The Weekly surveyed this year's Best Of winners to see how they are doing in 2021 since California officially reopened on June 15, signaling a small but significant shift toward recovery. Read on to find out what they had to say. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
Are there moments this past year that inspired you throughout this particularly difficult time?
"During the past year, I was incredibly touched by the outreach from the community, especially my long-term customers. They are the reason I was able to keep my doors open. Some of them went so far as to pre-pay for future work to ensure that my business could survive such a challenging time."
Has the pandemic sparked any kind of innovation at your business that will remain in the future?
"Definitely online ordering and curbside pickup."
What was the biggest challenge you faced during the pandemic?
"Having to lay off staff three different times due to changing county and state restrictions.
The county not only shut down indoor dining but banned TVs, bar seating and required tables be spaced apart. ... We were not able to open for nine months last year."
How has 2021 been so far compared to 2020?
"Only very recently have things started to improve a bit. At this rate, it may take the rest of this year for things to approach normalcy."
"So many businesses, unfortunately, were unable to weather the storm of last year. I was one of the lucky ones. I would highly encourage everyone to support small, family-owned businesses because they are the backbone of the economy and shape the communities that we live in."
Best Auto Care
Advanced Motor Works
Founded in 2008, Advanced Motor Works (formerly Dave's Auto Repair) provides everything from basic maintenance and smog checks to complicated repairs. The shop offers EcoPower engine oil and recycles all used fluid, parts and new-parts packaging.
830 E. Charleston Road, Palo Alto, 650-328-6537; advancedmotorworks.com
Integrated Health Care
Integrated Health Care tailors wellness programs specifically targeted to each client's needs using a variety of methods, including chiropractic care, corrective exercises, lifestyle advice, nutritional assessment, spinal and postural screenings and physiotherapy.
480 California Ave., #103, Palo Alto, 650-321-7193; achiropracticwellnesscenter.com
Stanford Chiropractic Center
Stanford Chiropractic Center provides non-invasive pain relief and pain prevention programs aimed at helping patients boost their immune system and achieve physical strength. The center uses a variety of wellness methods, including nutritional advice and corrective exercise programs.
489 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, 650-326-7000; stanfordchiropractic.com
Two businesses tied for first place in this category.
Best Community Services Resource
Second Harvest Foodbank
Founded in 1974, Second Harvest of Silicon Valley is one of the largest food banks in the nation. During the pandemic, the nonprofit made significant operational changes to meet double the need. It went from serving about 270,000 people a month to 500,000 — an 85% increase. Just after the shutdown, the organization distributed 12 million pounds of groceries in one month through a network of more than 300 partners at drive-thru and walk-up sites in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.
Mailing address for donations: 4001 N. First St., San Jose, 408-266-8866; shfb.org.
Best Day Spa
Inspired by the natural hot springs of Tassajara, Watercourse Way is open for outdoor gazebo massages, facials and spa treatments as well as indoor massages and hot tub service. All rooms are equipped with Dyson air purifiers and UV lights. Hand sanitizer stations have been installed throughout the building.
165 Channing Ave., Palo Alto, 650-462-2000; watercourseway.com
Palo Alto Dental Group
Located in the same building where its practice began in 1934, Palo Alto Dental Group has developed life-long relationships with multiple generations of patients and their families. The practice has been consistently voted a Best Of favorite.
511 Byron St., Palo Alto, 650-323-1381; paloaltodentalgroup.com
Best Dry Cleaner
Established in 1962, AJ's Cleaners provides eco-friendly cleaning for everything from shirts and shoes to draperies, bedding and carpets. The family-operated business now offers door-to-door pickup and delivery service, automated billing and 90-day storage at no extra charge. Same day service is available for items dropped off by 10 a.m.
3175 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, 650-494-1550; ajscleaners.com
Best Personal Trainers
Best Pivot to Online Workouts
Oshman Family JCC
The Oshman Family JCC offers a wide menu of heart-pumping options to anyone looking to shed pounds, firm up or simply bask in the post-workout buzz. In addition to the usual gym trappings — dumbbells, treadmills, stationary bikes — the world-class facility offers two swimming pools, basketball courts, a steam room, personal trainers and more than 100 exercise classes, from Zumba and Pilates to cycling and cardio workouts. During the pandemic, the center pivoted to on-demand and livestream exercise classes and opened an outdoor fitness center, which will remain open indefinitely to provide clients more workout options.
