Restaurants

Best Ambiance: La Bodeguita del Medio

Ambiance

The Cuban-influenced menu at La Bodeguita del Medio will make your taste buds go KAPOW! The California Avenue restaurant offers robust meat dishes, fresh seafood, flavorful vegetarian entrees and specialty cocktails. Inspired by the legendary La Bodeguita in Havana, the Palo Alto location offers neighborhood hospitality combined with a vibrant Cuban influence: The dining room is colorful; the bar serves an extensive selection of wine and rum in a warm setting for socializing; and the patio provides an outdoor setting to enjoy the restaurant's selection of cigars.
463 S. California Avenue, Palo Alto, 650-326-7762; labodeguita.com
Runner-up: Evvia Estiatorio

Bar/Lounge

Calave See Food & Drink: Happy Hour
Runner-up: Antonio's Nut House

California Cuisine

Folk superheroes Grace Slick and Joan Baez were among the first patrons of Saint Michael's Alley when it opened in 1959. Originally a coffee house with a bohemian vibe, the longtime Palo Alto restaurant has since developed a refined, upscale ambiance in its Homer Avenue dining room and Emerson Street annex. Local ingredients from sea scallops to avocado encapsulate a high-quality menu rooted in California cuisine. And don't hesitate to bring your canine sidekick with you — Saint Michael's is dog-friendly and provides a water bowl to every four-legged guest upon arrival.
140 Homer Ave, Palo Alto, 650-326-2530; stmikes.com
Runner-up: Mayfield Bakery & Cafe

Chinese

Following a motto of "treat every day like it is grand opening day," Chef Chu's has won over readers with its homemade potstickers and annual Chinese New Year festivities. Serena Williams, Steve Young, Justin Bieber and JFK Jr. are among the many real-life superheroes to have dined at Chef Chu's since its opening in 1970. The Beijing duck, cooked in an cast iron Chinese oven, is popular among patrons.
1067 N. San Antonio Road, Los Altos, 650-948-2696; chefchu.com
Runner-up: Mandarin Roots

Coffeehouse

You don't need to get bitten by a radioactive spider to feel quick and nimble. Just chug a cup of Philz Coffee, the silky brew that keeps Palo Alto's creative juices flowing. Each Philz blend comes with its own distinct flavor — the hint of caramel in the Tesora, the toffee in Ether, the cardamom in the Tantalizing Turkish — and each goes down smooth, leaving your senses tingling.
101 Forest Ave., Palo Alto, 650-321-2161 |3191 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, 650-251-9798; philzcoffee.com
Runner-up: Coupa Cafe

Dining with Kids

Palo Alto Creamery Fountain & Grill See Food & Drink: Milkshake
Runner-up: Hobee's

French

Guillaume Bienaime's Zola has charmed Palo Alto diners since its opening in 2014. The small, seasonal French restaurant is Bienaime's modern take on a classic French bistro. Current dishes include roasted button mushrooms with "escargot butter," rillettes de saumon and short rib "bourguignon." Fun fact: the restaurant is named for Bienaime's own hero, French author …mile Zola.
565 Bryant St., Palo Alto, 650-521-0651; zolapaloalto.com
Runner-up: Douce France

Fusion

While Marvel Comics featured two Spider-Man supervillians by the name of "Fusion," in the Palo Alto universe, "fusion" means only one thing: the super-elegant and super-delicious cuisine of Tamarine restaurant. Cool and sophisticated, Tamarine's upscale South Asian dishes elevate taste to a whole new level. Wok-fired garlic noodles marry egg noodles with garlic, butter, Parmesan cheese, black pepper and fresh cilantro, while the Kerala-spiced chicken features a creamy tomato sauce and fluffy, deep-fried Bhatura bread. Tamarine's delectable dishes are sure to create a nuclear reaction (dare we say "fusion?") of flavor in your mouth.
546 University Ave., Palo Alto, 650-325-8500; tamarinerestaurant.com
Runner-up: Mandarin Roots

Indian

Mild-mannered Bruce Banner turns into the Hulk when he's angry, but how about when he's only hangry? He'd do well to fill up on good food, and lots of it, to turn that frown upside down. According to Palo Alto Weekly readers, nowhere does Indian quite like Darbar, the unassuming fixture on Lytton Avenue in downtown Palo Alto that's been serving up a lunch buffet of biryani, curries, tandoori, samosas and wickedly good naan for years. There's even more on the menu for dinner. So no matter what state of mind you're in, head on over: Your inner monster will be sated, and you'll leave with a smile.
29 Lytton Ave., Palo Alto, 650-321-6688; digi-net.ws/cus1163/
Runner-up: Zareen's

