The Best and the Worst of CA

This is a page dedicated to exposing all the lame places in and around California, and give some deserved kudos to those establishments that make this a great place to live. I also list places that've not gotten their act together completely, but are not in the dumps either. For each place, I give reasons as to why I think it belongs in that particular category. Note that this is only our opinion, and should be taken as such. All the places listed here have had at least two opportunities to present themselves to me. The categories include:


Food and drink

The Best

Al's Elbow Room on Mission Street in San Francisco, CA
Good atmosphere to play pool (which I suck at) and relax.
Amarin Thai Noodle House on Castro Street in Mountain View, CA
One of the best Thai-food places I've been to!
Amber on El Camino Real in Mountain View, CA
Decent and tasy Indian food, not the best lunch buffet selection.
Arawan Thai Cafe on Ocean Avenue in Carmel, CA
Pricy (what isn't in Carmel?) but very good Thai food.
Bagdad Cafe on Market Street in San Francisco, CA
Open late with decent food, but they don't accept credit cards!
Bangkok Cuisine on Lytton Avenue in Palo Alto, CA
Pretty good Thai food.
Baskin Robbins on El Camino Real in Sunnyvale, CA
What can you say bad about good ice cream?
Bennigan's near Mission College in Santa Clara, CA
Pretty decent American food, good service, and is open relatively late.
Berkeley Expresso on Shattuck in Berkeley, CA
A decent coffee place to hang out.
Berkeley Sun Hong Kong in Shattuck Square in Berkeley, CA
Decent (and inexpensive) Chinese food.
Black Bear Diner on South Main street in Yreka, CA
Good breakfast.
Bombay Cafe at the corner of El Camino and San Antonio in Palo Alto, CA
Decent and fairly tasty Indian food.
Bombay Garden on Third Avenue in San Mateo, CA
Decent Indian food; great desserts!
Bongo Burger on Euclid Avenue in Berkeley, CA
Juicy American burgers.
Bow Thai on South B Street in San Mateo, CA
Excellent and inexpensive Thai food, especially the Pad Thai!
Brahma Bull on California Street in Palo Alto, CA
Very good Indian buffet, with free drinks and chai! Nice setting as well. One of the best buffet deals.
Breads of India and Gourmet on Sacramento in Berkeley, CA
Good Indian food and choice of breads.
Broadway Pizza and Indian Cuisine on Broadway in Millbrae, CA
Decent Indian food with an interesting atmosphere---the appetisers are cool!
California Pizza Kitchen on S. Highway 101 in Solana Beach, CA
Good Pizza---I particularly like the Tandoori Chicken one!
Cafe 50's on Santa Monica in Los Angeles, CA
Great place for a late night snack; good milkshakes too!
Cafe Barrone on El Camino Real in Menlo Park, CA
Great atmosphere, and also great coffee!
Cafe Bastille on Belden Place (off of Bush) in San Francisco, CA
Excellent French food, with live jazz for dinner.
Cafe Claude on Claude lane (between Bush and Sutter) in San Francisco, CA
Parisian bistro that's fairly authentic! Decent jazz as well during the weekends.
Café Tibet on University Avenue in Berkeley, CA
Excellent and reasonably priced Tibetan food with an extremely friendly hostess.
Cha Am on Shattuck in Berkeley, CA
Excellent and spicy Thai food!
Cha Am on Folsom in San Francisco, CA
Excellent and spicy Thai food!
Chaat House on El Camino Real in Sunnyvale, CA
Excellent chaat (a form of Indian fast food with many different varies), but somewhat pricey. The Pav Bhaji is particularly excellent.
Chef Chu's on El Camino Real and San Antonio in Mountain View, CA
Excellent Chinese food---one of my favourite Chinese restaurants in the Bay Area, and one of the best outside of China!
Cheung Hing on El Camino Real in Millbrae, CA
Inexpensive and decent Hong Kong style barbecue.
Chili's on El Camino Real in Menlo Park, CA
Decent American food.
Chili's on El Camino Real in Sunnyvale, CA
Decent American food.
Chung King on S Garfield Ave in Monterey Park, CA
Excellent Schezuan Chinese food--one of the best outside of China!
CoHo in the Tresidder Union on Stanford campus in Stanford, CA
A glorified Starbucks, but the undergrads do make for an interesting atmosphere (yes, I'm getting old)!
Colonel Lee's on Castro Street in Mountain View, CA
Mongolian barbecue---do it yourself style! Excellent place for inexpensive food.
Cordon Bleu on California Street in San Francisco, CA
Excellent (I mean excellent) and inexpensive Vietnamese food in a very cozy atmosphere. Right next to the Lumiere theatre.
Cosmopolitan Cafe on Spear Street in San Francisco, CA
Decent atmosphere and a good place to hang out.
Cosmos on 21st Street (and Bryant) in San Francisco, CA
Decent atmosphere and fairly decent location.
Daily Grill on Geary Street in San Francisco, CA
Decent atmosphere and food.