3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto, 650-223-8700; paloaltojcc.org
Best Hair Salon
Midtown Hair Studio
Whether looking for a simple haircut or a complete makeover, Midtown Hair Studio is dedicated to making clients look and feel their very best. The full-service beauty salon offers everything from waxing, manicures and makeup applications to Braizilain blowouts and facials.
2786 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, 650-462-9856;
Four Seasons Hotel
Four Seasons Hotel Silicon Valley at East Palo Alto provides a five-star escape for those who want to feel pampered. The hotel has reopened with new health protocols and enhanced business and fitness programs. New amenities include a private fitness suite equipped with a Tonal Machine, Peloton and other equipment for travelers who want to workout in the privacy of a suite; hybrid meeting and virtual event studio options; more outdoor dining space; and work-from-hotel business packages.
2050 University Ave., East Palo Alto, 650-566-1200; fourseasons.com/siliconvalley
La Jolie Nail Spa
La Jolie Nail Spa offers a wide range of mani/pedi options, from the quick "express mani" (clean, shape, buff and polish) to the ultra-luxurious "peppermint pedi" (including a mint oil bath, shea butter massage and paraffin dip).
364 California Ave., Palo Alto, 650-322-8882; yelp.com/biz/la-jolie-nail-spa-palo-alto
Massage Therapy Center
As one of the largest and oldest massage bodywork facilities in California, Massage Therapy Center provides clients a variety of massage therapies, including Swedish, clinical deep tissue and sports trigger point therapy. The center is operating with new safety protocols, including the use of high-quality, medical-grade HEPA air purifiers in all rooms.
368 California Ave., Palo Alto, 650-328-9400; massagetherapypaloalto.com
Best Men's Haircut
The President Barbershop
From the striped barber pole out front to the television in the corner tuned in to news or ESPN, the independently owned President Barbershop has maintained its old-school vibe for multiple decades, drawing customers from throughout the region. Although the shop has temporarily relocated from its longtime home at the President Hotel on University Avenue while the building undergoes renovations, customers can expect the same service and ambiance. The shop is scheduled to move back to 490 University Ave. by fall 2022, according to the shop's Instagram page.
486 Hamilton Ave, Palo Alto, 650-325-5229;
Mid Peninsula Orthodontics/Stacey Q
—Mid Peninsula Orthodontics has provided state-of-the-art orthodontics and dentofacial orthopedics services to the community for more than two decades. Dr. Stacey Quo and her team incorporate SureSmile technology into the process, programming wire adjustments into an off-site robot that can bend wire more precisely than a human hand. From the first consultation to the final day of braces, Quo and her team maintain an upbeat, supportive atmosphere with contests and a kids' club for young patients and a family care program. 965 High St., Palo Alto, 650-328-1600; orthoquo.com
Best Plastic Surgeon
Hessler Plastic Surgery
Hessler Plastic Surgery specializes in the surgical and non-surgical refinement of the face, eyes, nose and neck. Before performing a procedure, Dr. Jill Hessler meets with clients for an in-person or virtual consultation.
320 Lambert Ave., Palo Alto, 650-799-9009; hesslerplasticsurgery.com
Guy Plumbing & Heating
Guy Plumbing & Heating is a fourth-generation family-owned business that provides a wide range of services and operates a full-service showroom specializing in the sales and installation of Toto washlet bidet seats, as well as parts for Hansgrohe, Kohler and Grohe. 1265 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, 650-323-8415; guyplumbing.com
Best Shoe Repair
Midtown Shoe Repair
Midtown Shoe Repair has been a Palo Alto fixture for 40 years. Since 1979, Robert Babekian has meticulously restored shoes, suitcases, purses, zippers — and practically anything made out of leather — in his quaint Midtown workshop.
2796 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, 650-329-8171; midtownshoerepair.com
Best Skin Care
LaBelle Day Spas & Salons
For decades, LaBelle Day Spa and Salon has helped Silicon Valley clients to look and feel their best from head to toe. Moisturizers, serums and oils; treatments for problematic skin conditions such as rosacea; scrubs, toners and eye care -- everything for the face and body is available here with a one-on-one approach. At the height of the pandemic, the spa created customized home service kits designed by individual service providers so that it could meet clients' needs even while being closed.
