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Stanford-area substitutes for my Berkeley faves?

  • m

Stanford may have won the big game, but it sure doesn't beat Berkeley for food. Help me out chowhounders - I've moved to Mountain View and can't eat as well (or as cheaply) as I'm used to. What are some Peninsula gems that will help me adjust?

I did find Milk Pail and Dittmer's Meats, but where would you go for a slice like Gioia's or tapas like Fonda (and please don't say Cascal!)? Any recommendations for either shopping or dining would be greatly appreciated!

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Cascal
400 Castro St., Mountain View, CA 94041

Fonda
1501 Solano Ave, Albany, CA 94707

Gioia Pizzeria
1586 Hopkins St, Berkeley, CA 94707

Dittmer's Gourmet Meats
400 San Antonio Rd Ste 4, Mountain View, CA 94040

Milk Pail Market
2585 California St, Mountain View, CA

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  1. As I noted some time ago the words of famous gourmet and astronomer Robert Lauriston "The Leland Stanford Junior College area is something of a culinary black hole."

    1. Come, come, there's some great eats down the peninsula.

      Gioia - Howie's, Califia, Speederia (kind of far north)
      (But nothing's quite close. That style of pizza hasn't hit yet)
      Fonda - Iberia, Joya, Mantra, Boguita del Medio
      (Joya is slicker and less fun but the food is OK, Ibera is the only real spanish tapas place in the entire bay area and a real gem (service can be uneven), Mantra has the same *feel* of Fonda with its excellent happy hour, solid bar, and fusionish food (just india-meets-california not spain-meets-mexico). BDM also has a good bar, and a solid casual vibe, but they've messed up my favorite dish (mestitas). That being said, Fonda has a particular vibe that I always miss - I love sliding into one of the bar seats in front of the grill at about 10:30 at night.

      There's some very long and involved threads on peninsula dining, but it's a subject near and dear to my heart.

      If you live north of campus, I recommend Crouching Tiger for your China Village fix, then Su Hong Palo Alto if you're to the south (NOT MENLO PARK). Redwood City has mexican that you'll pine for if you ever move away, my two favorites are Casita Chilanga #2 and Los Gemelos, of which there is absolutely no parallel north / west of Fruitvale. For fine-ish dining Tamerine and Evvia get top marks. For Italian, try Vero, La Strada, and Renzo. Indian, you want Amber (if anything, maybe Ajanta but Ajanta's unique) and Passage to India (better than anything at its price point in Berkeley). Sushi is much stronger than Berkeley, where I would go to Ko by default, but with Kaygetsu, Fuki, Naomi, Jin Sho, Tomi, it's just great. There's only one Korean, which is Tofu House on ECR, which doesn't stand up to the Temescal places, but good for a quick fix. Coupa Cafe is worth a serious stop - there's no argentinian in Telegraph ave, but it has a feel of Intermezzo. For Dim Sum, my current favorite is ABC in Foster City, about the same drive as going to the Oakland places from north berkeley. (ABC has been up and down a few times, so you'll see some very sour comments on CH, but I think they're cooking very well right now). Fu Lam Mum on a good day is solid but not exceptional. California Ave, you'll want to hit Cafe Brioche, Homma's Brown Rice, and especially Med Wraps (Brioche reminds me of Venus in a strange way, Homma's is unique (sushi on ugly plastic chairs), Med Wraps is my favorite Schwarma in the bay area, although Jerusalem Organic on Solano is very strong).

      Most importantly is the realization - when you have an extra $500 burning a hole in your pocket - that Manresa is only 20 minutes away. More often than not, they're cooking at TFL quality but you can get reservations on a friday night only a few days in advance. I've started eating more at Village Pub as well, which has no parallel in greater berkeley.

      Over time, I've gravitated to Cafe Barrone as one of the best eating experiences in the greater Stanford area. The wine and beer list is short but well chosen, they've expanded their dinner menu, it's casual, and the friday night jazz is exceptional. Sometimes the food misfires - I like their short rib, but last time they used lamb short ribs, which as a very interesting deconstructed concept and a terrible, terrible mistake in terms of actual food. BBC across the court yard has the best beer list, and very tolerable burgers. More recommendable in summer. Not as appealing if you live in Mountain View.

      If you look at the Michelin guide, the peninsula has 4 one-stars (Madrone, Baume, Chez TJ, Village Pub), and one two star (Manresa). Greater berkeley has one one-star (Commis).