Dave and Buster's in the Great Mall of America in Milpitas, CA
An awesome place to eat, play pool, and enjoy some cool video games!
Dawat on Castro Street in Mountain View, CA
Great Indian food, and excellent service (a rarity these days)!
Dicey Riley's Irish Pub on Park Road in Burlingame, CA
Decent Irish pub atmosphere.
Don Picos Restaurant on El Camino Real in San Bruno, Ca
Decent Mexican food.
Durbar on Lytton in Palo Alto, CA
Great Indian food---their coupons make it all worthwhile.
Edinburgh Castle Pub on Geary at Larkin in San Francisco, CA
Scottish pub with a nice atmosphere; with fish and chips!
El Torito on Villa La Jolla Drive in La Jolla, CA
Decent Mexican food close to UCSD campus.
Emelia's on Broadway in Atherton, CA
Excellent Mexican food; great hot sauce; and a terrific price!
Empress of China in Chinatown in San Francisco, CA
Decent Chinese food, somewhat expensive, but great view from the top floor!
Ethiopia Restuarant on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, CA
Authentic and delicious Ethiopian food!
Fatapples on Martin Luther King Jr. Way in Berkeley, CA
Excellent American-style breakfasts.
Fenton's on Piedmont in Oakland, CA
A very cool place for great ice cream!
Fields in the Gas Lamp District in San Diego, CA
Irish Pub with a great atmosphere to hang out.
Flavor of India on Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles, CA
Decent Indian food.
Fuddruckers on Main Street in Walnut Creet, CA
"The World's Greatest Hamburgers!" I love the do-it-yourself bar and even though it's an 1.5 hours away from where I am (at Stanford), it's worth the trip! (Great memories from DC as well.)
Gandhi on El Camino Real in San Carlos, CA
Decent Indian food.
Gelato Classico on Castro Street in Mountain View, CA
Extremely rich and delicious Italian ice cream---yummy!
Golden Wok off of Castro Street in Mountain View, CA
Decent Chinese food---fairly inexpensive in a nice atmosphere.
Good Earth on University Avenue in Palo Alto, CA
Great breakfast!
Gordon Biersch Brewery on Emerson in Palo Alto, CA
Good atmosphere and good food---you can dress as fancy or as casually as you want.
Gordon Biersch Brewery on Harrison Street in San Francisco, CA
Good atmosphere and good food---a great place to wait before you see a show at the Maritime Hall.
Grand Palace on Grant Avenue in San Francisco, CA
Pretty good Chinese food.
Greek Town in the Gas Lamp District, San Diego, CA
Reall excellent and inexpensive Greek food!
Häagen-Dazs on University Avenue in Palo Alto, CA
Mmmm... ice cream!
Hangen on Castro Street in Mountain View, CA
Excellent Chinese Schechuan food and they give you a lot of rice too!
Hard Rock Cafe in Universal City in Los Angeles, CA
One of the better Hard Rock Cafes. Great music, of course, and the food is quite decent.
Hong Kong Villa on University Avenue in Berkeley, CA
Excellent Chinese food---I recommend the spicy eggplant dish!
IHOP on Mission Boulevard, Santa Clara, CA
Decent diner food served quickly.
Il Fornaio on El Camino Real near Millbrae, CA
Decent Italian food; kinda pricey. I recommend the vegetarian pizza!
Il Fornaio in Del Mar in San Diego, CA
Decent Italian food; great view of the ocean!
Imperial Palace in Chinatown in San Francisco, CA
Decent, but expensive Chinese food.
India Gate in Sunnyvale on El Camino Real, CA
Excellent and inexpensive Indian food in a dive-like atmosphere, reminiscent of the Metro Dhaba in Rockville, MD.
India Oven on Fillmore in San Francisco, CA
Excellent Indian food, spiced to satisfaction!
Indonesia Restaurant on Post Street in San Francisco, CA
Not the most imaginative name, but the food is out of this world! One of the best restuarants I've been to!
International House Cafe on UC Berkeley Campus in Berkeley, CA
Reasonable place to hang out.
Iron Door Saloon in Groveland, CA
Great place to stop off after a visit to Yosemite! Good American food (try their Buffalo Burger).
J&J's in Chinatown in San Francisco, CA
Decent Chinese food.
Jerry's Famous Deli on Weyburn Avenue in Westwood, CA
Excellent for late night snacks---great milkshakes.
Jing Jing off of University Avenue in Palo Alto, CA
Decent Chinese food that can be spicy at times.
Junta on Lytton Avenue in Palo Alto, CA
Somewhat decent, but fairly authentic Indian food.
Kirk's on California Street in Palo Alto, CA
Decent American food---inexpensive and surprisingly tasty!
Kristina's on 25 in Hollister, CA
Pretty good Mexican food; great salsa, just the thing to do after a day of hang gliding!
Krung Siam on University Avenue in Palo Alto, CA
Excellent (and reasonably priced) Thai food.
Krung Thai on Showers Drive in Mountain View, CA
Decent to very good Thai food.
Lake Tahoe Pizza Company in South Lake Tahoe, CA
Allegedly the best pizza in Tahoe, and while it's pretty darn good, it's not that great!
