Palo Alto Weekly

Cover Story - August 17, 2012

Food & Drink

Bagels

Hall of Fame: Third Year

Fresh pastries, cookies and challahs line the shelves of popular California Avenue shop Izzy's Brooklyn Bagels. But at the end of the day, it's the fresh bagels and the savory and sweet spreads that keep the crowds flowing into Izzy's every morning. The shop's friendly service, efficiency and, above all, quality have made it a perennial favorite and a shoo-in for the Best Of Hall of Fame. 477 S. California Ave., Palo Alto, 650-329-0700; izzysbrooklynbagels.com

Bustling downtown joint House of Bagels gives local bagel lovers plenty to yearn for, from traditional staples like sesame and pumpernickel to jazzier modern staples involving pesto and jalapenos. Whether you like your bagels plain, schmeared up or as part of a fried-egg sandwich, the House of Bagels will get it done with style. That's why our judges have decided to award this New York-style bagel shop this year's gold medal. 526 University Ave., Palo Alto, 650-322-5189

Bakery/desserts

What do you mean I can't do a taste test of my own? As so many of you already know, Prolific Oven rocks the dessert world, from its signature Chocolate Mocha Cake to its seasonal Very Berry Trifle Cake. For those not serving a crowd, there are yummy cake bites, classic cannoli and amazing chocolate eclairs. Check out the website for special-occasion wonders. Sorry, can't write more. It's too close to lunchtime, and I'm heading over to Prolific. 550 Waverley St., Palo Alto, 650-326-8485; prolificoven.com

Breakfast

Early in the morning there is no Palo Alto eatery that hits the spot quite like Joanie's Cafe. The California Avenue hot spot serves up the omelets, crepes and waffles that keep local residents flocking there all hours of the day. The array of egg creations each served with your choice of sides provides fuel for the day and tickles your taste buds all at once. 405 S. California Ave., Palo Alto, 650-326-6505; joaniescafepaloalto.com

Burgers

Hall of Fame: First Year

When it comes to customizable burgers, no place has the diverse options and taste to compete with Hall of Famer The Counter. From beef to veggie and everything in between, The Counter has the options to please even the pickiest of burger connoisseurs. Create a crazy, one-of-a-kind burger with a carnival of toppings or stick to the basics; either way The Counter makes every burger a delight. 369 South California Ave., Palo Alto, 650-321-3900; thecounterburger.com

For 60 years Kirk's Steakburgers has been satisfying generations of Palo Alto residents with juicy burgers bursting with flavor. This popular Stanford-student spot students pleases with its commitment to making burgers from better meat than the competition's. Loaded with toppings and dripping with goodness, Kirk's burgers are local legends that just keep getting better. 855 El Camino Real #75, Palo Alto, 650-326-6159; kirks-steakburgers.com

Burrito

Chipotle defends its title in its fourth consecutive year as a Best of Palo Alto winner, and it's no secret why. The ingredients are fresh; the burritos are customizable and made in front of your eyes; and the restaurant chain champions organic, local, family-farmed ingredients. Weekly readers have proved once again that a burrito with a conscience just tastes better. 2675 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 650-462-9154; chipotle.com

Delicatessen

Village Cheese House continues its reign in the "classic" category. Paly graduate Noah Hiken and his wife, Sarah, owners since 2007 of this 53-year-old Palo Alto institution, have remodeled the shop but retained its most cherished traditions, such as the best-selling Turkey on Dutch Crunch with the Works. Since last fall, an "express register" for grab 'n' go items, phone, catering and Order-Ahead App orders has eased the lunchtime crowding. On a shelf to the right of the entrance are some of the most popular items of the shop's old gourmet lines, including Marie Sharp's Hot Habanero Sauce from Belize, Palo Alto Firefighters' Pepper Sauce, Vermont maple candies and the Cheese House private-label sweets.855 El Camino Real, Suite 157, Palo Alto, 650-326-9251; thevch.com

