Rock on, Readers' Choice

Almanac readers name their favorite restaurants, shops and services

Click on pictures to enlarge and see captions.

If you don't feel much like singing the blues and want to head to the sunny side of the street, you won't do wrong by checking out some of our readers' favorite local restaurants, shops and services.

Based on voting by Almanac readers, these are the winners of the Readers' Choice 2011 Awards.


Locals just don't stop believin' in Cafe Borrone, which has won five Readers' Choice Awards: Casual Dining, Dessert, Independent Coffee/Tea House, Place to Meet People, and Live Music. No matter the time of day, the endless line of customers that often extends into the patio area of the cafe is a good indication of its stable popularity. Locals frequent the family-owned cafe for its delicious Taylor Maid coffee and hot sandwiches, or the recently added dinner specials, served from 5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. General manager Marina Borrone, who owns the cafe with husband and chef Josh Pebbles, as well as her parents, remarks that, "Our guests always comment on the vibrant, uplifting energy that our environment offers." The cafe often serves as a stage for Clint Baker and the All Stars, who play New Orleans-style jazz and "who have stirred it up [there for over 20 years," she says. So, whether you're scheduling an interview, or hoping to hang out with friends, Cafe Borrone will not disappoint. 1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park; 650-327-0830


Su Hong has been a Menlo Park favorite since it opened in 1977. No wonder it has been named best Chinese restaurant by our readers for 18 years. Diners love the walnut prawns, rolling lettuce chicken, dry sauteed string bean, and sizzling seafood platter served in white tablecloth dining rooms by a gracious staff. "Most of our employees have been working here for over a decade," says owner Bee King. Su Hong To Go also rates tops with Readers' Choice voters.

Su Hong, 1039 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, 323-6852. Su Hong To Go, 630 Menlo Ave., Menlo Park, 322-4631.


The promising scent of mouthwatering burgers and French fries wafts from the door of Jeffrey's Hamburgers, winner of this year's Best Hamburger and Best Place to Dine with Kids awards. The fun continues even after Daddy takes the T-bird away at Jeffrey's, where the 1950s atmosphere provides the perfect place for families to enjoy their burgers and milkshakes. Although it came to Menlo Park just four years ago, the locals have embraced Jeffrey's Hamburgers and its wide selection of burgers, sides, shakes, and sandwiches. The option to order online is coming soon to the restaurant's website as well. 888 El Camino Real, Menlo Park; 322-1959


The Left Bank is a classic French brasserie with a California twist. Its late summer menu is filled with the bounty of seasonal produce from local farmers, such as sweet peas, corn, stone fruit and berries, says Chef Brendy Monsada. This is the time of year to enjoy a salad nicoise or grilled salmon entree, he adds. In warm weather, diners take to the sidewalk seating. However, the recently remodeled interior is attractive all year round. Regular patrons enjoy stopping in the bar during happy hour for oysters on the half shell and a glass of wine. For a sweet finale, try the profiteroles or fresh fruit clafouti. ==I The Left Bank, 635 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park, 473-6543.


Vegetarians get treated especially well at Darbar Indian Cuisine, where the menu's wealth of non-meat entrees allows spinach, farmer's cheese, garbanzo beans, okra and eggplant to star. Dishes with a South Indian flair include dosas with potatoes. But Darbar's offerings come from both North and South, appealing to both vegetarian and non-vegetarian palates, which means chicken, prawns, lamb, fish, beef and other offerings. A lunch buffet is served up weekdays from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., with dishes changing daily. 129 Lytton Ave., Palo Alto; 321-6688.


"Our staff appreciates romance," says Andy O'Day, general manager of the Village Pub. The Woodside restaurant is once again our readers' favorite spot for intimate dining and place for a date. Karey Walker of parent company Bacchus Management Group notes that the overall ambiance at the Pub -- with its burgundy colored mohair walls, dark wood accents, oversized limestone fireplace, antique bar, and, of course, candlelight -- lends itself to an intimate dining experience. "From the moment our guests arrive, until the time they leave, they are guided through an unforgettable dining experience," she says. That experience includes the delectable offerings of executive chef Dmitry Elperin, whose culinary talent has led to one-star ratings in the Michelin guide three years running. Diners' choices range from "a luxurious multi-course tasting menu that highlights ingredients from our farm ... with wines paired by our sommelier team, to a Pub burger with a bottle of wine from our extensive award-winning wine list, enjoyed on the veranda," Ms. Walker says. 2967 Woodside Road, Woodside; 650-851-9888;


Some locals complain that the area has too many Italian restaurants, but a stalwart set of diners appears to have no complaints about Carpaccio, which year after year has been Almanac readers' No. 1 choice for Italian cuisine. In addition to lunch and dinner menus featuring soups, salads, pizza, pasta and other entrees, chef Jorge Cortes offers weekly specials, says managing partner Ciya Martorana. Recent specials have included risotto with smoked muscovy duck and mushrooms; and grilled prawns and scallops with prosciutto, served with Tuscan beans. The decor evokes the charms of bella Toscana, and on pleasant days, the window-walls in front of the restaurant open up, providing the feel of open-air dining. 1120 Crane St., Menlo Park; 650-322-1211;


The Almanac's readers chose Naomi Sushi in Menlo Park as their favorite Japanese restaurant this year. Sushi lovers can choose from a menu that includes a "49er roll," with white tuna and avocado on top and spicy yellowtail inside; East Coast black sea bass; and "omakase," the chef's changing creation. But sushi is only part of the restaurant's offerings: Chicken, grilled fish, and noodle dishes are also on the menu. The restaurant also offers sake tasting. 1328 El Camino Real, Menlo Park; 650-321-6902;


