Food & Drink


Best Bagel: Izzy’s Brooklyn Bagels

Bagel

There’s a reason why on certain days, Izzy’s Brooklyn Bagels has a line stretching from the counter to the door. Its bagel selection ranges from the traditional (sesame, poppy seed) to the slightly whimsical (jalapeño, sun-dried tomato) and its choice of spreads includes flavors such as dijon garlic, Mexican salsa and Belgian orange chocolate. While bagels remain its popular staple, Izzy’s also offers salads, pizzas and a wide and kosher selection of doughy goods, including knishes, pastries, babkas and challahs.
477 S. California Ave., Palo Alto, 650-329-0700; izzysbrooklynbagels.com


Best Bakery/Desserts: Prolific Oven

Bakery/Desserts

It’s birthday month at the office: Who can resist the chocolate orange almond, the chocolate on chocolate or the carrot cake from Prolific Oven? The extensive menu, all made in-house daily, includes everything from classic French pastries (think Napoleons) to their “Ettie” cookie, made with ground almonds, orange peel and chocolate chips. There’s nothing ordinaire about their cakes, with American-style (tuxedo, pineapple banana), French-style wonders (amaretto cream) and cheesecakes (pumpkin, tiramisu) to choose from. Recently added is the gluten-free blueberry cream: Prolific can even make gluten-free look (and taste) scrumptious.
550 Waverley St., Palo Alto, 650-326-8485; prolificoven.com


Best BBQ: Armadillo Willy’s BBQ

BBQ

Though Armadillo Willy’s BBQ in Los Altos has a modern feel — you order at a register, the food is served on metal trays and the red-and-white-checkered table covers are plastic, not cotton — the smoky pulled pork sandwich, burger, spicy peanut coleslaw and beans certainly taste like Texas home-cooking, packed full of mouth-watering flavor. Though BBQ plates are worth the splurge, it’s also possible to eat a tasty dinner for around $10. Family-size orders are also available, which the cheeky menu claims will feed “4 guests or one NFL player!” Started in Cupertino, Armadillo Willy’s has become a local empire, with eight locations in the southern Bay Area and catering services available.
1031 N. San Antonio Road, Los Altos, 650-941-2922; armadillowillys.com

Breakfast

Breakfast is so good at Joanie’s Cafe that they’ve decided to offer it at lunch and dinnertime as well. Choose from omelettes, crepes, scrambles or just plain eggs — all served with hash browns, home fries or fruit. Oh, and don’t forget the pancakes, waffles and French toast. My personal fave: the smoked salmon crepe with two eggs, smoked salmon, shallots, tomato, cream cheese and capers. Kick it up a notch with espresso drinks or a mimosa.
405 S. California Ave., Palo Alto, 650-326-6505; joaniescafepaloalto.com


Best Burgers: Gott’s Roadside

Burgers

Burgers and more burgers are the centerpiece at Gott’s Roadside, Palo Alto Weekly readers’ choice for best burger and best new food/drink establishment. But ahi burgers and turkey patties are available alongside the beefy varieties, as are fish tacos, chicken sandwiches, BLT sandwiches, soups and five salad options. Originating in St. Helena with added locations in Napa and San Francisco’s Ferry Building, Gott’s planted the flag in Palo Alto last year with an expansive, indoor-outdoor venue at Town & Country Village — an ideal spot for post-hiking, post-biking, post-game get-togethers.
65 Town and Country Village, Palo Alto, 650-326-1000; gotts.com

Burrito

Life is certainly burritoful for Chipotle, which has wrapped up its third Best Of award in four years. Known for serving burritos with integrity, Chipotle supports and sustains family farmers, using meat free of antibiotics and added hormones whenever possible. And the food is delicious, filling and affordable. Walk alongside the counter as friendly staff members stuff your flour tortilla with rice (cilantro-lime), beans (black or pinto), meat (grilled chicken, carnitas, barbacoa or steak), guacamole, cheese, salsa and sour cream.
2675 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 650-462-9154; chipotle.com

