HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >
What's your latest food quest? Tell us about it
TELL US

Birthday Dinner in Palo Alto

Glencora Oct 13, 2011 10:15 PM

I'd like to take my son out this Tuesday to celebrate his 18th (!) birthday. I've spent a bit of time in Palo Alto lately, but so far have gone to inexpensive places. (Some really great Middle Eastern.) Upscale Mexican would be nice, but I haven't seen much Mexican at all. He's not an adventurous eater -- likes roast chicken, pizza, steak. Not seafood, unfortunately. I'd love something with a bit of atmosphere, or even a scene. On a Tuesday....

  1. s
    sacabeans Oct 21, 2011 10:26 AM

    La Bodeguita del Medio! One of my favorite restaurants. BEST cuban food around with great atmosphere!!!!

    www.labodeguita.com

    They even have a cigar divan in the back if you want to celebrate his 18th with a cigar.

    1. Glencora Oct 19, 2011 09:16 PM

      So, Reposado worked pretty well, though I wasn't crazy about the food. It's a nice space; loud, but not impossible, and was humming on a Tuesday night. People were coming in from work, and so were dressed up. We definitely weren't in Berkeley anymore. So many suits!

      The street tacos were ridiculously expensive ($17 for 4), but tasty. The fish was really good. The three of us shared that to start, as well as the chips and salsa in the silly cone.

      For our entrees, my husband had the short ribs, and seemed happy with that. My son and I had the bacon-wrapped turkey loin with mole. What a strange thing. The meat and mole were fine, but the cold pile of cranberry chutney and the scoop of almond rice (seemed like sushi rice) topped with a poof of micro greens added nothing to the dish.

      I knew we wouldn't have time for dessert, so I'd bought some cupcakes from Kara's for him to take back to his dorm. Add to the whole thing the surreal experience of watching tourists taking photos of themselves in front of the post-it covered Apple store and it was quite an evening. I really liked the look of Cafe Renzo, and want to try it soon.

      -----
      Reposado
      236 Hamilton Avenue, Palo Alto, CA 94301

      Cafe Renzo
      473 University Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301

      4 Replies
      1. re: Glencora
        bbulkow Oct 19, 2011 11:42 PM

        I'm glad you had a good time. The benefit of Reposado is it is a little festive. I think you'll note I said the food was "decent" --- I've never been wow'd there, but I always walk away happy enough. This is, regrettably, the state of Palo Alto dining in general. There's a lot of very decent places, at generally inflated prices, but nothing that's *great*. I do think you should try Evvia sometime with him - the food is almost certainly the best in downtown, especially for the non-adventurous. Sometime when you want to do a casual dinner with him, you should hit Peninsula Creamery, which has the best burgers in town (a hotly contested title).

        -----
        Peninsula Creamery
        900 High St, Palo Alto, CA 94301

        Reposado
        236 Hamilton Avenue, Palo Alto, CA 94301

        1. re: Glencora
          m
          ML8000 Oct 20, 2011 09:53 PM

          Next time you might try La Fiesta in Mountain View, or their sister restaurant Palo Alto Sol on California Ave in P.A. La Fiesta is a pretty basic ma and pa place but the non-Cal Mex/more tradtional items are pretty good, esp the mole. Same level-ish as Estrellita but a bit more festive but casual. PA Sol is good and nicer/upscale-ish but it's really dark in there...I guess romantic. Food is similar to La Fiesta.

          -----
          Palo Alto Sol Restaurant
          408 S California Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94306

          La Fiesta Restaurant
          240 Villa St, Mountain View, CA 94041

          1. re: ML8000
            Glencora Oct 21, 2011 08:40 AM

            I think I walked right past La Fiesta on Tuesday. I hadn't been to Mountain View in 15 years, but I found a great used bookstore and will be going back soon. Thanks for the tip.

            1. re: ML8000
              bbulkow Oct 21, 2011 08:49 AM

              I don't get why people like Del Sol. For that kind of thing, I prefer the Menlo Park mexican place across from the trader joe's.

          2. bbulkow Oct 15, 2011 09:18 AM

            Evvia has better food, but is a bit more staid and grown up. Lots of roast meats.
            Nola is more fun and vibrant, but more middlebrow, although the food is quite good.
            Tamerine is the fancy restaurant, is a treat, but is resting on its laurels and will be too adventerous.
            Sundance Mining Company is the best steaks north of alexanders, and is actually old school.
            Mayfield has great food, possibly my favorite of the entire bunch, but little actual atmosphere. Palo Alto casual - the kind of place steve jobs would like.
            Reposado has a nice blend of decent food and a lively scene, but only has a little special occasion feel. Street tacos!
            Birch - haven't been, might be a good mix
            Paxti's - very good deep dish, not that "special occasion"

            -----
            Reposado
            236 Hamilton Avenue, Palo Alto, CA 94301

            7 Replies
            1. re: bbulkow
              Glencora Oct 17, 2011 11:43 AM

              Thanks for all this. Ewia and Mayfield are on my list to try on my own. Sundance Mining Company seems to be closed for remodeling. I've asked my son to look at the websites for Nola, Reposado, Cafe Renzo and Estrellita. We'll see what he chooses. As long as it's not Cheesecake Factory...

              Do others agree that the pizza at Cafe Renzo takes forever? If pizza is wanted is Il Fornaio terrible? I know it's a chain. Or is Paxti's better -- assuming we want thin crust, not deep dish?

              -----
              Reposado
              236 Hamilton Avenue, Palo Alto, CA 94301

              Cafe Renzo
              473 University Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301

              1. re: Glencora
                m
                ML8000 Oct 17, 2011 12:16 PM

                I thought it was called Sundance Steak House. Any way, it's about time it was remodeled. It's been stuck in the 70s fern bar-esque for quite awhile now. Otherwise, good place.

                re: Estrellita, nice mom and pop place, good food, nice people that own it...and the one time I was there, me and a buddy (in our 40s) were the youngest people in there.

