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Dec 23, 2010 01:59 PM

Current dense restaurant clusters in Palo Alto and Mountain View downtowns

In another thread, bbulkow and I began comparing MV and PA (University Ave.) downtown restaurant populations. Both areas have seen recent changes. After reviewing bb's detailed postings there, my sense is bb is much better acquainted in person with downtown PA and I with downtown MV. (I'm there daily for years and have eaten at most of these restaurants several times.) So I won't comment on PA, but focus on what's current and changing in downtown MV. For this posting I did considerable checking, including questions to a few places I didn't know; exact names, menus, walking the area. Consequently, below I think is the most up-to-date comprehensive summary of downtown MV restaurants available anywhere. Corrections welcome. For compactness I've only listed restaurants' names, alphabetically, omitting further details that I sometimes post when questions come up.

I hope bbulkow can add a downtown-PA restaurant list here in similar format. We can compare and discuss, if we have any energy left.

Downtown MV geography: For years, a greater downtown-MV walkable restaurant area definition has been locally customary. The family that formerly indexed restaurants online used it; it was the basis of counts I've quoted for years (70 restaurants 2005, 90 in 2007). Currently the area embraces exactly 100 restaurants, counting everything serving food. With very few exceptions, all (including "Tea" shops) offer substantial meals including dinners. A few others serve substantial meals but omit dinner. Area is Castro Street from Evelyn to El Camino and slightly beyond, and side streets for a few blocks each way (Shoreline to Calderon). Three-quarters of the restaurants there lie within a small "core" around the four 100-400 Castro blocks, and side streets 1.5 blocks each way. I list the core and non-core restaurants separately below. (The "core" is the site of my past mentions of very high restaurant density.)

Transitions: Currently, three restaurants (Food Street, Spice Islands, Villa 8) are closed "temporarily" for remodeling; one (New China Delight) retains frontage but is clearly defunct, one (Scratch) is not yet open, but nearly (I stopped in recently and saw staff training), it's "a full service restaurant and oyster bar featuring New American Regional Cuisine," same owners as Palo Alto Creamery and Reposado. I include these five in the total; local history indicates that when one closes, another replaces it, which is why the count continues rising despite closures. More downtown MV former storefronts were recently remodeled for possible restaurant tenancy, that's some of the ferment bbulkow noticed on the 100-Castro block, where Barracuda recently opened, and a few others the last year or so.

Evidently Palo Alto restaurants are expanding into MV (Scratch), while MV restaurants are expanding into PA (Baklava, reviewed in the recent PA Weekly and MV Voice).

CORE downtown MV restaurants (74):
Amarin, Bangkok Spoon, Barracuda, Bodrum Café, Bushido, Café Baklava, Café Yulong, Cantankerous Fish, Casa Lupe, Cascal, Chef Liu, Chez TJ, Dana Street Roasting Co., [Ristorante] Don Giovanni, Fiesta Del Mar Too, Food Street, Fu Lam Mum, Gelato Classico, Ginseng Korean BBQ, Gyros House, Hangen Szechuan, Hong Kong Bakery, Hong Kong Bistro, Hunan Chili, Kapp's PIzza Bar & Grill, King of Krung Siam, Kirin, [The] Kitchen Table, Maru Ichi, Molly MaGee's, "Mondays" (closed for vacation, see, Monte Carlo (restaurant is Los Caxcanes), Mtn. View Bakery & Cafe, [Kappo] Nami Nami, Neto Caffe & Bakery, New China Delight, New Mongolian BBQ, Pasta?, Pho Garden, Pho Hoa, Pho To Chau, Posh Bagel, Queen House, Red Rock Coffee, [Ramen House] Ryowa, Sakoon, Scratch, Shabuway, Shalala, Shezan, Shiva's, Sono Sushi, Spice Islands, St. Stephen's Green, Subway, Sushi Tomi, Tapioca Express, Taqueria La Bamba, Taqueria Los Charros, Tea Era, Temptations, Thaiphoon, Tied House, [Ristorante] Toscana (fmrly Bella Vita), Totoro, Tsunami Sushi, Vaso Azzurro, Verde Tea Cafe, Villa 8 Buffet, Xanh, Yakko, Yoogl Yogurt Cafe, Zpizza, Zucca Ristorante.

