Shop Talk: Olive Garden's future uncertain, Loving Hut closes

Business openings, closings and more

Timothy Adams Chocolates goes pink in a big way, Loving Hut makes way for T4, and the future of Olive Garden in Palo Alto may be uncertain.

OLIVE GARDEN'S FUTURE UNCERTAIN IN PALO ALTO? ... The future may be uncertain for the Olive Garden restaurant in Palo Alto. The Italian dining chain, which has more than 800 locations worldwide, has been a mainstay in Palo Alto for at least 10 years. But next week, the city's Architectural Review Board is tentatively scheduled to review a concept plan that calls for the demolition of the restaurant. In its place is a proposed three-story, mixed-use building that will have both retail and office space, along with 13 residential units on the site that Olive Garden and its large parking lot currently occupies, according to city documents. The new building would replace the single-story restaurant at 2515 El Camino Real. Also included in the plans is underground parking. "It's a very preliminary review," said Margaret Netto, referring to the ARB's activity. Netto, who is the city's Planning Department staff person for the El Camino site, said, "The concept plans are only the beginning of what is a long process. It could take at least nine to 12 months before any construction happens." But Olive Garden corporate spokesperson Jessica Dinon said, "We have no plans to close the Palo Alto Olive Garden." Stay tuned.

NEW 'SECRET' CHOCOLATE SHOP ... A new chocolate shop has opened in downtown Palo Alto, but you have to hunt for it. Why? No sign out front. No way of knowing what's going on inside. Located at 539 Bryant St., it's called Timothy Adams Chocolates. "It's not that we don't want a sign. We'd love one; but the city rejected it," said Timothy Woods, who owns the shop with his partner, Adams Holland. "Our sign was pink and it was too big, according to the city, but we're working on it with them and I'm hoping we'll get our sign up in another month or so." The lack of a sign is exactly what attracted Palo Alto resident Terra Flowers. "I walk past here every day," Flowers said. "I was drawn to what might be inside." Now she's a frequent visitor. "I come here all the time. I have three or four chocolates a day. It doesn't get boring because there's such a variety." Pink is a recurring theme in the shop. After customers pass under the pink awning, they're greeted by a deep pink curtain at the front door. Inside, pink walls engulf the space. Also pink are the boxes for the chocolates and the cups for the candy. Woods, tall, lean and never seen without his leather flat cap on his head, is affable and effervescent. He is easily recognizable as the proprietor since he's always wearing a pink shirt. "I match everything in the shop," he said. "When we first opened, I bought eight pink patterned shirts so I could wear a different one every day." Woods' far-reaching knowledge of chocolate is indisputable. Trained in Amsterdam and Vienna, he makes all his chocolates by hand: "We don't use machines here." Each hand-shaped candy is served in a tiny pewter dish. "There has to be some whimsy in a chocolate shop," Woods noted. "I've even been referred to as the 'Willie Wonka of the 21st century.'" Understandable.

LOVING HUT OUT, BUBBLE TEA IN ... The popular, loud Loving Hut vegan restaurant has closed, and has been replaced by the popular, loud T4, a Taiwanese cafe that specializes in pearl milk or bubble tea. The 1,100-square-foot, 30-seat eatery at 165 University Ave. opened Oct. 28, just one month after the owners of Loving Hut called it quits. T4 serves a variety of teas with tapioca balls for added texture and flavor.

Heard a rumor about your favorite store or business moving out or in, down the block or across town? Daryl Savage will check it out. Email

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2 people like this
Posted by Richard C. Placone
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 17, 2014 at 11:38 am

At lunch last Wednesday with friends, at the Olive Garden, we spoke to the manager on site. He told us that the Olive Garden has a seven year lease on the property and has no intention of giving it up. I think the Weekly reporter would have dug a little deeper in preparing this story. Still, who really knows what is likely to happen. IMHO if the Olive Garden is replaced with the proposed new building, this will be yet anther nail in the coffin of what once was a lovely town. And another family restaurant will become history.

1 person likes this
Posted by Foodie
a resident of Duveneck School
on Nov 17, 2014 at 12:23 pm

Olive Garden is a chain more likely to be in a neighboring town. Why would anyone go there when they can get real Italian food at Osteria on Hamilton Ave for the same price? Osteria has the best pasta in the nation, with roots from Italy.

