Cafe Colma (inside the Lucky Chances Casino)
1700 Hillside Blvd
Colma, CA 94014 // (650) 758-2237
With a huge new cemetery under construction across the street, and hidden inside a casino in South San Francisco, Cafe Colma is quite an uplifting experience. Okay, I was being sarcastic, but my friend and I decided to check this out for lunch one Saturday. Why? Because I’d never been to a Filipino restaurant before, and I’d heard from some Meetup folks that this was a dive worth exploring. Plus how often can you claim to have eaten in a casino…minutes from San Francisco?
First, make sure you’re in a patient state of mind when you find parking. Even at 11:45 a.m. on a Saturday, the above- and underground parking for the Lucky Chances Casino was packed. As long as the taxes on this establishment are going to something municipally-minded, I think I’m alright with taking advantage of people’s obsessive-compulsive disorders. (Of course, I could take that all back if I were at this place at 3 in the morning…when supposed unsavory visitors bring the bad mojo to any gaming joint and wreak all sorts of crime and dastardly deeds upon a neighborhood.)
Anyway, inside is the “not as bad as the Yelpers described it” diner. Yes, it’s kitschy. Yes, I’m sure if you’re hammered you wouldn’t care. But if you’ve decided to come here when of sober mind, you should not be comparing the decor or service to Ella’s or Hobee’s. It’s a dive, people. Vinyl seats in booths where the ass grooves don’t totally match your own. Over-patterned carpet. But generally clean.
Make sure you get the Lumpia. These Filipino egg rolls are often times called “Imperial Rolls” on the menu. They are narrower in girth than the usual Chinese restaurant spring roll, and are filled with less cabbage and other veggies, and packed with more ground meat. For some reason they’re called “Shanghai Rolls” on the menu – we didn’t ask.
You’ll see a lot of rice plates with the suffix “-silog.” That’s an umbrella term for Filipino fried rice served with a sunny side-up fried egg on the side. So all those “-silog” dishes are comprised of some beast, plus the fried rice and fried egg. My friend Rodrigo disdainfully informed me that those dishes were “peasant food,” but our whole point was to eat the legit stuff. My friend KW ordered the pork chop-silog. Yummy! Even better, we could imagine, if we were three sheets to the wind, that we’d really be loving it. We got two pork chops in one order, and there were some lonely slices of lettuce and tomato on the side to give the dish some color, I suppose. Definitely healthy portions (though the price was almost $10…kinda pricey for peasant food, wouldn’t you think?)
I went off the traditional peasant path and ordered another dish that Rodrigo suggested. I can’t remember the name of it but it was a stew of oxtails, tripe, and eggplant in an orange curry sauce that for some reason tasted to me as if some raw eggs were beaten into it. Needless to say, my hopes for delicious oxtail soup with the meat falling off the bone were dashed a bit with the eggplant and sauce combining to hide the squares of tripe that I was trying to avoid. Grubgirl NEVER ever declines leftovers, but in this case, it had to be done. So I’m not saying the dish was disgusting. I will say that it was probably not a proper lunch dish for my uninitiated tastebuds. The taste was not actually bad…but the texture was a bit slimier than my grease-craving pores could accept.
The service was pleasant and attentive. At times it seemed like our waters were being refilled every third sip, by a variety of staff members.
If any of you grubboys and grubgirls know anything about legal gambling in California, please share. The casino was a sea of green card tables, with a LOT of Asian people clustered around each one. I think they were playing poker and/or blackjack. Some disinterested security guards. A few drinks servers floating around, but their trays didn’t seem that full. It wasn’t exactly Vegas or Reno but I wouldn’t really know — I usually just hit the buffets when I’m in those towns.