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Stanford -- Best Items

I am going to be at a conference at Stanford and I need some great food suggestions in the surrounding areas. I don't really care about going to a restaurant where "everything's good." I want suggestions of individual food items that will make me cry when I leave. I know chowhounders don't like broad, but I am open to almost anything (no fish). However, in order to get the ball rolling--best burger, best fried chicken, best pizza, best cookie, best pie, best brownie, best fries, best sandwich, best tacos, best ramen, etc. Anything that will make me want to come back to San Francisco.

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  1. Hmm, well, Stanford isn't in SF. You can do a search of restaurants in Palo Alto, Mountain View, Redwood City, Menlo Park and other nearby cities. There are lots of cafes on the Stanford campus, but nothing I've had has been very good. How far afield do you actually want to go?

    16 Replies
    1. re: Glencora

      Palo Alto:
      Kara's Cupcake
      Howie's Artisan Pizza
      Quiche at Mayfield bakery
      Fraiche Yogurt (I'm partial to the valrhona chocolate; in downtown PA as well as inside campus)
      Apps & drinks at bar at Mantra
      Hyderabad House (had excellent thali lunch recently)
      Evvia (upscale Greek) - great apps, lamb, whole grilled fish

      Al Pastor taco at Chavez supermarket, Redwood City
      Blueberry scone at Cafe Barrone, Menlo Park

      SF is 45 min to an hour north of Palo Alto...

      meant to reply to OP

      1. re: ceekskat

        good list but:
        Burger at Mayfield
        meh on Hydrabad House
        vindaloo at darbar (I have eaten a lot of vindaloo - as good as north england)
        double meh on tai pan - try da sichuan or su hong palo alto if you wnat chinese
        sushi at Jin sho (if you believe steve jobs)
        artichoke beignets and rack of lamb at cafe brioche
        plain burger and a peppermint stick shake at peninsula creamery
        hummus at oren's hummus
        schwerma & tea at Mediterranean delight (either location)
        sandwich & gates of hell at jzCool cafe
        hot chocolate, catchaps or arrepas, maybe fries at coupa cafe
        espresso at fraiche (blue bottle) or Cafe Zoe (verve)
        friday night jazz & rotating menu (last: goat ragout over ploenta) at cafe barrone
        tasting menu at baume (if you believe michelin - two stars)
        sweetbread app and atmosphere at village pub

        1. re: bbulkow

          What is great about Mayfield's burger? Peninsula Creamery? (though the peppermint stick shake sounds awesome) Also, what kind of sandwich at jzCool cafe? Finally, I'm a sucker for hot chocolate, but is it cool enough out there for hot chocolate? Also, thick or thin hot chocolate?

          1. re: kkillian

            My favorite hot chocolate is the gianduja at Monique's. You can also pick from a variety of other chocolate %s. It's cool enough for me here, but I'm from a warmer climate. You can also get it iced at Monique's.

            Pizza: Napoletana Pizzeria in Mountain View (margherita pizza)
            Tacos: Carnitas at El Grullense at 2401 Middlefield Rd in Redwood City across from Costco (there are many El Grullense locations with varying quality; these are the best carnitas tacos I've had)

            1. re: kkillian

              Mayfield, having their own bakery, has a very flaky and wonderful bun, with enough toughness but a great loft, half way to coissant (similar bun at village pub). Mayfield has a good meat taste, perfectly cooked - what is ever great about a burger? It's a straight ahead high end burger, in some ways.

              PenCrem the benefit is price performance. The taste of the meat is always great - not neutral, distinctly meaty in a good way. It's not as thick, not as juicy, as Mayfield, and the bun is somewhat pedestrian, but when you factor in price, speed, consistency, drinks, Pen Crem is a huge winner. (drinks: the wine by the glass is always quite good for a diner).

              Another example - Jeffery's. Jeffery's is like the old Roy Rodger's burger and topping bar, but a little less meat, and slightly fattier. I wouldn't send a visitor, but I sure go there more than I should.

              I had the Clover Hubcap burger at Nola's last week, and they are creeping into standard rotation. The main restaurant gets booked up but the lounge is fun. We had some other dish off the small plates that was excellent.

              The problem with all of them is they aren't very california. I like PenCrem a lot, but you can find similar elsewhere. Mayfield is californian, and, in some sense, Palo Alto in specific.

              jzcool cafe - it's right in the sculpture garden, so the setting is extraordinary. I remember getting a sandwitch with bacon and avocado, the avocado was perfect and creamy, the bacon was thick and smokey, the bread is thick peasant style hand cut. Very good fresh lemonade, too. Jesse's thing is ingredients, even more than other Californian cooks, and a sandwich is a great way to focus on ingredients. Cheaper and easier than going to Flea Street, her main restaurant.

