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May 5, 2014 05:40 PM

recs near Stanford for August

We will be bringing my daughter to start at Stanford Law School at end of August, and will stay 4 nights near Palo Alto. Would like to sample a range of cuisines (Mexican; Thai, Pizza, great burgers/sandwiches; seafood; Italian) as long as the food is GOOD with cost not really a barrier (although we prefer NOT to have to get too dressy). I am starting this search early so I can check out restaurant web sites ahead of time and get reservations if need be. For reference sake, last summer we loved our meals at Isa in SF; Passion Fish in Pacific Grove; The Crown & Anchor in Monterey; and breakfasts at Dottie's and at Brenda's Soul Food in SF. Thanks!

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  1. Congratulations, we need more lawyers in California, for sure.

    Joking aside, just walk up and down University Ave and you'll find all varieties of good restaurants.

    2 Replies
    1. re: PeterL

      I must disagree actually. The only three restaurants I like (not love) on University Ave. are Oren's Hummus Shop (casual counter service often frantically busy), Unami Burger and Tamarine for Vietnamese fusion (reservations needed).

      In the University Ave. area, there is Evvia (reservations needed) which is a quality Greek inspired sit down restaurant. Lure + Till which is a decent Cali cuisine place (assuming you are NOT going to SF this trip - there's better places in SF) (reservations recommended) and Reposado (decent high end Mexican) (reservations recommended).

      Patxi's makes solid, tasty deep dish.

      On campus, there is Ike's sandwiches which has a cult following - but I am not the hugest fan.

      Further afield:

      California Ave.:
      Jin Sho has solid mid-range sushi (reservations recommended)
      Mediterranean Wraps has nice falafel and schwarma wraps if you need something quick in the area.
      Palo Alto Sol is good casual Mexican (slow service) with good Mole and margaritas.
      Zombie Runner has solid espresso drinks.
      Lotus Thai is extremely variable but can be OK.

      Even further afield:
      Flea Street Cafe (Menlo Park) or Village Pub (Woodside) for mid-range, solid CA cuisine. Reservations needed.

      The Fish Market for casual, solid seafood.

      Da Sichuan for hole in the wall spicy, sichuan food.

      Amber India (Mountain View) for sit down North Indian food.

      Some often mentioned places that I haven't been to or don't particularly like but many on the Penninsula love to go to:
      Nola (Cajun inspired cuisine) with crazy cocktails
      Old Pro - sports bar
      Rosewood Hotel (does have an amazing view during the day if it isn't too hot)
      The Sea (I think this is a total waste of money - but many like it)

      1. re: goldangl95

        Pizzeria Delfina has just opened on Emerson in the old Empire Tap. Very nice patio and very good pizza/salads. Tacolicious is across the street. Both restaurants started in the mission district in SF and are good spots. Cafe Borrone on El Camino in Menlo Park has a nice outdoor patio for breakfast or lunch on a nice day. I also like St. Michaels Alley for dinner and brunch.

    2. I am better at cheap eats than high end eats, but...

      Right across from campus is Town and Country. For a quick meal I do like Asian box and have had some nice meals at Mayfield. They do brunch as well. There is also a newly opened Gott's there, which I have not loved but others really do. It is a local mini chain that started in Napa. There is Howie's pizza there - a former high end restaurant chef turned pizza guy. My husband really enjoys their food.

      For Mexican, the area does best with taquerias, which may or may not be your kind of thing. We tend to go to La Bamba in Mountain View the most because of proximity, or La Gruellense Grill in Redwood City.

      I also like Oren's and Mediterranean Wraps and we often take guests to Evvia. WE've had some great meals at Reposado and some not so great meals there.

      6 Replies
      1. re: jsaimd

        Next to Mayfield (they also run Village Pub in Woodside) is Calafia, a buzzy moderate restaurant that was rumored to be one of Steve Job's favorite places. They have a very eclectic menu with Asian/Mexican influences. The original chef came from Google.

        1. re: jsaimd

          Yes! Town & Country complex at El Camino and Embarcadero, right across El Camino from the campus!

          For decades, a typical US suburban retail cluster with small shops and "family" restaurants. Then a few years ago, got intense yupscale make-over and completely new types of businesses and restaurants. Including specialty dessert shops (multi-dollar cupcakes in unlikely colors and flavors -- unless that fashion has ended already and that bakery closed).

          Main "destination" restaurants, to my taste, have been mentioned, but not their stories:

          Calafia: Chef Charlie Ayers was original head of Google's dining program, oversaw development of Google's famous upscale on-site dining. Left a few years ago to create his idea of a fun eclectic independent restaurant. Part table seating, part extensive counter seating with open kitchen, where you might find yourself sitting next to chef Ayers; part take-out. Worth going even just for the creative little pizzas, in my experiences there which were usually lunches.

