Palo Alto Takeout - Need Your Best Ideas
Wife and I just moved to downtown Palo Alto and are looking for your best ideas for takeout and casual meals. Please share.
In the past three days, we've tried:
1. Back A Yard Caribbean, Menlo Park: Delicious and friendly. I had some jerk chicken and fried plantains. The chicken was spicy without being overpowering. The plantains were yummy. Definitely will be added to the rotation.
2. Darbar: Ordered some basics: a lamb dish, some channa masala and some samosas. The samosas were pretty good. The lamb and channa were average. Not bad. And I'd consider going back since they were convenient.
3. Pasta?: This was terrible. The pasta was overcooked. The sauces were bland. It was overpriced. Not going back.
Clearly, we need hound advice for:
- Takeout Chinese?
- Takeout Indian?
- Takeout Thai?
- Other promising takeout places?
How close to home are you wanting to stay? Within a couple of miles, I would say for Indian a lot of folks like Hyderabad House. I have to say my meal there was not great, but others have good luck, especially with the specials. Spice Hut Bistro in Menlo Park, but only their South Indian and try to get spicey, if you can (not easy) or Suraj in Redwood City (recommended, but haven't tried it). Passage to India and Amber are better, Amber Cafe too, or Tumeric in Sunnyvale a new favorite. I am not sure about the takeout at Amber or Tumeric. I am not a huge Darbar fan. We have gotten takeout from Palo Alto Sol and like that. Of course taquerias are great - Chavez market is close and does nice al pastor, we like El Gruellense in Redwood City and Palo Alto, and La Bamba or La Costena. Kan Zeman in Palo Alto has some decent food.
You say downtown so I assume you mean University rather than California as the closest main street.
My go to take outs from Paly are:
-Kan Zaman for Middle Eastern Amazing lentil soup and the veg plate can feed two
-Mango Cafe for Carribean jerk anything is really good
-Junta for Indian consitently good food or Spice Hut Cafe in Menlo if you want good Masala Dosa
-Chef Chu in Los Altos for Chinese try the walnut shrimp
-Woodside Thai for Thai but they have done a menu change and I can't suggest them as strongly anymore
-There is a thai place on University I go from time to time but I have no idea what it's name is. It's on the north side of the street with pink table clothes if that helps any.
-Paxti's for deep dish pizza
-The Counter for burgers
-And when all else fails I hit Cheesecake Factory for the miso salmon. Their food is actually decent if you don't have to sit in the dinning room with half of Paly High
We have been pretty happy with each of these for take out.
Got takeout from Ken Zeman tonight -- great recommendation. We got the veg plate -- and it did indeed feed two! The lentil soup was delicious. We also got the lamb shawerama -- and it was quite good.
Thanks for the many recs -- we'll try them all over the next few weeks and report back.
For Chinese, try Jing Jing & then pick up some sinfully delicious Gelato from next door for dessert. In addition to Kan Zaman for Middle Eastern, there is Gyros Gyros (ususally get the adena kabob plate). As for Indian, opinions are varied but give Hyderabad House & Janta a try. Amber in Mountain View is generally considered one of the better N. Indian restaurants on the Peninsula. We usually do take out from Suraj in Redwood City as it is closest to home but as of late, their chicken tikka kabobs have been tasting gamey, like reheated leftovers. Guess I'll have to venture into downtown PA now for Indian takeout. For vegetarian specialties, there's also Chaat Paradise in Mountain View on El Camino Real @ Hwy. 85.
California Ave. offers several takeout choices:
Indian: Tandoori (between the Starbucks and the Counter) offers fairly inexpensive and serviceable takeout Indian -- personally I go for the wraps or the tandoori chicken; the chickpeas are also tasty
American: the Counter has excellent sweet potato fries and built-to-order burgers, which you can also get in salad form. Takeout is actually a great option here because the lines can be long during normal dining hours. Note that there's always a burger of the month -- ask what it is before you order by phone, sometimes they're great.
Middle Eastern: the various appetizers at Fairuz (spelling? -- it's the restaurant in the Illusions Supperclub towards the Caltrain end of California Ave) are tasty and the non-fried ones travel just fine.
I've also ordered food to go from Bodeguita del Medio (Cuban) on California Ave., but it can be pricey and doesn't carry very well.
Not on your list, but check out Fraiche yogurt on Emerson (near the Gordon Biersch) -- tangy and fresh-made.