Two locations: 36 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto, 650-326-8522; Town & Country Village #95, Palo Alto, 650-327-6964; labelledayspas.com
Adobe Animal Hospital
Adobe Animal Hospital provides pets of all varieties a wide range of quality services. The facility, which has a 24-hour intensive care unit, is equipped with an in-house diagnostic laboratory and endoscope and ultrasound machines, among other essential tools to help your furry friends stay healthy and happy. During the pandemic, the hospital launched a "tele-vet" program, which enables clients to visit with a veterinarian for minor health issues via video conferencing from the comfort of their own home. 4470 El Camino Real, Los Altos, 650-948-9661; adobe-animal.com
Best Yoga Studio
YogaSource Palo Alto offers in-person classes as well as more than 40 virtual classes a week, including Vinyasa, Power, Hot 26, Yin, Restorative, Yoga Sculpt, High-intensity interval training Pilates, Core+Strength and Barre.
158 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto, 650-328-9642; yogasource.com
Best Beauty Supply
Mandana Navi got her start in the beauty business in her own kitchen, testing out recipes for skin products and sharing her results with friends before opening Essentique on California Avenue in 2016. Navi's line of hair, skin and body care products are available on site and at Essentique's online store. 2417 Park Blvd., Palo Alto, 650-800-7375; essentique.com
Best Bike Shop
Palo Alto Bicycles
With an array of bicycles, dependable repair and exemplary customer service, Palo Alto Bicycles is homegrown and staffed by people who love bikes just as much as their customers. The shop also sells electric bikes, clothing and other accessories. 171 University Ave., Palo Alto, 650-328-7411; paloaltobicycles.com
Books Inc. offers an array of joys for local bookworms: old classics, new hardcovers, newspapers, magazines and gift ideas galore. Founded in 1851, Books Inc. has weathered wars, depressions, earthquakes and more than one pandemic. During the pandemic, the bookseller pivoted to curbside pickup, online ordering and virtual author events. Town & Country Village, #74, 855 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 650-321-0600; booksinc.net
Best Gift Shop
Best Jewelry Store
Shady Lane has been offering one-of-a-kind pieces ever since artist Alice Deutscher opened the boutique more than four decades ago. The boutique is open for in-store shopping and offers online shopping, curbside pickup as well as shopping by appointment. 325 Sharon Park Drive, Sharon Heights Shopping Center, Menlo Park, 650-321-1099; shadylanegallery.com
Best Children's Store
Cheeky Monkey Toys
Cheeky Monkey Toys is a family-owned shop that specializes in finding "just the right toy" for each customer. Since opening its doors in Menlo Park in 1999, the shop has provided interactive toys designed to stimulate children's minds to generations of local families. When all nonessential businesses were ordered to close in March 2020, Cheeky Monkey Toys quickly pivoted to a direct delivery-only service, dropping off toys within a 10-mile radius of the store. Cheeky Monkey has reopened for in-store shopping and also offers onsite pickup and delivery.
640 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park, 650-328-7975; cheekymonkeytoys.com
?From eye exams to the treatment of ocular disease to contact lens evaluations and fittings, Cambridge Optometry provides full-service eye care. The facility has state-of-the-art equipment, and offers more than 1,000 designer frames.
250 Cambridge Ave. #102, Palo Alto, 650-323-6772; cambridgeoptometry.com.
Best Flower Shop
Since opening in 1903, Mills Florist has provided fresh flower arrangements for special events spanning the past 100 years. The longtime florist also offers balloon bouquets, fine crystal, stuffed animals, dried swags and wreaths, and chocolates and other sweets. According to its website, the shop is open for phone and online delivery orders as well as limited pickup service.
235 University Ave., Palo Alto, 650-326-3443; millsflorist.com
Best Frame Shop
Richard Sumner Frames
Richard Sumner Frames has been serving Palo Alto from its downtown location for more than 30 years. The shop offers a full range of framing services, including hand-painted and closed corner frames. Visiting the showroom is like a trip to a museum -- the shop also features hand-selected framed vintage posters, antique artifacts and Chinese antique country furniture. During the pandemic, the shop expanded its services to include private appointments online.
628 Emerson St., Palo Alto, 650-322-3330; sumnerframes.com
Best Hardware Store
Hassett ACE Hardware
From hardware, tools, key cutting and knife sharpening to phone repair, garden supplies and barbecues, Hassett ACE Hardware in Palo Alto has it all. Family-owned since 1957, Hassett is a Palo Alto institution known for its focus on customer service.
