Week in Palo Alto/San Francisco. Where to go?
Hi all - or I suppose I should say y'all.
We're from Durham, NC - a great food town - and flying in for the week. I have to work in Palo Alto for the first half of the week (while my husband bums around in the free hotel) and then we're heading to San Francisco to play tourist for the end of the week. I've been to SF once before, but my husband hasn't. This is a very last minute trip, so we haven't had much planning time. Where should we eat? Are there any can't misses in Palo Alto or San Francisco? How can we take advantage of things we just don't do as well on the east coast (mexican? sushi?)? I appreciate any tips!
I agree with mhuang if you're willing to drive for 10 minutes or so: the Japanese (Kappo Nami Nami & Sumika) and Korean (Jang Su Jang) stand out. I was raised in NC but haven't been back in over a decade, but I'd guess that those two cuisines are not offered in the depths as can be found around the Peninsula. I especially like Sumika - their oyako don is the best. (One minor clarification, I've been told that Kappo Nami Nami is primarily "kappo" style, a particular cuisine from Kyoto that reminds me of izakaya, although KNN does have a sushi bar, too.)
I also agree that Resposado is great, but not its sister restaurant, Scratch.
As a former North Carolinian to a current one, be sure to try a good burrito or taco (e.g. La Bamba's super burrito) while you're here. NC cannot hold a candle in that regard . . . but I do miss proper NC BBQ and shrimp & grits.
Welcome to the area, eh27713. I've never been in Durham or the triangle area, but it's been on my radar lately as a place to check out. I'm hoping to do that at some point over the next year. I'm curious about what it's like to live there.
If you'll have a car, your options will broaden a lot. If there are particular cuisines you want to try, see if you can figure whether a given one is better saved for SF. I'd strongly recommend doing that for the Cal/Italian style spots. Very strongly. They're a weak point in the South Bay; even the few options in or near Palo Alto pale by comparison to lots of choices in San Francisco.
To avoid going on at ever greater length, I'll limit my ramblings to thoughts about Palo Alto and further south:
Is there much Korean food in NC? If not, Sunnyvale and Santa Clara are loaded with it. The Tofu House on El Camino in Palo Alto is a fairly popular spot that won't be far from wherever you're staying. A little fancier is Jang Su Jang in Sunnyvale. Check the threads here for lots of discussion about many others.
Mexican food here tends to be disappointing, other than as lrealml points out, some (not all, by any means) of the taquerias. A sit down non-taqueria that's good is Tu Mero Mole in San Jose. You'll have to drive 20+ minutes, though. It's kind of a hole in the wall, nothing unforgettable, but it's worth a visit if you're so inclined. There's also the upscale Casa de Cobre in Saratoga. Check the many threads for San Francisco places. Primavera at the Ferry Building farmers market in SF on Saturdays has terrific food, but their menu, which was always small, is even smaller now, so there are only a few things to be ordered. Still, if you're at the market, and it's well worth a visit, make a point of trying it. Lots of your best bets for Mexican food are probably in the East Bay, which may be out of your geographical range for this trip.
The Chinese regional stuff is worthwhile, at least from the standpoint that you might not be able to get some of these things at home. Some of these places, distinctive as they may be, tend to be on the oily side. Just a FYI in case that's an issue for you. If you want dim sum, save it for when you're in SF.
For Indian, though I haven't been there for quite awhile now, I like Sakoon, too, even if it's not mainstream Indian food in some ways. That's a strength, not a weakness, though. Read the threads for lots of discussion here about other options, which vary by style, region and quality.
I've never been to Kaygetsu, a higher end Japanese place in Menlo Park, but people like it and it's about to shut down, if it hasn't already.
There's good Ethiopian food in San Jose, something I take advantage of often. I'd recommend the newish Walia. Cafe Rehoboth and Zeni are good, too, as probably are a few others. Zeni is sort of an institution if you want a more popular place, though I prefer the food at the other two.
What about Tamarine in Palo Alto? It's upscale Vietnamese. I've only been there once, for lunch, but it was good. The vast selection of places in San Jose are worth exploring.
Something really satisfying is Oren's Hummus Shop on University in Palo Alto. It's a new, Israeli hummus place with falafel and various vegetable sides, all made from good, fresh, mostly organic ingredients. It's the kind of place I could go to regularly and enjoy. If you like that kind of food, it's right in PA. In some ways, given the not so dazzling local food scene there, it's my current Palo Alto favorite in that it's a tasty, healthy, simple, home style meal that hits the spot. In that sense, if I were elsewhere, I'd probably miss it more than anywhere else in town in that it would be the hardest to replace with an equivalent, something I couldn't easily say about much else there, even if they're places I enjoy.
Again, as others recommend, search for specifics as much is discussed here. Or come back and ask about some particular cuisine or place.
Have a nice week. And if you have anything to say about living in Durham, I'm very much interested in reading/hearing it.
