By Zach Chouteau
Just a few blocks off of San Pablo Avenue awaits an often overlooked bastion of fantastic food, offbeat and exotic gifts, and a burgeoning nightlife. All of it at consumer-friendly prices, whether you’re out for a family dinner or just getting some early holiday shopping in, and enhanced by a Far Eastern ambience that might be hard to top outside of a trip to Asia.
That’s right: we mean the Pacific East Mall.
Much like a visit to San Francisco’s Chinatown, visitors truly feel transported a world away at this mall along Interstate Highway 80, at 3288 Pierce St.
We recently visited the mall to get a look at it all. We stopped by 99 Ranch Market, a bustling, brightly lit bastion of everything you could ever want or need in your kitchen, plus a whole lot more. Perhaps best of all are the robust seafood and butcher sections in the back of the market, but the already prepared Asian fare—including lots of dim sum— in a buffet section appeals as well.
And speaking of food, the mall—once home to only a pair of eateries—is now a veritable hub of eclectic Asian cuisine, including the well-established Daimo (in a stand-alone structure by the mall entryway) and the Pearl of the Orient, a popular family dining spot. Other options run the gamut from Korean BBQ to Sushi and Szechuan fusion, and in total there are more than half-a-dozen full-fledged restaurants to choose from.
Opened in 1998, the mall has grown its retail offerings substantially. You can find wildly colorful and hip toy/gift shops, stores overflowing with Asian imports like ceramics and statuary, and a few places specializing in authentic herbs, teas and the like. It’s also an unexpectedly good stop for baked goods, including a top-tier bakery and an eye-catching cake and pastry area within 99 Ranch.
Unexpected and affordable treasures are really at the heart of the lure for shoppers. My best find during a recent stop was of all things a favorite Chinese cough syrup that I previously had only seen for sale in San Francisco’s Chinatown. And for less than $9 I found a collection of Yo-Kai plastic action figures that had my four-year-old son unexpectedly exclaiming, “This is what I’ve always wanted!”
Another element likely to surprise many is a lively nightlife built around the recently launched Peruvian restaurant and lounge Inca’s Palace Restaurant & Dance Club. Other evening escapes include a Karaoke bar and the Hookah Lounge.