As 2022 drew to a close, two longtime local eateries closed their doors permanently, while another opened its latest Peninsula outpost. The Peninsula Foodist also fielded a reader question about what happened to Esther German Bakery's in-house baked goods. Here's the latest in local dining news.
State of Mind pizzeria now open in Marsh Manor
With the Instagram announcement that "Christmas came early," State of Mind Public House and Pizzeria soft-opened in Redwood City's Marsh Manor shopping center Dec. 23.
The restaurant team is aiming to be open from noon to 8 p.m. daily, but they are still training staff members and may have limited menu offerings during the soft opening, according to co-owner Lars Smith. "It's a challenge to open during the holidays," he said.
Smith, a Palo Alto native, and his family opened the first State of Mind Public House and Pizzeria in Los Altos in 2018, followed by the Slice House in Palo Alto in 2020.
The third restaurant now open in Redwood City is closer in concept to the Los Altos location, with pinball machines and full pizzas available alongside salads, wings and appetizers. The new location also has extra fryers for making the "Almost Famous" fried chicken sandwich, a cult favorite that had only been offered during less busy hours because staff didn't have enough room in their fryers to keep up with demand. The menu includes four different types of chicken sandwiches, including a plant-based option. Drink offerings include draft and canned beers, wine and a low-proof cocktail menu.
The State of Mind team includes co-owner and executive chef Lars, Lars' brother Andrew, wife Cristina and father Jim, as well as business partners Amy Alcantar and Victor Beccera. The business only serves beer, wine and soda from California, and its menu highlights seasonal California produce and cheeses.
State of Mind joined patisserie Lavender 'n Cream in opening at Marsh Manor in 2022, a shopping center that's also home to Los Gallos Taqueria and Freewheel Brewing.
— Julia Brown
Esther's loses in-house bakery operation
This story was prompted by a question from reader Larry Chow. In an email, he asked, "Do you know what happened to the bakery part of Esther's? Yesterday I went to the Los Altos restaurant and the clerk said the bakery is no more. Breads on the counter were from a different bakery. I miss her cheese pretzel and seeded sticks."
According to the restaurant's owner, Alex Otero, original owner Esther Nio sold the business in 2016. The person who bought it from her ended up selling the bakery to someone who just wanted the equipment, Otero said.
A longtime cook at Esther's, he said he stayed because he felt a responsibility to keep things running as usual in the kitchen, making food the way he was used to.
"I couldn't let it go," he said.
He said he found an outside supplier to provide bread, pretzels and some pastries and cakes, but other menu items remain the same.
"Part of the business is no longer what it used to be," he said. "I'm proud to say we were able to save the restaurant. (We're) still serving the German community."
Esther's continues to offer music the third Thursday of each month, a time when the community comes together over beer and sausage.
"I think a lot of the good stuff we were able to keep going," he said. "We're happy to keep it going as long as we can."
— Kate Bradshaw
Mandarin Roots closes after 24 years in Palo Alto
Mandarin Roots, a long-standing family-run Chinese restaurant in Palo Alto, closed its doors Dec. 31 after 24 years in business.
"All good things eventually come to an end and it is with great sadness to announce that the time has come to close our doors," the owners wrote on their website.
In 2014, the restaurant at 3345 El Camino Real was changed from Hunan Garden to Mandarin Roots. It had been run for 15 years by owner Simon Yuan before it passed to his son, Jarvis, who revamped the restaurant with a Chinese-Californian concept offering "elevated street food" that became Mandarin Roots.
"It's based off the idea of taking Chinese food that my dad was doing and fusing it with what I've been doing, which is California, and taking that to the next level," Jarvis said at the time.
The menu offered craft cocktails, fusion-focused tapas like pork belly quesadilla, Kalbi beef tacos and Taiwan sliders, and extensive noodle, beef, chicken, seafood and vegetarian fare.
— Kate Bradshaw
Longtime dim sum banquet hall shutters
Millbrae's Hong Kong Flower Lounge, a longtime dim sum and seafood restaurant favored in the Michelin Guide, closed permanently Dec. 31.
The restaurant owner planned to retire and then chose not to renew the lease, according to reporting by SFGATE and KTSF 26.
Dishes offered included Peking duck, BBQ pork buns and a wide variety of dumplings, and the space was large enough to accommodate up to 550 diners. KTSF reports that the restaurant opened in 1989, while the business' website says it has been in the San Francisco Bay Area for 20 years.
In the Michelin Guide, its fare was described in vivid and mouthwatering terms: "Generations of dim sum diehards have patronized this palace of pork buns, where a small army of servers will surround you with carts from the moment you take your seat. They bear innumerable delights: rich barbecue pork belly with crispy skin, pan-fried pork-and-chive wontons steamed to order and doused in oyster sauce, delicate vegetable dumplings and a best-in-class baked egg custard bun."
Reader Pearle Lun said the spot was a "longtime fixture for the Cantonese community."
"It had a huge space for banquets and celebrations, and it feels like there are fewer of those in the area these days," she said in an email.
The restaurant was formerly called Mayflower Seafood. There is a second location of Mayflower Seafood that's still open in Milpitas.
According to SFGATE, the landlord plans to remodel the space and rent it out again.
— Kate Bradshaw
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