      Given that you're talking about Milk Pail and Dittmer's, you probably live south, which means you need to explore MV. Xahn is like if Fonda went to LA. Fu Lam Mum has late night dim sum. Two great sushi places, the amazing Kappo Nami Nami, the ramen place. Regrettably there's nothing but a few great indian places to the south of MV, so you'll have to get used to driving north.

      The places I drive all the way north for are Plum, Encuentro, Oghane, Tara, Lush, Lanesplitter (san pablo, please) and, actually, Fonda (the vibe there is just unique).

      The fancy ice cream trend - (Mr & Ms Miscellaneous, HS, Tara, Lush...) has not hit the peninsula, which is a crime.

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      Manresa Restaurant
      320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA 95030

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

      La Strada
      335 University Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301

      Ajanta Restaurant
      1888 Solano Ave, Berkeley, CA 94707

      Kaygetsu Restaurant
      325 Sharon Park Dr Ste A2, Menlo Park, CA 94025

      Chez TJ
      938 Villa Street, Mountain View, CA 94041

      Su Hong
      1039 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, CA 94025

      Coupa Cafe
      538 Ramona St, Palo Alto, CA 94301

      Jin Sho
      454 California Ave, Palo Alto, CA

      Vero
      530 Bryant Street, Palo Alto, CA 94301

      Village Pub
      2967 Woodside Rd., Woodside, CA 94062

      Crouching Tiger
      2644 Broadway St, Redwood City, CA 94063

      Fu Lam Mum
      155 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94041

      Tofu House
      2788 Castro Valley Blvd, Castro Valley, CA 94546

      7 Replies
      1. re: bbulkow

        Less than 25% of your choices were in the immediate Leland Stanford Junior College area. They are certainly not intergalactic distances away but not as close to campus proper as are meels" Berkeley favorites.

        1. re: wolfe

          I'll beg to differ.

          If one takes as a centroid of campus the Campus Phallic Object (Hoover Tower vs the Carrilon), The Junior College is simply more spread out and not comparable. There are nearly no restaurants on campus in both cases (and I would put Cool Cafe above anything on the Berkeley campus).

          I offer a suitable alternative: take the closest large public transit station, I think you'd have to compare Berkeley Bart to Palo Alto Caltrain. They are both similarly far from campus and in an urban setting with restaurants. In that regard, meels was referring to Fonda, which is 2.4 miles from Berkeley Bart. Cafe Barrone (and thus Iberia) is 1.3 miles. Howie's is right off campus. If meels had mentioned Long Life Veggie and Top Dog, that's a different radius altogether - I would have stuck with University Ave and maybe California Ave.

          meels mentioned Milk Pail as within range, so I thought spreading out to driving radius was reasonable. Su Hong Palo Alto is right in that range, P2I and Amber are about the same. The mexican places I mentioned are further, granted, and on the "north side" (to use Berkeley terminology).

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          Su Hong
          1039 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, CA 94025

          1. re: bbulkow

            Gather and Great China, Top Dog are across the street from campus. Several other frequently mentioned restaurants are within a block. Don't you have a turkey to prepare?

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            Great China Restaurant
            2115 Kittredge St, Berkeley, CA 94704

            1. re: wolfe

              OP only mentioned Fonda and Giola.
              We're doing thanksgiving observed on Saturday.

        2. re: bbulkow

          Madrone?! Must be Madera right?

          Also, for Korean, there's Han which is Americanized, in downtown Palo Alto, and for Cantonese dim sum, we now have Peking Duck/Jade Palace right behind the California Avenue Caltrain station. Not sure if they offer dim sum on weekdays though. I haven't tried their dim sum yet, but my coach thought it was quite good.

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          Madera
          2825 Sand Hill Road, Menlo Park, CA 94025

          1. re: vincentlo

            Madera.

            I tried Han as part of restaurant roulette. I considered it not just Americanized but nearly lousy (Tofu House, on the other hand, might not be up to the best of south-temescal but pretty good).

            How does Peking Duck/Jade palace stack up next to Taipan?

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            Madera
            2825 Sand Hill Road, Menlo Park, CA 94025

            1. re: bbulkow

              I went to Taipan (what a jaw-droppingly beautiful place but way overpriced) after Michael Bauer gave it three stars. Everything was so blah. The menu was exciting, like what you expect from Koi Palace or some of the Millbrae restaurants, but the chef simply wasn't competent enough for those specialties. To be fair, I haven't been back for years.

