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Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (Restaurants)

Ambience

When a fellow asks for a dinner suggestion, a good response would be: "Get him to the Greek" -- restaurant, that is. Popular Palo Alto eatery Evvia Estiatorio has earned accolades in many areas but especially shines in ambience, thanks to its friendly staff, linen-lined tables and open kitchen with a big wood-burning fireplace. Readers gave a close second place to St. Michael's Alley in this category. 420 Emerson St., Palo Alto; 650-326-0983.

California Cuisine

Fresh fare, fast service and a menu as eclectic as the Golden State have turned Calafia Cafe & Market A Go Go into a favorite food stop. Chef Charlie Ayers understands California cuisine better than most, having also cooked at Google and for the Grateful Dead. Dishes here include many organic vegetables, salmon, pork tacos and curry chicken. St. Michael's Alley again earned a close second place. 855 El Camino Real, Suite #130, Palo Alto; 650-322-9200.

Chinese Restaurant

At Chef Chu's, diners can order such timeless favorites as Mongolian beef, Kung Pao chicken and chow mein. But also hidden on the huge menu are delicacies not found at every neighborhood Chinese restaurant -- Imperial Shark Fin Soup or Eight-Treasure Squab, anyone? It's this commitment to Chinese cuisine at its best that has made Chef Chu's a favorite for Peninsula residents. A close second: Su Hong in Palo Alto. 1067 N. San Antonio Road, Los Altos; 650-948-2696.

Cocktail Lounge

"Cocktail" star Tom Cruise never served beverages half as good as those you'll find at La Bodeguita del Medio. The Cuban bar/restaurant on California Avenue is the top spot in town to grab a stiff drink, according to "Best Of" voters. La Bodeguita serves an array of unusual cocktails, including its uber-popular mojitos, Florida Daiquiris and Havana Sunrises. Cruise on by for a taste of Cuba. 463 S. California Ave., Palo Alto; 650-326-7762.

Coffee House

What's not to love about Peet's? From its 1960s Berkeley origins to its current presence in various Bay Area spots and beyond, Peet's has a tradition of offering dark-roasted coffees and scrumptious teas. And with four locations in Palo Alto alone, you're never far from your next caffeine fix. 3904 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, 650-433-0500; 153 Homer Ave., Palo Alto, 650-325-2091; 436 University Ave., Palo Alto, 650-319-0367; 77 Town & Country, Palo Alto, 650-328-4771.

Dining With Kids

For 85 years, Peninsula Creamery Dairy Store & Grill has been serving up scoops, burgers and sandwiches to Palo Alto families who go "Back to the Future" at this authentic diner. The Creamery was for years the sole supplier of dairy and ice cream products for Stanford University, high schools, businesses and restaurants. Today, the weekday lunch crowd gathers for sandwiches while viewing soccer on two TVs. 900 High St., Palo Alto; 650-323-3175.

Hall of Fame: First Year

Sometimes, parents just need a break from cooking, and they head to the Palo Alto Creamery for classic '50s-diner fare in a kid-friendly atmosphere. The retro decorations, jukebox and comfortably high noise level have proved entertaining for local youngsters. If the little ones have been especially well-behaved, treat them to some of the candy sold at the register. 566 Emerson St., Palo Alto; 650-323-3131; and 2A Stanford Shopping Center, Stanford; 650-327-3141.

French Restaurant

When asked for a Palo Alto restaurant recommendation, Weekly food writer Dale Bentson regularly suggests Bistro Elan, which has also won Zagat and Michelin Guide praise. Menus evolve, but recent offerings included sauteed halibut; peach and feta salad; Greek salad with lamb meatballs; and lime ice cream. The garden in back invites al fresco dining in the company of fig and lemon trees. 448 S. California Ave., Palo Alto; 650-327-0284.

