There are many factors aside from the quality of the food served that can influence a customer's dining experience. According to readers of the Palo Alto Weekly, La Bodeguita del Medio ("the little bar in the middle of the block") not only serves up good food and drinks but also sports great decor and ambiance. Enjoy shredded pork and cheese-filled empanadas in the dimly lit, elegant dining room that features Cuban artwork, sip on a glass of aged rum in the small yet cozy bar area furnished with bar stools and low-hanging lights, or unwind with house-made flan on the heated outdoor patio — so even in the colder months, friends and family can gather and
salud! to good food and company in luxurious leisure.
463 S. California Ave., Palo Alto, 650-326-7762; labodeguita.com
You don't have to be a beer connoisseur or a fan of European soccer to have a blast at The Rose & Crown, but it sure helps. The dimly lit downtown bar lights up in excitement for all the big English, Italian and international soccer matches, with spillover crowds taking over the patio to make noise in front of a projection screen. Those who aren't moved by the beautiful game can still find much to love about Rose & Crown, including its generous list of beers, ales, stouts and ciders and a menu brimming with English flavors that you won't find in any other local bar. Come for the soccer and stay for the rarebit, or vice versa, at this year's winner in the best Bar/Lounge category.
547 Emerson St., Palo Alto, 650-327-7673; roseandcrownpa.com
Hall of Fame: First Year
See complete listing for La Bodeguita del Medio under Ambiance.
Light fixtures made from glass milk bottles, stools carved from tree stumps and a bustling kitchen visible from the dining room: Calafia Café has all the marks of a classy yet comfortable West Coast bistro. From the all-vegan, gluten-free Calafia Buddha Bowl to yellow chicken curry served on quinoa and steak tacos with ginger-scallion sauce, the menu has a little something for everyone, including a substantial list of fresh juices and regional wines. During lunch rush, duck into Market A Go-Go next door for a quick sandwich, a salad-bar stop or a tasty, pre-packaged meal.
#130 Town & Country Village, 855 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 650-322-9200; calafiapaloalto.com
With its bilingual menu full of authentic Chinese dishes served in generous portions, Su Hong is a great stop for a casual lunch or dinner. You can find some interesting offerings that you might not have tried before in other places, such as the Crab Meat Lion's Head in Clay Pot. Or you can go for some classic dishes, including the mouth-watering dumplings, General's chicken or Mongolian beef. Either way, Su Hong offers its guests a genuine Chinese experience. Take-out dishes are also very popular, especially for a nice dinner at home or a delicious lunch in the office.
4256 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 650-493-3836; suhongeatery.com
Hall of Fame: First Year
Like the celebrities — including Jeremy Lin and John F. Kennedy Jr. — that smile from photos on its walls, Chef Chu's is a household name, at least for local Chinese-food lovers. The establishment has consistently topped the Best Of Palo Alto (it ascends to the Hall of Fame this year) and Best Of Mountain View categories for Chinese Restaurant. Its extensive menu draws from the cuisines of various regions of China, with signature dishes like fresh Manila clams in black bean sauce and classic Peking duck (four-hour notice required), as well as a full spread of entrees, soups, vegetable and tofu plates, and simpler dishes like chow mein, chow fun and fried rice.
1067 N. San Antonio Road, Los Altos, 650-948-2696; chefchu.com
A great coffee house feels like a cozy home away from home, where you can recharge with a steaming cup of java or catch up with friends over afternoon tea. Inside Philz Coffee, guests are welcomed by a warm atmosphere complete with comfortable nooks, friendly baristas and, of course, the smell of freshly brewed coffee and tea. Try Philz' popular hand-crafted mint mojito iced coffee, garnished with fresh mint leaves; customized blends of coffee including dark, medium and light roasts; or aroma-packed teas such as black, green or yerba mate.
101 Forest Ave., Palo Alto, 650-321-2161; philzcoffee.com
Dining With Kids
See complete listing for Palo Alto Creamery Fountain & Grill under Milkshake.