875 Alma St., Palo Alto, 650-327-7222; hassetthardware.com
Best Nursery/Garden Supplies
SummerWinds has everything you'll need to make your garden pop, including compost, potting mix, outdoor decor and tools (like trowels and gloves), bare-root fruit trees, native grasses, veggie plants and flower hats. The center is open for onsite shopping and also offers home delivery and curbside pickup. 725 San Antonio Road, Palo Alto, 650-493-5136; summerwindsnursery.com
Best Pet Store
Pet Food Express
Pet Food Express features everything almost every pet needs: a line of high-quality food, toys, grooming tools, bedding, a self-service bath facility and veterinary services. The California-based chain also facilitates adoption and rescue events. The store is now offering same-day delivery service.
3910 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, 650-856-6666; petfoodexpress.com
Best Shoe Store
Footwear Etc. has been helping customers find comfortable yet stylish shoes since 1986. The shop features Vionic, a podiatrist-created brand for men and women that includes built-in arch supports in all of its shoes.
463 University Ave., Palo Alto, 650-328-1122; footwearetc.com
Best Stationery Store
Letter Perfect has made personalized customer service its trademark. The store offers greeting cards and stationery for all needs, from modest to lavish. But that's not all. The store offers numerous toys, games, leather goods, journals, writing instruments and other special gifts.
384 University Ave., Palo Alto, 650-321-3700; letterperfect.com
Best Women's Apparel
From vacation wardrobes to date night outfits, Cassis has offered customers a wide selection of carefully curated women's clothing, jewelry, footwear and accessories since 1996. The staff is known for its attention to detail and great customer service, according to Yelp reviewers. The shop also offers online shopping.
206 Homer Ave., Palo Alto; 650-327-2997; lpetal.com
Food & Drink
Izzy's Brooklyn Bagels
Izzy's Brooklyn Bagels offers a wide selection of pastries and challah. The stars of the show here, however, are the bagels, which are made fresh every day. Locals know that it's important to come in early so that popular flavors are still available. Even during the early months of the pandemic, customers could be seen waiting (a safe distance apart) outside for their morning bagel after the shop pivoted to curbside service.
477 S. California Ave., Palo Alto, 650-329-0700; 2220-B University Ave., East Palo Alto, 650-322-5700; izzysbrooklynbagels.com
>Douce France features a stunning array of desserts — from bite-sized strawberry tarts to delicate eclairs — all made from fresh ingredients and based on recipes that originated in the Alsace region of France over half a century ago. Menu items can be ordered online. Town & Country Village, 855 El Camino Real #104, Palo Alto, 650-322-3601; cafedoucefrance.com
Nearly all of the Texas-inspired grub at Armadillo Willy's is cooked over an oak-wood fire. This locally owned BBQ joint offers traditional items like ribs and brisket, as well as more adventurous options, like jalapeno-cheese sausage. The restaurant is open for in-person dining, takeout and delivery. 1031 N. San Antonio Road, Los Altos, 650-941-2922; armadillowillys.com
Best Boba Tea
Teaspoon Palo Alto
Teaspoon Palo Alto offers a variety of specialty drink flavors — from toasted marshmallow to a virgin mojito — made with all-natural golden cane sugar. The shop also offers shaved snow desserts that come in flavors like Lemon Tart, Tropical Delight and Afternoon Tea. All items can be ordered online. 2675 Middlefield Road, Suite C, Palo Alto, 650-272-6734; teaspoonlife.com
Breakfast is so good at Joanie's Cafe that the California Avenue restaurant offers it at lunch and dinner as well. Favorite brunch items include pancakes, waffles, French toast and omelets, crepes, scrambles or just plain eggs — all served with hash browns, home fries or fruit. 405 S. California Ave., Palo Alto, 650-326-6505; joaniescafepaloalto.com
Kirk's Steakburgers has been satisfying generations of Palo Alto residents with its famous massive steakburgers grilled over a charcoal flame the same way since the restaurant was founded in 1948. Kirk's still uses the same butcher as the original founders and several second- and third-generation employees work at the popular Stanford-student hangout. Over the years, the restaurant has aimed to make its dining experience second to none by combining contemporary conveniences with its classically cooked foods. The result: Kirk's burgers have become local legends that just keep getting better.
