Palo Alto / Sunnyvale greater area restaurant suggestions
Any good restaurants: vegetarian, Italian, California cuisine?
In Woodside: Station 1 and Village Pub (Californian)
In Menlo Park: Flea Street Cafe (Californian)
Redwood City: Donato Enoteca (Italian), Martin's West (Gastropub)
Mountain View: Chaat Paradise (Vegetarian)
Plenty. What price range, how fancy, required veg vs veg friendly, italian/cal only, what other places do you like?
I might recommend zibbibo or not, depending on whether you like wine, and evvia or not, depending if you consider fish vegetarian, and Chez TJ or not, depending if you're into a long tasting menu.
Vero in downtown Palo Alto is the clear-cut choice for Italian restaurants. Scratch and the Mayfield Bakery and Cafe are good California choices. In Sunnyvale the best choices skew towards Indian, which offer plenty of vegetarian options such as Madura and Madras Cafe. Depending exactly where you are and how far you're willing to drive, Redwood City and Woodside can be a bit remote, especially from Sunnyvale.
I'll have to disagree on Scratch. Their cocktail program is excellent for the peninsula, deserts are decent, but most of the food is just passable. The first time I went, it was actually inedible (items were burnt, over-salted, and a meyer lemon mac and cheese was sweet instead of savory).
Since then, the food has improved but not by much. It all sounds good on the menu, but the complicated items are done poorly. The more simple items are tasty, but are the type of food you can find at California Pizza Kitchen (say a flatbread with a lot of cheese).
I want them to succeed, as there is a real absence of restaurants like Scratch in the Mountain View/Sunnyvale area, but we usually just go for drinks and a snack/dessert there.
I'll assume $30/50 is food price without much alcohol (maybe one glass of wine) and no tip.
I'll disagree with your disagreeing on Scratch - sort of. I have never had anything "burnt or inedible", and had some very good dishes - one of their AQ fish dishes with fennel pollen. I think the first few months were bad - they were undersalted for a while, then oversalted, then they seemed to settle in. The real problem is the lack of real competition - they could source better, and cook with less fat, but it's worth a shot for the OP. I do find myself not going there much anymore.
With "fresh and superb", there's a lot less than one would hope for. Flea Street is certainly worth a try, but the menu is fairly static after all these years. Just about everything mentioned is worth a shot. There is nothing I know in Sunnyvale in this direction. Mountain View should have better restaurants - focus on asian, japanese, and more street food / lunch than dinner.
Palo Alto has much more dinner, but most places feel like "good chef sets the menu and gets out, if popular cruise for a decade". I like Cafe Brioche, it's french but they keep things lively there. Vero seems to be getting run down a little - but the food's still there. Crowds are more at Joya and La Strada. Evvia is worth a mention, they do good lighter flavors. Zibbibo is worth a stop, but you will likely be disappointed unless you happen to hit a menu item you really like. They still have iron-pan mussels and a good wine list, which is enough for me to stop by once in a while.
I don't think you're going to get out of any of these places for a $60/2 people check after tax and tip, unless you eat the very lightest side of the menu. Vero will clock in right around $100 with tax & tip.
Interesting mention of Chantilly. Right next to K&L and John Bentley. It's in that "redwood city but really atherton" section. Doesn't get a lot of board love (John Bentley doesn't either). It's now on my try list.
I ate at Scratch after a long absence. On the late side, at the bar, as the kitchen was closing. Oysters were fresh, although they could have listed the types and allowed choosing, the flatbread didn't stand alone but was a good app, the BBQ put me in mind of okonomyaki, but the large amount of chicken didn't, the pork chop was exactly what I was in the mood for - gorgeously prepared, fun sweet and sour pecan sauce on the side, crispy green beans. Service was easy because the place was winding down, would not be indicative of a "normal hour". Nice atmosphere, still a winner in that neck of the woods (nothing else like it south of palo alto).
Chantilly in Redwood City - a great $30 prix fixe menu
Calamari steak is amazing - so is lamb shank - great caesar salad....creme carmel...
excellent service - we don't eat gluten so can't comment on the pasta dishes...
they are very accommodating to special requests - get the calamari without the flour coating - seriously the most flavorful and tender version I've ever had.
Very old school with professional Italian waiters - long stem rose for the ladies when you leave...