La Victoria near San Jose State University, San Jose, CA
Very good Mexican fast food---their hot sauce is excellent!
Lingba Lounge on 18th and Connecticut in San Francisco, CA
Cool place to hang out after eating at Tanya and Salee's.
Little India on Broadway in Redwood City, CA
Very good Indian food, with a dinner buffet as well!
Lyons on El Camino Real in Palo Alto, CA
Decent American food; open 24 hours. Good milkshakes.
Lyons off of El Camino Real in Millbrae, CA
Decent American food; open 24 hours. Good milkshakes.
Maharaja on Castro Street in Mountain View, CA
Indian food; dinner buffet (which is rare) with a decent selection of items.
Man Bo Duck on Castro Street in Mountain View, CA
Decent and relatively inexpensive Chinese food. Open late!
Mandarin Gourmet on De Anza Boulevard in Cupertino, CA
Decent Chinese food, but somewhat pricy (as far as Chinese food goes, anyway)
Marina Supermarket at the intersection of Stevens Creek and De Anza in Cupertino, CA
A genuine Chineset supermarket providing inexpensive authentic (and decent) Chinese food.
Mediterranean Cafe on Telegraph and Dwight in Berkeley, CA
Decent inexpensive food in an interesting location.
Mel's Diner in Placerville, CA
Decent American food with a friendly atmosphere.
Mexicali Grill in the AMC Mercado Plaza in Santa Clara, CA
Fairly decent Mexican food---one of the best places to grab a quick meal before or after the movies.
Ming's on East Bayshore in Palo Alto, CA
Excellent Cantonese cuisine and dim sum!
Molly Magees on Castro Street in Mountain View, CA
Decent atmosphere, with some good music, and not an unreasonable cover.
Muang Thai on Taylor Street in San Francisco, CA
Inexpensive and good Thai food, particularly the beef noodle soup.
Odyssia Cafe Bistro on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley, CA
Great Greek food!
Olive Garden on El Camino Real near Page Mill in Palo Alto, CA
Surprisingly good Italian food and breadsticks. Try the Tour of Italy.
Oliveto on College Avenue in Berkeley, CA
Excellent Italian food, though a bit pricy. Make your reservations way in advance.
On the Border in Mission Valley in San Diego, CA
Decent Mexican food.
Original Joe's in down town San Jose, CA
Decent Italian/American food. Nice atmosphere, particularly at sunset.
Panda Express on Market Street in San Francisco, CA
For food-court style food, this is pretty decent Chinese food!
Pasand at El Camino Real and Lawrence Expressway in Sunnyvale, CA
Excellent choice of South and North Indian dishes.
Pasand on Shattuck in Berkeley, CA
Excellent choice of South and North Indian dishes. Better than the restaurant in Sunnyvale. Live Indian classical music was a plus.
Pasha on Broadway in San Francisco, CA
Excellent Middle-Eastern food; great belly dancing (with crowd participation). Kinda expensive.
Pasqua in Berkeley, CA
Decent coffee, nice atmosphere, and they have outlets for laptops!
Passage to India on El Camino Real in Mountain View, CA
Very good Indian food, with a great dinner buffet on Friday and Saturday!
Pinecrest Restaurant on Geary Street in San Francisco, CA
Good food to enjoy late in the night in the city!
Pizza Chicago on El Camino Real in Palo Alto, CA
Great Chicago-style pizza!
Plearn on University Avenue in Berkeley, CA
Decent Thai food.
Portal One on 4th Street in San Francisco, CA
Decent place to hang out and get a drink.
Pride of the Mediterranean on Fillmore in San Francisco, CA
Excellent and relatively inexpensive Mediterranean cuisine, with a belly dancer on some days!
Rainforest Cafe on Jefferson Street in San Francisco, CA
Decent American food with a cool tourist-trap atmosphere.
Rainwater's on Kettner's Boulevard in San Diego, CA
Excellent and tasty hors d'oeuvres.
Raja Indian Cuisine on University Avenue in Berkeley, CA
Excellent Vindaloo and Rasmalai! Highly recommended.
Rangoon on Bryant Street in Palo Alto, CA
Decent Thai/Chinese food.
Red Lobster on El Camino Real in San Antonio, CA
Decent seafood. I like their chicken better.
Red Robin on El Camino Real in San Bruno, Ca
Pretty good American food.
Red Rock Bar 'n' Eatery on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, CA
Nice atmosphere in a bar with food and drinks; good for people watching on Sunset.
Royal Taj in San Jose, CA
Fairly decent Indian food, but kind of expensive.
Royal Taj in Santa Cruz, CA
Fairly decent Indian food, but not the greatest.
Ruen Pair in Thai Town in Los Angeles, CA
Superlative Thai food--one of the best places to have Thai food outside of Thailand.
Sadaf on 5th Avenue in the Gas Lamp District in San Diego, CA
Excellent, excellent, excellent mouth watering Persian cuisine! Try their boneless chicken kebab and the home-made dough!
Say Cheese Pizza on Maple Street in Mount Shasta City, CA