After a morning of shopping at the Sunday farmers market, take in Pastis — a French restaurant that makes customers say triple yum. Before ordering from the menu, ask for the specials or catch them on the chalk sign that greets guests at the entrance. You can enjoy the warm ambiance and outdoor seating while waiting for a fresh croissant or open-faced croque-monsieur. The only way you'll miss out on the authentic taste is if you arrive on Monday — the one day Pastis is closed during an otherwise delicious week.
447 California Ave., Palo Alto, 650-324-1355; pastispaloalto.com
From delicious meat dishes to abundant vegetarian options, Rangoon Ruby provides its guests with an authentic Burmese experience. Among various tasty starters, you can enjoy the unique flavor of fermented tea leaves with the famous tea leaf salad or the traditional flaky flatbread palata. For the main course, the sesame chicken or basil chili beef served with coconut rice are among regulars' favorites. Don't forget to make reservations as the place is often packed during lunch and dinner times.
445 Emerson St., Palo Alto, 650-323-6543; rangoonruby.com
Hall of Fame: Third Year
Tamarine won the Weekly's best New Restaurant award in the 2003 Best Of competition and has remained a favorite ever since. The contemporary, upscale Vietnamese restaurant is all about the communal act of sharing food, so entrees are served family-style and meant to be mixed, matched and thoroughly enjoyed with six kinds of rices (and soup, and noodles, and salads, and starters). To truly immerse yourself in Vietnamese culture, take in the rotating exhibit of Vietnamese paintings displayed on the restaurant's walls. (These pieces are also for sale, with a portion of the proceeds going to the VA Palo Alto Health Care System.)
546 University Ave., Palo Alto, 650-325-8500; tamarinerestaurant.com
After nibbling on Darbar's crisp samosas, tearing into doughy garlic naan, delighting in its sauces — the spinach-cheese wonder of palak paneer, the mouthwatering butter chicken and the scorching vindaloos, among many others — and sucking up the last of a mango lassi, there almost certainly won't be any room left in your stomach. But you'll have no regrets either, as shown by the multitudes who once again deemed Darbar's south and north Indian cuisines supreme in Palo Alto. A warmly colored dining room, quality service, ample vegetarian options and a lunch buffet on weekdays make Darbar an ideal destination for large parties, dates and solo diners looking for some always piquant, and satisfying, dishes.
129 Lytton Ave., Palo Alto, 650-321-6688; digi-net.ws/cus1163
Terùn is really climbing the ranks. In 2014, the California Avenue Italian restaurant/pizzeria made it into a New York Times "restaurant report." And in 2015, it was named best Italian Restaurant by the prestigious readers of the Palo Alto Weekly. Ter<0x00FA>n was first named Terrone until owner and Italian native Franco Campilongo found out a Canada-based company that owns numerous Italian restaurants in Toronto and two in Los Angeles had trademarked the name "Terroni" (the distinguishing final vowel wasn't different enough, apparently). You'll find homemade pasta, southern Italian entrees and pizzas cooked in a magnificent Marra Forni wood-fired Neapolitan oven. Dine al fresco under strings of bulb lights in a pleasant covered outdoor patio hidden in the back.
448 S. California Ave., Palo Alto, 650-600-8310; terunpizza.com
Latin American Restaurant
Arriba! That's what diners are saying when they taste the inspired cuisine at Reposado in downtown Palo Alto. Reposado bills itself as "Mexican food and tequilas," but it's much more than tacos and cerveza. Reposado offers specialty dishes from enchiladas with duck confit to marinated pork that's slowly been braised in banana leaves. Try the traditional brunch, with offerings such as ceviche, huevos Oaxaquenos or Ibarra French toast — a brioche bread dipped in a chocolatey custard, requeson cheese, fresh berries and piloncillo canela syrup. There's also a late-night bar with a limited menu and dozens of artisanal tequilas.