Re Darbar - it's in regular rotation. Their chana masala is not the best, though. Hunt around on the menu some more - simply because it's cheap and close. I'm very partial to the vindaloo, which isn't that spicy and has a rich, deep flavor. CTM is passable. Passage to India has been on the upswing over the last 6 months or so, if you're on that side of palo alto.
Re: hydrabad house - I'm also unsure. I ate their once and wasn't wowed enough to go back; didn't strike me as particularly better than darbar.
Pensinsula Creamery gets the nod around our house for burgers. We don't like Counter too much - too crowded. When I'm in the mood for casual, I don't want to wait around, and I'm not convinced the burgers are particularly good. Jefferey's is new on the MP/PA border and I haven't made up my mind about them yet - further down the casual scale.
I've had good takeout from Nola through waiters on wheels. Their skirt steak po'boy stands out.
There are several cafes around that are pretty tasty. One is across from Nola, but is often clogged with students - very wide menu though, could be great for takeout. Cafe Barrone in Menlo Park has a way with the panini, but is best for sit-down casual. I haven't tried University Cafe.
If california ave is an option, the A-number-one rec is Med Delight. The lamb-beef schwarma travels well, is cheap, and is hella tasty.
For thai, the best of an average lot is Bankok Cuisine (Lytton). They're a sister restaurant of the rather tasty Amerin in MV, but far less reliable. Sometimes the food is as good as Amerin, sometimes worse. Of the two thai places on university ave proper, they're both average. Thaiphoon has a nice atmosphere and very bland food, the opposite of what you want for takeout.
I am apparently alone in enjoying Tokyo Subway (MP) for fast japanese. The trick is NO SUSHI. They make a decent teppanyaki, for example, at reasonable cost.
For Chinese I give up all hope. I go to Windy's every once in a while because it's really fast and never full and has water dumplings. However, the food can be spotty, and the last time I did takeout the food didn't travel well at all. Yuck. I don't like Jing Jing or Su Hong any of the others, but rarely give any more than 2 chances. PA is filled with what I'd call "old line" chinese restaurants, long on the american and short on the chinese.
I work in San Mateo now, and get my takeout on the way home. Shanghai East for Chinese, Thai Time (san carlos) for thai. Now *that's* yum. MV has better of everything, too, if you're up for a short jaunt down 101.
Oh - and for mexican take out - I strongly recommend the burritos at Mi Rancho on Willow. Closer than Redwood City, better flava than Mi Hacienda.
Finally, we get our pizza delivery from Pizza-a-go-go, but we only order one pizza --- BBQ chicken, thin crust. PAGG's thick crust is too doughy for me, but the BBQ chicken thing is fly. The right touch of cilantro.
The short answer is "i don't know" and I should probably find out.
The Med Delight people seem to have their fingers in many locations, and the locations differ widely in quality. I suspect the Med Delight at 16th and Val in SF is the same, and the Med Delight near the Fry's in Concord, and the Med Delight on Shattuck in Berkeley. Of these, Berkeley seems far sub-standard, the Concord location is pretty good, and the SF and PA locations are superior. All have similar menus and murals.
I ate once at Kan Zeman, and rather liked it, but never have been back - for no good reason. I concur that it's likely the same owners.
Speaking of PA-area Middle Eastern, I often end up at Cafe 220 when I'm hungry after 10:30. The kebab wraps seem the best on the menu, but I wouldn't actively recommend it for other than late night eats. I've eaten at Gyro Gyro a couple of times, but the reconstituted nature of the meat (like a proper british Donner) is only rarely appealing - I'd rather have meat recognizable as meat. I always want to like Sebhali Cafe, in/behind the flower shop, [not strictly middle eastern] but the extraordinarily nice woman who runs it doesn't cook all that well - and is, I think, dealing as best she can with some major limitations on the size and type of equipment she can use. The chaat menu is interesting, though, once you've eaten at Vik's and Chaat Cafe you realize she's not got the essence of Bhel Puri quite right.
Finally, on the schwarma tangent, I grieve the loss of the other Med Delight (no relation to others) on El Camino in San Carlos. The women who ran it sold out to a bunch of guys, and it went straight downhill. So sad. The place on Laurel is now superior, but a bit sit-down for my usual tastes.
Always looking for other schwarma recs.
