Palo Alto recs?

(Note: split from Palo Alto notes thread)

I’m heading down to PA for the first time in about a year, next Saturday, and the two of us hope to have dinner. Any suggestions for a mid-range place, maybe but not necessarily new, in PA-proper? It would be nice to sit outside, maybe a bit romantic, or at least not too loud. Anything tasty.

Hey. This should probably be a new topic.

I would have a hard time recommending anywhere in Palo Alto right now, especially a discriminating palate.

Here are a few to look at:

  • Flea Street ( MP nearer 280 ). it’s a bit dated, but I have always liked the atmosphere. They make you feel special, and it was “farm to table” in the best Alice Waters tradition before F2T became The Thing We All Must Do. Meal usually starts with a few little veg from the owner / chef’s garden. There is a little bit of outdoor seating, but it’s alongside a road and not particularly great seating.

  • Vesta ( RWC ). This has been my favorite mid-range place for a while. It seems like the typical high-end-pizza kind of place ( a la piazzolio ), but it is a little romantic, does have front and back outdoor seating that’s quite pleasant ( the front in particular ). This is the kind of place where you should probably just get the specials, whatever they are, except for the mushroom toast. Short but well maintained beer & wine list, lush gelato at the end. Historic building but with really good sound isolation. Make a reservation, it’s a long wait between 6pm and 9pm - unless you want to have a drink around the corner at Martin’s West.

  • Zola ( PA ). Misses on several factors - no outdoors, a little too loud - but I do like the food. it actually hits the modern french taste very well, with light cooking, ingrediants, and a very nice wine list. It is a cozy little shoebox.

  • St Michael’s Alley ( PA ). I hate to recommend this place, because I almost never go there. I find the food a bit too middle of the road, but it’s a slam-dunk on the extremely pleasant outdoor seating side. They do run a nice seasonal menu, and whenever I eat off that, I wonder why I don’t go back more often.

  • Donato Enoteca ( RWC ). very northern italian. Although they have a couple of pizzas, come here for the roasted meats and pasta and having a glass of wine outside. Very classy joint, feels like a Napa type place ( in good ways ). Large distance between tables, good outdoors.

  • Mayfield. Often overlooked, but they actually have very good food. The outdoor seating is pleasant but I wouldn’t call it romantic. Inside is cozy, both with booths and a decent counter. Excellent housemade bread. Short but excellent wine by the glass list. Cal-Ital. Might be one of the better compromises.

  • Two other spots: Village Pub ( Portola ) and Madrone ( Rosewood Hotel ). The VP backs up the substantial prices and tony interior with killer food in the Zuni Cafe direction. No outdoor seating. Madrone has amazing views and big windows and a killer deck ( arrive for sunset glass of wine ) but lost its michelin star a year or two ago, food isn’t quite all that, but menu entries are a good read. What’s amazing is the entree prices - like, $25 / $30 - are matched by much less impressive places in downtown PA.

If there’s other places that come up in your research, give a shout…

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Thanks! Mayfield outside seems pleasant enough, and I do like the food there. (Only been for lunch.) I definitely want to sit outdoors. Berkeley in the summer is so cold. I like the French places on California. I think one of them has outdoor seating? It looks like Terun does, too. How do people feel about that place? It’s newish I think.

Terun has a covered patio in the back. So you can’t actually see outside. (ETA: they have some tables on the sidewalk in the front too)

The one time I ate there it was a weekend lunch. Not sure if I got the B team, but the meal was bad- undercooked pizza, unmemorable pasta/ salad. I was embarrassed since we brought friends there. But the place is pretty crowded consistently. So I don’t know if I am not getting something. Perhaps @bbulkow can chime in.

I am lukewarm on Terun. It’s OK, foodwise, but when I look at all the similar fancy pizza places I like most of the other ones better. Vesta is better, Pizza Delfina is better ( VERY nice outdoor seating ), Napolitana is better ( no outdoor seating ), and I even like Howie’s better ( howie’s has very nice seating in both locations, but is a little lower end than most of the other places you mentioned ) . Terun does have decent cocktails ( although Howies’ RWC has cocktails and Pizza Delfina has very good cocktails ). there’s nothing I dislike about it specifically, it’s just not up there.

How about Evvia? from the Kokkari people I believe. Though I am not aware they have outdoor seating. Probably a little bit above mid-range, but that’s Palo Alto where everything is pricey for what you get.

Howie’s in RWC is temporarily closed. There is going to be a major construction project next door, and the restaurant would not be able to remain open with all the noise. The developers are apparently paying Howie compensation while the restaurant is on hiatus.

I second Vesta: I recommend the sausage/leek pizza with mascarpone cheese.

I left out Evvia because of the lack of outdoor seating. It’s pretty pleasant, I usually get the branzino or the mesquite lamb cooked on the massive grill. So — go when you’re in the mood for that kind of thing.

Of the standard pizzas, I like the sausage / honey / jalapeno, but almost always get the special - whatever it is. They always have a primitivo wine by the glass that’s good, and often have green flash on tap when in the mood for hops.

Our event turned out to be an afternoon thing, so we had an early dinner at Pizzeria Delfina. (I’d never been, though I remember going to a different, more formal, restaurant in the same space years ago.) They take reservations before 6PM, so I made one for 5:30 and was glad I did. By the time we were finished lots of people were waiting outside.

The little gem salad with green goddess dressing, avocado and pistachios was delicious. The special pizza with guanciale was good, not the best I’ve ever had. Sitting outside was very nice, though perhaps because of the early hour there were babies everywhere! Or is there some kind of baby boom happening in Palo Alto?

I want to try Vesta. Couldn’t do it this time.

Yes, there are a ton of babies in Palo Alto. I usually eat dinner late ( 8pm+ ) so don’t see them as much.

Baby-people, who still might enjoy eating, like outdoor seating because they don’t think their kids are bothering people as much.

That’s also a patio with a lot of space, so good for strollers.

Sounds like it was a good time!

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold