Greater MP / PA restaurant roulette: THE REST

Some of you might remember my efforts to visit all the restaurants in downtown palo alto. As a fan of randomness, I created a list, and every few nights GF and I would roll the dice and head to a restaurant. It took years - including the ignomy of being at the “last restaurant” and while we are dining that a new restaurant opened - it was a lot of fun.

We’ve got a new list, of 65 restaurants, in MP / PA / EPA . Most are outside the downtown core, some are very new, but we’re embarking again, and I’d like a thread to keep my notes.

Items are OFF the list because we’ve been there before. Thus, don’t bother mentioning “have you considered this place” because there’s a 99% chance we have and we’ve already been there. That includes, say, Luttiken’s After 5.

As is common in these roulette systems, there’s a real mixture. Solo Mio in Menlo Park has been there forever, and we just haven’t bothered going there. PokeLove just opened last week.

The taquerias of EPA should be particularly good eating.

Gombei, Menlo Park

This place suprised us pleasantly. The place is CHEAP by current local standards. It runs with a skeleton crew of about 3 people, and serves non-sushi japanese like noodles and teriyaki and yosanabe. Service was QUICK although there were few people there at the time. The meals are simple and healthy and not over the top – like going to a small counter somewhere in Japan, where you wonder – why can’t we have cheap, healthy, good-tasting food in America? I had always heard Gombei mentioned on boards but it sounds like a “local sentimental favorite” behind the times. Now I see they’ve got something going, long term, and we’ll be back when we want something simple, quick, healthy.

Great idea, I’m looking forward to seeing you work through this!

back a yard has regular daily specials, so coordinate your trip accordingly if one of those look good.

Thanks, hyperbowler.

Re: back a yard. Have been there for lunch, but never with GF for dinner. That’s the criteria for making the list. So… familiar with the spot. Several items like that on the list - we worked for a company that ordered lots of Pizza Chicago, but … we’ve never eaten dinner there, so it’s on the list.

Re: plan your trip accordingly. The purpose of Roulette is no planning. When the number comes up, you go, no “oh I wasn’t really in the mood for that” or “the specials don’t look good”. You go anyway, because maybe the preconception was wrong.


HK Restaurant’s strength is in fried rice and fried noodles. Their entrees are meh. They are cheap though. Best fried rice is ‘scallop egg white fried rice’ and best fried noodle is ‘egg/ shrimp/ sauce over wide noodle’. Best means those two dishes are better than the equivalent at Cooking Papa in MV.

Off-topic: They do have their HK credentials with the picture of their hostess with the not-so-popular ex-HK governor Donald Tsang when he dined here while he attended his son’s graduation from some program at Stanford. I should ask them if they will put up a picture if the even-less-popular current HK governor shows up for his daughter’s graduation from some Stanford GSB program…

Its kinda weird for me to say that even though I live around here, I don’t eat around here that much. If anything stands out, I’d be happy to benefit from your efforts.

Avanti Pizza, MP - Alameda de las pulgas ( across from dutch goose )

While we enjoyed this place, the dine-in atmosphere is limited. They do have tables, a few. The joint clearly does most of its business in delivery to the general region of higher-altitude menlo park and VC-landia.

The nicest thing was having a quiet glass of wine afterward at Luttiken’s, which has a large sports screen, outdoor seating, very highly air conditioned indoors ( wonderful cavelike break from the heat ), and wasn’t as HUGELY PACKED as the dutch goose ( which we did poke a nose into but it was like a frat house party ).

Does claim to have a NY pizza, but we got the “artisan” crust. That crust was well made and very thin, auguring well for the NY slice. Taste of everything was good but not great - “FINE”. Crust had good structure but average taste. We got a while pizza involving chicken and pesto so did not taste how the red sauce was spiced, but this pizza itself could have used pizaza - like some fresh basil or just a bit more salt - and the crust was oiled enough to not burn, a plus and minus. Given the distance from our house ( 17 minutes ) we’ll probably not be back. I would recommend it if you order to-go the general area ( including hills-san-carlos and similar ).

Thanks, sck. We have done the same program, in previous years, for downtown PA and downtown RWC, and use this to break the creature-of-habit-what-do-YOU-want-to-eat conundrum at end of day when a bit tired. For better or worse, my reviews and writings are informed by having one or two meals at thousands and thousands of restaurants, which might miss the breadth of a particular restaurant’s offerings, or be fooled by a good or bad day, but getting lots of breadth has its strengths too. Like the Chicken 65 article I wrote for the SJ Metro where I attempted to have all the Chicken 65 in the south bay in two evenings. Kind of fun.

One area that I haven’t quite explored properly is the taquerias, both EPA and RWC. A number of years back there was a thread about RWC taco al pastor crawl (I think), though in general the taquerias are not very well documented, and I have not had much luck in finding good ones.

If you have been to Coconuts in Palo Alto, the food is similar to Back-a-yard- same owners.

I still haven’t tried the burrito that every one seems to get at VAM.

If you go to Yucca de Lac, can you ask them how they got the name and if they have any connections to the defunct Yucca de Lac in Hong Kong? (Obviously, the current menu looks nothing like what I speculate the original would have)

Re: “all the tacos of RWC” - here is Sushi Monster’s old page about tacos, circa about 2010. Since the sushi monster “doesn’t consume pork” ( jewish? other? ), the reference tacos are Carne Asada ( beef ). I’m an al pastor + carnitas man myself, so he and I would have marked difference in personal ranking.