Town & Country Village, 855 El Camino Real #75, Palo Alto, 650-326-6159; kirks-steakburgers.com
Taqueria El Grullense M&G
Taqueria El Grullense M&G is the go-to destination for those craving quick and authentic Mexican food in a no-frills setting. The menu features an extensive choice of fresh-made soups, tacos, burritos, enchiladas, quesadillas, homemade tortillas, combination plates and more. The burrito menu boasts a selection of 14 meat or fish fillings, as well as vegetarian options, topped with your choice of cheese, guacamole, sour cream and red or green sauce. The restaurant also takes phone orders.
3636 El Camino Real, 650- 251-9317; elgrullensepaloalto.com
Best Cocktails To Go
After the pandemic put an end to the traditional happy hour for most of 2020, Calave -- known for its bar bites and happy hours on the patio -- put together an extensive to-go cocktail menu for patrons to enjoy at home (or elsewhere) that includes select wines, craft beer and signature cocktails such as its Mezcal Mule and the House Old Fashion. Its food and cocktail menu is now available for indoor and patio dining as well as for pickup.
299 California Ave. #115, Palo Alto, 650-521-0443; calave.com
Best Deli Sandwiches
Driftwood Deli and Market
With its plethora of possible sandwich combinations, Driftwood Deli & Market draws happy customers from all over the Bay Area. The menu at this old-style family-owned deli includes everything from longtime favorites like its signature "Heaven on Earth" with roast beef, melted Jack, bacon and avocado, to a classic turkey twist with pesto, avocado, artichoke hearts and cheese on a Dutch crunch roll. Driftwood also has daily soup and salad options as well as lunch boxes (including a sandwich, soda, cookie, chips and fruit) to go.
3450 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 650-493-4162; driftwooddeliandmarket.com
Best Dim Sum To Go
When Dumpling City opened in 2017, the owners aimed to provide locals with an authentic handmade Chinese dumpling and dim sum experience. The menu doesn't disappoint: Dumpling City offers a range of traditional, handcrafted dumplings with fillings like pork, chicken, shrimp, lamb and vegetables, steamed buns and wontons. All items are available to order online and in person. Customers can also buy frozen dumplings (in packs of 20) to make at home.
3487 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 650-272-6715; [email protected]
Best Grocery Store
The Market at Edgewood
The Market at Edgewood is a family-owned neighborhood market that offers a large variety of hand-selected produce from local farms and producers, as well as baked goods, a diverse meat section and a dedicated cheese specialist. The market offers curbside pickup and delivery as well as special food events on the patio.
2170 W. Bayshore Road, Palo Alto, 650-665-7590; marketatedgewood.com
Best Ice Cream/Gelato
Rick's Rather Rich Ice Cream
For more than 40 years, Rick's Rather Rich Ice Cream has been churning out small-batch ice cream handmade daily at the back of the shop. The menu boasts more than 48 flavors, including creations such as coffee-molasses chip and rose and white chocolate ginger. Customers can order ahead to pick up ice cream scoops, milkshakes, sundaes and other items to go. It also makes banana, coconut and peanut butter "doggy ice cream" that's safe for canines. The shop is accepting online donations to "help us stay afloat," according to the website.
3946 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, 650-493-6553; ricksicecream.com
Palo Alto Creamery Fountain & Grill
Palo Alto Creamery Fountain & Grill is an old-school diner that has been serving shakes since 1923. Everything here is made from scratch, including the 20-plus milkshake flavors on the menu, which are all served the old-fashioned way in metal mixing cups.
566 Emerson St., Palo Alto, 650-323-3131; paloaltocreamery.com
Best New Food/Drink Establishment
State of Mind Slice House
Brothers Lars and Andrew Smith's State of Mind Slice House, which opened in January, is their ode to the New York City slice shops, with their own West Coast stamp. All of the slow-proofed pizzas are made from organic California flour and topped with made-from-scratch sauces and ingredients like housemade chorizo, chevre, local vegetables and hot honey. During the pandemic when other local pizza shops discontinued serving single slices, the Slice House remained true to concept. Takeout is available. All whole pies also can be ordered as rectangular pan pizzas instead.
3850 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 650-384-6369; stateofmindslicehouse.com
With Neapolitan-style pies baked in a wood-fired oven, Terun provides diners a slice of Italy in Palo Alto. The pizzeria offers a virtually endless choice of creative combinations with toppings like burrata, zucchini, grilled eggplant, artichokes and pears. Terun is offering takeout, delivery and restaurant dining.