NON-CORE downtown MV restaurants (26):
Amber Cafe, Amici's, Bean Scene Cafe (in Performing Arts Center, 500 Castro), [Le] Boulanger, Chef Xiu (fmrly Shanghai Taste Delight), Clarke's, El Calderon, [La] Fiesta, Frankie Johnnie & Luigi, Gelayo Gusto, Happi House, Jack in the Box, KFC, Mediterranean Grill House, Papa John's Pizza, Passage to India Bakery and Sweets Shop, Peet's Coffee, Rose Market (Persian grocery with unique take-out, outdoor seating), Savory, Spica, Starbucks, another Subway, Sufi Coffee Shop, Sushi Tei, Sweet Corner, Taco Bell.

I should add (re non-restaurant gastronomy), many residents and workers find it convenient that downtown MV's pedestrian "core" or just outside it embraces also two wine shops (since 2009), two Chinese groceries (one extensive with produce and butcher counters, fresh fish, multiple ethnic ingredients sections), a chain pharmacy with groceries and wine, and large Sunday farmer's market at the train station. (Not to mention MV's Performing Arts Center, City Hall, and Library.


400 Castro St., Mountain View, CA 94041

Hong Kong Bistro
147 Castro St Ste 1, Mountain View, CA 94041

Chez TJ
938 Villa Street, Mountain View, CA 94041

859 Villa St, Mountain View, CA 94041

Hunan Chili Restaurant
102 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94041

Fu Lam Mum
246 Castro St, Mountain View, CA

Chef Liu
236 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94041

Passage to India Bakery
1100 W El Camino Real, Mountain View, CA 94040

Hangen Szechuan
134 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94041

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

Gelayo Gusto
856 W El Camino Real, Mountain View, CA

Neto Caffe
135 Castro St, Mountain View, CA

Zucca Ristorante
186 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94041

Fiesta Del Mar Too
735 Villa St, Mountain View, CA 94041

Xanh Restaurant
110 Castro St, Mountain View, CA

841 Villa St, Mountain View, CA 94041

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

Sweet Corner
650 Castro St, Mountain View, CA

Palo Alto Creamery
180 Stanford Shopping Ctr, Palo Alto, CA

236 Hamilton Avenue, Palo Alto, CA 94301

The Kitchen Table
142 Castro Street, Mountain View, CA 94041

357 Castro Street, Mountain View, CA 94041

Tea Era
271 Castro St, Mountain View, CA

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

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

The Cantankerous Fish
420 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94041

Sushi Tei
1036 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94040

Sono Sushi
357 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94041

Taqueria Los Charros
854 W Dana St, Mountain View, CA 94041

Bangkok Spoon
702 Villa St, Mountain View, CA 94041

To Chau
853 Villa St, Mountain View, CA 94041

Sufi Coffee Shop
815 W El Camino Real, Mountain View, CA 94040

Tsunami Sushi
209 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94041

Bean Scene Cafe
500 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94041

El Calderon Restaurant
699 Calderon Ave, Mountain View, CA 94041

Gyros House
212 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94041

698 W Dana St, Mountain View, CA 94041

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  1. Transitions cont'd: How hard it is to keep an accurate current list of restaurants in such a place came home when soon after posting it, I heard in person in downtown MV yesterday that "Villa 8" is about to re-open but as a different restaurant (a chicken place), while MV's Thaiphoon (photo below from a year ago), which was another expansion from Palo Alto by the way and site of a number of good meal experiences, is at or near its last day in MV, due to be replaced by a Mediterranean restaurant. (None of this is from or confirmed by either restaurant; Thaiphoon's Web site's Mountain View page still says "Now open in Mountain View!")

    Thaiphoon Restaurant
    543 Emerson St, Palo Alto, CA 94301

    3 Replies
    1. re: eatzalot

      I have never liked the Thaiphoon in PA because I find the dishes bland - but I have a coworker who likes a dish there, so I've had a chance to get to know them. I've found the Shanghai Noodles to be to my liking if I impress "spicy!" on them several times. Otherwise, not a favorite restaurant. I was surprised they opened a second branch, not not surprised they're making a change.

      Thaiphoon Restaurant
      543 Emerson St, Palo Alto, CA 94301

      1. re: bbulkow

        We didn't have the blandness problem in my experiences of Thaiphoon MV, and in fact we found the roti dipping sauce so spicy and flavorful it was hard not to order it every time (one time, the table ended up hoarding the sauce and using it as a condiment with later courses).

        BB, I hope you can post here (as reply to the original posting) your comprehensive University Ave. restaurants list (preferably alphabetized this time ;-) and some notes on the geography. No hurry of course.

        By concatenating restaurant names into a single line I found it took much less space to post the same kind of list we were both earlier posting at one entry per line.