                1. re: ML8000
                  Glencora Oct 17, 2011 12:24 PM

                  Good to know about Estrellita. Thanks. Maybe not a good idea.

                2. re: Glencora
                  m
                  mdg Oct 17, 2011 01:47 PM

                  I haven't gotten the pizza at Cafe Renzo, but the table next to us did and I didn't notice any unusual delays. Service at Renzo can be somewhat slower than other places - more Italian style, which I like quite a bit compared to the rushing you can get elsewhere. If you wanted just pizza, Howie's Artisan Pizza is tops in Palo Alto, but not very scene-y! I was not at all impressed with Paxti's the one time we went there.

                  Michael

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

                  Cafe Renzo
                  473 University Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                  1. re: Glencora
                    bbulkow Oct 19, 2011 11:37 PM

                    I don't remember the pizza at Renzo taking forever. You should try the place sometime. The best thing is they have good cannoli, which are hard to find in these parts. The worst part about Renzo is they're dumbing down the menu a bit, month after month, like taking off the sardines.

                    Pizza at La Strada is often overlooked. They have an actual wood fired oven, and more clearly specialize in n. italian.

                    I had my second Howie's pizza last night. I like that they encourage you to get a half and half. It's a very, very good pizza.

                    I'm sad to hear that Sundance is remodeling. The 70's is now Classic and to lose history is disconcerting.

                    -----
                    La Strada
                    335 University Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                    1. re: bbulkow
                      m
                      mdg Oct 19, 2011 11:51 PM

                      I don't see any dumbing down of Cafe Renzo's menu, and had sardines (from the current menu posted on the web site) just a couple weeks ago. The rabbit cacciatora was as delicious as ever. The dessert wine selection is much improved from when they opened.

                      Thanks for the report on Reposado - glad that it worked for you.

                      Michael

                      -----
                      Reposado
                      236 Hamilton Avenue, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                      Cafe Renzo
                      473 University Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                      1. re: mdg
                        bbulkow Oct 20, 2011 08:08 PM

                        I'm also bitter about the reduced kitchen hours.

                3. Glencora Oct 14, 2011 10:33 AM

                  Thanks. Reposado may be what I'm looking for. (Though I see that Melanie Wong only gave it two stars.) I need to venture away from University Ave and the Town and County village.

                  -----
                  Reposado
                  236 Hamilton Avenue, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Glencora
                    m
                    mdg Oct 14, 2011 11:18 AM

                    Reposado is one of the better upscale Mexican places in the area. I like the food at Estrellita in Los Altos a bit better, but that's nowhere near as celebratory and scene-y. It sounds like a great match for what you're looking for.

                    For roast chicken etc. you may want to try Mayfield Bakery and Cafe in Town & Country. The food's great, but it's an older, less scene-y locale than Reposado.

                    Cafe Renzo would also be a nice choice for Italian - it's a lively place on University Ave. with excellent Italian food, and more Italian customers than I think I've seen anywhere around.

                    Michael

                    -----
                    Estrellita Restaurant
                    971 N San Antonio Rd, Los Altos, CA 94022

                    Reposado
                    236 Hamilton Avenue, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                    Mayfield Bakery & Cafe
                    855 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                    Cafe Renzo
                    473 University Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                    1. re: mdg
                      a
                      artemis Oct 14, 2011 11:23 AM

                      Be forewarned that if anyone orders a pizza or calzone at Cafe Renzo, those two take *forever,* and they'll wait to fire all the other entrees until they can serve all the dishes at the same time. Problematic for a weekday lunch! The food was fine, but I think Reposado is a better choice for the OP.

                      -----
                      Reposado
                      236 Hamilton Avenue, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                      Cafe Renzo
                      473 University Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                  2. hhc Oct 13, 2011 10:54 PM

                    Reposado, 236 Hamilton Ave, Palo Alto is that upscale Mexican w/ a scene. Haven't tried it, but it looked nice & was very busy when I walked by.

                    -----
                    Reposado
                    236 Hamilton Avenue, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: hhc
                      t
                      takuhead Oct 14, 2011 08:57 AM

                      a fun place to celebrate - although a bit pricey - is Pampas - all you can eat meat fest
                      we like to go there for birthdays - kids love it - lots of variety...somewhat fancier than our normal outings...
                      Brazilian churrasco - lots of skewers of meat and pineapple!

                      -----
                      Pampas
                      529 Alma Street, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                      1. re: takuhead
                        Glencora Oct 14, 2011 10:50 AM

                        That looks fun. Probably too meaty for this particular dinner, but I'll keep it in mind for the future.

                      2. re: hhc
                        bbulkow Oct 14, 2011 09:27 AM

                        I have eaten there numerous times and it's good for a celebration. The food is surprisingly good; it's the same group as Scratch and Peninsula Creamery. It's on my once-every-two-month list. It's got a significant atmosphere.

                        Another standard choice for this kind of thing is Evvia. It's in the top layer in terms of food and kind of cool.

                        -----
                        Peninsula Creamery
                        900 High St, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                        1. re: bbulkow
                          a
                          artemis Oct 14, 2011 10:49 AM

                          We have group work lunches there sometimes for birthdays and such. The food is pretty good (get the handmade tortillas and the guac... ceviches are eh), accessible for the picky eaters, and can be scene-y. Packed at lunch on weekdays. Also consider Nola, which will be more energetic. Evvia is delicious, but definitely skews older than Reposado or Nola.

                          -----
                          Reposado
                          236 Hamilton Avenue, Palo Alto, CA 94301

                      Show Hidden Posts