Excellent Pizza, and they deliver in Mount Shasta City.
Shaik's on California Avenue in Palo Alto, CA
Very inexpensive Indian food---the selection isn't great, but the food is good.
Siam Royal on University Avenue in Palo Alto, CA
Very good (and very reasonably priced) Thai food.
Sneha off of Lawrency Expressway in Sunnyvale, CA
Decent Indian food; great lunch and dinner buffets.
Soi 4 Bangkok Eatery on College Avenue in Oakland, CA
Very good Thai cuisine, but, fortunately or unfortunately, the setting is unlike Soi 4 in Bangkok!
Star of India in the Gas Lamp District in San Diego, CA
Pretty good Indian food, particularly the buffet, for the price.
Straits Cafe on El Camino Real in Palo Alto, CA
Singaporean restaurant with an xcellent mix of Asian foods, particularly the bread!
Su Hong on El Camino Real in Menlo Park, CA
Decent Chinese food.
Sundeck BBQ in Badger Pass in Yosemite, CA
The place to go after a long snow-camping trip!
Sushi Zone on Webster Avenue in Oakland, CA
I am not a big fan of Sushi, but this place has decent Teriyaki chicken.
Swagat on El Camino Real in Mountain View, CA
Indian food; The South Indian dishes are pretty good; the North Indian dishes are okay.
Tacos Mexicali on the Clares St. Shopping Centre in Capitola, CA
Inexpensive, divey, tasty Mexican food.
Taj Indian Cuisine on El Camino Real in Sunnyvale, CA
Decent Indian food but not great.
Taj Mahal on Castro Street in Mountain View, CA
Pretty decent Indian food; they're very good with providing complementary soups and desserts. Nice service. They give you a choice of bread instead of just Naan when ordering the dinner.
Taj Mahal on Lake Tahoe Boulevard in South Lake Tahoe, CA
Decent Indian buffet.
Taj Mahal Imports on Mowry Street in Fremont, CA
Indian grocery food with a "chaat corner" on weekends which features some great chaat (Indian fast food)! Definitely worth checking out.
Tam's Cuisine of China in Manor Plaza in Pacifica, CA
Decent Chinese food.
Tanya and Salee's on 18th and Connecticut in San Francisco, CA
Excellent and authentic Thai food!
Taxi's on University Avenue in Palo Alto, CA
American Fast Food. This is the only place I've seen that comes close to matching Fuddruckers in MD. Great burgers with a bar where you can really pile up on the meat.
Tawan's on Geary in San Francisco, CA
Excellent Thai food in a cozy atmosphere.
Thai Cafe in Jordan Hall on Stanford University campus, CA
Inexpensive and excellent Thai food!
Thai City Restaurant on El Camino Real in Palo Alto, CA
Excellent Thai food.
Thai Noodle Jump on Balboa St in San Francisco, CA
Decent to very good Thai food.
Thai-rific Thai Cuisine on Castro Street in Mountain View, CA
Decent and inexpensive Thai food.
Thai Stick on El Camino Real in Millbrae, CA
Surprisingly good Thai food! The curries are especially good.
Thanya and Salee on 18th Street in San Francisco, CA
Thai food on one side, and tropical drinks on the other. Excellent atmosphere and decor.
The Bulldog British Pub on Lighthouse Avenue in Monterey, CA
Decent place to hang out and get something to munch on.
The Helmand on Broadway in San Francisco, CA
Afghani food that's really good!
The Iron Horse on Maiden lane (between Geary and Post) in San Francisco, CA
Kind of an yuppie-ish atmosphere with decent house music (which I don't care much for). Interesting, however.
Tien Fu on Castro Street in Mountain View, CA
Very good Chinese food.
Unamas in the Stanford Shopping Centre in Palo Alto, CA
Pretty good Mexican fast food for a inexpensive price---great hot sauce.
Unamas on El Camino Real in Millbrae, CA
Pretty good Mexican fast food for a inexpensive price---great hot sauce.
University Coffee Cafe on University Avenue in Palo Alto, CA
Good coffee and tea, nice atmosphere, but a bit yuppie-ish, and a great selection of tasty desserts.
Veg Chaat House on University Avenue in Berkeley, CA
Indian fast food; not the best one out there (search this list for "chaat"), but pretty decent.
Viceroy Restaurant on Shattack Square in Berkeley, CA
Decent, but expensive, Indian food.
Vietnam Village in Durant Court in Berkeley, CA
Inexpensive and excellent Vietnamese food!
Vik's off of University Avenue in Berkeley, CA
Indian fast food, or chaat, is something that should be tried to be experienced. It's not for everyone but if you like it, it's really inexpensive and tasty!
Westside Thai Restaurant on Mission Street in Santa Cruz, CA
Decent Thai cuisine. There's a Sushi bar at times!
Yang Chow in Chinatown in Los Angeles, CA
Pretty good Chinese food.
Yu Ying Garden on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley, CA
Decent and reasonably priced Chinese food.
Zante's on 16th Street in San Francisco, CA
"Indian pizza" is a bit incongruous, but it's pretty good. They also have other kinds of pizza.

