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Anniversary dinner in Palo Alto-ish area

Hubby and I are celebrating our 20th! We're spending the weekend in Pacific Grove, and figure that it'll be time for dinner about the time we hit the Palo Alto-ish area. Being from Sonoma County, really don't know that area at all, so any help would be appreciated. Any type of food is fine, we love everything, most any price fine, as long as it's not ridiculously expensive. Thanks so much!

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  1. My go-to celebration spot in Palo Alto is usually Tamarine. Excellent, refined Vietnamese food awaits. A great wine selection, too.

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    Tamarine Restaurant
    546 University Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94301

    1 Reply
    1. re: paternite

      i agree. tamarine was the best meal i had in palo alto last summer with my firm. second place went to the four seasons.

    2. Chez TJ is in Mountain View. You might consider Manresa in Los Gatos. Both of these get excellent reviews, both seem like a special occassion place and both are expensive ...so you'll have to define ridiculously expensive.

      1. Are you going down to Pacific Grove that night? Just wondering if you want a long tasting menu meal or just a nice leisurely meal? Village Pub is nice in Woodside, off the 280. Evvia has nice greek food. John Bentley has a romantic setting in Woodside.

        Chez TJ just changed chefs. I haven't heard how the new chef is settling in...

        1. We like Evvia, which is Greek. Also Bodeguita del Medio, Cuban. We particularly like the extraordinary choice of rums at Bodeguita. Junoon, which is kind of nouveau Indian is also quite nice. On price I think Junoon might be the most expensive of the three, Bodeguita is definitely the least expensive and most casual of the them. I think they all have menus on line.

          1. Thank you for all of these great suggestions. My follow up question is, which of these places would we have the best chance of getting a table relatively easily on a Fri. night without a reservation? We are not sure what time we can leave and are also unsure about traffic from the North Bay, so really can't do the reservation thing. Any suggestions would be appreciated! Thanks!

            5 Replies
            1. re: deniseredeker

              That is a tougher request. Evvia and Tamarine would be very difficult. Junoon is a possibility, Bodeguita perhaps depending on the time you arrive. Bentley likely if you do the Redwood City branch (less romantic). Check on Open Table - all of these list on there and you can get an idea of availability.

              1. re: deniseredeker

                If you're asking: I want to go to an excellent special occasion restaurant, one of the best in greater palo alto, and I'd like it to be a place you can walk into without reservations any time on a friday night, the answer is there's no such place.

                You haven't given us much to work with. I can certainly list restaurants that have open tables on friday, but you've only said all-foods all-prices. Empty tables on Friday means the place has shortcomings. Some have more of an early/late dynamic (Tamerine, for example, is open reasonably late but fills early - you'll have good luck at about 9:30, but even at 5:30 you might not get a table). Another might be an up-and-comer - like Levande, which seems to have a new chef, but would be a major crapshoot. More specific?

                What restaurant in Sonoma would you consider comparable? Perhaps then we could find something similar.

                1. re: bbulkow

                  I'm sorry, sometimes I think I'm clearer than I am. This does not have to be the end all special occasion restaurant. It simply is dinner on our way south for the weekend. That being said I don't want to eat crappy food on our anniversary weekend. I know we're not going to leave Sonoma County until 5 at the earliest and I just don't know what time that puts us south of the city. Could be an hour - could be 2 - hence the no reservation thing. We love all sorts of food, hard to narrow down what our favs are - in Sonoma we love La Salette, Girl and the Fig, General's Daughter, in Petaluma we love Sea, Hiro's, Vino Grigio, Risi Bisi the list goes on. Does that help? The Cuban place Bodeguito Del Medio sounds intriguing to me, we don't have a decent Cuban place up here, is that doable without a reservation? Thanks.

                  1. re: deniseredeker

                    Our trips to Sonoma from Palo Alto area have always taken at least 2 hrs with no traffic. Allow 2.5 on a Fri. Be forewarned that it is extremely difficult to walk into any decent restaurant in this area, much less good ones, on Fri evening at prime time. I realize the idea of a reservation seems restrictive to your schedule, but I also hear you saying that you don't want to start your special weekend with "crappy food". Unfortunately, unless you succumb to a reservation (perhaps 7:30 to allow some cushion), I think you're setting yourself up to do just that.

                    1. re: deniseredeker

                      What I would do is get a reservation for a time that you are sure to make. If you arrive before that, you can roam around before your dinner. I would recommend Mountain View rather than Palo Alto if you do that. There is a nice and lively downtown (that is, a few blocks on Castro St) with a couple of bookstores to pass the time. There are lots of restaurants on Castro St or a few blocks away (Chez TJ is one that has been cited in this thread).

                2. Not sure what you would be in the mood for...but Mountain View has a couple of good ramen places--Maru Ichi and Ryowa. They are both in the downtown Castro area and are reasonably priced. Xanh, located on Castro Street in Mountain View, has also gotten decent reviews for having nice ambience and good upscale Vietnamese food. There's also izayaka (Japanese bar food/taps) at Tanto or Saizo in Sunnyvale on El Camino Real. Mountain View also has something comparable at Nami Nami, but they are definitely pricier. If you're coming down on a Friday, a reservation at many of these places are helpful. Some places can be more flexible if they know you might be fighting traffic. For example, I've been able to move my reservations back at Tanto when running behind. Not sure if you can make reservation at either ramen house though.

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                  Kappo Nami Nami
                  240 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94041

                  Saizo
                  592 E El Camino Real, Sunnyvale, CA 94087

                  Tanto Japanese Restaurant
                  1063 E El Camino Real, Sunnyvale, CA 94087

                  Ryowa
                  859 Villa St, Mountain View, CA 94041

                  Maru Ichi Restaurant
                  368 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94041

                  Xanh Restaurant
                  110 Castro St, Mountain View, CA

                  1. All of the previous posters have given you great advice, and I want to add that you definitely won't get to Palo Alto/Mt. View before 7:30 on a Friday: 8 or 8:30 is more like it, since you have to drive through the City, go down 101 or 280 and then take side streets to either University (PA) or Castro (MV). (I used to live in Sonoma, San Rafael, Sausalito, SF, and now in the South Bay, so I know the drill.)

                    Manresa and Chez TJ would take hours for their prix fixe dinners, so check the others on Open Table for availability, even if you don't book. Why don't you print out a list of the restaurants that interest you, along with their phone numbers and maps, so that you can call them when you get close enough (at the freeway off-ramp) to give them an ETA? And have a Happy Anniversary!