236 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto, 650-833-3151; reposadorestaurant.com
Hall of Fame: First Year
See complete listing for La Bodeguita del Medio under Ambiance.
Meal Under $20
See complete listing for Asian Box under Takeout.
Evvia Estiatorio offers its guests the perfect combination of delicious Greek dishes and a traditional Hellenic ambiance with a cozy feel — not forgetting the irresistible, at-the-door welcome of the smell of culinary delights soon to be served at your table. From the tasty appetizers (mezethes), including feta cheese and marinated olives, to the moussaka and seafood specialties, Evvia presents a rich and elegant menu, as well as the best of hospitality to its customers. But many agree that the highlight of the menu is the lamb chops. Even if you are not a fan of lamb, these mesquite-grilled chops with olive-oil-roasted potatoes will likely change your mind.
420 Emerson St., Palo Alto, 650-326-0983; evvia.net
Palo Alto Sol owners Hector and Helena Sol "believe that fine food and warm hospitality are central to the life well lived," the restaurant's website states. This sentiment provides a glimpse into the "comida poblana experience" (cuisine from Puebla, a city in central Mexico) the couple strives to provide guests by transporting their taste buds to south of the border with authentic eats like sopas, tacos, burritos and enchiladas. Patrons are also treated to complimentary tortilla chips and a trio of fresh, vibrant salsas. Though their food is traditional Mexican fare, the Sols' hearty dishes have a flavor and richness that is anything but standard.
408 S. California Ave., Palo Alto, 650-328-8840; paloaltosol.biz
For unpretentious yet high-end French food with California flair, head to Zola in downtown Palo Alto. Chef-owner Guillaume Bienaimé, who was born in France but was raised in Palo Alto and Philadelphia, finally opened his own restaurant in September after working at French fine-dining establishment Marché in Menlo Park and then Portola Kitchen, an Italian restaurant in Ladera. The menu is both classic and inventive, driven by the season and locally available produce and meat.
565 Bryant St., Palo Alto, 650-521-0651; zolapa.com
Gorgeous courtyard seating accompanied by elegant Roman statues and a babbling water fountain in the center are just some of the many appealing aspects of Caffe Riace's outdoor dining. Other features include a lovely little Italian car and scooter lined up as part of the authentic decor and the flickering heaters that are perfect for chilly nights. Caffe Riace's rich Italian menu combined with its sophisticated ambiance make it great spot for a romantic date, a night out with family and friends, or a casual business meeting.
200 Sheridan Ave., Palo Alto, 650-328-0407; cafferiace.com
Restaurant to Splurge
See complete listing for Evvia Estiatorio under Mediterranean Restaurant.
Whether it's for cornmeal-encrusted fried calamari, fiesta mussels with tequila or red curry duck breast in curry coconut sauce, lovers and food lovers alike flock to St. Michael's Alley. The popular St. Mike's offers expertly prepared and artfully presented cuisine in an upscale environment without the overwrought bustle of downtown (it's still just blocks from Palo Alto's nightlife). Founded in 1959, it was the Peninsula's first coffee house and attracted a bohemian crowd that included some of rock's luminaries, including Grace Slick and the Grateful Dead. But St. Michael's is all grown up now, with a full bar, outdoor seating and attractive dining room. The original location is also still open for brunch and private functions just down the block on Emerson Street.
140 Homer Ave., Palo Alto, 650-326-2530; stmikes.com
Cafe Borrone continues to be one of the most popular gathering spots in the area — as any visitor to the plaza in front of the cafe and neighboring Kepler's Books can see. Enjoying breakfast, lunch or dinner outside or indoors has been a favorite pastime of area residents for more than 25 years. The restaurant was opened by Roy and Rose Borrone and is now operated by daughter Marina Borrone and her husband, chef Josh Pebbles. In crafting the menu, Josh and Marina focus on choosing sustainable fish and organic meats and supporting local farms. Friday night diners are often treated to the sounds of Clint Baker's Borrone All Stars jazz band. "We absolutely love sharing life with the community," Marina said. "It's family with extended family."