              Hot chocolate - coupa cafe is a venezuelan place that imports their own single origin chocolate beans and makes their own mix. The good stuff there is the spicy mayan, which is thin style (it's not thin-thin but I know what you mean by thick and it's not thick), but a great spice / chocolate balance. They have chocolates but they're overpriced. The catchapas and the shredded beef arepas are unusual and tasty. It's a counter service hangout, with wifi on weekdays and a LOT of tech & students --- it's a little "scene-y". Hot chocolate depends nothing on weather.

              There is one place in PA that has thick hot chocolate is Cafe Venezia, which makes desert-grade hot chocolate almost to pudding consistency and serves it for desert in a martini glass. I can't eat that much caffeine near dinner, and it's too popular so no one goes there.

              I don't like the Carnitas at the Middlefield Grullense. Although the Old Grullense (El Camino south of broadway about a block) is inconsistent, I think the carnitas is better there, and the al pastor is often great. However, that location is inconsistent. And, these days, I'm almost always getting Al Pastor. Perhaps because I've had the best carnitas ever, which is made by a small blind guy in a little town outside of san miguel alliende about 30 miles, or, in the bay area, I like Gordo's. So now it's all about al pastor. Besides, getting over to RWC takes too long.

            2. re: bbulkow

              Agree on the Vindaloo at Darbar, but it is really the only thing I like there. For hot chocolate you can also try Moniques. I do not like their truffles. Like the plain at Fraiche, with toasted coconut and fresh fruit on top.

              Madera for South indian is a bit south. SF has wonderful ice cream, but driving up to SF is a bit more than just driving there - it is driving, finding parking, walking etc. I love the city and go often, but it does feel like a bit of a ordeal.

              We second the al pastor taco at Chavez or the carnitas at la bamba, Wish both places had better salsa.

              You can pick up some of the good local chocolates and goodies at Piazzas and some at Molly Stone.

              1. re: bbulkow

                Thanks for mentioning Cafe Brioche. Had the artichoke beignets and short ribs with mushroom risotto. Very nice, if rich. The garlic butter with the bread to start was a nice touch. A cozy, bustling place on a chilly night. (And the two women eating moules frites at the next table were speaking French.)

              2. re: ceekskat

                Kara's salted caramel chocolate cupcake is the best!

                1. re: ceekskat

                  I've heard a bit about Kara's cupcake, so it sounds like that is a place I should definitely be stopping at.
                  Fraiche Yogurt -- You got my attention when you mentioned Valrhona. Is this a chocolate yogurt?

                  1. re: kkillian

                    Yes, valrhona is their frozen chocolate yogurt.

                    1. re: kkillian

                      You actually should get the natural flavor. It is unique, and as much as I like valrhona (I _really_ like valrhona), I always get the plain. That should tell you it's worth a trip - "better than valrhona"). They are also the only purveyor of Blue Bottle coffee in PA.

                  2. re: Glencora

                    I meant to say the San Francisco area. I am definitely willing to venture out a 30-45 minute drive.

                    1. re: kkillian

                      Even with no traffic, San Francisco is over 45 minutes from Stanford, but there's a lot of great stuff closer: cumin lamb at Darda, bahn xeo at the Grand Century food court, hot pot at Little Sheep, Cuban at Habana, Cal-Scottish at Martins West ...

                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/427295
                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/638339
                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/608206
                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/812092

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        From Stanford campus proper, I think you could make it to the Richmond in SF driving (a bit quickly) on 280 in 30-45 minutes.

                        But I agree that the South Bay might be just as fruitful for a first visit.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          I finally made it to Shanghai Dumpling Shop. Wow. And half way to SF.

                        2. re: kkillian

                          The question becomes overly broad at "45 minutes from stanford campus".You'd need to narrow the question to atmosphere, kind of food, something. Once you hit sunnyvale and san mateo, the world explodes, and you see the possibility that SF is within range (depends exactly where on campus, exactly where in SF, how fast you drive, and time of day. Example: Aachi Aappakadai in Sunnyvale, which has some unusual and very good Chettinad dishes.

                      2. chinese food at tai pan is good. i like sashimi at sawa in sunnyvale (but it is very expensive.) these are the two i try to hit when i'm down on the peninsula visiting "the farm."

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Dustin_E

                          >> almost anything (no fish)

                          actually, nevermind. my suggestions are not good for this question.