          Howie's Artisan Pizza: Later arrival than Calafia, but Chicago-born chef Howard Bulka is known locally for his former longtime quiet high-end fine-dining Menlo Park restaurant (Marché). Left a few years ago declaring he really wanted to make pizzas; Howie's resulted. Unassuming, moderately priced, but with classy ingredients, sometimes creative flair. (Bulka actually had to dial back the creativity: his local market rejected some early, wide-ranging, more European-style pizza offerings à-la Chez Panisse Café, though they drew some of us from farther away). At last check there was a regular "corkage" policy, customers welcome to bring in favorite wines for a moderate fee. (Note to R. Lauriston: Not on web site.)

          Beware of Town&Country parking lot (now crowded with expensive cars) at peak times. Best to avoid 12-1 daily lunch crowd and Saturday shopping crowd.

          Currently, SF peninsula is experiencing an invasion of pizzerias based both more and less faithfully on the world's original pizzas in Naples. On California Ave., Terún is an example of the more-faithful school: AVPN certification late 2013, the only restaurant in Palo Alto to earn it:

          1. re: eatzalot

            I don't know why you think I'd care, but Howie's corkage is on their wine list, which is on their web site.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              Thank you, I missed it when I looked. Anyway, $15.

            2. re: eatzalot

              "Yes! Town & Country complex at El Camino and Embarcadero, right across El Camino from the campus!"

              Specifically, across from the Football stadium. So it's a parking lot almost every Saturday starting in late August.

              1. re: 512window

                -- yes, and there are reasons anyway to avoid Saturdays the rest of the year, as I already mentioned. Quite a mob scene at popular shopping times, and at some meal times like weekday lunch.

                But easy enough to park at less-peak times in my experience.

          2. For Mexican I'd recommend Estrellita in Los Altos, just one town over from Palo Alto. They have nice Southern Mexican dishes including their daily specials, moles, and chicken Oaxaca. This is a restaurant that is getting better and better under new ownership.

            For pizza I'd recommend Howie's in the Town and Country plaza. Excellent pies in an individual style (not yet another Neapolitan or New York pizza) with a nice beer and wine selection. I haven't been to the Palo Alto branch of Pizzeria Delfina yet, but if it's as good as the one in San Francisco that would also be a great place to go. Chicago-style pizza like Patxi's (or even a better place like Blue Line) isn't the best use of a visitor's meals here as it's not a strong point of the area.

            For Italian there are two great choices in downtown Palo Alto: Vero and Cafe Renzo. We go to Vero more often but they're both good with different personalities.

            Thai is not a strong point in this area, and seafood is usually better at California places like Mayfield or Lure + Till rather than a specialist restaurant. Indian is great and Amber India is a fine choice, as is Tamarine for Vietnamese.

            For lunch I'll also second the recommendation for Oren's Hummus Shop (for the namesake hummus and their homemade pita; other dishes are more variable). Mediterranean Wraps is another great choice with excellent shwarma.

            Enjoy, and please report back to let us know what you like!


            7 Replies
            1. re: mdg

              Wow - what a nice long list (and so quickly) for us to start with! I had heard about Tacolicious and Pizzeria Delfina when we were in SF last summer, and was aware if these branches on the peninsula. I thank you all for these suggestions, and certainly will report back after our trip, which I am sure will be just the first of several visits per year over the next few years.

              1. re: mdg

                I would say that while the SF Bay Area isn't known nationally for its deep dish - we have excellent deep dish here. Patxi's and Blue Line could stand with the best deep dish in the country.

                Howie's always struck me as solid but unremarkable - but then again it takes a lot to get me into Town & Country as the parking is atrocious. If you do brave it, Tin Pot Creamery does excellent ice cream.

                Thanks for the Italian recs in Palo Alto, I had given up - but you give me hope =)

                1. re: goldangl95

                  If you are already buying a permit to park on campus, just walk on weekends or take the bus to Town and Country. From my office near Hoover tower it is less than a 15 minute walk.

                  Coupa has several locations on campus, and the dining hall n the business school isn't bad.

                  1. re: jsaimd

                    The Coupa in the business school has bottomless mimosas on Saturdays for $12. I haven't indulged, but I've seen people settled in for the duration (and some with outside snacks and even boxed margaritas) It's either slightly disturbing or fun, depending... They have arepas, as does the newish Coupa at the golf course. The Coupa near the library has crepes instead, which I actually prefer. No alcohol there. You can order online, tho, for pick up.

                    1. re: jsaimd

                      I think the OP is just delivering his daughter to Law school, not moving there. One suggestion is to stay at the Sheraton or Westin on El Camino and you can walk to downtown Palo Alto, town and country village and you are across the street from the campus.

