Castro Street is home to a number of locally run shops, restaurants, and cafés. In the neighboring streets there are many places to eat, along with various small businesses ranging from salons to apothecaries. Though you may be tempted to head straight for Verde Tea Cafe for Pearl Milk Tea, take the time to stop by the neighboring eateries; there is something for everyone.
Fu Lam Mum
153 Castro St
Perhaps the largest restaurant on the street, Fu La Mum boasts an extensive menu of all sorts of dishes, from the well-known and popular shrimp balls and mongolian-style beef, to uniquely Chinese dishes such as a soup made of a swallow’s nest.
The restaurant’s interior allows for many diners, though it does not feel crowded. The large windows allow for light to come in, giving the restaurant a pleasant and crisp feel. On weekends, the restaurant is packed, though the wait is not long. Inevitably the restaurant becomes rather noisy quite easily, but it is still worth a visit.
241 Castro St
Don’t let the bakery’s modest exterior and design deceive you. Somewhat compact in size, the bakery itself does not have any seating space, nor does it comfortably fit more than perhaps 6 or 7 customers at a time. However, it features an ample selection of traditional Chinese baked goods, such as mooncakes. I particularly enjoy their sponge cake. The bakery also offers several frosted cakes, which are kept refrigerated, but they do not seem to be as popular as the other items.
Shezan Pakistani & Indian Cuisine
216 Castro St
Shezan, like Hong Kong Bakery, is not the most capacious of eateries. Try not to get too distracted by this, because the restaurant’s food is really incredible. The restaurant offers a few traditional sides that are relatively basic, such as basmati rice and naan, as well as appetizers, though these are somewhat pricey. Diners may tend to overlook the unfamiliar Pakistani items on the menu, but the more adventurous will be thoroughly satisfied.
241 Castro St
Winner of the “Best Ice Cream in Mountain View” for several consecutive years, Gelato Classico boasts a large selection of delicious coffees, sundaes, gelatos and sorbets. The shop takes the traditional “staple” flavors and add an interesting twist of sorts. For example, instead of offering mint chocolate chip, Gelato Classico offers Bavarian Mint. The shop itself is typically very crowded and busy. Meager seating is provided both in store and outside, though seated patrons will feel slightly cramped. Be sure not to shy away from the opportunity to sample.
New Mongolian BBQ
304 Castro St
This restaurant is unique in the sense that diners construct their own meals by filling bowls with various meats, vegetables, noodles and sauces, which are in turn grilled over a circular stone stove, sizzling appetizingly. Such a system demonstrates the shrewdness of the original restaurant designers.
The tables are placed in close proximity to one another, which is especially frustrating if you are seated near the entrance since there is only one way to maneuver in and out of the restaurant. Outdoor seating is also available.
Meals are at a predetermined price per diner, depending on the diner’s age, the time of day, and if it is a weekend. So, if you care to gorge yourself by eating several bowls worth of noodles, you can happily do so. Additionally, soft serve vanilla frozen yogurt is available to all diners.
324 Castro St
This is not your typical bookstore, in fact, to call it a bookstore would be slightly inaccurate. East West also offers artwork of various forms as well as a number of fascinating trinkets. Among these are journals, jewelry, perfumes, incense, tibetan healing bowls, candles and yoga mats.
EastWest has such a mellow, spiritual vibe to it. First-time patrons often spend quite a large amount of time simply looking around and exploring the store. With a profusion of books on many different world religions and spiritual perspectives, as well as health, psychology and self-help, the store appeals to those interested in the metaphysical.
The back room of the store also hosts guest speakers on topics such as spirituality and mysticism, health and self-improvement. East West is always has something interesting going on at the store, so be sure to stop by.
Ava’s Downtown Market and Deli
340 Castro St
This surprisingly large grocery store is quite the curious place, offering a limited selection of products, while also featuring more obscure items like ginseng and hemp soap. Ava’s values the quality of the products they carry over the mainstream popularity; seldom will one see the mass-marketed snack brands on the shelves.
In addition to the regular grocery store stock, there is an extensive herb and medicine section, as well as a small amount of produce. Pickier shoppers who desire gluten-free, vegan, fair trade and locally made products will have no trouble finding items that fit their particular criterion.
Ava’s also offers many more culturally attuned items that would not normally be found at a grocery store or marketplace.
444 Castro St
Catering primarily to office workers in the nearby businesses and law firms, Posh Bagel is kind of like a Starbucks. However, the amount of focus dedicated to coffee would then be substituted with a slightly smaller selection of bagels and spreads. The shop offers fruit smoothies, crepes, paninis, coffees and desserts. Ironically, the other items seem to be more popular than the bagels themselves. For a bagel shop, Posh Bagel opens relatively late, at 6:30 p.m. on weekdays. The smoothies are not worth trying, though the crepes are commendable.
Ginseng Korean Barbeque
475 Castro St
Warm and inviting, with many delicious traditional dishes, Ginseng will not disappoint. The restaurant offers diners the unique experience of grilling the food they order from their own tables, a practice not uncommon with Korean dining establishments. Dishes include the traditional Korean bulgogi, barbeque beef, as well as tofu soup and chicken thigh. The service is quick and portions are generous. Since it is towards the end of Castro Street, Ginseng tends to get fewer customers than those in the heart of downtown Mountain View.