Foodies crawled the streets of downtown San Mateo on a recent evening in the city's third installment of Dishcrawl.
A group of more than 50 people dined at four San Mateo restaurants in keeping with the Dishcrawl mantra "Four restaurants. One night."
What is a Dishcrawl?
The event is a unique dining experience which takes revelers on a progressive meal through four restaurants surrounding a locale.
"What's awesome about Dishcrawl is that every night is different," said Sharon Ngo Tran, Dishcrawl Vice President of Business Development.
By touring eventgoers to different restaurants in each edition of Dishcrawl, the start-up aims not only to provide a dinner to remember but also to introduce people to the community surrounding them.
"[Dishcrawl] really opens people's eyes to the restaurants and businesses that are around. We're really about building community," said Tran, who accompanied eventgoers in San Mateo.
Dishcrawl San Mateo
On a recent evening, "dishcrawlers" (as the participating diners are called throughout the event) had a taste of the cuisine of , Dessert Republic, and .
The group's meeting place and first stop on the menu itinerary was Attic, a restaurant of pan-asian influenced cuisine located on South B street.
Of all the offerings of the evening, the dishes served at Attic were particularly notable: “long life” garlic noodles, a miso buttercorn scallop and adobo chicken wings.
The miso-crusted scallop sat atop a bed of corn kernels and was presented on a half-shell no bigger than one’s palm, making the course just that much more enticing to devour in one bite.
Though, the real dish to be had was the bowl of “long life” garlic noodles. The coaxing aroma of garlic hits your nose before the bowl hits your table and, once it does, its not long before each strand is slurped up from chopstick to gullet.
Dishcrawler Pauline Brutlas was particularly impressed by the food at Attic.
After one bite of the miso buttercorn scallop, Brutlas' widened to a declarative "really good!"
Brutlas considers herself a regular to the dining experience, having been to three dishcrawls including the one in San Mateo Wednesday evening with plans to attend a fourth in Mountain View next week.
“I just love that [dishcrawl] is a combination of great food and meeting new people,” said Brutlas.
The self-professed foodie added that both she and her newlywed husband, who accompanied her to Dishcrawl San Mateo, rarely dine in San Mateo. With this food-centric event offering the opportunity to seek out the restaurant scene in a not-so-often visited city, Brutlas said, “You find those gems that you know you want to go back to.”
Partnering with local restaurants, promoting business in-town
A flock of 50 or so diners walking from restaurant to restaurant inevitably prompted a question or two from onlookers and passersby.
Occasionally, a fellow diner offered an approval rating of a particular establishment. One man who was having dinner at Pancho Villa when dishcrawlers arrived said the Mexican eatery is a “staple” for San Mateo locals like himself.
For dishcrawlers to draw their own conclusions from the cuisine, Pancho Villa served-up two tacos, housemade tortilla chips and aguas frescas.
What made the event more unique was not just the abundance of food for the evening (a third leg of the dining experience included a half-dozen wings, basket of housemade potato chips and fries, and a quarter of a philly cheesesteak from Original Buffalo Wings), but also the chance to meet those who own and operate each restaurant.
For first-time diners and repeat customers alike, this opportunity to meet a restaurant owner puts a personal story behind the meal about to be had.
When each restaurant owner greeted dishcrawlers with an invite into the establishment and an introduction to the meal, the experience felt more like a warm welcome into a home kitchen and less like a walk-in reservation with a quick to seat you maitre d’ asking “numberinyourparty?”
Attic front of house manager, Leroid David, said that this meet and greet opportunity enhances the experience for participating restaurants just as it does for diners.
“The purpose is not only to introduce people to our food, but also hopefully we get some new customers - friends really,” said David.
Beyond the dinner plate, Dishcrawl representative Jeff Hudson said that such dining events create personal connections between participants and the surrounding locale.
“Just walking people through the town it shows them, if they’re to come back, where to go,” said Hudson. He added, “San Mateo dishcrawls have been fantastic. There’s a string of restaurants in the downtown area that give us a selection.”
The recent evening tour of that selection ended with a last-course stop at Dessert Republic, a small café specializing in Hong Kong-style desserts like a black sesame paste and mango custard pudding (both of which were sampled Monday evening).
Dessert Republic is located on Main Street, yet oddly enough this “main street” is a pedestrian-only walkway that is overshadowed by a four story public parking structure. Considerably off the beaten path to anyone unfamiliar with the downtown area, Dishcrawl also increases exposure for lesser known haunts.
Consider this dining event one that has to be experienced first hand, and a chance at a first impression of a city’s dining scene. As Dishcrawl VP Sharon Ngo Tran said, “First impressions are important.”