Fusion

A dinner at the elegant Tamarine is an unhurried affair. How can one rush, when there are so many dishes to savor? Patrons say they love to nosh on the half-moon buns (steamed buns filled with roast pork, cucumber, pickled daikon and hoisin sauce), sip their way through the Ha Long Bay (crab wonton) soup, and dive into the lemongrass sea bass and shaking beef. If you're like other loyal patrons, your meal will be an affair to remember. 546 University Ave., Palo Alto; 650-325-8500.

Indian Restaurant

Owner Vijay Bist opened Amber India 16 years ago, and, he says, "Our chef has been passionate about cooking since day one." This longtime local favorite has since expanded to four locations, but diners can still find great service and delicious Northern, Moghlai and Tandoori Indian dishes at its El Camino Real restaurant. 2290 El Camino Real #9, Mountain View; 650-968-7511.

Hall of Fame: Third Year

Visiting Bollywood stars in search of the authentic flavors of home need look no further than Palo Alto's Darbar Indian Cuisine. Now in its third term in the Hall of Fame, the tiny restaurant draws a big crowd for its popular lunch buffet, which serves up piping-hot dishes from northern and southern India. Favorites include potato fritters, chicken tikka and dal. 129 Lytton Ave., Palo Alto; 650-321-6688.

Italian Restaurant

Don Corleone would have clamored for some true Italian flavor in the States, and he would have found it at Osteria in downtown Palo Alto. The popular restaurant serves mouth-watering traditional Italian fare. Moderate prices, sensible portions and tasty food have helped earn Osteria a reputation as an Italian restaurant good enough for a don. 247 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto; 650-328-5700.

Latin American Restaurant

The top winner here was La Bodeguita del Medio, which was also voted tops for its cocktail lounge. See the full item in that category.

Meal Under $20

Thrifty Pluto's was also singled out for its salads. See the complete listing in the Salad category.

Mediterranean Restaurant

The ever-popular Evvia took the top prize in several categories this year. See the full listing under Ambience.

Mexican Restaurant

Call it a final bow for the Oaxacan Kitchen. The traditional Mexican eatery off California Avenue has been named Best Mexican Restaurant, but the establishment recently announced it will close its doors for good in early September. That means there is still time to pay the business a visit for moles, empanadas, tortas and tostadas. In fact, forget the bow -- call it a standing ovation. 2323 Birch St., Palo Alto; 650-321-8003.

Hall of Fame: First Year

Serving up Puebla-style Mexican dishes, Palo Alto Sol on California Avenue often overflows with patrons. Outdoor seating and a colorful, festive interior offer casual and more formal dining. Diners sip potent margaritas while savoring specialties such as pollo guajillo and camarones mulata, along with dozens of burritos and taco variants. 408 California Ave., Palo Alto; 650-328-8840.

New Restaurant

Any restaurant that has the word "artisan" in its title may spark a smirk from foodies. But Howie's Artisan Pizza, which opened at Town & Country Village last year, has delivered in style. The crust is crispy, the atmosphere hip and stylish, and the service gracious. But it's the toppings that put the "art" in "artisan," including house-made pancetta and broccoli raab. After seven years at Marche in Menlo Park, Chef Howard Bulka gets a red-carpet welcome to Palo Alto. 855 El Camino Real, #60, Palo Alto; 650-327-4992.

Outdoor Dining

Cafe Borrone's European-style plaza and art-covered walls are a good choice, when, to quote the cafe website, "Europe is too far to go for lunch." Loyal fans also love the expanded dinner menu and "coffee that exceeds expectations," according to assistant general manager Jeffrey Frey. Most of the year, there's plenty of sun and ambience outside. If you've got leftover change, you can even toss three coins in the fountain. 1010 El Camino Real, #110, Menlo Park; 650-327-0830.

Restaurant to Splurge

The Fusion category is the place to find a write-up on Tamarine, which was thrice-honored by readers this year; it's also a third-year Hall of Fame resident under Vietnamese Restaurants.