Deli/Sandwich

Outgoing staff and delicious sandwiches with interesting names (Al Bundy, Going Home For Thanksgiving, Menage A Trois) combined to net Ike’s Place this year’s Best Of award. Nestled in Stanford’s engineering quad, lunch lines were often longer than the wait list for a d.school class. Sadly, despite snagging Best Of, we’ve seen the last of Ike’s Place — at least this one on Stanford campus. Its contract expired in June, and the university’s Residential & Dining Enterprises will fill the space.
ilikeikesplace.com

Dim Sum

Those delectable little pouches of steamed meat and vegetables, the soothing egg custards, the rice balls decorated to look like bunnies — there’s dim sum for every palate at Ming’s Chinese Cuisine and Bar in Palo Alto. Roughly translated as “touch the heart,” the bite-sized edibles were originally crafted as a complement to the more-important habit of sipping tea. Today, the ancient pastime lives on at the popular Baylands restaurant, where dim sum connoisseurs and newbies alike flock to fill their bellies, one delicious piece at a time.
1700 Embarcadero Road, Palo Alto, 650-856-7700; mings.com

Grocery Store

See complete listing for Whole Foods Market under Green Business.


Best Happy Hour: Nola

Happy Hour

For late-afternoon deals on everything from Cajun-inspired bar bites to wine, beer and cocktails, the voters agree — Nola has the best happy hour in Palo Alto (Monday through Friday, 3 to 6 p.m., and 9 p.m. to midnight on Sunday). With multiple bars spread throughout the restaurant, it’s easy to find a drink to enjoy in one of the various seating environments. There’s the indoor bar, which has a cozy and lively atmosphere, with several TVs usually playing sports; the outdoor French Quarter-esque patio is great for larger groups to relax over drinks after a long day; and the upstairs balcony, which looks down into the courtyard and features plenty of private nooks, is perfect for lower-key conversation.
535 Ramona St., Palo Alto, 650-328-2722; nolas.com

Ice Cream/Gelato

It’s a cold world for artisan ice creameries in Palo Alto, with a seemingly endless flow of them opening throughout the city in the past year or two. But Tin Pot Creamery, opened last summer by former Facebook pastry chef Becky Sunseri at Town & Country Village, has already made its sweet mark in a very over-saturated market. With flavors like salted butterscotch, lavender with blueberry swirl and Earl Grey tea, as well as delicious baked-good toppings made by Sunseri herself, Tin Pot consistently sets itself apart. Don’t miss the ice cream sundaes — generous heaps of sweet goodness guaranteed to put you in a dessert coma. (Sunseri also managed to get the Town & Country space zoned to have a clean room in order to make all the organic ice cream in-house in small, creative batches.)
121 Town & Country Village, Palo Alto; 650-327-1715; tinpotcreamery.com

Milkshake

Simply put, there’s nowhere else in Palo Alto like the Palo Alto Creamery Fountain and Grill. Some people might love the old-school diner décor (it’s been there since 1923); others, the classic grilled cheese, burger or giant baked goods. But the Creamery’s claim to fame is easily the milkshakes. Cold and creamy, straight ice cream or malted, the always-generous serving of sweetness is brought to you still in the metal container it was made in — plus one of the restaurant’s signature beveled glasses so you can serve yourself at your own leisure (don’t worry, there’s an extra long spoon, too, to access every last drop inside the tall metal blender cup). It’s hard not to slurp the whole thing down at once. If you’ve never been, drop everything, head to the Creamery, cozy up in a vinyl diner booth and treat yourself.
566 Emerson St., Palo Alto; 650-323-3131; paloaltocreamery.com

New Food/Drink Establishment

See complete listing for Gott’s Roadside under Burgers.