Yet, I'd rather have Olive Garden stay than bring more traffic into Palo Alto with an office building. And MORE residential units? Stop the madness, City Council.

Like this comment
Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 17, 2014 at 8:47 pm

SteveU is a registered user.

Why can't the Olive Garden be on the ground floor? That is the way they do it in bigger Cities.
Granted, Locations like San Francisco mostly have walk in trade and I don't see why we need to go that far if there is Parking. Days, the parking is mostly for business tenants above. Evenings the restaurant.
The 'right' mix can work without needing Mega Parking

Like this comment
Posted by resident
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 17, 2014 at 9:04 pm

@SteveU - bigger cities have higher density office buildings, from where workers can walk to nearby restaurants that don't have big parking. Restaurants without parking will only work if Palo Alto increases the density of nearby customers (ie jobs and/or housing).

1 person likes this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 17, 2014 at 9:06 pm

> Why would anyone go there when they can get real Italian food at
> Osteria on Hamilton Ave for the same price?

Can Osteria handle it's current patronage and the patronage from Olive Garden? If everyone who decided to listen to this poster's putdown of Olive Garden were to stop going to Olive Garden and start frequenting Osteria--kind of hard to believe that Osteria would be able to handle all of those people.

Also--a lot more parking for downtown.

Like this comment
Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 17, 2014 at 10:24 pm

@Foodie - don't you think Olive Garden complements the Cheesecake Factory?

2 people like this
Posted by Southtown veg
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 17, 2014 at 11:15 pm

NOOOOOOOOO!!!! I LOVED Loving Hut! I would have eaten there every week if it hadn't been on frigging University Avenue where it's just a nightmare to get to. It's so unique and the food was always so delicious. :-( :-( :-( And I always felt full and good after eating there.

I wish they had relocated to Midtown. Or the San Antonio area. I would have eaten there so much more!!!!

Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 18, 2014 at 12:16 am

That Olive Garden stretch of El Camino will be a mess for years. Anybody seen what's going up soon on the other side of the road? 7300 sq ft commercial plus 70 units below market residential. The number of dirt-hauling semis on Oregon Expy, Page Mill, and along El Camino is getting intimidating. Each underground parking installation must be a few hundred truck loads (figuring 18 yards per haul). It can't all be going out to the golf course. At least the new Hilton is almost finished, a mile and a half south next to Hobee's.

Interesting new website -- Web Link -- showing all Palo Alto permit applications.

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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 18, 2014 at 2:33 am

Foodie ... "Why would anyone go there when they can get real Italian food at Osteria on Hamilton Ave for the same price? "

Ugh, are you kidding. Osteria somehow got a great reputation, but every time I have been there I have had to wait a long time to get it, when I do get it the place is so crowded I hope there is never a fire or some emergency because it would be impossible to move. The prices are high and the food, while it can be good is random hit or miss. It's not an environment I like.

I am not in love with Olive Garden, and I have complaints about it as well, but it is a simple place you can get in and out of easily, the prices are OK, there is enough space and the waits are usual fairly brief at almost any time. The big problem I see with Olive Garden are the clueless kids they get to work there.

I don't go to Olive Garden regularly, but I enjoy it when I do, and I have a lot of good memories going there with groups. i would not like to see Osteria go either, a lot of people love that place ... I'm just not one of them. ;-)

But one problem with Olive Garden is parking ... so if the worst happens and they leave and build something new there .... PLEASE MAKE SURE IT HAS ENOUGH OR EVEN EXCESS PARKING! When is Palo Alto going to get it about building parking or making developers put in parking.

I read something somewhere where like 50 or traffic in congested areas is people circiling around for parking. If the parking problem was fixed, much of the traffic problem would be too.

Let have some intelligence brought to bear on our city problems.

Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 18, 2014 at 4:48 am

@CPA, when we finally get driverless cars, we can just let them circle around while we eat.

2 people like this
Posted by downtown resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 8, 2016 at 5:02 pm

We need more vegan options in downtown Palo Alto!! It's sad-- we have no real variety for vegetarians and vegans.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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