Vallejo, California, is a sleepy SF Bay Area suburb that lies between San Francisco and Napa Valley’s wine country. If you visit Napa or Sonoma County while in the Bay Area you will pass through Vallejo either by ferry or car. However, you will also be unknowingly passing by some local Vallejo restaurants that merit a visit.
Top 5 Restaurants in Vallejo, CA
630 Tennessee Street // +1-707-553-9786
If you are in the mood for some good, unapologetic American breakfast food for a great price, don’t miss Vallejo Great Donuts and Café. Vallejo Great Donuts and Café makes their pastries fresh on-site every morning. This unassuming spot, favored by locals, serves up light, fluffy donuts (a sure sign of careful cooking with the oil changed regularly) that will make you want to buy a dozen on your way out. Customers packed the house on the Fourth of July, with lines out the door all day.
You can see the freshness of the berries in their Danishes, and the apple turnover is temptingly plump. Tellingly, the house-made donuts aren’t perfectly round, with slight imperfections in shape, and boy are they a delight. The well-proportioned breakfasts are the standard bacon, eggs, potatoes, and toast, done right.
Open for the past 20 years, Vallejo Great Donuts and Café is family-run and inter-generational. It also serves the only authentic Australian meat pies, veggie pasties, and sausage rolls in the San Francisco Bay Area. Mary Chhan, co-owner and baker, brought the recipes for the traditional Australian dishes with her when she immigrated from the land down under. Her pies are so renowned that she is consistently busy with orders from around the Bay for Australia Day and local rugby matches. In fact, she just filled an order for a game in Napa. They are so successful that her daughter Tanya runs the tiny Daily Donuts in Benecia, across Interstate 80.
I had to try one. Ok, maybe two. The mushroom meat pie has a flaky crust, and it’s savory, with minced steak, mushrooms, onions, and gravy, ending with a tinge of Vegemite, direct from Australia. Not too salty. I turned to the sausage roll, which is a bit salty, as expected, packed into a tender pastry sheath. I know I’ll be back soon.
295 Mare Island Way // +1-707-648-1966
If you take the ferry in from San Francisco on the weekend, get on an early boat and have brunch at Vik’s Wheelhouse, which sits next to the Vallejo ferry terminal on the Napa River. Vik’s opened in 2009 on the site of the original Mare Island Ferry Company, dating back to 1862, when ferries ran regularly between Vallejo and the Naval Shipyard on Mare Island.
You walk into a room filled with windows and maritime charm and a blue-collar waterfront vibe. It’s full of kitsch and historical pictures and feels homey. Out back there’s a pontoon float seating area, it’s a great place to toss back a cold one on a hot summer afternoon.
I strolled in on a recent Saturday morning with a crab omelet and a spicy Bloody Mary on my mind.
The Bloody Mary did not disappoint, and the fresh crab omelet came topped with a whole avocado, bursting at the seams with shredded crab and Swiss cheese. I added mushrooms for a full, umami experience, and it was as good as the last time. Home-fried potatoes, sliced small, are the side along with your choice of toast or English Muffin. They are fried to a crisp on the outside with the insides left expertly soft.
The evening specialty is a seafood boil that feeds 2-3 people and comes with a gorgeous presentation in a steel pot.
The waitress told me, “As soon as people see them they want more, it’s the most popular dish on the menu.” The Combo comes with corn, potatoes, four lobster tails, and two pounds of everything else. There’s also an extensive specials board on a sign near the front door. Wet your whistle with a full bar and local draft beers.
138 Tennessee Street // +1-707-654-8901
Café 22 is a newer local gem that’s just about 16 months old and is open from 7 am to 3 pm Tuesday through Saturday. Owned by a local guy whose younger brother mans the counter, this joint is immaculate. I’m not exaggerating when I say that everything sparkles. A vintage café, it’s set in an old Victorian house with a smattering of tables in the cute outside patio area, which is framed with vines crawling along the wooden fences. It’s popular with the neighborhood locals, so you may hit a line when you visit.
I guarantee this is one of the few places in the San Francisco Bay Area where you can get an avocado toast for $5.99 or a 16 oz. smoothie for $3.50. If you are looking for where to eat in Vallejo that offers delicious vegan options, look no further. Café 22 is vegan-friendly with various wraps on the menu, like Portobello with cilantro lime sauce. The menu includes standards like a Tuna Melt and a Roast Beef Sandwich along with specialties like the Turkey Bacon Avocado Sandwich, which comes with sliced turkey, thick-cut bacon, avocado spread, mayo, lettuce, and tomato on a sweet French roll. Daily specials are written out on the blackboard.