              I agree partially with you about Han. It certainly isn't anything special, though I reserve the word "lousy" for restaurants that are much worse. ;-)

              I always liked Peking Duck before they moved. They had a few dishes that were outstanding, and dishes were cleaner (and thus more expensive) than other Chinese restaurants around. (Of course no one can touch Taipan for their prices.) I'm organizing a big banquet at their new location next week, and I'll see if the kitchen staff are doing a better or worse job.

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              Koi Palace Restaurant
              365 Gellert Blvd, Daly City, CA 94015

        3. It's too bad the Monterey Market in the Stanfurd Mall closed...I think that's was as close as you could get. If you're in MV, the Asian markets and restros on Castro St, the downtown MV farmer's market and some taquerias are worth looking into.

          5 Replies
          1. re: ML8000

            Sigona's that took over that space is worth a stop for locally grown produce.

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            Sigona's Farmers Market
            399 Stanford Shopping Ctr, Palo Alto, CA

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                Yes I have to say when the CSA finishes for the season I often prefer Sigona's to the PA Saturday farmers market. Limited organic availability though, but lots of local stuff and decent prices.

                1. re: jsaimd

                  Last winter I bought quite a wide variety of citrus from Sigona's.

                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                    Make sure you subscribe to Sigona's electronic newsletter. You always get something nice (and different) for purchases of $30+. I got a nice bottle of truffle oil from them, and feel guilty every I use it (because of the artificial ingredient).

            1. The Stanford / Mountain View area outshines the Berkeley area in some cuisines (e.g. Indian) and is lesser in others (e.g. Italian, including pizza). Bbulkow has already mentioned Howie's which is the pizza choice in the area, right near Stanford - slices are available at lunch. Fortunately downtown Palo Alto now has two good Italian places, Vero and Cafe Renzo. Renzo has whole pizzas but I have not yet tried them as the rest of the menu keeps calling louder.

              Bbulkow has given you a great starting list. To that I would add:

              - The Mountain View farmer's market on Sunday mornings, which runs year-round.

              - The great Indian food at Sakoon in downton Mountain View.

              - The cheaper and also excellent Indian food at Hyderabad House in downtown Palo Alto, including achari chicken and lamb dishes that are incredibly awesome, better than London or anywhere else I've eaten.

              It would help to know more of what you like, rather than looking for Berkeley equivalents. That way you play to the culinary strengths of your new home. Take a look at the many threads on Mountain View and Palo Alto in Chowhound and let us know if you have more specific questions or requests for updates.

              Anybody who says that the area around Stanford is a culinary black hole knows very little about the food in this area in 2010. In 1995, when we first moved here, they might have had a point, but times change.

              Michael

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              Hyderabad House
              448 University Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301

              Vero
              530 Bryant Street, Palo Alto, CA 94301

              Sakoon
              357 Castro Street, Mountain View, CA 94041

              Howie's Artisan Pizza
              855 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, CA 94301

              Cafe Renzo
              473 University Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301

              2 Replies
              1. re: mdg

                Could someone please tell me the exact dishes to order at Hydrabad House, because I keep getting curries and chicken 65 which are kind of lousy. I would like to like them, but I consider the food at Darbar to be superior. FAR superior. I did Darbar last week my indian cofounder who was surprised at the high quality - Darbar's been cranking out some good buffet, and their Vindaloo is worth a stop.

                Re: pizza, Renzo's is pretty good, but not in Giola category. I would recommend La Strada over either for pizza (and some other dishes), partially because La Strada seems to have a wood oven. Vero has a nice touch with northern style pastas. Most importantly, Renzo has cannoli and is open late.

                1. re: bbulkow

                  Achari chicken and lamb are the standout dishes at Hyderabad House that are far better than anything else in the area.

                  I like most other dishes there, such as the biryani and eggplant dishes. But the rest of the menu has worthy competitors elsewhere in the area where reasonable people will disagree on favorites. Also try the Sula Sauvignon Blanc or Shiraz by the glass - delicious Indian wine with the food.

                  Michael

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                  Hyderabad House
                  448 University Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301

              2. Some not so expensive Mountain View area specialties...

                Rose Int'l Market (Persian), Mtn. View
                Taste Buds & Madras Cafe (Indian), Sunnyvale
                Shalimar (Indo-pak), Sunnyvale
                Taqueria La Bamba, Mtn. View
                Dish Dash (Middle Eastern), Sunnyvale

                Maruichi Noodle House & Ryowa Ramen, Mtn. View.
                http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/630306

                And in case you need a good wine/liquor place...Artisan Wine Depot, Mtn. View.