Re taquerias: the big el gruense on ECR near the Whole Foods is a good one, although it blows hot and cold a bit - but they have lots of dishes, like a great wet red burrito, and a cali burrito, and a chimichunga ( deep fried burrito ). ( Sushi Monster and I agree on that one ). Los Gemelos was my super-favorite until it moved to ECR, and the quality seems down but it’s still OK. Post-sushi monster.

If you’re in the area, and want 1200 calories all in one go, I highly recommend Casita Chilanga #2 ( on Middlefield ) and get the Torta with the pork shoulder - El Tesoro The other sandwiches don’t rise to the same heights, this one adds a salty aspect kind of like the pickle on a chik-fil-a.


Next up - Cibo, palo alto.

There’s not much good to say about this one. The food is sysco+. Like an olive garden but a little less annoying, and with MUCH higher prices ( $25 entrees ). They appear to do business with corporate parties, and the alcohol prices are low ( by the glass wine around $7 to $9 ), which explains the taste. If you went to a rubber-chicken dinner that was tolerable by rubber chicken standards, you might be at Cibo. Pastas and salads long on the menu.

I expect the right thing is either a steak or a sandwich that’s hard to mess up - but when I’m in the steak mood I’m usually buying a cut at Draegers ( or even safeway! ) and firing up the home grill.

Service was pleasant, I don’t expect there’s ever much of a wait, and there’s parking… but the food was “will not return”.

Added: coho, coupa cafe stanford golf course, chef zhao (PA).

Falling behind, still.

Got one more- Rice Thai replacement:

Any idea what the quality depends on? Certain nights? Certain staff? I’ve been there years ago for some tacos though haven’t had a chance to go back.

The Casita Chilanga torta is still on my list. I have been trying to get people excited enough to go with me for a while so I just may have to go solo on that one.

Asian Box in T&C. We’ve gotten Asian Box take out before… and it was pleasant to eat there. More healthy than most other options we typically eat, and fast, and not so expensive. No one needs my review of Asian Box, though. It is what it is.

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Re: quality.

With the breadth of their menu, you can see that different meats get grilled at different times and are fresher. In the case of Al Pastor, you actually want the stuff that’s a little crispy and has been on the skewer longer. There’s always a balance in the afternoon about how much to prep, how long people should wait…

Some taquerias are glacial. The three brothers on Univ Ave ( EPA ) takes FOREVER.

Peking Duck, California Ave. Pleasantly surprised. This longstanding restaurant ( I remember it from the early 80’s in it’s ECR location ) seems to still be going strong. Along with the duck - which certianly won’t hold up to the best in beijing - there are a lot of Szechuan specialities. And many dumplings, including XLB, which we did not try. The spice is a bit muted, though. Prices are very reasonable - what you’d expect from a chinese restaurant pre-latest-boom - so you can have a substantial dinner for $25/pp with tax and tip ( no alcohol ). While not “worth a trip” or even worth a detour, if you haven’t been by in a while you might give it another shot.

How do they compare with Da Sichuan on ECR on the Sichuan dishes?

I remember getting Cantonese takeouts 7 years ago from Peking Duck on ECR late on moving night. Cantonese was not their strong point (and obviously I should have thought more clearly given their name, duh).

A year or two later we had a wedding banquet meal at Peking Duck on Cal Ave. Don’t remember much about the meal, however. I think it might be a Shanghai themed meal.

Which regional cuisine are they strongest at?

Taqueria La Cazuela in EPA may be better for those numbered plates on the wall. I tried a number of tacos a couple of months ago and they were so-so. Very cheap though.

re peking duck cuisine. one dinner, three dishes, hard to say. BUT.

da sichuan has lively spices and is more home style, it is simply better. peking duck has a broader more family friendly menu, that is probably the best you can say about it.

there is clearly a shamghai guy involved, with all the buns, but we didn’t try it.

Celia’s. An “old school” tex-mex, several branches. We went to the one one the Atherton / MP border. The food was actually pretty good ( although expensive for what you get ). We got a fajitas special, and a adobado plate, which were similar ( different spices ). I could see the place being good for brunch.

Margeritas are poor by modern standards - but strong :slight_smile: - and cheaper than the high-end places. The Sangria was overly sweet, I found it undrinkable. Reposado, or Quinto Sol, or any of the new-school places ( or even Milagros ) are way-way-way better for drinks ( and atmosphere ).

End result - happier with the food than expected!

Les Bizous is open on University. Said to be French. Though the menu doesn’t read particularly French.

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Tried a new Palo Alto place ( not even on the list ). Aroy Thai, near slider bar and ex-madam-tam’s.

Very unimpressed. Nice digs - palo alto standard - and 4 taps of decent beer - and one fun thing on the menu, northern thai sour sausage - but the food itself was the very bland american form of thai. The menu said “hot” and “medium” on some dishes so I had the hope that they would cook-to-a-spice level.

They did not ask about spice level. I still prefer bankok garden of the miserable downtown PA thai choices, but you have to squarely look them in the eye and make sure they understand you want it spicy.

I would go there and have a beer at the bar, and some of that thai sausage.

If you try this place, you’ll have to rap with them about making it taste like thai food.