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    It seems the folks at the Hobnob (1313 Park St., 510-769-1011) thought of it all—and got it right. There’s the welcoming bar with an inventive cocktail selection and a large-screen TV; a creative menu of incredibly tasty small-plate meals (“American tapas” is how owner-partners Mike and Amy Voisenat describe it); an expansive comfy restaurant area that invites conversation; a huge selection of board games if one feels inclined to socialize in this way; and a good, laid-back vibe. Mike Voisenat makes for a congenial bar host. Amy Voisenat is responsible for the menu, the food items and interesting daily specials. If you eat pig, don’t miss the Cuban sandwich ($8) of warm pressed ham and pork loin, mustard, pickles and Swiss cheese. Other options include a hanger steak with French fries ($9) and Dungeness crab cakes ($9). One can eat at the bar where the marinated olives and cheese ($3) are a great drinks snack.
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    Cal graduate Mimi Phan is the inspiration behind Central Vegetarian Cuisine (1613 Park St., 510-522-3745). Armed with a legal studies degree, she spent two years as an employee working in purchasing and accounting, during which time she decided she would rather be in business for herself. Spotting a gap for a vegetarian restaurant in Alameda, she persuaded her mom, a vegetarian cook for 10 years in the kitchen at Oakland’s Golden Lotus, to run the kitchen and be responsible for the food. Phan did the decor and says she put in lots of bamboo to create a soothing ambience. There is a lengthy set menu that includes such dishes as Mongolian beef ($7.95) and pineapple salmon ($9.95)—vegetarian, of course—and a popular eggplant curry clay pot ($8.95). Then there are the assorted ready-made options on display at a food bar.
—Wanda Hennig

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