Pizza

While “The Great Pizza Debate” rages on over whether the Big Apple or the Windy City makes the better pie, Palo Alto has made its voice heard by selecting again Patxi’s Chicago Pizza as the best in town. Though admittedly the downtown restaurant — which operates eight other Bay Area locations, and a few others in Denver, Seattle and Santa Barbara — also makes thin-crust pizza, the menu calls the deep dish its “flagship pie.” There is plenty here to please meat-lovers and vegetarians alike, with star ingredients in garlic-fennel sausage, marinated artichoke hearts, pesto and sliced mushrooms. Whether you choose the classic crust or the inch-deep wonder of cheese and toppings (pick me, pick me!), Patxi’s is sure to leave you full and satisfied.
441 Emerson St., Palo Alto, 650-473-9999; patxispizza.com

Produce

Receiving an already opened package of dried mangos as a gift might raise some eyebrows (something this writer experienced), but knowing that it came from Sigona’s Farmers Market makes it more understandable. And wow, so many choices — more than 250 kinds of artisan cheese alone — all fresh, organic and locally grown. The open-air market offers fresh-cut flowers, seasonal olive oils and microbrews and wine, in addition to fabulous fruits and vegetables. It can be hard to resist.
399 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto, 650-368-6993; sigonas.com

Salad

Feel good and eat well at Sprout Café in a convenient, trendy downtown location. Start by selecting salad greens, followed by a choice of six ingredients from a smorgasbord of fruits and veggies, seeds, nuts, crunches and crumbles. Up it to premium status with avocado, kalamata olives, pricier cheeses or ingredients that require a bit more prep time. (Caramelized shallots? Yes, please.) Protein options include chicken, steak, ahi tuna and furikake-crusted tofu. Top it off with a choice of nearly 20 dressings. To stray from the salad route, try Sprout’s signature sandwiches, soups and small bites. Order ahead from the smartphone app to skip the long line — the place is wildly popular among health enthusiasts, vegetarians, working professionals and students.
168 University Ave., Palo Alto, 650-323-7688; cafesprout.com

Seafood

See complete listing for Sam’s Chowder House under New Restaurant.


Best Steak: Sundance the Steakhouse

Steak

Under a photo of Babe Ruth hugging longtime teammate Lou Gehrig, we sliced into our aged New York Strip steaks, releasing tantalizing juices and the promising smell of a soul-satisfying dinner. Sundance the Steakhouse — at once exquisitely sophisticated and comfortably folksy, with its signed baseballs and boxers’ gloves encased in glass on the dark wooden walls — boasts slow-roasted prime rib, stylish salads, a range of seafood and poultry offerings and, of course, aged U.S.D.A. Prime steaks. The Babe, known for his appetite for steak (among, er, other things), would be proud.
1921 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 650-321-6798; sundancethesteakhouse.com

Takeout

Su Hong Anyone who lives in the area and has never had Su Hong’s locally world famous general’s chicken, potstickers or dry sautéed string beans is committing a major culinary sin. That’s a slight exaggeration, but not every city has quality Chinese takeout like Su Hong’s. For those who get home late from work, are too tired to make dinner for the family or just want to treat themselves to some deep-fried, sizzling goodness, Su Hong is just a phone call away.
4256 El Camino Real, Palo Alto; 650-493-3836; paloaltosuhongeatery.com

Yogurt

What do you do with Yogurtland’s choice of 16 dessert-inspired flavors? Try almost all of them until you realize you really did fill that cup that seemed so absurdly large at first. The perils of self-serve. At 39 cents per ounce, Yogurtland hits the sweet spot between affordable and delicious. Real flavors and real ingredients distinguish its taste, while fresh cut fruit (yes, really, no bags here) sets its toppings apart from competitors. Yogurtland keeps it real by changing out two or three of the flavors every week and a half, with new arrivals often united by a common theme.
494 University Ave., Palo Alto, 650-326-3264; yogurt-land.com