Gelato/Ice Cream

Hall of Fame: Third Year

Ice-cream champion Rick's Ice Cream offers a wide selection of creamy ice cream that's sure to please even the pickiest eaters. Serving Palo Altans for nearly 40 years, Rick's boasts 48 flavors. Classics such as French vanilla and chocolate lie in heaping tubs beside quirkier offerings like Rose and Kulfi. The shop also carries elaborately decorated ice-cream cakes, cake pops, fudge and handmade waffle cones. 3946 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, 650-493-6553; ricksicecream.com

Cool down with a sweet treat Gelato Classico has a variety of frosty confections. Slightly removed from the chaos of central downtown Palo Alto, this little shop is the perfect place to pop into for a sweet after-dinner treat or a refreshing afternoon snack. Decadent flavors include chocolate hazelnut and intoxicating tiramisu, while lighter fruit fare and classic chocolate and vanilla are also available. 435 Emerson St., Palo Alto, 650-327-1317; caffeclassicofoods.com

Grocery Store

While I tend to like a grocery store that's one-stop shopping, what's the point if what they have isn't what you want? Not the case with Trader Joe's, which prides itself on having an eclectic variety of affordable wines, cheeses, nuts, fresh veggies and fruits, pre-made salads and kosher meat. You may not find the exact brand of cleaning supplies, but you're bound to score something truly interesting for dinner. Don't forget to stop in the corner for free samples: That's how I discovered rosemary-and-raisin crackers. 855 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 650-327-7018; traderjoes.com

Happy Hour

Best Of voters cheer the happy hour at Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, which also won for its savory steaks. See the complete listing under Steak.

Milkshake

Hall of Fame: Second Year

Can't get enough. With locations downtown and at Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto Creamery Fountain & Grill takes the shake as a perpetual favorite. After winning best milkshake five years running, Creamery Fountain & Grill is in its second year as a Hall of Famer. It is not to be confused with Peninsula Creamery, whose owners, the Santana family, are actually landlords of the 566 Emerson St. location, with a stipulation that it remain a '50s-style soda fountain. 566 Emerson St., Palo Alto, 650-323-3131; 2A Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto, 650-327-3141; paloaltocreamery.com

Back to the '50s. Step back in time at Peninsula Creamery at the corner of Channing Avenue and High Street, a family-owned Palo Alto tradition since 1923. Retro dinette tables and chairs sit atop red-and-white checkered linoleum floors; the counter is lined with bowls of 10- and 25-cent candy;and the milkshakes are the best in town. If you can resist the best-selling chocolate or "Old Fashioned" vanilla with chocolate syrup choose from an array of other ice cream flavors. 900 High St., Palo Alto, 650-323-3175; peninsulacreamery.com

New Food/Drink Establishment

There's a reason why Philz Coffee has long enjoyed a cultish following among the hip java-guzzlers in San Francisco and Berkeley. This drip-only mini-chain has enjoyed a small but devout Palo Alto following for years because of its Middlefield Road location, a small cafe with a large courtyard and a wide selection of smooth blends and comforting pastries. With the recent opening of a larger Philz on Forest Avenue, the chain's addictive brews, savory snacks, comfortable sofas, friendly service and abundant outdoor seating make this champion coffee spot a choice destination for the laptop-carrying set. 101 Forest Ave., Palo Alto, 650-321-2161; philzcoffee.com

Pizza

Hall of Fame: Third Year

Popular Menlo Park restaurant Applewood Pizza has certainly earned its place in the "Best Of" Hall of Fame. Applewood has served delicious pizzas to hungry eaters for years, offering specialized pies such as the Florentine (marinated artichokes, mushrooms, bell peppers and fresh tomatoes), the Athens (marinated eggplant, feta cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, capers and green onions) and the Los Altos (BBQ chicken, red onions, cilantro, pesto and fresh tomatoes). Applewood now also offers delivery, and its bar features 37 imported beers. 1001 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, 650-324-3486; applewoodpizza.com

