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best "vintage" restaurants on the Peninsula

hey, I'm doing some research...looking for the oldest, the most classic, restaurants in the Peninsula....SSF all the way down to Sunnyvale/Santa Clara...the places that have been "institutions" for years and years...

so far all I've got is The Van's in Belmont...opened 1947...

others worth noting?


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  1. Kirk's Steakburger: 50+ years in Palo Alto, though it changed locations a few years ago.

    Although I'm not exactly sure how old they are, the Oasis and the Dutch Goose, both in Menlo Park, have been keeping Stanford students in burgers and beer for generations.

    1. I'm not sure of exact dates, but on the peninsula I believe that Ming's (palo alto), Harry's Hofbrau (redwood city), and the Village Pub (woodside) have all been around since at least the 1950's.

      1. Along the same lines as The Van's (which isn't great, by the way) is Val's in Daly City. They have a bar with a fireplace in the front-karaoke on fridays-and the menu in the restaraunt is of the salad/soup, entree, dessert all included variety. I think all of the seafood is fried. Another version of the Van's and Vals is the 16 mile house in Millbrae.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Manimal

          I love the octogenarian atmosphere at Val's, but the prices are too high for me for the quality of the food.

        2. Bertolucci's in South SF. Now renamed Sodini's Bertolucci's, but I don't think they've changed it much.

          1. How about the Alpine Inn Beer Garden? It's been in Portola Valley (under different names) forever. Here's a link to its history:


            1 Reply
            1. re: Nancy Berry

              Thank you, Nancy for the link. Sure brings back memories.

            2. I don't know if 1970 really counts for historical longevity, but since it opened, Chef Chu's has had many ardent supporters. In Mountain View on El Camino and San Antonio Rd.

              For sheer longevity, the burger joint in Portola Valley now known as The Alpine Inn (but always Rosotti's to us old-timers) has been there for as long as any living person can remember. At Alpine and Arastradero Roads. Lots of "character". Chili isn't bad, fries are good. Burgers are a matter of personal taste.

              1. Iron Gate Belmont.

                Oasis (Burgers) Menlo Park

                Cooks Seafood Menlo Park.

                British Banker's Club Menlo Park

                1 Reply
                1. re: Alan408

                  these rec's are great, keep 'em coming...there's also Nick's in Pacifica (does the coast count as Peninsula?) -- it'll be 80 years old next year...

                2. Absolutely the Iron Gate on El Camino in Belmont. It has been a fav of mine and many friends for decades. They have waiters in tuxes who flame several dishes tableside. The food is great. It is a special occasion place or just when you want good, old-fashioned service and yummy food.

                  1. There's Westlake Joe's in Daly City, which has been around since 1956, however, I can't recommend the food... :-(

                    1. on a related note, I'm looking for specific dishes or foods that are "classic Peninsula" -- don't know if there are any?

                      9 Replies
                      1. re: slapaham

                        If you mean regional specialties, I don't think they exist.

                        1. re: slapaham

                          Something that seems to be ubiquitous on Peninsula menus is "Chinese chicken salad", e.g., Ming's, Buck's. While it may not have been invented there, it seems to be very popular. Maybe it radiated from Sunset Magazine's offices in Menlo Park. (g)

                          Edited to add: Here's a link to a Sunset article that says it first printed a recipe for Chinese chicken salad in 1957 and it's most requested version is Ming's.

                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                            But they didn't publish Ming's version until 1970.

                            New Moon Cafe in LA claims to have invented the dish.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              That so cracks me up, Melanie. When I lived down that way in the 80's I ate more Chinese chicken salad than I care to remember. The Chinese restaurant up the street from Dittmars on El Camino was the gold standard at the time.

                              You are so on target ... this IS Pennisula Classic. That and burgers from Kirks or Clarks ... well, long ago.

                              You might consider Frankie, Johnny & Luigi's too in Mountain View. Even though they expanded, they never really updated, especially the little area around the pizza ovens. Ask for the zucchini Realto ... not on the menu anymore, but they will make it if you ask ... their own specialty. Zucchinni, tomatoes, mushrooms in a white wine and cheese sauce ... so good, so good.

