Palo Alto with the elderly
I am visiting Palo Alto and want to take an elderly couple to dinner. They are well traveled foodies but they are somewhat deaf so I want to avoid loud, crowded places. I really like Calafia in Town & Village shopping center. The food is great but the atmosphere is too hectic and loud for my elderly friends. Any suggestions for food like that in a more serene setting?
As you point out, everything trendy is loud. So let's focus on good and quiet.
I am loath to recommend Macarthur Park in general, but there was a peep of an upswing report and the place was *born* for this. I would take my grandparents there over anywhere else in the general area, partially because the room is so gorgeous.
In general, I'd look at all the hotel restaurants. Madrone up on Sand Hill, The Duck Club, and the restaurant in the Westin which no one knows about.
If you don't want to go in either of those directions, my pick would be Bella Luna. The pasta is to die for, and it's quiet with lots of table space.
Flea Street is a very good suggestion. It skipped my mind since it's in Menlo Park and not part of the downtown. If the couple in question isn't local to the region, even a better choice, as it highlights local ingredients and "california style" while still being comfortable and familiar. When I've been there recently they've not been using one of the dining rooms, so a "quiet table" request will likely be well honored.
They make a point of the owner and chef making the rounds every night. I don't understand why most restaurants don't do that - but it's a thrill for visitors. It's always impressive to toss off "oh, yeah, that's jesse. remember the peas (or whatever) at the beginning? Those were from her garden."
I'll second Bistro Elan. Another good choice would be Carpaccio on Crane St. in Menlo Park. Very good Italian with a pretty good wine list. Quiet and the waiters are lifers. I wouldn't recommend MacArthur Park - the staff seems to have an attitude and I don't think the food is worth what they charge.
How about the California Cafe in Stanford Shopping Center? They have little nooks so it could be pretty quiet.