Should famous Chicago-based athletes such as Michael Jordan or Brian Urlacher ever stroll through Palo Alto, they may yearn for some authentic Chicago-style fare. And if pizza is their favorite, Patxi's Chicago Pizza would be their destination. The downtown eatery scored with Best Of voters for its unusual and savory pizza. Patxi's menu has four styles Chicago "stuffed," pan, regular crust and extra-thin crust. Toppings include spinach and mushrooms, aged prosciutto and kalamata olives. And the filling pizza is enough to satisfy the hunger of Bulls and Bears alike. 441 Emerson St., Palo Alto, 650-473-9999; patxispizza.com

Produce

Sigona's Farmer's Market offers a grocery-shopping experience rarely found in today's world of online shopping: an old-fashioned open-air market. At Sigona's you will find the best in organic and local produce, including tree-ripened fruits and veggies and gourmet specialty foods. The family-run business is dedicated to exemplary customer service and supporting family farms. Many shoppers keep coming back for the market's rare and fresh produce, but Sigona's staff also makes finding the perfect meal easy and fun. While Sigona's organic produce is its highlight, it also provides gourmet cheeses, olive oils and fragrant flower arrangements. Above all else, Sigona's aims to provide the best in customer service, often going above and beyond the call of duty for its shoppers. 399 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto, 650-329-1304; sigonas.com

Salad

The menu full of veggies at Sprout Cafe is sure to keep you healthy and eating like a champion. Winner of both the Salad and Meal Under $20 categories, the cafe offers an appealing selection of house-made salads in addition to an extensive build-your-own salad bar featuring such ingredients as seasonal fruits, toasted nuts and seeds, and a variety of seasonal vegetables. Complete with tasty sandwiches, soups and appetizers including egg rolls and pot stickers, Sprout Cafe will help power you up. 168 University Ave., Palo Alto, 650-323-7688; cafesprout.com

Seafood

If your favorite water sport is eating seafood, or you've worked up a big appetite watching those Olympic swimmers and divers, The Fish Market could hit the spot. Readers rallied behind this longtime Palo Alto restaurant that was started in 1976 by a sport fisherman, a boat captain and a gourmet chef. Schools of diners have found their way to this bustling seafood house to dine on chowder, cioppino, fresh boiled seafood and many other options. Features include a restaurant, oyster bar, retail seafood market and mesquite broilers. 3150 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 650-279-9190; thefishmarket.com

Steak

Hall of Fame: Second Year

When area residents feel a hankering for the best cuts of beef money can buy, for years they have been heading to Sundance the Steakhouse. With a variety of perfectly aged steaks, Sundance has earned a reputation as the best. Its USDA Certified-Prime cuts are perfectly matched with an extensive wine collection, and all is enhanced by the ambiance of Sundance's mahogany dining room. When it comes to beef, Sundance the Steakhouse is a Hall of Famer. 1921 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 650-321-6798; sundancethesteakhouse.com

Voters are also huge fans of Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar. As the name indicates, the only cuts of meat you'll find here are USDA certified prime. The juicy cuts combined with a tantalizing selection of sides and one of the Bay Area's best wine selections adds up to an unforgettable dining experience. The two-time winner for Best Steak keeps its customers coming back with delicious bone-in filet mignon and cuts of prime rib. 180 El Camino Real (2 Stanford Shopping Center), Palo Alto, 650-329-8457; flemingssteakhouse.com

Takeout

When you're craving Chinese but are on a schedule, Su Hong answers the call. The take-out extension of the popular Menlo Park eatery offers the classic dishes residents love with the convenience of a separate to-go location. Su Hong also has a location in Palo Alto serving up favorites to take home. Quick, tasty Chinese food makes Su Hong the area's favorite takeout. 630 Menlo Ave., Menlo Park; 650-322-4631; and 4256 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 650-493-4664; suhong.com

Yogurt

When the heat is too much to beat, Fraiche Yogurt serves up a cup of deliciously cold relief. The recently expanded organic-frozen-yogurt shop provides a variety of tasty toppings without compromising nutritional value. Many of its toppings are of the fresh-fruit or crunchy-nut variety, topped with honey or other syrup. Fraiche's yogurt flavors, available both frozen and fresh, include chocolate, plain and dairy-free soy. This yogurt shop also sells oatmeal, baked goods and other coffee-house-style treats. 200 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto, 650-838-9819; fraicheyogurt.com

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