Where I’ve Been Getting Takeout of Late, Part 29
Winner Winner Chicken, San Mateo
Chefs Jeremy Cheng and Chef Randy Magpantay couldn’t have been more excited to finally open their Winner Winner Chicken after conceiving of the Nashville-style hot chicken establishment in 2018.
Only, they opened it in March 2020 in San Mateo’s Hillsdale Shopping Center. Five days later, the pandemic put the kibash on it.
Fortunately, with the Bay Area seemingly turning the corner now in this health crisis, Winner Winner Chicken has been able to sling its specialties for the past couple of months. I was invited in by the fast-casual eatery a week ago to try some menu items gratis, which I ferried home as takeout.
It’s a family operation, with Cheng and Magpantay, and their wives, behind the counter overseeing the ordering and cooking. Cheng and Magpantay are veterans of the South Bay’s Avenir Restaurant Group, which includes Nola in Palo Alto, Milagros in Redwood City, and Town in San Carlos.
At Winner Winner Chicken, you can choose how incendiary you like it, from Classic (no heat) to Medium (starting to heat up) and Spicy (That’s hot) to Extra Spicy (Hot as cluck).
I went with medium, though I think Magpantay dialed it down a bit and gave me medium-light (which you can request, by the way) that offered up a modest amount of heat on the palate.
The Crispy Chicken Sandwich ($10.95) is the signature dish with a crisp, golden, battered chicken breast piled with crunchy, tangy slaw, and pickles on a toasted bun. It was also slathered with “Comeback Sauce,” which looks like Thousand Island, but has smokiness and a whisper of heat. It’s a classic fried chicken sandwich with tried and true flavors that is quite satisfying.
Another popular item is the Crispy BBQ Chicken Spring Rolls ($5.95), which are filled with shredded chicken, caramelized onions and a load of melty cheese. Ranch dressing, as well as a smoky sweet-spicy barbecue sauce comes with for dunking. It’s the kind of crunchy, salty, savory bar food that would go nicely with a craft beer, which Winner Winner Chicken also sells in bottles and cans.
The Beverly Hills Chino’s Salad ($14.95) is an homage to Wolfgang Puck’s Chinois Asian chicken salad. Magpantay says he and Cheng labored long to get the vinaigrette just right. Plenty gingery tasting, it stands up well to the pile of crisp Asian greens, shredded cabbage, grated carrots, red onions, and chunks of cucumbers, all tossed with sesame seeds and toasted slivered almonds. You can get it with either crispy chicken or grilled chicken on top. The latter is what I got, with a generous amount of white meat chicken. It’s a vibrant salad, and a great pick for someone looking for a more healthful option at a mall food court.
The Famous Chilled Broccoli Caesar ($3.95 for a small side; $6.95 for a large) is a sleeper hit — crunchy, chilled florets lightly tossed in a Parmesan-inflected Caesar dressing. How could that ever be bad, right?
Pro Tip: Winner Winner Chicken has a Ding Dong ($3.95) on the menu, but it’s not the mere Hostess variety. Instead, it’s made by a local baker, Kathy’s Kreative Cakes of San Mateo. I’d love to tell you how it was, but unfortunately, it was accidentally not included in my takeout bag — one of the pitfalls at times of getting food to go. But if you try the Ding Dong, I expect a full report back.
Nabeela’s Bakery, Santa Clara and South Bay
Which will surprise you once you taste how masterful her breads and pastries are.
She is largely a self-taught home baker, and like so many during the pandemic, found an outlet and a calling in perfecting dough.
In November 2020, she started her Nabeela’s Bakery, which she runs out of her Santa Clara apartment, after applying for a Cottage Food Operator permit from the county, as well as a business license from the city and a selling permit from the state.
As you can tell, she’s someone who makes a point to dot all the “I’s” and cross all the “T’s.” It’s that attention to detail that can be seen readily in her baked goods, too. On her web site, she lists all the ingredients used in every item, from organic whole wheat flour, organic pecans, pasteurized Irish butter, and organic and Fair Trade sugar to organic peanut butter chips, organic Fair Trade chocolate, and organic seasonal fruit. She instructs the best way to store any leftovers, and even offers a few vegan and gluten-free items.
She’s a one-woman operation, not only baking everything, but taking all the beautiful photos of the items on her site, too. As such, orders have to be made two days ahead of time. Brioche is available only on Wednesdays and Saturdays; and sourdough breads on Wednesdays and weekends.
If you live near her, you can pick up your order at her door. Otherwise, she offers delivery on Saturdays, 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., for an extra $10 fee on orders of at least $50, to Santa Clara, San Jose, Los Gatos, Sunnyvale, Milpitas, Mountain View, Cupertino, Campbell, and Los Altos.
Her cinnamon brioche rolls are not to be missed. Sold in pairs, a four-pack ($26) or a six-pack, these are just ever so crisp on the top and wonderfully buttery and tender within with spirals of gooey cinnamon glaze inside. She applies a restrained touch with the heavy cream glaze, which I appreciate because I often find too many cinnamon rolls drowned in the stuff. You can even select to have the rolls unglazed, which is a nice option.
With my husband having a hankering for grilled cheese, I found the perfect foundation for that with Aijaz’s sun-dried tomato and thyme loaf. The loaf sports a thin, crunchy crust that gives way to a chewy, moist crumb fragrant with not only thyme, but oregano and rosemary, plus sweet-tangy pieces of sun-dried tomato. All you need is a load of melty aged cheddar and this bread brings to life the ideal grilled cheese and tomato soup night.
Nabeela’s Bakery offers an assortment of different cookies. A bonus is that you can order a single cookie ($3 each) or a half dozen or dozen of any of them. The peanut butter chip chocolate cookie is made from a dark cocoa dough loaded with peanut butter chips that create eye-catching, marigold-colored splotches when baked. The Earl Grey & Cardamom cookie is crisp, chewy and delicate like a snickerdoodle, but infused with the taste of bergamot and cardamom, which are magic together. The Tumaco dark chocolate almond cookie is gluten-free, as it’s made with almond flour. It highlights 80 percent single origin dark chocolate from Tumaco, Columbia from Uncommon Cacao, which pays farmers more for their products. Full of nutty taste, this cookie is so tender with an almost dark caramel taste from the chocolate.
With my order, Aijaz also threw in a sample of her newest creation, the peanut butter blondie (four bars for $20). Chewy-soft with those coveted crisp edges of a bar cookie, they are rich tasting with an irresistible sweet-salty yin-yang. When I turned my back for only a second, my husband had inhaled nearly an entire one.
Pro Tip: Sign up for the newsletter at the bottom of Nabeela’s Bakery home page to get alerts on new items, plus occasional sales or coupon codes.