truck’s choriqueso (chorizo, cheese, cilantro, onion and salsa on a flour tortilla) and gorditas (thick masa stuffed with pork belly, lettuce, onion, cilantro, cheese and salsa). Fresh guacamole will come with chicharrones instead of chips.

This will be the brothers’ third location. They opened the taco truck at 2907 El Camino Real in 2015, then expanded with a restaurant in Hayward in 2017. (Last year, the Hayward Los Carnalitos was named one of the San Francisco Chronicle’s top Mexican restaurants in the Bay Area.)

“We’re going to put the same love and passion we put into the food truck and the East Bay location,” said Santos, who lives a few blocks away from the taco truck. “(We’re) going to try to bring the best quality, the best flavors, authentic flavors from Mexico City to our Redwood City community.”

He hopes to open La Fonda de Los Carnalitos at the end of April.


Flea St. Cafe owner Jesse Ziff Cool will talk about sustainability and other issues with José Andrés on April 6. (Photo by Veronica Weber)

Listen to famed chef-philanthropist José Andrés in conversation with Jesse Cool on April 6

Local restaurateur Jesse Ziff Cool will be moderating a virtual conversation with José Andrés, famed chef and founder of World Central Kitchen, on April 6.

The event is part of the Peninsula Open Space Trust’s Wallace Stegner Lecture series, which features “writers, thinkers and activists who explore important issues related to land, nature and conservation.”

Andrés — as well as Cool, the owner of Flea St. Cafe in Menlo Park — is a staunch advocate for sustainability in the restaurant industry. His new book, “Vegetables Unleashed,” explores cooking with vegetables to reduce food waste and the world’s carbon footprint.

World Central Kitchen has for over a decade served meals to people in need and responded in the wake of natural and manmade disasters, including when Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, the bushfires in Australia and in 2020, the pandemic. Since last March, World Central Kitchen partnered with restaurants to keep them and their employees afloat while serving 36 million meals in more than 400 cities across America.

Cool, who’s championed farm-to-table, organic cooking at Flea St. Cafe for three decades, is also a culinary lecturer at the Stanford University Department of Education and uses her home garden and kitchen as a model classroom. Cool spearheaded an effort to revamp the food Stanford Hospital serves employees and patients.

During the coronavirus shutdown, Flea St. Cafe launched “Meals of Gratitude,” a program to donate meals to frontline health care workers while keeping the restaurant staff employed. The restaurant has made more than 26,00 meals for frontline healthcare providers, evacuees from the California wildfires (Flea St. also sent meals to wildfire victims through World Central Kitchen) and vaccination site employees. A year after starting the program, Cool is ending Meals of Gratitude at the end of this week as the restaurant works to slowly reopen.

Cool is a supporter of the Peninsula Open Space Trust’s work to protect local land and farms, and also volunteers with World Central Kitchen. Because of these connections, the Peninsula Open Space Trust asked her to host the conversation with Andrés, she said.

The April 6 talk begins at 7 p.m. For more information and to buy tickets, go to openspacetrust.org.

Cool is also speaking on a separate panel this month about pay equity and her work to eliminate tipping at Flea St. Cafe, hosted by Les Dames d’Escoffier International, a philanthropic organization of women leaders in food, beverage and hospitality. The virtual event is on Wednesday, March 24 at 4:30 p.m. Tickets are $10. To register, go to lesdamessf.org.

Through the two events, Cool will explore “some of the dramatic opportunities and change that has been a part of all our lives over the last year, and what it means for the road ahead,” she wrote in the restaurant’s newsletter this week.


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Elena Kadvany

A writer with a passion for investigative reporting, telling untold stories and public-service journalism, I have built my career covering education and restaurants in the Bay Area. My blog and biweekly newsletter, Peninsula Foodist, is the go-to source for restaurant news in Silicon Valley. My work has been published in The Guardian, Eater, Bon Appetit’s Healthyish, SF Weekly and The Six Fifty.

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