The Wafflers

Alibi off of Burlingame Avenue in Burlingame, CA
One can't expect too much from a bar in Burlingame, but it is decent.
Boudin Bakery/Cafe on University Avenue in Palo Alto, CA
Not the greatest food, and the bread was a bit stale too.
Crazy Burro Seafood Cantina on El Camino Real in Carlsbad, CA
Half-way decent Mexican food.
Chef Wang's on Castro Street in Mountain View, CA
Half-way decent Chinese food.
Club Charlestons on Sixth (at Market) in San Francisco, CA
Kind of a shady place, not too much room, but a decent jukebox!
Denny's along El Camino Real in Mountain View, CA
Decent food, but not great.
Denny's on Cypress in Redding, CA
Decent food.
Denny's on El Camino Real in Santa Clara, CA
Decent food and decent service.
Denny's off of Broadway in San Diego, CA
Same old Denny's. Experienced fast service though.
Fresh Choice along El Camino Real in Mountain View, CA
Not the greatest selection or the greatest tasting food either.
Gaylord on El Camino Real in Menlo Park, Ca
Decent Indian food, but the price/performance ratio is bad, and the service wasn't that great either.
Ken's off of El Camino Real in Menlo Park, CA
Decent American food.
La Morenita on Homer Avenue in Palo Alto, CA
Mediocre Mexican food. Kind of expensive and not that great.
Luna Azul in the Metreon on Mission in San Francisco, CA
Mediocre Mexican food that's way too expensive.
Peet's Coffee and Tea in El Paseo De Saratoga in Saratoga, CA
Decent coffee, and better than Starbucks!
Peet's Coffee and Tea on University Drive in Menlo Park, CA
Decent coffee, and better than Starbucks!
Round Table Pizza in Alma Plaza in Palo Alto, CA
The pizza is okay but the prices are way too high.
Señor Taco on El Camino Real in Palo Alto, CA
Inexpensive Mexican fast food that is halfway decent.
Starbucks on Shattuck (at Cedar) in Berkeley, CA
Organised institutionalised coffee speaks for itself.
Starbucks in Fashion Valley in San Diego, CA
Organised institutionalised coffee speaks for itself.
Starbucks in the Metreon on Mission in San Francisco, CA
Organised institutionalised coffee speaks for itself.
Starbucks in the AMC Mercado Plaza in Santa Clara, CA
Organised institutionalised coffee speaks for itself.
Star Rockettes in the San Antonio Shopping Centre, Mountain View, CA
Mediocre food; somewhat slow service.
Sue's on Castro Street, Mountain View, CA
Half-way decent Indian food.
Taco Bell Express on Grapevine Road in Lebec, CA
Decent Mexican fast food (emphasis on fast).
Taco Bell on El Camino Real in Millbrae, CA
Decent Mexican fast food (emphasis on fast).
Taco Bell on Charleston Road in Mountain View, CA
Decent Mexican fast food (emphasis on fast).
Taco Bell on Highway 120 in Oakdale, CA
Decent Mexican fast food (emphasis on fast).
Taco Bell on El Camino Real in Palo Alto, CA
This is a waffler because it has no drive through, but I must say that I find the Gorditas and Chalupas to be quite tasty (call me crazy)!
Taco Bell on San Carlos Street in San Jose, CA
Decent Mexican fast food (emphasis on fast).
Taco Bell in the Travel Centers of America in Wheeler Ridge, CA
Decent Mexican fast food (emphasis on fast).
World Wrapps on Mission Street, in Mercado, CA
The seating is small and crowded and the food is only okay.