                              1. re: rworange

                                That would be Chef Chu's in Los Altos. Here's a classic thread on the place.

                                1. re: rworange

                                  Really great link on Chef Chu's. Wish I had that info when I lived in the area as a guide to the non Chinese-American things to order.

                              2. re: Melanie Wong

                                The text before recipe claims that the popularity has to do with the crispy, puffed cellophane noodles, yet nowhere in the recipe does it call for frying them...only boiling. Anyone made it?

                                1. re: buoncibo

                                  Yes, I have prepared Chinese Chicken Salad. Noodles have to deep fried.

                                  The recipe I use is different than the one linked. For example, my recipe doesn't include: peas, mustard, red onion, peppers, garlic. I don't stir fry, my cilantro is torn not finely chopped. I use ice berg lettuce, not salad greens, I add chopped peanuts or cashews.

                                  I have eaten Chef Chu's and Ming's Chinese Style Chicken Salad many times, the linked recipe is not the one I have they serve.

                                  1. re: Alan408

                                    Chinese chicken salad recipes often call for those weird pretzel-like canned "chow mein noodles."

                            2. Oh yeah... That makes sense. And it adds another restaurant to the list. Tao Tao in Sunnyvale (between Murphy and Town & Country Village) has been serving up a distinctive chinese chicken salad forever. They opened in 1951 (but I doubt they had the chicken salad then).

                              1. does Hobee's count? it opened in 1974 apparently.

                                also, Zott's.

                                1. What's the place on the east (bay) side of Skyline Blvd with a very good view that's been there forever. I was there probably 30 years ago and it was an institution then. Do I remember a deer's head? Mostly an upscale peninsula clientele as I recall.

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: Mick Ruthven

                                    I'm guessing the place on Skyline that you are referring to is Bella Vista. It used to be one of the few places on the peninsula that served fresh abalone (Iron Gate was another). Great view if the fog hasn't rolled in ... which is about 50/50.

                                    1. re: doc

                                      Thanks! That's it. It seems to be still going strong. Does anyone know if it's still good?

                                      Bella Vista
                                      13451 Skyline Blvd
                                      Woodside, CA 94062

                                      1. re: Mick Ruthven

                                        I was last there in 1988. It was only fair then, food was nothing memorable--"Continental" cuisine, as I recall. The evening was memorable for other reasons (personal) and I won't ever return.

                                        1. re: rednails

                                          I was there a few years ago (2004) and anticipated a memorable meal w/that great view....but alas.....na-da.
                                          I could not recommend this place.

                                    2. re: Mick Ruthven

                                      Not the place you are referring to, but there's Mountain House on Skyline, too. No view....

                                    3. OK, may be well off here, vintage but not classic, the original Trader Vic's is up there, isn't it? Vintage for sure and classic in the sense of the original SF connection as a gateway to the east, however, is this further north? Sorry if I am waaaaaaaay off...not looking at a map.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Jesdamala

                                        Which Trader Vic's are you thinking of? The original was in Oakland. The oldest one in the area is in Emeryville, open since the early 70s. The others are in Palo Alto and SF, which are both quite new locations.

                                      2. Val's in Alviso.

                                        I don't know where Mr Steer (Santa Clara) went to, heard it is in the Murphy Square Area (Sunnyvale). But, in Mr Steer's old location in Santa Clara on El Camino is Andy's (BBQ) from Campbell. And, since I mentioned BBQ, Henry's High Life in San Jose.

                                        1. And then there were L'Omelette ("L'Ommies") and Dinah's Shack, two establishments beloved of several generations of Stanford students and Alums. Jolly places for large or intimate gatherings. Both now departed and sorely missed.

                                          1. Is the Fork and Knife still open in San Mateo on El Camino, or David's Deli in San Mateo on Third? I left the Bay Area over 30 years ago.