448 California Ave., Palo Alto, 650-600-8310; terunpizza.com
Sweetgreen combines a fast-casual service concept with seasonal dining. Its farm-to-table salads include locally sourced lettuce, vegetables, fruit, meat and other toppings. The menu changes five times each year, with the supplying farmers and vendors posted on a list inside the downtown restaurant. Diners can take their pick from signature salads and seasonal combinations or customize their own.
581 Ramona St., Palo Alto, 415-212-7385; sweetgreen.com
Famous for its fresh, direct-from-Israel hummus, flavorful meat skewers and stuffed-to-the-gill pita sandwiches, the menu at Oren's Hummus is full of Israeli staples. Oren's bakes the pita and cuts produce for dishes onsite every morning. Items also are served at Oren's Hummus Express, which focuses on quick, grab-and-go service. Patio dining, takeout and delivery are available.
261 University Ave., Palo Alto, 650-752-6492; orenshummus.com | Oren's Hummus Express, 855 El Camino Real, #162, Palo Alto; 650-563-6736; orenshummusexpress.com
Loyal customers attribute Pinkberry to reigniting the phenomenon for frozen yogurt after the chain made its debut in southern California in 2005. The menu at the Stanford shop features a wide selection of local fresh ingredients served in its yogurt and smoothies. All fresh fruit is hand cut at the store daily. In addition to its long list of frozen yogurt flavors -- pomegranate, pineapple colada, island mango, raspberry white chocolate, strawberry vanilla, peanut butter, peppermint -- Pinkberry recently rolled out cold brew fruit teas for the summer.
Stanford Shopping Center, 180 El Camino Real #14, Palo Alto, 650-322-6030; pinkberry.com
Best California Cuisine
Saint Michael's Alley
Originally founded as a coffeehouse with a bohemian vibe when it opened in 1959, Saint Michael's Alley has since developed into a refined restaurant with upscale ambiance and a menu rooted in local, fresh ingredients that includes entrees such as roasted sea bass, red curry roasted duck breast and pan-roasted halibut. The restaurant is open for takeout, to-go cocktails and patio and dining room dining.
140 Homer Ave., Palo Alto, 650-326-2530; stmikes.com
Best Chinese Restaurant
Since opening in 1970, Chef Chu's specialty dishes, including its homemade potstickers and Beijing duck cooked in a cast-iron Chinese oven, have attracted a who's who list of diners from near and far, including Serena Williams, Steve Young, Justin Bieber and JFK Jr. The restaurant has expanded its services to include drive-thru and ? no-contact delivery ?
1067 N. San Antonio Road, Los Altos, 650-948-2696; chefchu.com
Best Meal Under $20
Ada's may serve up delicious artisan drinks, baked goods, panini and salads all made with organic ingredients, but it is not a typical cafe. It's a nonprofit that trains and employs people with developmental disabilities, giving them space to both work and belong. Since opening in 2014, Ada's has been working to change the face of retail and create meaningful connections between the community and its employees. Even during the pandemic, the cafe has continued to serve as a community hub where loyal customers have stood in line outside offering heartfelt words of hope while picking up their to-go orders. Dine-in and curbside pickup are now available.
Mitchell Park Community Center, 3700 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, 650- 327-2327; adascafe.org.
Best Latin American Restaurant
Most Creative Outdoor Dining Service
Best Curbside Service
Best Takeout for a Romantic Night at Home
La Bodeguita del Medio
With its Cuban-influenced menu, elegant dining room and heated patio, La Bodeguita del Medio has been a Best Of winner in various categories year after year. During the pandemic, the restaurant added a curbside pickup zone, revamped its outdoor dining service and pivoted, for the first time ever, to a takeout menu to provide customers an enjoyable dining experience, whether at home or outside the restaurant. Inspired by the legendary La Bodeguita in Havana, the Palo Alto restaurant offers robust meat dishes, fresh seafood, flavorful vegetarian entrees and specialty cocktails.
463 S. California Ave., Palo Alto, 650-326-7762; labodeguita.com
Best French Restaurant
Zola is owner Guillaume Bienaime's modern take on a classic French bistro. The dishes at this small French restaurant incorporate seasonal produce into every dish on the menu, which includes items like roasted button mushrooms with escargot butter, rillettes de saumon and short rib bourguignon. Meat also is sourced as locally as possible. The restaurant has been on the Michelin Bib Gourmand list, which recognizes eateries that offer excellent food at a reasonable price. In May, Bienaime opened the restaurant's bar companion, Bar Zola, next door.