        Thaiphoon Restaurant
        543 Emerson St, Palo Alto, CA 94301

        1. re: eatzalot

          I really like going to Downtown Mountain View because I can see a lot of potential places to eat without a huge amount of driving around.

          Now, not to be competitive or anything, but the Downtown Berkeley Association's list of eating places of all kinds lists 143 places. I think the list is mostly valid, though the website with Giovanni's is a small chain in central Florida.

    2. Here's a complete list of downtown MV's restaurants, current as of mid-October. All are within a few blocks of Castro Street. (The concentration is denser than in downtown Berkeley -- my hometown, by the way -- most of these are within two to four blocks of each other.)

      Note that this list is alphabetized traditionally (i.e., The Kitchen Table appears under K, and La Fiesta under F).

      This omits restaurants in transition (e.g., Workshop [Burger Bar & Grill], of University Ave. in Palo Alto, has had a new location pending for months at 126 Castro, but hadn't opened yet when I last walked by) or limbo (Spice Islands has been closed "temoporarily" for 2 years and Food Street, with a famous sewer problem, even longer). Others, closed, have space available (New China Delight, 360 Castro; King of Krung Siam, 194 Castro; Villa 8 Buffet, 895 Villa). And I'm still hoping for a similar list from bbulkow for downtown Palo Alto!

