Monument Community Offers Diverse Cuisine
by: Richard Eber
Calling the Monument Community of Concord a “Gourmet Ghetto” is no insult. For years this area has been the home of a large number of affordable restaurants that diners from the entire region have enjoyed. This fact was very much on display with the “Taste of the Monument” Festival held on November 1st.
Sponsored by local businesses and organizations including Habitat for Humanity, Monument Impact, Dolan’s Lumber, Travis Credit Union, Diablo Valley Bowl, Carbajal Insurance, and the City of Concord, this event was well attended with about 1000 visitors taking part in the proceedings.
Serenaded by the timeless tunes of the Lucid Rays with games provided for children, this festival was a true family oriented activity. While the Monument Community is best known for Hispanic cuisine, there was also involvement from other cultures as well. The Tandoori Bolani’s from the Afghan Market and the noodles from Korean BBQ Plus were big favorites of visitors to the festival.
Other crowd pleasers were the Cuban sandwiches from Los Rancheros, the carnitas taco’s from El Molino and Sapare, the papusas donated by Las Vengas and the rotisserie chicken prepared by Mercado de Sol. Mi Officina offered coffee drinks and fresh baked pastries from their ovens.
In all it was a perfect day celebrating the many diverse cultures of the Monument community. When the event was concluding a few drops of rain began to fall for which no one complained as it was a preview of coming attractions. The Taste of Monument showed the potential of an area with much to offer the people of Concord and those who live nearby.
A list food purveyors:
- Afghan Market
The Silk Road made famous by Marco Polo creating trade between the Far East and Europe has an outpost in the Monument with the Afghan Market creating a mini-bazaar of hard to find items from Central Asia. This unique business sells everything from saffron to flat bread. The Afghan Market is best known for its fresh lamb, veal, and goat which most supermarkets don’t carry. Their reasonably priced veal chops provide an ideal gourmet dining ingredient for the home chef.
- Hankook Market
For over a quarter century this Korean Market has provided high quality Korean and Asian foods not found in the land of “Rancher’s Reserve” at Safeway. Kimchi can be purchased in large jars. Numerous condiments and marinades are also in abundance to make Korean Barbecue Short Ribs super easy for novice cooks to prepare. Frozen foods from Seoul, hard to find beers, noodles, and spices are but a few offerings from Hankook Market.
- Los Rancheros
There is a reason this restaurant next to the market of the same name is always packed. They are one of the best places to dine in the area. Los Rancheros homemade fruit drinks and smoothies are deliciously prepared. The pupusas filled with cheese, beans, and/or meat is a signature item. Their Cuban sandwiches and Tortas made with rolls baked fresh on the premises are not being missed. They also feature several beef (carnitas) dishes with all the fixings on the side. Los Rancheros is synonymous with quality both in the restaurant and with their food trucks.
- Korean BBQ Plus
Arguably, one of the best places to eat in Concord of any type, this restaurant is next store to Hankook Market. Their most famous dish is barbecued short ribs (Ga Bae) which comes with rice. Best of all are the large number of small plates with noodles, vegetables, kimchi, dried fish, and assorted items which come with every order. The more people dining, the larger the variety of small plates offered. Not to be missed at Korean BBQ Plus is their spicy Tofu soup and their excellent Clay Pot entrees.
- Mi Oficina
This Hispanic version of Starbucks provides the ideal locale for people to meet and enjoy a cup of In addition Mi Oficina provides a delectable selection of cakes and cookies, and rolls baked on the premises. In addition they offer sandwiches including Almorzar un Pambazo and Croissants. Not to be forgotten are Mi Oficina’s smoothies and fruit drinks. An added bonus is the availability of computers for those who need a place to go on line. The friendly atmosphere of Mi Oficina gives needed diversity to the Monument Community and provides a friendly place to rendezvous.
- El Molino
Famous for their production of homemade tortillas sold on the premises and in nearby stores, this busy restaurant serves simple yet elegant food that reminds us of the street food found in Baja Mexico. The taco’s are freshly made and melt in one’s mouth. The pupusas take a few minutes to prepare but are worth the wait. Their fruit drinks and smoothies made with fresh ingredients are a perfect complement to a tasty meal. On Friday’s and over the weekend El Molino offers Chile Rellenos which are among the best in the area.
- Sapore Ristorante
If a restaurant is to survive in the Monument area, it needs to not only serve excellent food but also have unique qualities that separate themselves from other places. Sapore does this by not only serving the normal tacos, burritos, and tostadas, but making other special dishes as well. Their menudo is among the best in the area. The Mariscada, Costilla Con Nopalitos, and Mojarra Frita (fish) is outstanding. Sapone’s dishes are presented artistically making them even for tempting to their wide clientele.
- La Cabana
On the weekends when most businesses call it quits by 9pm, La Cabana comes alive with being one of the best Latin nightclubs to be found in concord and the whole Bay Area. Salsa music, dancing, and great food are found in abundance. Their Micheladas drink (Mexican Bloody Mary) is not to be missed. La Cuban’s menu includes such treats as Quesadillas de Huitlacoche, Burritos with Laminate, and chicken dishes (polo) which tops off a great evening or provides an excellent meal any time.
- Mercado de Sol
One of the treasures of the Monument this restaurant offers made from scratch BBQ baby back ribs and rotisserie Chicken with a Mexican twist that provides a Latino alternative to the standard “Back 40’s” of the world. They also make the standard burrito and taco faire one finds in the Monument Culinary Zone. In addition Mercado De Sol treats their customers to homemade tortillas served warm offering a fresh dining experience that can be enjoyed by all. Their green sauce is also a treat not to be missed.
- El Mercadito Latino Market & Las Venegas Taqueria:
If one wants to take a trip South of the Border without needing a passport, this is the place to visit. El Mercadito offers fresh produce, cheeses, meats, and other items at reasonable prices . Especially good in the meat section is their wide variety of pork which the butcher’s are glad to offer custom cuts. Also located in the market is the Las Venegas Taqueria which offers a complete menu including menudo and the not to be missed chicken soup. One can partake in a 3 taco lunch with a bottle of beer or other beverages for less than $10.00. Their authentic El Salvadorian pupusas are also to be enjoyed.