Menlo Park good eats?
I did a "Menlo Park" search but didn't turn up anything exactly on point. I'm going to be visiting a relative in Menlo Park for a few days before heading into SF and wanted to arrive armed with the knowledge of the good local restaurants. Is there a general consensus on the top 5 or top 10 amongst the ChowHounds? Price is not a factor.
Thanks in advance for any recommendations!
Ate at Flea Street Cafe last night. Second time there. As wonderful as the first.
I didn't expect a great cocktail. The "local sazarac" was made with Old Potrero and St George absinthe, to great effect. Served up in a small martini glass (non-traditional) with a carafe of the rest of the drink on ice, the drink was light and refreshing, unlike every other sazarac I've ever had, and giving clues to what the drink is really all about. Most of the drink was in the carafe, which was excellent - not just giving a large drink, but keeping the last sip as cold as the first. I've been suspicious of the sazaracs in new orleans - all bourbon, nothing else - it wouldn't be famous unless there was more to it. This was something else. I also don't know how they got two such high proof liquors (both at about 120) tamed.
The rest of their cocktail list was pretty awesome. Lots of basil and invention. When we came in, there were half a dozen folks eating dinner at the bar, which seemed convivial.
We decided to go light, with 3 apps, a salad, and the chef's veggie tasting main (which is a small main). The waitress correctly and reasonably split into three courses: oysters and mackrel first, salad and squash blossoms second, veggie tasting last. This was about the only reasonable way to order the meal, even though the large fish thing was in the first round. There were a number of specials (about 5) added to the "early summer" menu (implication that they change menu 8 times a year).
Oysters. Quite good. One oyster, the first on the plate, was somehow stunning and perfect. As in, maybe the best single oyster ever, and I have eaten a lot of oysters. Maybe I haven't been eating enough good oysters. Maybe it was, in fact, perfect. Being local-oriented, they were tomales bay sourced. Not perfectly opened, though, each meat required some coaxing and there was a touch of shell in most of them.
Monterey Bay Mackerel. This is in the style of "crispy smelts", a dish we order whenever we see it (other source: Evvia). Great value, with a good size pile of fish, light breading, and great fish taste. Not oily. If they ever take this off the menu we'll be very, very sad.
Squash blossom appetizer. Interesting, because the breading and cheese was heavy. Tasty, added a heavier anchor to an otherwise very light meal.
Salad. The special salad was announced as "out" after we had our heart set on it, but the waitress cajoled the chef into making us one. I could see why he didn't want to make it: the peach was underripe. But the basil / pecan pesto was worth the price of admission, a revelation. For those of us who don't grow tomatoes at home, the perfect garden tomatoes were a rarity, taking me right back to childhood.
Veggie tasting entree. A very light entree, 5 piles of veggies on a square plate. The center was a corn succotash type dish, well executed and who doesn't like corn this time of year. Grilled beets. Grilled squash. Two squash blossoms, executed entirely differently than the squash blossom app - a thin light breading and less cheese, instead of a heavier breading.
The wine list is good but not extensive. We shared a half-bottle of a Pinot that was pretty good, but not great.
Desert was a lemon verbena creme brulee, but I couldn't taste much lemon verbena. Perhaps my palate was just too numbed by that point. The final treat was excellent: two truffles, but they tasted like fresh chocolate. I don't know if it was, but somehow the taste took me right back to the small shops of Oaxaca, where the beans are roasted and ground within hours.
Pluses: good service. Two owner/chef women stopped by the table. One of them was obviously Jessie, the owner, but no one introduced themselves, so I wasn't certain who was who. Nice to stop by, but introduce yourselves. Place was only about 1/3 full on a saturday. Level of staff was about right. No need to make reservations, though! We'll consider coming up when we're shut out of our usual haunts in PA.
Minus: I know they always do a fresh amuse at the front of the meal, and we didn't get ours. I didn't complain. I always want a more extensive half-bottle list, but that's just me.
I can't think of another restaurant in greater PA that serves such bright fresh ingredients. Perhaps the only "california style" restaurant I can think of without driving 30 minutes.
Our eating style didn't come cheap. By ordering a lot of dishes and some good drinks, and tipping heavily - $90/pp.
If you want nice sit down Mexican, there is Cafe del Sol right in Menlo Park that has pretty good atypical Mexican food. Palo Alto Sol is also good if you want margaritas. In Palo Alto, Tamarine and Evvia are my favorites. Also, Menlo Park has some of the best breakfast places in the area: Stacks (way better than the other Stacks) and Cafe Borrone.
Hey pizzajunkie, check out Applewood Pizza. On El Camino near downtown. Great pizza and beer place, family friendly, good thin crust style pies.