      Amarin, 174 Castro, 650 988 9323 (Thai)
      Amber Cafe, 600 W El Camino Real, 650 968 1751 (Indian)
      Amici's, 790 Castro, 650 961 6666 (High-end Bay-Area pizza chain)
      Bangkok Spoon, 702 Villa,650 968 2038 (Thai)
      Barracuda, 124 Castro, 650 254 1935 (Japanese)
      Bean Scene Cafe, 500 Castro, 650 903 4871 (Coffee, light meals)
      [Le] Boulanger, 650 Castro, 650 961 1787 (Bakery, catering, sandwiches)
      Bushido,156 Castro, 650 386 6821 (Japanese small plates)
      Café Baklava, 341 Castro, 650 969 3835 (Turkish grill, upscale)
      Café Yulong, 743 W. Dana, 650 960 1677 (Chinese, owners from Shandong)
      [El] Calderon, 699 Calderon @ Church, 650 940 9533 (Salvadorean)
      Cantankerous Fish, 420 Castro, 650 966 8124 (Seafood, upscale, with big bar)
      Casa Lupe, 459 Castro, 650 965 2944 (Mexican)
      Cascal, 400 Castro, 650 940 9500 (International "tapas" and bar)
      [Los] Caxcanes, see Monte Carlo
      Chef Liu, 236 Castro, 650 938 2968 (Chinese; Cantonese specialties)
      Chef Xiu, 855 W El Camino Real, 650 988 8820 (Chinese)
      Chez TJ, 938 Villa, 650 964 7466 (High-end; Michelin star)
      Clarke's, 615 W El Camino Real, 650 967 0851 (Hamburgers, sausages, breakfast weekends)
      Dana Street Roasting Co., 744 W Dana, 650 390 9638 (Coffee importer&roaster; sandwiches)
      [Ristorante] Don Giovanni, 235 Castro, 650 961 9749 (Italian)
      Ephesus Mediterranean Cuisine, 185 Castro, 650 625 8155 (Greek/Turkish family recipes)
      [La] Fiesta, 240 Villa, 650 968 1364 (Mexican, upscale, unusual specialties)
      Fiesta Del Mar Too, 735 Villa, 650 967 3525 (Mexican seafood, upscale, 200? tequilas)
      Frankie Johnnie & Luigi, 939 W El Camino Real, 650 967 5384 (Italian, pizzas)
      Fu Lam Mum, 155 Castro, 650 967 1689 (Chinese; dim sum)
      Gelato Classico, 241 Castro, 650 969 2900 (Ice creams etc.)
      Gelayo Gusto, 856 W El Camino Real, 650 938 1333 (Pizza, burgers, ice creams)
      Ginseng Korean BBQ, 475 Castro, 650 967 3913 (Korean; cook-on-table dinners)
      Gyros House, 212 Castro, 650 940 9316 (Mediterranean, semi-takeout)
      Hangen Szechuan, 134 Castro, 650 964 8881 (New owners, now labeled "Szechuan")
      Happi House, 286 W El Camino Real, 650 969 7041 (Chain teriyaki)
      Hong Kong Bakery, 210 Castro, 650 969 3153 (Sweet and savory pastries, cakes)
      Hong Kong Bistro, 147 Castro, 650 968 8938 (Pan-Asian)
      Hunan Chili, 102 Castro, 650 969 8968 (Chinese -- Sichuanese chef)
      Jack in the Box, 200 W El Camino Real @ Calderon, 650 964 4266
      Kapp's Pizza Bar & Grill, 191 Castro, 650 961 1491 (To remodel/update, post-Thanksgiving)
      KFC, 696 W El Camino Real, 650 968 8554
      Kirin, 485 Castro, 650 965 1059 (Cantonese)
      [The] Kitchen Table, 142 Castro, 650 390 9388 (Upscale American/Deli cuisine; Kosher/Halal)
      [Noodle House] Maru Ichi, aka Maruichi, 368 Castro, 650 564 9931 (Ramen, other noodles)
      Mediterranean Grill House, 650 Castro, 650 625 9990 (Superb plates&wraps, unique seasonings)
      Molly MaGee's, 241 Castro, 650 961 0108 (Pub)
      Monte Carlo (restaurant is Los Caxcanes), 228 Castro, 650 988 1500 (Mexican)
      Mtn. View Bakery & Cafe, 301 Castro, 650 961 9715 (Coffee, light meals; inside bookstore)
      Morocco's, 873 Castro, 650 968 1502 (New: Moroccan; live music in evenings)
      [Kappo] Nami Nami, 240 Castro, 650 964 6990 (Elegant Kappo-style Japanese cuisine)
      Neto Caffe & Bakery, 135 Castro St, 650 625 9888 (Breakfast, grill, kebabs, pizzas; open late)
      New Mongolian BBQ, 304 Castro, 650 968 0381 (Mongolian-style grill)
      Nichole's, 300 Castro, 650 969 2487 (Fmrly Diyar, Bella Vita, Ristorante Toscana, Cafe Déjà Vu)
      Papa John's Pizza, 571 W. El Camino Real, 650 969 7272 (Pizza chain)
      Passage to India Bakery, 1100 W El Camino Real, 650 964 5532 (Indian bakery, sweets shop)
      Pasta?, 160 Castro, 650 938 4147 (Italian, local chain)
      Peet's Coffee, 1032 Castro, 650 605 0003
      Pho Garden, 246 Castro, 650 968 4183 (Pho)
      Pho Hoa, 220 Castro, 650 969 5805 (Pho)
      Pho To Chau, 853 Villa, 650 961 8069 (Pho)
      Posh Bagel, 444 Castro, 650 968 5308 (Bagels, sandwiches, salads, coffee)
      Queen House, 273 Castro, 650 960 0580 (Chinese; dumpling specialists)
      Red Rock Coffee, 201 Castro, 650 967 4473 (Coffees, snacks, open mike Mondays)
      Rose Market, 1060 Castro, 650 960 1900 (Persian grocery, take-out grill)
      [Ramen House] Ryowa, 859 Villa, 650 965 8829 (Ramen, other noodles)
      Sakoon, 357 Castro, 650 965 2000 (Indian, unusual creative upscale)
      Savvy Cellar Wine Bar & Shop, 750 W Evelyn, 650 969 3958 (Wine, small plates)
      Scratch, 401 Castro, 650 237 3131 (Regional American, upscale)
      Shabuway, 180 Castro, 650 961 8880 (Japanese, upscale, cook-at-table)
      Shalala, 698 W Dana St, 650 965 8001 (Ramen)
      Shezan, 216 Castro, 650 969 1112 (Pakistani-Indian; fmrly Sue's, Godavari)
      Shiva's, 800 California @ Castro, 650 960 3802 (Indian)
      Sono Sushi, 357 Castro, 650 961 9086
      Spica, 650 Castro, 650 254 1110 (Coffees, sandwiches, jewelry)
      St. Stephen's Green, 223 Castro, 650 964 9151 (Pub, weekend brunch)
      Starbucks, 750 Castro, 650 564 9255 (Coffee chain; snacks)
      Steakout, 383 Castro (Grass-fed hamburgers, grilled suasages, beer garden)
      Subway, 451 W El Camino Real, 650 967 5733 (Sandwich chain)
      Subway, 701 W Evelyn, 650 969 3858 (Sandwich chain)
      Sufi Coffee Shop, 815 W El Camino Real, 650 962 9923 (Coffee, light meals)
      Sushi Tei, 1036 Castro, 650 961 7272 (Sushi)
      Sushi Tomi (aka Sushitomi), 635 W Dana, 650 968 3227 (Sushi, upscale)
      Sweet Corner, 650 Castro, 650 961 1805 (Ice cream, frogurt, sundaes, coffee)
      Taco Bell, 950 W El Camino Real, 650 964 3758
      Tapioca Express, 740 Villa, 650 965 3093 (Bubble tea chain, light meals)
      Taqueria La Bamba, 152 Castro, 650 965 4753 (Salvadorean, Mexican; breakfasts)
      Taqueria Los Charros, 854 W Dana, 650 969 1464 (Mexican; US and Mexican breakfasts)
      Tea Era, 271 Castro, 650 969 2899 (Tea, other drinks)
      Temptations, 288 Castro, 650 625 1234 (Indian / Fusion)
      Tied House, 954 Villa, 650 965 2739 (Brewpup)
      Totoro, 841 Villa, 650 691 0796 (Korean)
      Tsunami Sushi, 209 Castro, 650 965 0114
      Vaso Azzurro, 108 Castro, 650 940 1717 (Italian)
      Verde Tea Cafe, 852 Villa, 650 210 9986 (Drinks, snacks, Taiwanese thick toast)
      Xanh, 110 Castro, 650 964 1888 (Hip Vietnamese, fusion, lounge)
      Yakko, 975 W Dana, 650 960 0626 (Sushi)
      Yoogl Yogurt Cafe, 260 Castro (Ice cream, frozen Yogurt)
      Zpizza, 146 Castro, 650 314 0088 (Pizzas; organic, California chain)
      Zucca Ristorante, 186 Castro, 650 864 9940 (Mediterranean bar-grill)