                      Coupa cafe in downtown PA also has good Cappucino's and breakfast. They are also opening a blue bottle coffee on Alma, I think across from the train station.

                  2. re: mdg

                    I see that Cafe Renzo has changed its name to Cafe Alto. They say that just the name has changed; management, chef, and staff remain the same.


                    1. re: mdg

                      I noticed this yesterday too, but the restaurant seemed so similar. Was this an effort to restart their yelp karma?

                  3. I live further up on the Peninsula, but I would recommend Crepevine on University Ave. I go to the Burlingame location and it's great for casual dining (order at the counter, food is delivered to your table). Great breakfast, pasta, salads, sandwiches etc.

                    I also like The Fish Market (I go to the one in San Mateo), it's always solid, but basic fare. Somewhat casual but it does have table service.

                    On California St (Ave?) south of University Ave, there is The Counter for burgers. It is a chain but a good one. Basically, you build your own burger from the many choices offered. I doubt they take reservations and it's always busy.

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: alwayshungrygal

                      Different strokes, but ....

                      Crepevine is fine for a casual meal, very much of an "everday" place, but I prefer local standout Palo Alto Creamery, or University Cafe, which are more local and less generic.

                      There is a Fish Market in Palo Alto, but it's far down my interesting list. For fish specifically, Cooke's is very close to campus and much more interesting, or Jonathan's, which is a really down-home southern place.

                      For burgers, I won't reprise my rundown on local burgers, but The Counter is a standout for Incredibly Slow Service. Although they're an OK burger, it's a chain with enough coverage that it should be covered on the "chain" board (there's one in times square). Some of the good burgers are to be had at Nola (which is also a fun spot), Coupa Cafe (although you'll likely end up with the Venezuelan specialties). I don't like Umami (LA chain with teeeeeny burgers), nor Gott's.

                      For Palo Alto Flava (woodside flava, really) I would strongly recommend Village Pub. By "midrange" the previous poster meant "michelin starred", and the atmosphere is one of a kind. Tamerine and Evvia are commonly recommended for the use case you're talking about ("cost not really a barrier"). Mayfield. Terrun for italian (pizza specialist, now VPN certified), Howie's is a regular on our rotation, other rec's upstream are solid (anyone sane upvotes Oren's - casual, tasty).

                      You will really like Flea Street. It gets a little old after 3-4 visits, but in the first few visits it's fresh.

                      I would add Sancho's for counter-style Mexican (I don't love Palo Alto Sol), as well as Reposado (much better food than the board consensus). Quinto Sol I like (RWC), which also opens up some other RWC gems like Vesta and Martin's West. Many people recommend Donato Enoteca but I only like it.

                      The quality of Japanese in the area is VERY high, but not close to campus. If you have a special yen for it, Jin Sho as previously mentioned, Sushi Tomi further south, Sushi Sam's further north, and even random places (I like Naomi, Kampai is OK) are solid. Ramen is of high quality, and izakaya eats.

                      Thai is pitiful. Don't try it. If you _really_ need thai, go to Thai Orchard - the place is doing much better food than their business shows.

                      For "fancy dining" one likes the restaurant at the Rosewood Hotel. In a recent visit, I think they are doing solid 1 star food now, and the atmosphere has warmed up. I love drinks on the patio there, nicely empty at about 4pm gets lively at about 6pm. This is where the venture capitalists hang out so it's a scene.

                      Your main problem is selection. University Ave area has well north of 100 restaurants, and each have their place. California Ave has quite a few, Town & Country, Menlo Park less so, and some places in the "middle of nowhere" (like Flea Street)

                      1. re: bbulkow

                        Reposado, Gravity Wine Bar, Scratch, Palo Alto Creamery: What do these places have in common? Same owner (Rob Fischer), launching independent restaurants in recent years with generally some freshness and originality.

                        1. re: bbulkow

                          Not a fan of Pizzeria Delfina?

                          1. re: macdog

                            Re: delfina: Haint et there yet. It's new.

                            Re: PA Creamery was the first. Somehow, those four places have a great price/performance, and manage to avoid some of the "sysco-ized" food choices.

                            1. re: bbulkow

                              Ate at Delfina. A very worthy addition to the neighborhood, short but sweet menu. Recommended.

                          2. re: bbulkow

                            Different strokes aside, I could only recommend those places I know of. I have not been to anything on your list, as I rarely dine in PA. About 9 years ago I ate at Zbbibo (sp?) but I don't know if it even exists anymore, so my recs are again, based on places further north on the Peninsula that have locations in PA. The OP did say GOOD rather than EXCELLENT, which is a big difference in between. Had he said excellent, I wouldn't have responded at all, not being able to suggest anything that would satisfy.

                            I will definitely refer back to this thread should I have the chance to dine in PA again.