Best Italian: Italico

Italian

You won't need X-Ray vision to find iTalico among the row of restaurants along California Avenue. This pasta-centric eatery, with its wall of stacked wine bottles, stylish courtyard seating, sophisticated dining room and Italian-California cuisine, is a standout. The excellent service and fluffy gnocchi are among its hallmarks. So whether you're there for a quiet dinner for two or part of a large celebration, iTalico's octopus carpaccio is sure to make you say "Oh my stars and garters!"
341 California Ave., Palo Alto, 650-473-9616; italicorestaurant.com
Runner-up: Il Fornaio

Latin American

La Bodeguita del Medio See Ambiance
Runner-up: Coconuts

Meal Under $20

Crime, as they say, doesn't pay. Neither, for the most part, does crime-fighting. For those superheroes who don't have Bruce Wayne's wealth or Tony Stark's stock portfolio, there's Asian Box, where diners don't need to break the bank to get a fresh and scrumptious meal. Inspired by Vietnamese street food, Asian Box offers diners comforting staples like pho and curry chicken, as well as more eclectic options such as caramel catfish and garlic-and-soy-glazed beef. Pick up one of their "signature boxes" or customize your own by choosing a base, a protein, some toppings and a sauce. Even after all that, you'll still probably have some change left over for a drink.
Town & Country Village #21, 855 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 650-391-9305; asianbox.com
Runner-up: Coupa Cafe

Mediterranean

If you want your stomach to feel like a winner in between intergalactic showdowns, head over to Evvia Estiatorio where the tong-toting kitchen staff is famous for whipping up a Greek feast that's so deliciously powerful, it can even stop Shazam in his tracks. The Michelin Guide has dubbed the restaurant's modern Greek menu the "best Hellenic fare in the entire Bay Area." Its specialties include everything from lamb chops served straight from the mesquite grill to grilled octopus with lemon juice and olive oil to sea bass, served whole.
420 Emerson St., Palo Alto, 650-326-0983; evvia.net
Runner-up: Oren's Hummus

Mexican

Robin: Holy frijoles, Batman! We got a message from the Riddler!
Batman: What's it say, Robin?
Robin: "Riddle me this: What's the best Mexican restaurant in Palo Alto?" He says he's going to flood the city with a tsunami of salsa in 10 minutes if we don't give the right answer!
Batman: Don't worry, Boy Wonder. I know just the place: Palo Alto Sol. Excellent cuisine, authentically prepared: enchiladas tradicionales, rajas Poblanas, burritos de Sonora and more, plus free chips and salsa. And did I mention the killer mixed drinks?
Robin: Holy guacamole, I didn't know you knew so much about Mexican food!
Batman: Heh. That's why I'm Batman, and you, little Robin, are my sidekick.
408 S. California Ave., Palo Alto, 650-328-8840
Runner-up: Reposado

New Restaurant

Not all superheros wear capes. In less than three months, the owners of Protégé have made a name for themselves in Palo Alto, taking home best new restaurant in this year's Best Of competition. Co-owners Dennis Kelly and Anthony Secviar, a former sommelier and chef, respectively, from the three-Michelin-star The French Laundry in Yountville, envisioned a neighborhood restaurant that would serve high-caliber but approachable food, from pillowy ricotta dumplings and brick chicken to a playful dessert cart piled high with pastry chef Eddie Lopez's chocolate chip cookies, pies and canelÈs. ProtÈgÈ is also a training ground for the next generation of culinary superheroes: The restaurant's name reflects the owners' commitment to mentoring other chefs.
250 California Ave., Palo Alto, 650-494-4181; protegepaloalto.com
Runner-up: Taverna

Outdoor Dining

It's hard to enter the outdoor patio at Caffe Riace and not feel like a Roman hero of ancient times. Life-size statues of Roman gods, giant clay pots, a fountain and other ancient-looking Mediterranean artifacts surround this Sicilian-inspired outdoor dining space. Located on Sheridan Avenue, Caffe Riace offers a menu based on the staples of Italian cuisine, namely pasta and meat dishes.
200 Sheridan Ave #102, Palo Alto, 650-328-0407; cafferiace.com
Runner-up: La Bodeguita del Medio