The Worst

Chevys in Gilroy, CA
One of the worst restaurants I've been to: slow/bad service and mediocre food.
Jamba Juice on Mission Street, in Mercado, CA
Tasteless Jamba Juice is a waste of money.
McDonald's in the Stanford Shopping Centre in Palo Alto, CA
What good can you say about barely edible fast-food?

Tourist attractions

The Best

Asilomar near Monterey, CA * * *
Nice expansive and quiet beaches.
Aquarium by the Bay in Pier 39 in San Francisco, CA
Small aquarium, but not bad to check out.
Balboa Park in San Diego, CA
Tons of museums to see (and a world-famous zoo, but zoos make me cry).
Big Basin State Park near Santa Cruz, CA
Beautiful place and the Skyline to the Sea trail is definitely worth hiking!
Big Sur in Central CA (along the cost)
The entire area where the ocean means the mountains is amazing and thrilling.
Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego, CA
Great tidepools and some cool views of the city.
COIT Tower in San Francisco, CA
On a good day, you can get beautiful views of the city and the bay bridge!
Coronado Island in San Diego, CA
Nice beaches; worth going for a midnight jaunt.
Death Valley National Park in South West CA *
Beautiful, magnificient desolation.
Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park in Northern CA
Statuesque Redwoods, magnificent Elk, and Fern-covered canyons.
Devil's Postpile National Monument in Western CA
Amazing volcanic formation of breathtaking beauty.
Disneyland in Anaheim, CA
Not as great Walt Disney World, but not bad either.
Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco, CA
Cool place to hang out, meet the "bush guy", and eat seafood, if you like it.
Gas Lamp District in San Diego, CA
Lots of great restaurants and clubs; nice atmosphere.
Golden Gate Bridge and National Recreational Area in San Francisco, CA
Nice stroll over the bridge and a great park to walk/bike/rollerblade in.
Half Moon Bay near Santa Cruz, CA
Beautiful beach area. Great place to watch the sunset.
Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park in Northern CA
Statuesque Redwoods, magnificent Elk, and Fern-covered canyons.
Joshua Tree National Park in South West CA
Joshua trees galore---worth a visit!
Lassen Volcanic National Park near Redding, CA
Breathtaking beauty with some interesting geothermal activity.
Lava Beds National Monument in Northern CA
Amazing lava formations, and a glass mountain nearby that shouldn't be missed!
Mono Lake in Western CA *
Beatiful lake with amazing tufa.
Monterey Aquarium in Monterey, CA
I am not a big fan of zoos or aquariums since they objectify the poor animals, but I was impressed by this one.
Mount Diablo State Park near Walnut Creek, CA
Great views from this isolated peak.
Mount Shasta in Northern CA
One of the tallest mountains in the Cascade volcano range, and a delight to climb.
Mount Tamalpais near San Francisco, CA
Spectacular views of the San Francisco bay area.
Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco, CA
One of the cooler modern art museums in the country.
Muir Woods National Monument near San Francisco, CA
Great for a short hike if you're in the Bay area.
Pinnacles National Monument south of San Jose, CA
Great for a day hike.
Point Reyes National Seashore near San Francisco, CA
Relatively quiet beach and if you're lucky you might have a whale sighting!
Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park in Northern CA
Statuesque Redwoods, magnificent Elk, and Fern-covered canyons.
Redwoods National Park in Northern CA
Statuesque Redwoods, magnificent Elk, and Fern-covered canyons.
Sequoia and King's Canyon National Parks in Central/Western CA
Beautiful trees, relative uncrowded (compared to Yosemite), and great skiing.
Seventeen Mile Drive near Asilomar, CA
Near Monterey/Asilomar. A quick and nice introduction ot the coast.
Tech Museum of Innovation in downtown San Jose, CA
For someone who does research at the cutting edge of science and technology I found it a bit dull. The accessible Omnimax/IMAX theatre is great though!
Universal Studios in Hollywood, CA
Better than Disneyland with some amazing rides and shows!
Whiskeytown Shasta Trinity National Recreation Area near Redding, CA *
Wide variety of fun things to do, including some off-roading dirt trails!
Yosemite National Park in Western CA * * * *
Great monuments like El Capitan and Half-dome, but extremely crowded during the summer (and awesome during the winter).

