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September 23, 2009 > Restaurant Review: Dina's Family Restaurant

Restaurant Review: Dina's Family Restaurant

By Denny Stein

Sometimes it's best to start with dessert. That's the case at Dina's, in Irvington where the homemade tapioca is the best I've ever tasted. Served in a parfait glass, with a bit of whipped cream, its pearls glisten, tucked in the gentle, light, golden vanilla pudding. Not too cold, just sweet enough, the perfect consistency, spoon after spoon pleases the palate and the soul. I apologize for waxing on, but tapioca has a long history in my family, and Dina's pudding is prizewinning.

Dina's Family Restaurant retains that old-fashioned look: comfortable booths along the walls, large sunny windows, a diner style counter, green shaded hanging lamps, and a Norman Rockwell poster featuring the local cop and a young boy seated next to each other at a lunch counter. The menu, like the booths, is generous and all embracing. Breakfast is served all day, specials are written on a board, omelets come in every imaginable guise, hamburgers are imaginative, and if you don't like it one way, ask for it your way. Substitutions made happily.

Beyond the counter, past the drink dispensers and the television, a chef's toque moves back and forth in the kitchen window. Here, within a few steps of their customers, brothers Adolfo and Daniel Ureno, continue a tradition of family cooking that spreads across Fremont. You may not know it, but scions of the Ureno family can be found in the kitchens of the Cabrillo Park Caf?, Dino's, and Hunter's Way. Adolfo and Daniel bought Dina's in March of 1977 with the help of an old boss, Johnny Dee, the former owner of Spin-a-Yarn Restaurant.

Adolfo has a warm, unassuming smile, and a twinkle that assures you he loves his work, and his customers. He is happy to mix and match items, add or subtract from a dish. He says Dina's is known for breakfast, and usually very busy, but lunch, dinner and take-out are also available. He and Daniel try to sustain an old-fashioned homey feeling as much as possible.

Customers seem to feel that warmth. A late-luncher - it was about 2:30 p.m. by then - said she could come to Dina's after a long morning at work and ". . . just be me. I'll get something and it will put me back on my feet." She offered a bite of her pancakes. Her companion hovered over his Roast Pork Special with gravy, French fries, and vegetables: "It's just like coming home to Mom." In the next booth, Miriam and son Steven, a young man coming off his first day in high school, was just finishing his 2x2x2: 2 eggs, 2 pieces of bacon, 2 pancakes (plus hash browns). "This is my favorite breakfast place," he said. It seems that eating at Dina's is very much like being with family, without the dysfunction.

Whatever you order, you will get plenty of food, enough to take home for the evening or the next day. Specials can include Mexican dishes, Irish Stew, Lamb Shank, Roast Pork, and the famous Chicken Lemon Soup. As a sign over the counter says, "Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Dessert, Drinks," all homemade, right there in the kitchen at Dina's on Fremont Boulevard, in the historic Irvington District of Fremont. Don't skip the tapioca!

Reviewed September 2, 2009

Dina's Family Restaurant
40800 Fremont Blvd., Fremont
(510) 770-1930

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