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April 29, 2009 > Restaurant Review: La Imperial

Restaurant Review: La Imperial

By J. D. Wolfe

Each week people write to the Tri City Voice and give us suggestions for places to dine. The consistent theme is that the place they are recommending is - for sure - the best. In a way they are right and that is what makes this fun work.

Everyone has certain things they look for in a place to eat. For example, who doesn't absolutely love food from South of the Border? Unfortunately, the famous Olvera Street is in Los Angeles - a bit too far away.

Fortunately, La Imperial Restaurant is right here in Hayward located on "C" Street between Mission and Main - with easy parking. At the suggestion of friends I took a dear friend, his wife and kids to dinner there. What a treat! Oh my goodness!

The restaurant has been in the same location for 30 years and was founded by Maria Gilbert who is from Nicaragua. It began as a local grocery store with a small place in the back where food was cooked. Soon, more people came for the cooked food and the grocery store was gone; in its place a full sit-down restaurant was born. You can still see the remnants of the grocery store but you will not care once you have the first bite of freshly-cooked chips with the best salsa I have tasted in years. You can go through a bowl of salsa before you even surface for a breath of air. Unbelievable! It also explains why they have to charge for extra chips and salsa. Pay it and be thankful for the opportunity.

We all ordered Super Burritos and it was like the classic Saturday Night Live skit with John Belushi and Dan Akroyd where you could only order cheeseburgers-cheeseburgers, chips-chips and Pepsi-Pepsi. Of course, there are many other great items on the menu, and you should experience them as well.

I personally ordered the all-pork Super Burrito with extra cheese and Sour Cream on top. Let me tell you that I live to eat and this is one amazing Burrito! It is served on a full-sized dinner plate and you cannot eat it all. After 1/3 of the Burrito disappeared from my plate, I was full. The rest of The La Imperial Super Burrito went home and was so large that it was enough for two more meals.

The next day I told my mechanic to strengthen the car's suspension to handle the extra weight of a La Imperial super Burrito so when I bring home another "doggie" bag the car won't lean to one side. Who am I kidding? It is a people's bag. For ME! A very large "gracias" to the cook, Ninfa Mendes. Maria's recipes are followed to the letter.

Enough about the great food at La Imperial... I am getting very hungry again.

When you arrive you are greeted by Maria's daughter, Petrona Selva. No one gets in or out without saying "hello" to her. When seated, a young man introduces himself as your server. His name is Martin and we found out he is Maria's son. Martin proudly says he grew up in the restaurant - this is truly a family-run operation. Martin is unlike any waiter I know, a true entertainer who enjoys your presence. He is great! Our group of 11 hungry, dining aficionados all loved him.

I wish everything was super rosy but reality cannot be denied. The restaurant is old and tired-looking and the family knows this. Yet, somehow, this adds to the ambience. The painted murals on the walls are spectacular and there are pi–atas everywhere, hanging from the ceiling. The kitchen is clean as a whistle; they must scrub it down every day. The bathrooms are very adequate and large. One was being refurbished the day we were there.

Now it would not be a complete review if I did not mention the cost of dinner. Two people can easily eat dinner for $30.00 and take home enough for two more meals. You do the math. A customer of over 25 years said it all, "Great food and lots of it at a great price"! To which I simply say, "Viva La Imperial!"

Reviewed April 16, 2009

La Imperial
948 C Street
Hayward, CA 94541
(510) 537-6227

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