Don't "give up all hope" on Chinese in Palo Alto! There's only one place and one dish there I'll do takeout--Dragon & Phoenix from Peking Duck. I'm a pretty decent chef myself, but sometimes by the end of the week I'm low on fresh stuff in my fridge, and I don't feel like making a protein drink or boiling frozen dumplings or microwaving Lean Cuisine. That's when I order the $15 light, clean, and velvety dish of egg white with prawns, chicken white meat, ham, and broccoli. Very healthy and satisfying.
Someday I'll need to give Peking Duck a try. It's on the far side of Palo Alto for me, so when I make it over to California Ave I end up at Cafe Brioche, Med. Delight, del Medio (last night, in fact, had their slow cooked pork and it was OUTSTANDING), Homma's, even Pro Bono and del Sol. Have to kick the old restaurant habit.
That thai place in Mid-town PA was decent 3 years ago when I lived nearby, possibly better than the university ave guys. No one ever mentions it, and I can't remember the name. Still any good?
I want there to be a solid chinese place within 2 miles of my house. Downtown PA is (barely) within that radius, has a half-dozen chinese, so I don't think I'm asking too much.
re: P. Punko
I don't think Indochine is open yet, I will check. I looked up Thai City and it is the terrible one on El Camino (only one meal there, so grain of salt)- "Thai Bowling Alley" is Thai Garden a bunch of blocks south of Thai City on El Camino.
Thai Garden Restaurant
4329 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, CA 94306
3691 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, CA 94306
We've had OK luck at Bangkok cuisine, but haven't compared to Amarin, and I wish their menus were more diverse.
I had a special at Hyderabad House- some sort of mustard fried spicy chicken, and it was very good but oily. Their samosas were above average.
Our new fave Grullense is El Grullense Grill on Woodside. I know it will be hit and miss, but it was great the two times we've been (Pastor, the "Frank's" fIsh taco, the regular shrimp tacos, the rice, the salsa verde)
Windy's was OK the one time I went, but PA is kind of dead for Chinese (a lot of people like a place right off California- Jade something?
Drive a little ways down el camino to Chef Chu's for chinese, the quality of the ingredients is definitely worth it. For Thai, Siam Garden on University used to be not bad, but I haven't been in years. For homey inexpensive italian, Osteria is the way to go, but I've never had takeout there, so you'd have to try it out and see if that's as good.
No one suggest Homma's Brown Rice Sushi?
I don't like brown rice. I like Homma's Sushi, even though it is made with brown rice.
I don't like California Roll. I like Homma's California Roll.
They have vegetarian options.
Their food is excellent. The restaurant itself screams "Get my excellent food as takeout." And they do have a thriving takeout business. I can never make it that far though, I always end up eating there. But don't bother with the miso soup and get your drinks frfom Mollie Stone's which is a couple of seconds away.
They are in an alley off of Ramona which crosses California Ave.
Also, Cho's is right there if you want very inexpensive dumplings.
Students crowd both places so how expensive can they be? Not very, that's how.
Also, Molly Stone's is at the end of California Ave., they have a decent little deli and wine selection.
And California Street is not as far as you think. Just take the pleasant walk down the bike path next to the train track and then walk across the intervening lovely tree-lined neighborhood and you're there. A pleasant walk makes every cuisine taste even better.
For closer to home you could do worse than getting something takeout from Whole Foods. Not a lot worse, but it isn't bad.
Is Rangoon still around? I really liked their Tea Salad.
Avoid Pizza-A-Go-Go and New York Pizza like the plague (the Bad Pizza Plague).
Thanks for the many recommendations. Some notable updates.
Hyderabad House: Great Indian takeout. The chicken 65 (fried bits of chicken and chilis in sauce is nearly perfect in its greasy/spicy goodness). Other dishes are very acceptable. This place is now firmly in the regular rotation.
Bangkok Cuisine (on Lytton): Great Thai takeout. We've ordered the Mango Chicken a few times now. It is a chicken/vegetable/mango dish that is served in a carved out mango. Really tasty. Also on regular rotation now.
Counter: Great. As a recent transplant from LA and a regular at the original Counter in Santa Monica, it is nice to get a taste of LA here in PA.
Jeffrey's in Menlo Park: New and clean. Food is greasy and and unremarkable.
Paxti's: Did not work for me. My pizza was soggy. And this was at the restaurant. I can't imagine I could do any better heating a pie at home.
Tandoori (on California Ave.): This was another disappointment. Our meal was bland. Not going back.