I think I may have jinxed myself. Recently, a friend and I were talking (OK, complaining) about jury duty and how Alameda County residents can be called to report to any of the five courthouses in Oakland, Fremont, Dublin or Hayward. I made the mistake of bragging that I had never had to travel outside of Oakland to fulfill my civic duty. A couple weeks after that conversation, guess what appeared in my mailbox? I had been summoned to appear at the Hayward Hall of Justice bright and early last Monday morning.
Of course, food was one of the first things I pondered about once I realized I was going to Hayward. What was I going to eat during my lunch break? I could’ve been practical and packed a lunch from home, but if I was going to make the haul to Hayward for jury duty, I wanted to treat myself to something new. And besides, I figured there’d be others who might find themselves at the Hayward Hall of Justice wishing there was a guide to lunch spots in the area.
When putting together this list, I chose restaurants that are all within a 10-minute walk from the Hall of Justice. I also chose spots that are fairly cheap (around $10 for a meal) and are quick-service so you’ll be back to the courthouse well within an hour. Several of these restaurants were recommended by jurors and courthouse staffers for their reliable comfort food fare; if you’re looking for gourmet eats, you won’t find them here.
Hayward locals have a lot of love for burgers from Val’s, but sadly that old-school diner is a bit too far from the courthouse to make this list. Fortunately, a worthy newcomer to the area, Beep’s Burgers, recently opened in a strip mall on Amador Street, just a six-minute walk from the courthouse. If Beep’s sounds familiar, you might be thinking of the beloved San Francisco drive-in out in the boonies of Ingleside. Yep, this is Beep’s third location (another can be found in Danville). This joint is best known for its juicy Angus beef burgers (with your choice of half or quarter pound patties), which reminds me of a cross between True Burger and In-n-Out. I’ve only had the beef burgers here, but there’s also a turkey and veggie burger, breakfast sandwiches, fish and chips and chicken nuggets. Beep’s also has an impressive selection of french fry options — regular, curly, steak cut, sweet potato or garlic fries. Although I was very tempted, I opted not to get fries or a milkshake with my quarter pound cheeseburger last week, for fear of inadvertently falling into a food coma in the courtroom. Beep’s Burgers, 24703 Amador St., Hayward
Just about eight minutes from the courthouse, in a building shared with a Jiffy Lube, is Pho Tai. Like many Vietnamese restaurants, the choices are plentiful, boasting a large number of noodle soups, including beef and chicken pho, hu tieu (seafood and pork noodle soup) and mì (egg noodle soup), as well as bun (vermicelli bowls), rice plates, casseroles and more. This is a good spot for those looking for lighter fare, but if you’re not worried about calories or feeling overly full, you can order a Vietnamese dessert drink, like a taro or an avocado smoothie, or end your meal with fried bananas and ice cream. Pho Tai, 151 W Jackson St. (near Amador), Hayward
El Taquito Restaurant #2
El Taquito is a popular family-owned taqueria in Hayward that’s been around since the ’70s. The original location is on Mission Boulevard, but you can walk to this second outpost from the courthouse in about four minutes flat. When I stopped at the information desk in the courthouse to ask for lunch suggestions, El Taquito was recommended. The menu here is large, as are the combination plates, so if you’re looking for something quick and not too heavy, your best bet might be the individual tacos for about $4 apiece. However, if you’re hungry, a favorite with locals is the massive super burrito, stuffed with your choice of chicken, beef chile colorado or pork chile verde and all the fixings, with a red mole sauce poured on top. El Taquito Restaurant #2, 215 W Winton Ave. (between Amador and Edlow), Hayward
Café de Lagniappe
The closest restaurant to the courthouse (apart from the coffee cart inside the Hall of Justice) can be found across the street inside the Alameda County Building. Café de Lagniappe is a no-frills diner that serves affordable breakfast items (available from 7:30 to 11 a.m.), salads, sandwiches, soups and lunch plates. The bestsellers here are the housemade soups and specials, which change daily. There are a few things to note about this spot: The kitchen closes at 12:30 p.m., but when I mentioned I was coming from jury duty, the woman behind the counter said the café could offer lunch until 1:3o p.m. if I called in advance (510-780-0101) to make my order. She did warn that the soups and daily specials often sell out early. Café du Lagniappe is cash only, but there is an ATM in the building. Café du Lagniappe, 24100 Amador St., Hayward
Choco’s was suggested by a fellow juror when the judge took a post-lunch survey about restaurants to eat nearby. This is the spot to go if you’re a fan of Denny’s or IHOP, but would rather frequent a locally owned diner. Menu items include hearty breakfast plates, cold and hot sandwiches, salads, hot dogs and a surprising category of “Teriyaki Specials” (Choices include chicken, pork or beef teriyaki, as well as beef or pork bulgogi and spicy chicken, served with white rice, grilled vegetables and a side salad). Choco’s offers free wifi, making it a good place for workaholics to hunker down to catch up on emails. Choco’s Diner, 217 W Winton Ave. (between Amador and Edloe), Hayward