Food & Drink

Best Burgers: The Counter


Poland invented them. New York popularized them. And here on the Midpeninsula, Izzy's Brooklyn Bagels is the place to get them. Choose from plain to pumpernickel (and everything in between), nearly 20 cream cheese flavors, toppings of all varieties and some of the best lox this side of the Mississippi. It's not all bagels, either: Izzy makes some killer cookies, challah, knishes and babka, plus special breakfast and lunch items. They cater, too, but there's nothing quite like stopping by the utterly unpretentious mom-and-pop shop for a steaming bagel and a cup of coffee on your way to the office.
477 S. California Ave., Palo Alto, 650-329-0700;


Whether you're craving old-fashioned chocolate chip cookies, freshly baked baguettes, mouthwatering cakes or flaky croissants, The Prolific Oven has something for everyone. The charming bakery and cafe sports an old-school feel with cherry-stained chairs, vintage tables, white hexagonal tiled floors and a prominent glass case filled with rows of fresh-baked cookies, cakes and pastries, prompting endless indecision about which dessert to choose.
550 Waverley St., Palo Alto, 650-326-8485;


Ribs and a car wash, anyone? For high-quality barbecue in a low-brow setting, head to Harold's Ribs at Lozano's Car Wash on El Camino Real in Mountain View. It's a one-man joint, with Harold Willis (a Palo Alto High School graduate whose first-ever job was at the car wash) manning the grill every day of the week except Monday from about 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Willis is best known for his special dry-rubbed pork ribs, but he's also known to make some mean double-marinated tri-tip (usually on Saturdays) and garlic-herb mesquite-smoked chicken. Willis' ribs are rubbed, then seared, then smoked for a few hours with red oak and finally sprinkled with apple juice, which gives the racks a lightly glazed, tantalizing sheen.
2690 El Camino Real, Mountain View, 650-941-0590

Hall of Fame: First Year

Round up yer posse and head on over to Armadillo Willy's for a smokin' good meal. This casual restaurant is another Hall of Famer and for good reason. It's one of the best little barbecues this side of Texas! There are real corn muffins with honey butter, peanut slaw, Texas pulled pork, Santa Maria tri-tip, ribs slathered in any one of several specialty sauces, chicken, fries, burgers and more. For lighter fare, try a salad, from Carolina chopped pork to Chinatown chicken. For the family gathering, there's the Belly Buster family pack and other mammoth meal packages.
1031 N. San Antonio Road, Los Altos, 650-941-2922;


California Avenue brims with lunch and dinner options, but when it comes to breakfast, Joanie's Cafe is the undisputed king — er, queen. The friendly diner fills up faster than a cup of coffee in the morning, with patrons flocking to feast on omelettes, scrambles, blueberry pancakes, crepes, eggs Benedict and famously savory hash browns. Over the past decade, Joanie's has racked up a trove of Best Of awards from our readers. To no one's surprise, it stepped right up and snagged the prize again this year.
405 S. California Ave., Palo Alto, 650-326-6505;


As its menu promises, The Counter is here to challenge the way you think about burgers. It's all about creative construction! You can customize and create your own burger by choosing the type and size of organic meat plus a variety of cheeses, sauces, toppings and buns. If you are overwhelmed by all of the options, you can just go for one of their expert builds and enjoy a skillfully constructed, delicious burger with tasty sides (e.g. sweet potato fries or crispy onion strings) along with cold and creamy milkshakes. Alcoholic options are also available.
369 S. California Ave., Palo Alto, 650-321-3900;

Best Burrito: Sancho's Taqueria


If you're looking for some delightful food at an authentic Mexican restaurant, Sancho's Taqueria is the place. Voted the best in Palo Alto, Sancho's burritos won over local hearts, dethroning Chipotle once again and reclaiming the title after its 2013 victory. In addition to the appetizing burritos, Baja-style fish tacos and shrimp quesadillas are some of the popular dishes among regulars. Stop by Sancho's for any meal of the day and you might be surprised by the wealth of flavor offered within this cozy eatery.
491 Lytton Ave., Palo Alto, 650-322-8226; 2723 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, 650-324-8226;


A well-crafted sandwich with fresh and delicious ingredients can go a long way. Offering phenomenal House Specials with various options of bread rolls and cheese, Driftwood Deli & Market proves to be much more than a convenience store. Some of the popular sandwiches include "Heaven on Earth" with roast beef, melted Jack, bacon and avocado, or turkey with pesto, avocado, artichoke hearts and cheese on Dutch crunch roll. Driftwood also has daily soup and salad options as well as lunch boxes (including sandwich, soda, cookie, chips and fruit) to take out.
3450 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 650-493-4162;