565 Bryant St., Palo Alto, 650-521-0651; zolapaloalto.com
Best Fusion Restaurant
From ginger-beef pho and wok-flashed rice noodles to steamed wild snapper in banana leaves, Tamarine Restaurant serves thoughtfully crafted Vietnamese cuisine that makes every dish a work of art in this fine dining establishment. Takeout, no-contact delivery and indoor and outdoor dining are available.
546 University Ave., Palo Alto, 650-325-8500; tamarinerestaurant.com
Best Indian Restaurant
— Zareen's is a Michelin Guide restaurant that serves traditional and fusion-style Pakistani and Indian food, including samosas, kebabs and a Punjabi chicken burger with spicy fries made in small batches around the clock. During the coronavirus shutdown, Zareen's also started selling frozen foods to-go and expanded to a third location in Redwood City.
365 S. California Ave., Palo Alto, 650-600-8438; zareensrestaurant.com
Best Italian Restaurant
Cafe Pro Bono
WIth its authentic Italian dishes (grilled polenta, veal piccata, rigatoni mancini), white tablecloths and casual setting, Cafe Pro Bono has been a favorite local dining destination for more than 27 years, even attracting notable guests such as Secretary of State George Shultz and Condoleezza Rice. During the pandemic, the Italian eatery expanded its dining service outdoors. Dine-in, curbside pickup and delivery are available.
2437 Birch St, Palo Alto, 650-326-1626;
Best Kids Menu
After opening in the 1970s, Hobee's quickly evolved into an iconic Silicon Valley chain known for its funky vibe, healthy menu items and ample breakfasts — including its legendary blueberry coffee cake with crumbly streusel topping. The Kids menu, which doubles as a coloring page, includes an array of fun and healthy items, including the cheesy scramble, smiley potatoes, chicken dunkers, fruit dippers and a peanut butter & jelly sandwich. Kids eat free on Wednesdays.
4224 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 650-856-6124; hobees.com
Best Mediterranean Restaurant
See Best Takeout, Food & Drink
Best Mexican Restaurant
Reposado is much more than tacos and cerveza. The eatery offers specialty dishes like marinated pork that's slowly been braised in banana leaves as well as a fabulous array of appetizers, including a plate of four different street tacos. Full plates come with house-made tortillas and offer inventive twists on vegetables, chicken, seafood, steak, pork and tofu. The restaurant also offers dozens of artisanal tequilas and specialty cocktails. Food is available for takeout, pickup and on-site dining.
236 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto, 650-833-3151; reposadorestaurant.com
Best New Restaurant
ROOH Palo Alto
Modern Indian food is the name of the game at Rooh, which opened in January 2020 as the first Peninsula restaurant for owners who run several Indian restaurants in the U.S. and New Delhi. The restaurant's calling card is a 13-foot custom wood-fired grill, smoker and tandoori oven setup that churns out charred tandoori pineapple, roasted eggplant and duck kebabs.
473 University Ave., Palo Alto, 650-800-7090; roohpaloalto.com
Best Place to Order Food on Game Day
The Old Pro
Instantly recognizable by its pennant-covered interior walls, the Old Pro is known for its happy hour deals and eclectic menu, which includes wings, crispy brussel sprouts and garlic Parmesan tater tots. The restaurant is open and menu items are available for takeout and delivery.
541 Ramona St., Palo Alto, 650-326-1446; oldpropa.com
Best Restaurant to Splurge
—Protege is an approachable yet impressive neighborhood restaurant that features New American cuisine. Just nine months after co-owners Dennis Kelly (master sommelier) and Anthony Secviar (chef), alums from the three-Michelin-star The French Laundry in Yountville, opened in Palo Alto in 2018, the restaurant won a Michelin star. Protege is open for patio and dining room service; takeout also is available.
250 California Ave., Palo Alto, 650-494-4181; protegepaloalto.com
Best Seafood Restaurant
The Fish Market
For nearly 43 years, The Fish Market has been an El Camino Real mainstay serving up traditional fare to satisfy the hardiest of sea-faring souls — fish and chips, cioppino and clam chowder — as well as dishes for the edgier palate. Indoor and patio dining are available, as well as takeout and delivery. The restaurant's retail market also has reopened.
3150 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 650-493-9188; thefishmarket.com
Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar
Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar serves prime beef, chops, seafood, chicken and plant-based options, as well as 100 wines by the glass in a contemporary dining room at Stanford Shopping Center. Takeout, delivery and indoor/outdoor dining are available. The restaurant also offers a special carry out menu that features family three-course meals.