Wafflers

Mananzar National Historical Site in Western CA
Not a lot to see, but a reminder of the violation of Japanese American freedoms during World War II.

The Worst

Exploratarium in the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, CA
This is supposed to be a science museum, but a lot of the science here is outdated. I think the museum could do with a few million dollars in terms of improvements.

Entertainment venues

The Best

1015 club in San Francisco, CA
The place is huge with a lot of people, and there's really good music being played at almost all times. The club itself is kind of dingy (parts of it at least) but it does seem to have a good crowd. Worth checking out.
2925 club in San Francisco, CA
Nice cozy atmosphere. Decent music.
3com Park in San Francisco, CA
A great place to watch American football games, particularly if the day is good.
500 Club on Guerrero in San Francisco, CA
A dive bar with a decent atmosphere.
AMC 1000 on Van Ness in San Francisco, CA
One of the best movie theatres I've been to: great sound, student discounts, frequent movie watcher gifts, and stadium seating, with a bonus foot rest on the first row!
AMC 14 on El Paseo De Saratoga in San Jose, CA
One of the best movie theatres I've been to: great sound, student discounts, frequent movie watcher gifts, and stadium seating, with a bonus foot rest on the first row!
AMC 18 in Fashion Valley in San Diego, CA
One of the best movie theatres I've been to: great sound, student discounts, frequent movie watcher gifts, and stadium seating, with a bonus foot rest on the first row!
AMC 20 on Mission College Boulevard in Santa Clara, CA
One of the best movie theatres I've been to: great sound, student discounts, frequent movie watcher gifts, and stadium seating, with a bonus foot rest on the first row!
AMC 8 on Post Street in San Francisco, CA
One of the best movie theatres I've been to: great sound, student discounts, frequent movie watcher gifts, and stadium seating, with a bonus foot rest on the first row! Part of the Kabuki complex in Japantown, the little booths where you take pictures and have stickers/rubber stamps made is pretty cool!
Amnesia on Valecia in San Francisco, CA
Decent atmosphere with some good dance-able music at times.
Aquarius Theatre off of University Ave, Palo Alto, CA
Cool independent films with a nice atmosphere.
Avalon on North Vine Street in Hollywood, CA
Great club atmosphere with excellent sound.
Berkeley Repository Theatre on Addison in Berkeley, CA
Great atmosphere and an amazing set of plays.
Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco, CA
Cozy atmosphere, good acoustics; reminscent of the old 9:30 club in Washington, D.C.
Century Theatres Drive in 4 in Burlingame, CA
Drive-in theatres are cool, and this one is too!
Chronicle Pavilion in Concord, CA
Great sound, great pavillion-style atmosphere, and not too difficult to get to from the Bay Area.
Cow Palace in South San Francisco, CA
Large-sized venue with decent acoustics (for an indoor venue).
Embarcadero Center Cinema in San Francisco, CA
Great movie theatre close to the heart of the city!
Fillmore Theatre in San Francisco, CA
Great atmosphere---an old theatre converted into a concert hall.
Great America in Santa Clara, CA
Lots of thrills and chills. The Drop Zone and Invertigo are the cooler roller coasters!
Great American Music Hall on O'Farrell in San Francisco, CA
Great cozy atmosphere; the view from the balcony is pretty cool!
Guild Theatre on El Camino Real in Menlo Park, CA
Cool independent films with a nice atmosphere.
Kilowatt on 16th Street in San Francisco, CA
Decent atmosphere. Used to have live bands but no longer do.
Lumiere in on California Street in San Francisco, CA
Cool independent-only film theatre.
Maritime Hall in San Francisco, CA
Nice cozy atmosphere, okay acoustics, and some cool acts! With parking!
Metreon on Mission Street in San Francisco, CA
Apparently a futuristic mall. Halfway decent, with a good set of movie theatres and places to hang out, including the Wild Things play area (which apparently no longer exists). Good IMAX Theatre.
Minna Street Gallery South of Market in San Francisco, CA
Art during the day, house during the night!
Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, CA
Huge venue, decent acoustics. Not the ideal place to watch a band you really like, but good for an extravagant show.
Palo Alto Square Landmark Theatres in Palo Alto, CA
Huge screens, large theatres---a very traditional theatre-going experience.
Palookaville in Santa Cruz, CA
Nice atmoshere, with a balcony, but make sure you don't go into the bar on the top when it's closed.
Paramount Theatre of the Arts on Broadway in Oakland, CA
A very cool theatre with interesting decor.
Park Theatre on El Camino Real in Menlo Park, CA
Cool independent films with a nice atmosphere; part of Landmark Theatres.
Ruby Skye on Mason Street in San Francisco, CA
A typically mainstream club, but the bar staff and people are extremely friendly.
Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, CA
Cool concert experience, reminiscent of the Nissan Pavillion in MD.
Sno-Drift on 3rd Street in San Francisco, CA
Hosts the Spundae events on Sundays and is a pretty cool club with a nice atmosphere.
The Edge in Palo Alto, CA
Smoke-free, decent acoustics, and about the only club in Palo Alto with serious live music.
The Endup in San Francisco, CA
As they say, this place gives a new meaning to the word "party" and attracts the oddest set of people. Definitely worth checking out.
UC Theatre in Berkeley, CA
Nice big theatres and cool atmosphere. It's located in downtown Berkeley which is a huge plus.
United Artists in Horton Plaza in San Diego, CA
Decent set of theatres.
Warfield on Market Street in San Francisco, CA
An old theatre converted into a concert venue, it is nice and cozy and the balcony seating offers some great views!