Also, someone mentioned Iberia above. Just know that the food gets good reviews but the service is very hit and miss. It is pricey so the bad service is quite aggrivating.
re: Shane Greenwood
Applewood's standard crust is thick and doughy.
Applewood is a "neighborhood favorite" kind of place. The atmosphere is relaxed but basic. The pizzas have a fairly doughy and thick crust without taste. The toppings are standard. It's about the same as Mountain Mike's or Pizza my Heart's standard crust. I never thought it was as good as FJL2.
Shane, do you order thin crust specifically?
I prefer Round Table, who makes a decent thin crust, Paxti's, thick and tasty, CPK (chain but still better pizza), Amici's, even Pizza my Heart's secret "A gogo style" (their Big Sur with 40 cloves of garlic is tasty) and Tony's on Willow (their mexican with chorizo is pretty good), Babbo's for high end. That's just pizza within 2 miles.
But maybe I'm ordering wrong?
re: Melanie Wong
I would agree - the langos is really good. The pizza crust is just too thick for me. I even prefer Pizza Hut's thin crust. I'm psyched that we're finally having a local Amici's.
On a tangent, Amici's opened for dinner on Sat night, a couple of days before their official grand opening (today). And there was a valet parking stand in front. I was very confused - will plan to check it out this weekend to see if I was hallucinating.
The kids and I went to Amici's in Menlo Park for an early dinner last night. The place was packed - there was a 30 min wait at 6 pm on a Wed night! Thanksfully we squeaked in right before the hordes arrived.
They have three kinds of seating - indoors, sheltered patio and sidewalk. The indoor noise level was a bit high and there was a crush by the check-in table. There are also two efficient cashier counters for takeout.
The pizza was good as always - we ordered a medium extra thin crust pesto pizza which my daughter loved. She should - at $20 for a 13" medium! My other daughter had the kid's menu cheese pizza at $7.75, which she loved as well - that had the regular, slightly thicker crust. I had a nice spinach salad and shared part of the pesto pizza.
$42 for the meal with tip, no drinks - seemed a little high for a pizza joint but it is upscale...
After this discussion, I wanted to drop by Applewood last week for some langos. But couldn't find a parking space close enough for my mom to walk in. Instead we went to Cafe Silan, across the street from Amici's. With its wood-fired brick oven and unique, very thin crust, Silan should be on any pizza lovers itinerary.
867 Santa Cruz Ave, Menlo Park, CA 94025
Had my first experience eating in at Applewood in September, mostly cuz i wanted to have the langos fresh.
Only $1.50, the langos is fried to order so it has a tender chew and some crispness to the outside. I asked the pizza chef and learned that it's the same dough as used for the pizzas, so no potato flour.
Langos with garlic
Also tried a bowl of the goulash soup, $4.50. Pretty good with tender and not stringy beef, big quantity for the price, but I would have liked more paprika influence.
And, we ordered a pizza. My brother's not a big fan of the thickish crust style here but he likes the flavor of the Budapest pizza made with Hungarian sausage. I thought it was quite tasty too with well-cooked onions and peppers. I found the crust to have good yeasty flavor and while I initially liked the chewiness, it got tiring fast.
We were there on a game night. I had a German draft beer but can't recall which one. Not destination pizza, but fair enough offering up unique flavors at a low price.
1) menlo park has a town center with about 50 restaurants. Most are under reviewed on Chowhound. For example, I actively dislike Bistro Vida, kind of like Juban, have a fondness for Cafe Silvan, jzCool is on the upswing - I remember on short thread on jzCool, the others haven't been mentioned. The counter-example would be the selection of sushi joints reviewed by Sushi Monster. If you like sushi, search for his big list and notice the number of MP sushi joints in the top tier.
2) Most parts of Menlo Park are near the University Ave strip in Palo Alto. There are about 150 restaurants in that area, covering a wide area of eats, but generally fairly expensive/high end. Chowhounders have about 10 standard recs for that area, and searching Palo Alto and University Ave will get you there.
3) Redwood city, the next town to the north is a more poorer area (PA/MP/Atherton being pretty rich - so that's not saying much). RC is rather huge, and specializes in taquerias, but there's nooks and crannys of interesting cheap restaurants. This region is highly underreviewed on CH.
4) The california ave (PA) shopping strip has some very interesting eats, is searchable here. I personally think it's a little far from my part of Menlo Park, but maybe be closer to you, and the distance is debatable (and if it's debatable, it's debated on chowhound).
5) If you live near the 101 freeway in MP, you've got 10 minute access to a variety of other areas, notably Mountain View. MP stretches a ways back (like sand hill/280), and the world changes - Los Altos is a close via foothill.