                7 Replies
                1. re: ceekskat

                  if your radius is around Stanford, from Redwood City to Mountain View, then you're limited, but i like the following
                  Ike's (on Stanford campus too)
                  Philz Coffee
                  Evvia
                  Sumika
                  Dohatsuten
                  Kanpai
                  Los Gemelos
                  El Rincon Tarasco
                  Tacos El Grullo
                  Casita Chilanga
                  Rincon Sabroso
                  Back a Yard Grill
                  Chaat Paradise
                  Chef Xiu
                  So Gong Dong Tofu House
                  Shiok
                  Rice or Shana Thai
                  Formosa Bento House
                  Donato Enoteca
                  Sushi Tomi
                  the not cheap section: Kaygetsu, Village Pub, Baume

                  expanding to Sunnyvale, then you have
                  Shanghai Flavor Shop
                  Gochi
                  Dish Dash
                  Tastebud's
                  Rajjot Sweet and Snacks
                  Lovely Sweet and Snacks
                  Kitsho
                  Cupertino Village
                  Tres Potrillos

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                  Kanpai
                  330 Lytton Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                  Sumika
                  236 Central Plz, Los Altos, CA 94022

                  Shanghai Flavor Shop
                  888 Old San Francisco Rd, Sunnyvale, CA 94086

                  Chaat Paradise
                  165 E El Camino Real, Mountain View, CA 94040

                  Kaygetsu Restaurant
                  325 Sharon Park Dr Ste A2, Menlo Park, CA 94025

                  Village Pub
                  2967 Woodside Rd., Woodside, CA 94062

                  Sushi Tomi
                  635 W Dana St, Mountain View, CA 94041

                  Kitsho
                  19541 Richwood Dr, Cupertino, CA 95014

                  Formosa Bento House
                  2660 Broadway St, Redwood City, CA 94063

                  Shana Thai Restaurant
                  311 Moffett Blvd, Mountain View, CA 94043

                  Donato Enoteca
                  1041 Middlefield Rd, Redwood City, CA 94063

                  Chef Xiu
                  855 W El Camino Real, Mountain View, CA 94040

                  Dohatsuten
                  799 San Antonio Rd, Palo Alto, CA

                  Tacos El Grullo
                  2798 Spring St, Redwood City, CA 94063

                  Rincon Sabroso Restaurant
                  122 N Rengstorff Ave, Mountain View, CA 94043

                  1. re: ankimo

                    Nice list.

                    Re: thai, I like Bangkok Cuisine in PA and Amerin in MV, owned by the same people. I'll take those over any thai in berkeley.

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                    Bangkok Cuisine
                    407 Lytton Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                    1. re: bbulkow

                      I don't know about Thai in Berkeley, but I've found nothing down here that comes close to Lers Ros in San Francisco. If anybody finds something like that please share!

                      Michael

                      1. re: mdg

                        I second that question too! Lers Ros is one of a kind for the Bay Area; only other places as good were in LA Thai town.

                        1. re: ankimo

                          Agreed, just talking about Berkeley v Stanford!

                      2. re: bbulkow

                        Bangkok Cuisine is indeed the best Thai restaurant in Palo Alto, not just in downtown. Don't go to Krung Siam on University Avenue; I experienced very poor service and unacceptable sanitary conditions during my last visit there. Their location is interesting: It was a Chinese restaurant, then a Japanese restaurant, and now a Thai restaurant, which must be doing well since it's been Thai for years now.

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                        Bangkok Cuisine
                        407 Lytton Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                      3. re: ankimo

                        A real latecomer to the Ike's phenom, I finally had a taste of one, well, half a sandwich last week. Not certain of what I was eating, as I didn't order it myself. But it was still warm when it got to me and had extra banana peppers and jalapenos. Man that's a goopy sandwich! Pedestrian cold cuts, so I do understand why the detractors compare it to Quizno's with a wait. But I did take note of the bread . . . dense, chewy, very fresh, and it didn't fall apart with all that sauce on it. Not a craved thing for me, but if someone gave me a free one again, I'd eat it. I understand that the location on campus is a zoo at lunch time, but is now open until 7pm for dinner orders and not nearly as packed then.

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                        Ike's Place
                        475 Vía Ortega, Stanford, CA 94305