Hall of Fame: Second Year

Village Cheese House opened at Town & Country Village in 1959, long before the shopping center became home to purveyors of small-batch ice cream, sustainably raised meat and equestrian apparel. But the popular sandwich shop is still holding on, ever-popular with student lunch crowds from neighboring Palo Alto High School and Stanford University. Once a dark, funky deli that also sold European cheese and goodies, owner Lindsay Hiken (who bought Village Cheese House from the original owners in 2007) oversaw a physical remodel and menu expansion (quinoa soup, anyone?) several years ago. But the sammies are where it's at: Choose a pre-made or customize your own (just don't forget the famous VCH "original spread" special sauce).
#157 Town & Country Village, 855 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 650-326-9251; (search for "Village Cheese House")

Dim Sum

You look down and see steaming hot dumplings. Chances are, you are about to experience dim sum at Steam. Soon you'll be returning again and again for the soup, fried rice, and, of course, more dumplings. To taste a broader portion of the menu, gather friends and order dozens of dishes to share. That way you can also sample the Mongolian-style chicken and a bite of vegetarian spring roll.
209 University Ave., Palo Alto, 650-322-1888;

Best Grocery Store: Whole Foods Market

Grocery Store

Ever since Whole Foods Market opened its Emerson Street store more than 25 years ago, it has been the go-to place for Palo Altans looking for a healthy lunchtime snack or shopping for seasonal ingredients for the perfect organic feast. While its produce has always drawn applause from local shoppers, the Emerson Street market has also been changing with the times. Today, it offers catering, online ordering for grocery delivery and a growing selection of gluten-free snacks. It's not the cheapest grocery store in town, but according to our readers, it's the best.
744 Emerson St., Palo Alto, 650-326-8676;

Happy Hour

Ramona Street isn't quite Bourbon Street, but buy enough drinks at Nola's happy hour and you might just be transported to the French Quarter. Happy hour runs 3-6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 p.m.-midnight on Sunday (drinks only). Specialty cocktails are $6, well drinks are $5, wines by the glass are $6, pints are $5 and pitchers are $15. Hungry? Don't miss the chicken, biscuits and brew happy-hour special: two buttermilk biscuits, crispy chicken tenders, pickle chips, "Mardi Gras" slaw, house-made bacon jam and gravy — plus a pint of draft beer — all for a cool $10. Chef Tam Sugayan said he came up with the chicken and biscuits after creating his own bacon jam (and the beer just made sense).
535 Ramona St., Palo Alto, 650-328-2722;

Best Ice Cream/Gelato: Tin Pot Creamery

Ice Cream/Gelato

Tin Pot Creamery has the scoop on some irresistible, local frozen treats. Stepping into the pint-sized, small-batch ice cream shop and snagging a scoop — or two — of delicious ice cream is the perfect respite from summertime heat. Owner Becky Sunseri offers 20 flavors of decadent ice cream, all-natural toppings, scrumptious sauces, waffle cones and baked good add-ins, all of which are made in-house with locally grown, organic ingredients. Don't miss the Four Barrel Coffee with Cocoa Nib Toffee, a rich combination of vanilla, coffee, chocolate and small pieces of sweet and crunchy toffee.
#121 Town & Country Village, 855 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 650-327-1715;


If you haven't been to Palo Alto Creamery Fountain & Grill on Emerson Street, you're in for an old-fashioned treat. The diner with red booths and neon lights takes you back in time as the all-day-long "breakfust," nightly dinner specials and fresh-baked goods fill your stomach. But the highlight of the Creamery is, without a doubt, its signature milkshake. Creamy, thick and chunky, the milkshakes come large in size, on-point in texture and heavenly in flavor. Make sure to use the long spoon to reach to the chunks of peanut butter cups or brownie bites at the bottom as you satisfy your sweet tooth.
566 Emerson St., Palo Alto, 650-323-3131;

Best New Food/Drink Establishment: Bare Bowls

New Food/Drink Establishment

Not too long after it opened its doors in the fall of 2014, Bare Bowls managed to conquer Palo Altans' hearts. Voted as the best New Food/Drink Establishment by Weekly readers, Bare Bowls turns the stereotype of unappealing healthy food upside down with its mouthwatering, beautifully handcrafted and ultra-healthy acai bowls. It promises complete transparency on how the staff prepares the bowls and smoothies, using only "real" ingredients and promoting sustainability at its core. Whether you are looking for a fresh breakfast, a healthy dessert or a post-workout snack, these delicious bowls will impress your taste buds while energizing your body and making you feel fresh and healthy.
530 Emerson St., Palo Alto, 650-272-6885;


Thin and crunchy crust combines with soft and chewy ingredients and a warm and flavorful sauce in the fine pizzas of Pizzeria Delfina. Founded in San Francisco, Pizzeria Delfina opened its doors in Palo Alto in April 2014, quickly attracting an abundance of pizza-lovers and gaining Palo Altans' acclaim within its first year. According to the Weekly readers, Delfina's special pizzas are to die for (Panna with Fennel Sausage "Magic Pie" is quite popular). Feel like experimenting? Take Margherita as a base and create your own pizza. The fresh appetizers and the tasty gelato flavors on the menu will also provide a great start and end to your meal.
651 Emerson St., Palo Alto, 650-353-2208;