546 University Ave., Palo Alto, CA 94301
325 Sharon Park Dr Ste A2, Menlo Park, CA 94025
357 Castro Street, Mountain View, CA 94041
Casa de Cobre
14560 Big Basin Way, Saratoga, CA 95070
2788 Castro Valley Blvd, Castro Valley, CA 94546
Jang Su Jang
3561 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95051
Tu Mero Mole
2041 Woodard Rd, San Jose, CA 95124
Oren's Hummus Shop
261 University Avenue, Palo Alto, CA 94301
Not really sure what the sushi scene is like in Durham, but there are a number of good sushi places on the Peninsula:
Jinsho (Palo Alto) which was started by two ex-Nobu sushi chefs serves out some very Nobu NY/Morimoto style fusion Japanese dishes. The food is definitely on the pricier side. They have some exotic fish selections I rarely see elsewhere.
Kappo Nami Nami (Mountain View): I usually end up going here during lunch time, where they have some great lunch specials; at dinner time, the place is much more of a izakaya/small plate kind of place. The quality and freshness of the fish here has never disappointed me.
Sushi Tomi (Mountain View): Another great sushi place; lots of variety of fish -- the white specials board changes frequently. Wait can be a bit long; and they do tend to run out of stuff.
If you're a fan of rolls rather than raw fish, Hanamaru in Sunnyvale has a huge variety of rolls.
Sumika in Los Altos (dinnertime only) does grilled yakitori (and other meats/vegetables), and also owns the very popular Orenchi Ramen in Santa Clara.
Going further south, into Sunnyvale/Santa Clara, there are number of interesting Korean restaurants -- Jang Su Jang and Cheon Joo Young-Yang Dolsot are my favorites in the Lawrence Plaza, and there's two Korean Fried Chicken wing places in the area -- 99 Chicken (Santa Clara) and Bon Chon Chicken (Sunnyvale).
Kappo Nami Nami
240 Castro St, Mountain View, CA 94041
236 Central Plz, Los Altos, CA 94022
2781 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95051
675 S Bernardo Ave, Sunnyvale, CA 94087
635 W Dana St, Mountain View, CA 94041
3540 Homestead Rd, Santa Clara, CA 95051
Jang Su Jang
3561 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95051
572 E El Camino Real, Sunnyvale, CA 94087
Southeast of Palo Alto you can find some regional Chinese cuisines you probably don't have at home:
San Jose's Vietnamese food courts are worth a trip:
Some tips on other places in the vicinity of Palo Alto:
You should really take 10-15 minutes and review the many, many posts that are already here. San Francisco gets many visitors and the questions you are asking have been asked (and answered) here on a regular basis.
You can also go to the upper right-hand corner of this page and search for sushi or Mexican or any other type of food that might interest you.
For the Palo Alto part of the trip, try Reposado in downtown Palo Alto or Estrellita in Los Altos (one town over from Palo Alto) for Mexican. At Estrellita, stick to the specials table or the Chicken Oaxaca.
Indian food is another standout in this area compared to most parts of the country. Sakoon in downtown Mountain View would be a great bet here. Hyderabad House in downtown Palo Alto has outstanding Achari chicken and some other great dishes, but it's a self service place while Sakoon is a more comfortable restaurant.
For California / American cuisine, Mayfield Bakery in Palo Alto and Scratch in downtown Mountain View are both good choices.
I don't know how Greek food is in Durham, but Evvia in downtown Palo Alto is very nice Cal / Greek. That one might be harder to do on short notice; the others should be easy.
For San Francisco, do some searches on the cuisines that you're interested and you should see lots of choices to investigate.
Enjoy your trip!
971 N San Antonio Rd, Los Altos, CA 94022
448 University Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301
420 Emerson Street, Palo Alto, CA 94301
236 Hamilton Avenue, Palo Alto, CA 94301
Mayfield Bakery & Cafe
855 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, CA 94301
357 Castro Street, Mountain View, CA 94041
401 Castro Street, Mountain View, CA 94041
Sorry to disagree with you mdg, but I don't think Scratch is very good (I had almost inedible fish and chips there recently) and none of my friends were thrilled with their meal. Sakoon is a good choice for Cal/Indian fusion (although not for lunch) ; however, they are not traditional and my Indian friends do not like it (for authentic Indian, go south to Sunnyvale). I haven't been to Reposado, but haven't heard good things. Evvia is good, but really pricey.
Unfortunately, most places in Palo Alto are expensive with average food. If you want great food, get out of Palo Alto:
and IMO most places in Mountain View suffer from a similar problem
eh27713, Palo Alto is in an area called the Peninsula. Search the board for whatever cuisines you are looking for in either SF or the Peninsula (and if you are willing to drive south 15-20 minutes, include the South Bay/San Jose in your search). There is a lot of great food around if you are willing to drive out of PA. Redwood City has amazing tacos. My favorite taco place to take guests is http://www.elgrullensegrill.com/ (I love the lengua, cabeza, chorizo, and Frank's Fish tacos). IMO other than tacos the Peninsula also has great Japanese, Chinese, Mediterranean, and Mexican (mainly tacos). Include the South Bay and you can add Vietnamese and Indian. There are also some more obscure cuisines like Afghan, Peruvian, Filipino, and Ethiopian. Then there is California/Cal-fusion food... IMO SF is much better for CA/Cal-fusion food than the Peninsula/South Bay.
Lastly, if you like frozen yogurt, there is only one can't miss food place in Palo Alto: Fraiche Yogurt.