180 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 650-329-8457; flemingssteakhouse.com
Best Sunday Brunch
See Best Breakfast, Food & Drink
Best Sushi/Japanese Restaurant
With chefs trained in Japan, Fuki Sushi executes delicately crafted sushi rolls with well-cooked rice and fresh seafood. The restaurant features private tatami rooms and offers takeout and delivery.
4119 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 650-494-9383; fukisushi.com
Best Thai Restaurant
Whether you feel like having it hot or mild, the menu at Thaiphoon can be altered to the spice level of your choice. From chicken coconut soup to fried tofu or braised lamb, there is something for everyone. The restaurant offers dine-in and patio service and takeout.
543 Emerson St., Palo Alto, 650-323-7700; thaiphoononline.net
Best Vegetarian/Vegan Cuisine
True Food Kitchen
The menu at True Food Kitchen draws from an anti-inflammatory diet that emphasizes fruits and vegetables, beans and legumes, whole grains, seafood, healthy fats and other items, which are sourced locally and regularly rotated on the menu with the seasons. The restaurant is open for indoor and patio dining and offers no-contact pickup and delivery.
180 El Camino Real, #1140, Palo Alto, 650-272-5157; truefoodkitchen.com
Arts & Entertainment
Best Museum/Art Gallery Virtual Tour
Cantor Arts Center
When the pandemic forced the Cantor Arts Center to shut down in-person visits, the museum used new technology to put 3D renderings of its extensive art collection on its website, enabling viewers to virtually walk through much of the center's 130,000-square-foot campus, and with the click of a button, zoom in on each piece of art. The museum also pushed out new exhibitions online and offered a large library of artist talks, learning guides and tours virtually led by docents. And now that the museum is fully open, these digital programs have become part of its regular offerings.
328 Lomita Drive, Stanford, 650-723-4177;museum.stanford.edu
Best Virtual Theater Performances
Despite unexpectedly having to shutter overnight on the eve of its 50th season due the pandemic shutdown in early 2020, TheatreWorks never went completely dark. The Tony Award-winning nonprofit theater company pivoted to online programming, creating new works with creative teams across the country and streamed recordings of favorite performances from past seasons. The company plans to safely reopen for in-person performances in the fall.
500 Castro St., Mountain View,650.463.1960; [email protected]
Best Outdoor Escape
Palo Alto Baylands
Bounded by Mountain View, Palo Alto and East Palo Alto, the 1,940-acre Baylands Preserve is one of the largest tracts of undisturbed marshland remaining in the San Francisco Bay. The preserve offers 15 miles of multi-use trails, access to a unique mixture of tidal and freshwater habitats and one of the best areas to bird watch on the west coast.
2775 Embarcadero Road, Palo Alto, 650-617-3156
Best Wi-Fi Hot Spot
With its free Wi-Fi and casual setting, Coupa Café is more than a place that serves organic fair-trade coffee and food. Since opening in 2004, the family-owned business has evolved into a landmark destination for entrepreneurs looking for an informal sit down outside the office: The cafe has served as a testing ground for more than 20 products from local startups. (It is even referenced in the 2010 film "The Social Network.") The cafe offers tableside ordering, curbside pickup and outdoor dining. During the pandemic, it expanded its services and now offers groceries that can be ordered online.
538 Ramona St., Palo Alto, 650-322-6872; coupacafe.com
Best Virtual classes/lecture series
Palo Alto Library
Palo Alto Library has long been recognized as one of the only places where you can study, work or simply scroll your social media feeds for free while also checking out great books, music and movies. Since the pandemic, it's also become the place to find a plethora of online classes, livestream lectures and other digital events. The Library shifted much of its programming online after the shutdown forced it to close its doors. From author talks, origami workshops and filmmaking classes to cooking demonstrations, family yoga hour and dance lessons, the library has something for just about everyone.
City library locations are listed at cityofpaloalto.org/gov/depts/lib/default.asp.
Weekly readers chose the businesses above as Best Of winners in 2021 by casting 20,171 votes in 85 categories. Businesses listed in the Hall of Fame were inducted after topping their categories for five years running. All information was obtained from business owners, company websites and past Weekly coverage. With ever-shifting public health guidelines, some services listed above may be modified. Check with the business before you go.