Best Produce: California Avenue Farmers' Market


For some Palo Altans, Sunday morning is reserved for church. Others flock religiously to the California Avenue Farmers' Market, where a different kind of ritual takes place. Stalls of produce, baked goods, cheeses, nuts, fresh flowers and more line the street at the year-round farmers market, where neighbors and strangers alike greet one another with good cheer and shopping baskets overflow with the spoils of regional farms and kitchens. From apple pie to alstroemeria, persimmons to pistachios, every week is a showcase for nature's bounty. Think of it as an alternative form of worship.
S. California Ave. at El Camino Real, Palo Alto;

Best Salad: Sprout Café


It is no surprise that Palo Alto Weekly readers chose Sprout Café as the best local salad place for five years in a row now. From its signature salads to the build-your-own-salad menu, Sprout has been the local place for Palo Altans when it comes to eating tasty and healthy salads. Not feeling like salad? You can still enjoy a variety of tasty foods, including grilled cheese sandwiches and soups.
168 University Ave., Palo Alto, 650-323-7688;


Food-truck foodies will remember Sam's Chowder House's ChowderMobile, and their wish for the Half Moon Bay restaurant to open a restaurant on this side of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Their got their wish in 2014, with Sam's opening on University Avenue and winning last year's best New Restaurant category. They're back in first place again this year in the Seafood category, offering up enough nautical specialties to fill Davy Jones' locker. Sam's has something for everyone, from a children's menu to happy-hour bar bites and an oyster bar. There are all of the traditionals: clam chowder, lobster rolls, fish and chips, specialties such as seafood gumbo and daily fresh-fish catches. You don't like fish? There's plenty for landlubbers too.
185 University Ave., Palo Alto, 650-614-1177;

Hall of Fame: Third Year

A Palo Alto institution since 1976, The Fish Market offers an expansive menu with something from the sea for everyone. Go raw with sashimi or oysters, fried with five kinds of fish and chips or all out with the East Coast clam bake (lobster, prawns, shrimp, clams, mussels, corn on the cob and potatoes in Old Bay-spiced broth for $29.75). Head to The Fish Market's fish market (inside the restaurant) to pick up fresh fish to cook at home, straight from the company's very own certified seafood facility, Farallon Fisheries, in South San Francisco.
3150 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 650-493-8862;

Best Steak: Sundance The Steakhouse


Sundance The Steakhouse has been a family-owned-and-operated restaurant for more 40 years. The beef that is served ranges from prime-graded steak to slow-roasted prime rib. Seafood is also included on a menu that Sundance describes as having "stood the test of time." This restaurant offers three semi-private rooms that are great spaces for parties. So don't fret; there's nothing at stake when you're eating inside the steakhouse.
1921 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 650-321-6798;


Inspired by Vietnamese street food, Asian Box has quickly blossomed into one of Town & Country Village's most popular hubs for casual dining. Each box is packed with fresh, flavorful ingredients that collide for savory, tangy and occasionally spicy effects. Pick your main dish — whether it's lemongrass-marinated pork, beef glazed in garlic and soy or coconut-curry tofu — add a comforting side of jasmine rice or noodles and throw in your favorite box toppers (crispy shallots, chopped peanuts, pickled vegetables, hot jalape<0x00F1>os), and you have Palo Alto's most popular meal for under $20.
#21 Town & Country Village, 855 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 650-391-9305;


It's looking like a berry good summer because this current hot weather is the perfect time to call for a taste of some frozen yogurt from Pinkberry. Located in 21 countries on five continents in just its first 10 years, Pinkberry has become popular for its distinctive products, outstanding service and inspirational interior design. Whether you're scooping or slurping raspberry white chocolate, strawberry vanilla, peanut butter or peppermint, the yogurt and smoothies both look and taste good. What's more, Pinkberry is a store that values building meaningful connections between staff, customers and the community.
#14 Stanford Shopping Center, 180 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 650-322-6030;

Hall of Fame: Second Year

With its emphasis on healthy yogurts and baked goods, a sleek, modern interior and a giant bar of fair-trade chocolate they use for freshly shaved toppings, it's no wonder Fraiche has become a Palo Alto Weekly Hall of Fame winner. Best-loved for their delicious and nutritious fresh and frozen yogurts made in-house daily and topped with items including fruit compotes and purees, handmade mochi and granola, the cafe also serves traditional and gluten-free treats, a tasty selection of organic egg frittatas and everyone's favorite: Blue Bottle coffee.
200 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto, 650-838-9819;