I ordered their take on a classic pastrami sandwich—it came on a Dutch crunch roll, instead of rye, which was crisp on the outside delivering an optimum crunch with each bite. It was a nice, thinner bread, which allowed the ingredients to shine through. Generous helpings of pastrami, Swiss, red onions, pickles, tomato, shredded lettuce, thousand island dressing, and whole-grain mustard filled my mouth.
It was one of the freshest sandwiches that I’ve enjoyed, ever. Highly recommended for a great stop after the Saturday Farmers’ Market.
630 Broadway Street // +1-707- 554-9681
As their website says, “Even if you’ve had Mexican food four times this week, tonight you should go to Los Arquitos.” For a serious chow-down on down-home, authentic Mexican food—some of the best I’ve had outside of Mexico—you won’t want to miss Los Arquitos Restaurant. Skip lunch if you’re going for dinner and leave yourself plenty of room.
This no-frills restaurant featured on the local PBS show “Check, Please,” is a tiny bit out of the way on Broadway Street and doesn’t have parking, beware. You walk into a cozy atmosphere—right away, you can feel that this is another family-run Vallejo eatery, opened by a Mexican family 13 years ago. Lucy, the daughter, explained how her parents combined two regions of Mexican cooking. Beers are available, and the menu is substantial!
Los Arquitos offers plenty of appetizers, like nachos, hot wings, Jalapeño poppers, and a sampler platter. Treat yourself to a breakfast of chilaquiles, nopales con huevos, or classic huevos rancheros. The burritos are enormous. The Regular Famoso Burrito comes with rice, beans, pico de gallo, lettuce, sour cream, cheese, and your choice of meat, slathered with red or green enchilada sauce and topped with cheese. They are known for their caldos, sopas, and menudo.
Seafood options include a variety of Camarones (shrimp) —a la diabla, a la plancha, en salsa chipotle—Pescado, and filetes. You can get a half-order of any of the dinners, which come with Mexican rice and refried beans. Choose from enchiladas, chimichangas, tamales and more. Finally, Los Arquitos serves a killer fajita and cazuela, again, with your choice of meat.
I had their mole chicken enchilada dinner for lunch today (a half-order) and the sauce was rich and chocolatey, with a hint of spice and cinnamon.
The refried beans were an excellent mate. The Mexican rice complimented the meal perfectly, being tender and moist, not oily in the least. The meal confirmed my positive sentiments and made me glad that Los Arquitos isn’t far from where I live.
23 Harbor Way // +1-707-642-8984
For one of the best places to eat in Vallejo when you’re craving Italian, try Zio Fraedo’s on the Water. Zio Fraedo’s is a family-run restaurant set on on the Vallejo Marina. It has been voted one of the best Vallejo restaurants since 2012. They have an inviting deck terrace, a sports bar with daily happy hour specials, main dining rooms, and a wonderful banquet room overlooking the Napa River.
The menu includes a wide mix of appetizers, salads, and traditional Italian pasta and meats. Their house-made clam chowder is delicious and a bowl, with bread, can be a meal by itself. The appetizer selections range from prawns and calamari fritti to chicken wings to potato skins to bleu bacon stuffed mushrooms. The plentiful salad menu offers American classics like the Cranberry Spinach Salad, Cobb Salad, and the Crab Louie Salad.
During a recent happy hour, I ordered the calamari which came lightly breaded. My friend’s generous Cranberry Spinach Salad arrived beautifully plated in a large white oval bowl. We were well-satiated after adding an order of bruschetta.
One of my favorite Zio’s pastas is a simple Fresh Clams in Linguini with a white sauce, al dente and nicely balanced.
The Penne Mediterranean is also one of my favorites. This dish features a tangy combination of sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes, kalamata olives, feta, and pepperoncini in olive oil. The seafood and meats include a Scallops Dore in a divine lemon sauce with capers and Tournados of Beef with two medallions in bearnaise sauce topped with garlic croutons—deliciously rich and decadent.
The wine list, while not extensive, is quite good. Everything is moderately priced, especially for the San Francisco Bay Area. Zio Fraedo’s has been one of my regular haunts since I made the trek to Vallejo four years ago.
Which of these Vallejo restaurants do you most want to try? Let me know in the comments section below!
Tonya Hennessey is a freelance writer and non-profit professional who resides in the San Francisco Bay Area. She was raised in Minneapolis, MN. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, she took off for a year of travel throughout Europe and Asia, a trip that awakened her awe of the world’s varied cultures, landscapes, and, of course, foods! Since then, she has traveled extensively in Europe, East and Southeast Asia, and the United States. Along with travel, she loves to cook and is devoted to her vegetable and herb gardens.