                            1. re: alwayshungrygal

                              ZIbbibo certainly does exist. It doesn't make a lot of "best" lists, but I like it, especially the wood fired mussels, and they have both a decent wine list ( unusual italians ), and very passable classic cocktails (nothing super fancy). It's a big restaurant, three private areas for functions, and open all afternoon, so I've hosted business things there, like sales guys' happy hour. Great last minute "oh sh*t I have to host a party tomorrow" go-to. I might eat there once a year just to keep them in rotation.

                                1. re: jsaimd


                                  On similar-ish note, I ate at Shiok! tonight in MP, this place is much overlooked, including by me bemoaning how much of Menlo Park is "safe italian". It's a really decent place, little traffic, we will be patronizing it more.

                        2. Doppio Zero in Mountain View (on Castro Street) has some of the best authentic Italian pizza in this area. I like Terun and Howie's as well, but IMO, Doppio Zero is better.

                          For Japanese food, my choices would be Gochi, an Izakaya restaurant in Mountain View (the 2nd location opened up there about a year ago) or Sumika, another Izakaya-style restaurant in Los Altos. Both are excellent.

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: codadicarota

                            We really have an embarrassment of pizza at the moment, between DZ, Delfina, Vesta, Howie's, Terrun, NP. Strada also has a wood oven, and we never talk about it. These places are all at such a high level that I wouldn't recommend to someone at Stanford that they should drive all the way to DZ, but instead choose on atmosphere and location. Howie's is super close to campus, Delfina, Terrun, a little farther.

                            1. re: bbulkow

                              Yes, some of the suggestions are pretty far afield from Stanford if the OP wants to stay near there. (Aside from which I would ask codadicarota out of curiosity, why dwell on Doppio Zero, subject also of a current thread on this board -- a place that opened fairly recently, and much as I also like and widely recommend DZ too -- but not also mention Napoletana Pizzeria, given that Napoletana is much longer established, is more or less the explicit inspiration for both DZ and Terun, has gotten more reports on this board, and is a mile closer to Stanford besides? A recent lunch at Napoletana was a reminder of why the newer local AVPN aspirant pizzerias looked to it as their example.)

                              1. re: eatzalot

                                The atmosphere of Napoletana is quite different from all the others. I represent it to friends as the "pizza nazi" place, where there's one guy making the perfect pizza, and they close the restaurant when he's not available. It has fewer tables (what, 9 plus the bar?), and only a few other dishes. There's a certain glory to the NP thing, but all of the other places I consider more "general purpose". At Delfina the mussels really blew us away; I wouldn't expect that (ever) from NP.

                                1. re: bbulkow

                                  Agreed, the pizzas (and the proprietor's passion -- it's good to talk to him and learn about it when NP isn't too busy -- that's very natural for small groups at the counter seats right in front of his work area) are the point at NP. In the most recent of my 40-plus visits there (last week), we made a very satisfactory salad choice (with arugula IIRC); those all-made-in-Italy desserts are always novel; some of the pasta dishes have shown class -- but it's really about the pizza. (Oh, and Kostas finally got that La Marzana espresso machine he has avowedly lusted after.)

                                  But how much the ambience and menu range matter at all varies with the customer. Most everyone I've eaten with at NP was comfortable with the layout, focused on the pizzas, and wouldn't have bothered with any wider menu even if it were available. To us, Napoletana is just the first thought of where to get a true Neapolitan-style pizza in Santa Clara County.

                                  In its part of the Bay Area, Cucina Venti and Frankie Johnny and Luigi Too have long been available for general Italian or Ital-American menus respectively. And the context I addressed here on CH was someone mentioning specifically the strict-Neapolitan _pizza_ at a couple of newer local pizzerias (DZ, Terún) inspired, partly, by Napoletana, but not mentioning the prototype restaurant itself.

                                2. re: eatzalot

                                  I guess it's a matter of personal taste, but personally, I think the pizza at DZ is a smidge better than Napoletana Pizzeria, and I think the restaurant ambience is more comfortable as well. NP is somewhat claustrophobic. DZ also has a better choice of pizzas.

                                  1. re: codadicarota

                                    Personal taste, understood. I didn't know earlier if you'd tried NP or not.

                                    This isn't the Doppio Zero thread (below), and I've only had about 10 visits so far to DZ, not yet sampled all its pizza types (unlike at Napoletana); but it is much too soon for me to make any broad judgments yet. DZ is still in early days, juggling menus etc; its pizza menu only partly overlaps Napoletana's so I found them rather complementary in that respect; ambience seems definitely more restauranty (complete with bar); so far I've found the pizzas somewhat less consistent than NP's within a given type, ordered on different days. (DZ has more pizza cooks and is, again, new. At this stage in is history, NP didn't even have a permanent sign, whereas DZ's owners saw to that before first opening the doors.)