Second everything jersey girl said especially the blueberry scones at Cafe Borrone (I prefer the mini). In addition, there's Sultana Turkish Kitchen in Menlo Park. I love their combo appetizer, adena kabob, & lamb chop shish (tiny marinated lamb cubes on skewer, really moist & flavorful).
There's also sushi monster's list for sushi with a few in Menlo Park...
Mexican in nearby Redwood City...
Other eats in nearby Palo Alto...
I found Sultana pretty blah. Nothing bad about the food, and the room is attractive, but New Kapadokia in neighboring Redwood City is much better if you want Turkish.
New Kapadokia Restaurant
2399 Broadway Street, Redwood City, CA 94063
1149 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, CA 94025
re: Melanie Wong
Here's my review for New Kap...depends on what one orders/prefers I guess. New Kap is smaller, cuter, charming, etc...
What do you order there?
I have to admit, I haven't had the appetizer combo at Sultana in a while but my husband & I absolutely loved it when we ordered some time ago. Compared to that, the babaganous at New Kap was a disappointment. Just had both of the above mentioned kebobs at Sultana for Mother's day. I, yes I, hadn't made reservations for Sunday; therefore, I was dialing furiously for ressies at various places at 5:00 p.m:-) My other thought was Ristorante Casablanca but we decided to stay in the neighborhood.
re: Melanie Wong
Haven't tried New Kapadokia so can't compare, but had dinner @ Sultana this week and yumm. The combo appetizer was totally fab, great range of flavors -- loved the chick-pea salad and a red creamy yummy dip that's a bit spicy and garlic-y. Fresh warm bread... I am salivating!
- My friend had chicken kabobs where were a bit bland.
- I had these flat kabobs of ground lamb+beef wrapped around a mix of spinach and fresh pomegranate w a sauce combining pomegranate juice and something a bit creamy... it was completely, outrageously good!
Went to Evvia tonight, was good but not "all that"... wish I'd gone back to Sultana!
I also LOVE Tamarine - incredible mix of flavors, fresh, zingy, great space - it's now my "#1 by far" in the area.
546 University Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94301
I've been to Sultana twice. You must try New Kapadokia.
Here's my Sultana review below. It sounds like the red creamy dip was ezme. I didn't like Sultana's version, but if you like ezme you must try New Kap's. The food at New Kap is across the board excellent. The appetizers brought out at the beginning of the meal are amazing, and I often craft my meal out of them. I dream about the sigare borek. Also outstanding: their house bread, ezme, beef kofte (5 mini hamburgers), beef wrapped in lavash house special, stuffed eggplant (with meat), and their baklava. I'm not a lamb person but my mom loves their lamb chops (my parents request a visit there when they're in town) and my friend love their lamb kebobs. This is all in addition to their lentil soup (a must order) and red lentil kofte.
Mixed Meats & Mixed Review of Menlo Park's Sultana
New Kapadokia Restaurant
2399 Broadway Street, Redwood City, CA 94063
In nearby Palo Alto on California Ave, fun burgers ( and sweet potato fries!) at The Counter, down the street is Cafe Brioche, small and bustling french. Lavanda on University Ave and Evvia nearby for Greek food ( but make reservations now since it always seems full!) - it's a crowded room and loud but o well. Went to a very quiet Bistro 428 (I may have the number wrong - it's a few doors up from Evvia) and had a lovely dinner, but very few people were there. I think it is a relatively new restaurant and maybe the word isn't out yet??Have heard good things about 2 places but have not been: Junoon in Palo Alto on University Ave, and Marche in Menlo Park on Santa Cruz Ave-- the latter quite expensive. The Left Bank in Menlo Park on Santa Cruz Ave.has a lot of energy in a big, loud room, but the food is ordinary. Everybody heads to Cafe Borrone on the corner of El Camino at Santa Cruz in Menlo Park for a casual lunch sitting outside, very good breakfasts too ( blueberry scones to die for), and dinner ( same menu as for lunch) on at least some nights (weekends?not sure about when it's open for dinner, so check). They have a limited selection of wine and beer.
Does it have to be right in Menlo Park or can it be nearby towns like Palo Alto, Redwood City and San Carlos?
Could you be more specific about what you are looking for ... I'm guessing from your price is no factor you are looking for upscale restaurants rather than mom and pops.
An easier way to track down Menlo Park reports is through the Places Database. There are usually links to websites and links to reports about these restaurants.
Of the more than 30 listed above, Back a Yard would probably be the top food-wise, but it is very casual carribean by a well-regarded chef.
Menlo Park is an area I'm mostly familiar with from reading the board, so based on that some places with favorable comments that are more upscale
- Iberia - Spanish tapas
- Flea Street Cafe - California Cuisine
- Duck Club - American (new)