Restaurant to Splurge

Evvia Estiatorio See Mediterranean
Runner-up: Saint Michael's Alley

Romantic Dining

Evvia Estiatorio See Mediterranean
Runner-up: La Bodeguita del Medio

Solo Dining

La Bodeguita del Medio See Ambiance
Runner-up: Coupa Cafe

Seafood

The Fish Market is the place Aquaman (king of the oceans) would go if he felt homesick in Palo Alto. For the rest of us, it's the go-to spot for yummy seafood. The El Camino Real mainstay serves up traditional fare that would satisfy the hardiest of sea-faring souls — fish and chips, cioppino and clam chowder — as well as dishes for the edgier palate. Think misoyaki-glazed Alaskan king salmon, on-trend ahi poke in spicy sesame marinade, and a fish crostini trio of smoked salmon, trout, albacore with artichoke tapenade. The Fish Market has four Bay Area locations as well as Farallon Fisheries, its own local processing and distribution facility.
3150 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 650-493-9188; thefishmarket.com
Runner-up: The Sea by Alexander's Steakhouse

Sports Bar

Even hard-traveling heroes like the Green Lantern and the Green Arrow know that The Old Pro is the best place to watch the big game on the big screen. Instantly recognizable by its pennant-covered interior walls, this sports bar is known for its happy hour deals and eclectic menu, which includes garlic Parmesan tater tots and cook-em-yourself s'mores. It's an ideal spot for a game day get-togethers or a night out with friends. And if the big game isn't exciting enough, you can even take a ride on the famous mechanical bull, if you're feeling lucky.
541 Ramona St., Palo Alto, 650-326-1446; oldpropa.com
Runner-up: The Counter

Steak

Rumor has it that Batman, the Dark Knight, grills steaks to relax. So it stands to reason that Bruce Wayne, wealthy American playboy/philanthropist and a certain someone's alter ego, would appreciate the finest steak that Palo Alto has to offer. Enter: Sundance the Steakhouse. Opened in 1974, this steak-lover's lair serves specially aged prime-graded steak, to-die-for slow-roasted prime rib and the freshest catches from the sea, like New England sea scallops, Scottish salmon, Australian lobster and Chilean sea bass. When it comes to a heroic approach to dining, Sundance's motto says it all: "Fearless in our fish, bold in our beef."
1921 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 650-312-6798; sundancethesteakhouse.com
Runner-up: Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar

Sunday Brunch

When the extraterrestrial Wonder Twins want to enjoy Sunday brunch, they head over to Mayfield Bakery & Cafe, which offers an out-of-this-world menu in a sleek dining room meant for lingering over French toast or steel-cut oatmeal with buttered rum raisins. Based on California-inspired cuisine, the menu is simple and rustic. Chef Mark Sullivan (of the Michelin-starred The Village Pub in Woodside and Spruce in San Francisco) and his culinary team create comforting dishes that are inspired by the season.
Town & Country Village, 855 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 650-853-9200; mayfieldbakery.com
Runner-up: St. Michael's Alley

Sushi/Japanese

Armed with rice bowls and traditional bento boxes, Sushi House has transformed the local sushi scene with its authentic Japanese menu served in a fast-casual setting or as takeout for hard-traveling heroes on the go. Located in Town & Country Village, the restaurant serves everything from traditional sushi rolls to chirashi fish-and-rice bowls (typically served at parties) to chicken and salmon teriyaki, yakitori and udon noodles served with tempura.
158 El Camino Real, Town & Country Village, Palo Alto, 650-321-3453; sushihousepaloalto.com
Runner-up: Kanpai

Thai

Superheroes are discovered every day. Take Indochine for example — this year's Best of Palo Alto choice for Thai restaurant. With dynamic dishes like sweet basil glazed pork ribs and purple curry chicken, eggplant khee moo and Thai silver noodles salad, Indochine in Midtown Palo Alto banishes the villains of bland flavor and boring presentation. Imaginative and deep flavor profiles give diners the kapow! that they're looking for: powerful combinations of spicy and umami, salt and sweet.
2710 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, 650-853-1238; IndochineThai.com
Runner-up: Thaiphoon

Vegetarian/Vegan

Though it's not an exclusively vegan or even vegetarian, LYFE Kitchen is nevertheless a tasty place to grab a bite for those to whom animal products are Kryptonite. LYFE specializes in healthy, organic-and-sustainable-leaning takes on comforting classics. Think black-bean burgers on ciabatta, quinoa crunch bowls and veggie tacos. A separate breakfast-and-brunch menu includes blueberry pancakes, a veggie wrap and the option to make any item on the morning menu dairy- and/or egg-free.
167 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto, 650-325-5933; lyfekitchen.com
Runner-up: True Food Kitchen