Hall of Fame: First Year

Popular, pricey Evvia is written up in the Ambience category.

Romantic Restaurant

Evvia also took the top readers' prize for Ambience. Bistro Elan came in a close second for Romantic Restaurant.

Hall of Fame: First Year

St. Michael's Alley was not only placed in the Hall of Fame for Romantic Restaurant, but also honored by readers for its Sunday Brunch. A full write-up is in that category.

Solo Dining

There's nothing daunting about tucking into a side booth at Coupa Cafe to enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner solo. The organic, slow-food, Venezuelan fare (accompanied by rich, fair-traded coffee) includes crepes, salads, panini and the specialty arepas, thin cornmeal griddle cakes served as a sandwich. Need a quick pick-me-up rather than a pick-up? Sample the chuao chocolate bonbons, with names like cambur, rio caribe and wild truffle. 538 Ramona St., Palo Alto; 650-322-6872.

Hall of Fame: First Year

Readers have placed Cafe Borrone in the Hall of Fame this year for solo dining. The cafe also won for Best Outdoor Dining; see the full listing there.

Sports Bar

The Old Pro in downtown Palo Alto is kind of the Meryl Streep of the Best Sports Bar category: It always seems to win. It's no wonder, as the night spot offers beer and mixed-drink options, a diverse menu, a plethora of big-screen HD televisions and even a mechanical bull. With sports-team posters and past issues of Sports Illustrated decorating the walls, the Old Pro typifies what a good sports bar is all about. 541 Ramona St., Palo Alto; 650-326-1446.

Steak

For meat eaters there truly is nothing like a great steak. To satisfy their cravings for a rich meal in an old-school steakhouse atmosphere, meat lovers of Palo Alto head to Sundance the Steakhouse for prime rib, sirloin, filet mignon, New York strip and ribeye steaks. If there's still room afterwards, diners can finish the evening with the chocolate torte. 1921 El Camino Real, Palo Alto; 650-321-6798.

Sushi/Japanese

Delightful, delectable and de-lovely sushi rolls (and other dishes) of many flavors and varieties make Miyake once again a top Palo Alto destination for Japanese cuisine. Miyake has both a mellow lunchtime vibe and an after-dark ambience of thumping music and strobe lights. A close second place in the reader poll was Sushi Tomo. 140 University Ave., Palo Alto; 650-387-6506.

Hall of Fame: Third Year

Melt-in-your-mouth nigiri awaits sushi lovers at Fuki Sushi, now in its third year of the Hall of Fame. Fans of the restaurant say that the fish is fresh, the decor elegantly appointed, and the variety of sushi rolls abundant. Favorites include the beef umeshiso age, agadashi tofu and amaebi shrimp. Says one reviewer: "Delicate and delicious." 4119 El Camino Real, Palo Alto; 650-494-9383.

Thai Restaurant

Curries and basil dishes are the thing to order at Thaiphoon, with choices of fish, tofu, chicken and beef, and rice. In addition to standard offerings and Thai iced tea, there are also less typical beverages such as pomegranate lemonade or young coconut juice with ice. And if you like Thai desserts, it's hard to beat the fried banana with coconut ice cream, or sweet sticky rice with fresh mango. 543 Emerson St., Palo Alto; 650-323-7700.

Vegetarian Restaurant

Readers praised Calafia Cafe & Market A Go Go both for its vegetarian and Californian dining. See the full listing under California Cuisine.

Wi-Fi Hotspot

Coupa Cafe won in this category and one other; see the full listing under Solo Dining.

Wine Bar

Oenophiles, or those 21 and over just looking for a place to relax, can try The Wine Room, just off University Avenue. The dimly lit front room has a bar and tables, while a room in back beckons with muted tones, plush couches and comfortable stuffed chairs. There's also a bar menu with marinated olives, roasted almonds, charcuterie and desserts. 520 Ramona St., Palo Alto; 650-322-1292.

— Palo Alto Weekly staff

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