      3 Replies
      1. re: eatzalot

        Very impressive! Now why don't you tell us your ten favorites (and why)!

        1. re: Ruth Lafler

          Thanks Ruth. I do know most of those restaurants, frequent many of them. Unfortnately, your request for a "top ten" raises an obstacle I cited to a similar question in my CH Profile. As a mathematician might say, such a ranking uses a scalar quantity (one number) to measure a vector experience (many dimensions). I could f'rinstance sort by how many times I've returned -- but that'd strongy favor places with low prices and good value (like the Japanese noodle houses* and the good happy-hour food deals at some of the restaurant bars).

          More helpful maybe: I've posted more on CH about MV restaurants than any other topic (it was what I first posted about, almost 5 years ago) and if you hit my name link and peruse the threads list you'll find many discussions of favorites.

          *Private msg I sent this week to some fellow local restaurantophiles about Maru Ichi, the best known of the (now 3) Japanese noodle-soup restaurants in the dense MV restaurant cluster:

          Maru Ichi recently added a Tsukemen ("dipping noodles"). [Arch-rival Ryowa has long offered this delightful specialty.]. As usual, Maru Ichi's is very different, not hot and spicy at all (based instead on dark browned garlic in the dipping broth) and different noodles, round rather than flat as Ryowa's were, and not at all undecooked. I enjoyed it a lot. Spoke to owner / noodlemaker there [that's him in a past photo below, making noodles] who clearly is from Japan and was pleased (he may have recognized me from the last few hundred visits -- the servers know me much better, they're always trying sportingly to guess what I want to order, usually wrong). He gave a deep bow. Asked if I'd tried tsukemen in Japan, to compare. No, but I commented on differences from Ryowa. Which did I prefer? Both, I answered -- they are so different. Another deep bow. Later after leaving good tip (this was at a quiet time), servers waved goodbye and the noodlemaker, now busy in the noodle booth, gave a VERY deep and sincere bow. Little things like that add unexpected savor to the already flavorful noodle bowls (often counterpointed by Maru Ichi's distinctively bracing green tea -- if ever a drink deserved the word bracing, it's that tea.)

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

        2. re: eatzalot

          Recent action in Palo Alto:

          Life Kitchen on Hamilton has opened, and I ate there tonight. The concept seems to be food you'd cook at home in a healthful way, and a nice space to hang out in (more like your home). Counter service. Open till 11 fri sat. Lots of veggie options. A little peculiar, because I would simply make these dishes at home. price - $20 out the door. Nice little wine and beer list. Caters to the same audience as Sprout, but I liked Sprout better (but Life is better to hang out in).

          Madame Tam's Bar - Tiki atmosphere. pan-asian food stylings from Madame Tam next door, and a few extras, like fish tacos and bahn mi. The mixed drink was somewhat awful (especially near NOLA, which has good drinks of that sort). Unlikely to return.

          o-sushi opened in the old taxi's space, and it looks fairly bad. I hope someone else will try it first.