1010 El Camino Real, #110, Menlo Park, 650-327-0830; cafeborrone.com
The award for top sports bar goes to The Dutch Goose, a meeting place for Menlo Park, Palo Alto and Stanford communities for decades. While the Dutch Goose has been in Menlo Park forever, it recently closed to make the restaurant completely ADA compliant and just reopened on May 22. Owner Greg Stern said the Goose took the opportunity to add a pizza oven and started serving pizza in June. The eatery's charming wooden tables, tubes for watching local sports, impressive beer selection and outdoor bar area, The Duck Blind, remain.
3567 Alameda de las Pulgas, Menlo Park, 650-854-3245; dutchgoose.net
Hall of Fame: Fourth Year
Come ready to cheer at The Old Pro. You'll cheer when your favorite sports team takes the lead. You'll cheer when the housemade BBQ chicken pizza and beer tower hit the table. And you'll cheer when your friend rides the mechanical bull a full eight seconds. Throw in group party areas and daily specials, and it's no surprise that this establishment claims Hall of Fame honors.
541 Ramona St., Palo Alto, 650-326-1446; oldpropa.com
Mayfield Bakery & Cafe raises the bar when it comes to Sunday brunch, a secular ritual that revolves around omelets, French toast and juice-driven cocktails. The establishment's finest culinary minds help get your "brunching" on with a simple and rustic menu featuring traditional items like brioche French toast, frittata and buttermilk hotcakes, as well as specialty dishes such as wild king salmon tartine, kale Florentine, and tomato and pancetta pizza. Grab a housemade Bloody Mary and dine under a majestic oak tree strung with lights for the best brunch experience.
Town & Country Village, 855 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 650-853-9200; mayfieldbakery.com
Hall of Fame: Second Year
See complete listing for St. Michael's Alley under Romantic Restaurant.
According to General Manager Lumi Gardner, one factor that makes Fuki Sushi unique is its diverse menu. "Our amazing chefs from Japan, in team with our server staff and management, is how we can execute this menu," Gardner said. In addition to the delicately crafted sushi rolls with well-cooked rice and fresh seafood, some of the most popular items on the menu include the warm and light miso soup and the tasty udon noodles. The dine-in restaurant has varying atmospheres, from a lively sushi bar to casual tables and the private tatami rooms in the back.
4119 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 650-494-9383; fukisushi.com
A pleasant atmosphere offering tasteful decor and lighting, distinct and delectable dishes created by an experienced chef, and fun cocktails supported by a full liquor license — it seems to be a winning recipe, as Thaiphoon takes the best Thai food category for a second year in a row, after taking a break in the Hall of Fame. House specials like braised lamb and roast duckling are supplemented by Thai favorites like pad thai, pad see ew and chicken coconut soup (Tom Yum Kai on the menu). In addition to a suite of curry sauces, ingredients like lemongrass, ginger, peanut sauce, coconut milk, ruby grapefruit and fried tofu create the multifarious flavor palette in Thaiphoon's entrees, soups, salads and desserts.
543 Emerson St., Palo Alto, 650-323-7700; thaiphoonpaloalto.com
If you are looking for an extensive selection of vegetarian and vegan food, you are at the right place. LYFE Kitchen offers plenty of options using fresh and healthy ingredients such as quinoa, tofu and locally grown fruits and vegetables. Even if you are a meat lover, LYFE presents delicious and responsibly raised meats at relatively affordable prices. Just looking for some low-calorie eats? LYFE promises to provide every dish under 600 calories! Whatever you're looking for, LYFE Kitchen is here so you can enjoy great food and feel good at the same time.
167 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto, 650-325-5933; restaurant.lyfekitchen.com