So we wanted to try Tasty Pot, a San Jose-based chain that offers bowls of steaming hot broth filled with just about anything you want — beef, lamb, veggies, stinky tofu, and more. – as well as appetizers and accompaniments.
The only problem was that it was Friday night and Tasty Pot doesn’t take reservations. We don’t like to wait (we get grumpy when hungry) so this could have been a problem, except for one thing. The Tasty Pot we were heading to was at Concord’s Park & Shop, a venerable mall on Willow Pass Road, and if nothing else, you can find plenty to eat at Park & Shop.
There’s Lulu’s Kitchen, Spicy Joi Banh Mi, Brasos do Brazil, Taqueria La Soledad, Taqueria Los Gallos, Saigon Bistro, Shan Shan Low, Uji Time and something else that probably opened yesterday. In short, there are so many choices that there would never be a reason to queue.
I wish I could give you an overview of many of these restaurants, but we only visited a few – but what’s important is that none were ever disappointed. Of course, if you’re looking for atmosphere, you’re in the wrong place, as the name of the mall suggests. There’s no attempt at upscale in the “Park & Shop” name, and the long, narrow parking lot fronts a long sidewalk with side-by-side shops and restaurants. (Sometimes, in fact, you’re not sure which door leads to which business.)
But if you’re looking for a good portion of tasty food, you’ve definitely come to the right place. Tasty Pot, for example, features large bowls of meat, vegetables, and unidentifiable bits that arrive at your table with a heat source underneath. (And I have to point out that there’s a lot of heat in the spice too – I opted for “medium” and let’s just say my sinuses cleared out quickly.)
We have a side of dumplings, which should be tossed into the broth to cook, and the free noodles should also be heaped into the very full bowl for a few minutes to soften. Beer and soju were available, but no wine or hard liquor, and there were no menus, just a QR code and website link to fulfill the order.
And after the meal – a bargain considering the flavor and portion size – the craving for sweets could be satisfied right next door at Uji Time, with ice cream, milk tea, milkshakes and many Asian options. Oh, and parking was free and easy to find, which made for a pleasant, filling, and well-tasting experience.
At the time, Park & Shop options leaned more towards taquerias and burgers, but it’s hard to argue with the focus on Asian cuisine. Korean barbecue is not like Vietnamese cuisine, which is different from Japanese cuisine, which has nothing to do with Tasty Pot. And of course the taquerias are still around and if all you want is meat, the Brazilian steak house where Mimi was staying will satisfy that protein craving.
Granted, there are no bars or breweries, but remember that Todos Santos Plaza is only a few blocks away, along with the Parkside Bar & Grill, Hop Granada and EJ Phair. Of course, there are also restaurants there, just like in The Veranda and The Willows, but there is something about Park & Shop that sets it apart. There is no pretension on Willow Pass Road, no attitude, no attempt to do anything but serve a great meal at a decent price and send happy customers home.
And you know, that’s really all you need.