The Wafflers

Century 12 in Mountain View, CA
They're okay, but see AMC Mercado above. After seeing a movie that theatre, all other theatres are automatically relegated to the second spot.
Century 16 in Redwood, CA
Fairly decent theatres, particularly after their renovation, but still don't compare with the top theatres.
FMC Defense Factory in San Jose, CA
Huge warehouse with not much else.
San Jose State University Event Center in San Jose, CA
The space is big and the accomodations are nice but the acoustics kinda suck.
United Artists in Redwood City, CA
Not the greatest set of theatres.

The Worst


Music, video, and book stores

The Best

Amoeba Records on Telegraph Road in Berkeley, CA
Great selection, prices, and nice staff.
Heroes for Hire on University Avenue in Palo Alto and on Campbell Avenue in Campbell, CA
Excellent comic book stores, great discounts (especially for Stanford-ites), and a great and friendly staff.
Rasputin Records on Telegraph Road in Berkeley, CA
Decent selection and nice staff.
The Starving Musician on El Camino Real in Santa Clara, CA
Excellent staff and great prices!

The Wafflers

Border's Books on University Avenue in Palo Alto, CA
Yet another store belonging to the famous chain.
Lee's Comics on El Camino Real in Palo Alto, CA
Nice selection but an incredibly annoying staff.
Printer's Ink on Castro Street in Mountain View, CA
Not a great selection, but a decent cafe.

The Worst


Cities and locales

The Best

Berkeley
Revel in the diverse ethnicity.
Carmel/Monterey
Quaint places to check out along the coast, especially if you're driving on 1.
Palo Alto
Too yuppie-ish for my tastes, but it is where I live, and University Ave can be interesting at times. Home of Stanford U (where I research).
San Francisco
One of my favourite cities in the whole world. Take a walk down Market street to experience its diversity.
San Diego
I had a jaundiced view of Southern Californa (thanks to Los Angeles), but San Diego is a great place, though it does lack the diversity of San Francisco (extremely conservative).
Santa Cruz
Excellent, excellent food! Charming and quaint.
Sausalito
A great, but somewhat expensive, place to hang out.
Tahoe
One of the cooler places in the world to ski! I am partial to the Heavenly Ski Resort, even though it is expensive (which means it's likely to be less crowded). Camp Richardson is a great place to stay!

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Los Angeles
This is a tough one. On the one hand, there's a lot to do in LA. On the other hand, everything seems so depersonalised. Idolising other humans (not their talents) is stupidity.
Mountain View
A bit boring, though Castro street is a bit lively in terms of food.
San Jose
Nothing to write home about; the problem with being so close to San Francisco. It has the things you'd like in a big city, but nothing that makes it stand out and it's kinda dirty.

The Worst