Lulu's on the Alameda, winner of best Mexican restaurant, is one of the most popular restaurants with locals. It's the creation of Bay Area native Natalie Richardson and Lourdes (Lulu) Lopez, an expert in Mexican cuisine. Ms. Richardson, who owns the restaurant with husband Bracken Richardson, says customers value the freshness of the ingredients. The long menu, compiled by head chef Ms. Lopez, offers 10 meat options and varieties of fajitas, burritos, and enchiladas, not to mention a new, gluten-free section. Lulu's expects to open a fourth restaurant shortly, on Main Street in Los Altos. The other locations are at Town & Country shopping center in Palo Alto and 876 Laurel St. in San Carlos. 3539 Alameda de las Pulgas, Menlo Park; 650-854-8226


There hasn't been much time for diners to discover the charms of Menlo Grill, which opened at the Stanford Park Hotel in mid-June, replacing the Duck Club. But the new kid on the block must be doing something right, because six weeks after opening it was voted best new restaurant by Almanac readers. "Locals love the new Menlo Grill because it's a warm, friendly bistro and bar that serves approachable and familiar dishes prepared uncompromisingly well," says Josh Keller of parent company Woodside Hotels. Describing the ambiance as "comfortable and cordial, yet sophisticated," Mr. Keller says diners can choose to sit in the newly designed bistro, the fireplace bar, or the outdoor courtyard. In addition to full breakfast, lunch and dinner menus, the restaurant offers over 30 wines by the glass, and a large selection of American craft beers. And there's no corkage fee if you bring your own wine. "Happy hour is perhaps the best deal in the area, with half-priced drinks and delicious small plates," Mr. Keller says, adding that Menlo Grill is open until midnight for those looking for late-night drinks or desserts. 100 El Camino Real, Menlo Park; 650-330-2790;


Luscious cakes, as well as tarts, pies, breads, and meringues, make Woodside Bakery a Readers' Choice favorite. The cakes, including genoise aux fruits, Black Forest cake, double and triple chocolate mousse cakes and raspberry ganache, all created by pastry chef Jesus Mendoza, are as delectable as those found in a Parisian patisserie. Customers also keep coming back for the meringues and biscotti. Owner Mark Sweyer and his sister, Jan, who is bakery manager, are native Woodsiders. Woodside Bakery, 3052 Woodside Road, Woodside, 851-0812.


If you see a long line at Santa Cruz Avenue and El Camino Real in Menlo Park, don't assume it's folks queuing up for a concert. More likely it's customers waiting for their names to be called for a table at Stacks restaurant, where regulars love the omelets and Stacks famous homemade pancakes, as well as a variety of lunch fare. Owner Geoffrey Swenson describes the staff as "dedicated, committed, industrious, and fun." Their sense of camaraderie is strong, he says, and it often bubbles over, creating a family atmosphere in the restaurant. 600 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park; 650-838-0066


After only two years in business, The Mix, a Frozen Yogurt Treatery has established itself as a hot spot in the community for a cool treat. The idea behind the treatery was to think of it as a neighborhood spot first, and a frozen yogurt shop second, according to co-owners Jamie Schein and Susannah Albright. "Customers love our all-natural yogurt, our wide variety of toppings, and our clean and bright store," they say. Customers can enjoy regular flavors such as peanut butter, coffee, or original tart, or create their own flavor with the special Mixer. The Mix is set to introduce "Topping Tuesdays," when customers can top their frozen yogurt for free. 3536 Alameda De Las Pulgas, Menlo Park; 650-854-6491.


Applewood Pizza has once again been selected for best pizza by Readers' Choice voters. The impressive menu offers numerous signature pizzas, as well as the opportunity to concoct your own pizza. The bar flaunts 37 imported beers, yet the restaurant maintains a family-friendly atmosphere where people can go to relax and enjoy a flavorful meal. Some of their lesser-known specialty sides include Hungarian goulash, and langos, which is Hungarian fried bread. The restaurant also has the option of ordering online, which comes with the choice of take-out or delivery. 1001 El Camino Real, Menlo Park; 650-324-3486


This year, Almanac readers have again chosen Draeger's as the best local butcher. Co-owner and vice president John Draeger says his family-run business has "kept traditional quality standards in place" over the years. The market sells Midwest pork, USDA Choice and Grade Midwest grain-fed beef, and dry aged American lamb in its downtown corner location. "We taste what we are buying to be sure," he said. He added that it helps to have good people, describing meat manager Tom Henning as experienced, capable and just plain nice. 1010 University Dr., Menlo Park; 324-7733


With its pretty wood-paneled ceilings and rustic displays of baskets above rows and rows of bottles, Beltramo's Wines and Spirits could be described as a museum of wine. But no docent tours are needed here. The Beltramo's wine section is neatly laid out, with signs pointing visitors from country to country and region to region. One aisle spans the vineyard miles from Germany to Australia -- and the price range from a $5.99 Greek retsina to a $450 Hungarian Tokaji that comes in a special box. There's a tasting room in back, with recent evenings dedicated to Austrian wines, California chardonnays and new-arrival pinot noirs. If you do find you need a docent, just ask. Clerks are friendly and knowledgeable. ==I 1540 El Camino Real, Menlo Park; 325-2806.


Finding the best fruits and veggies can be difficult, but Almanac readers are lucky. They have two local Sigona's markets, their favorite places for produce in the 2011 Readers' Choice voting. Sigona's offers a wide selection of organic and commercial produce. It also serves as a regular grocery store and carries a line of products branded with its own Sigona Signature label. Our voters says that with fruits and veggies from Sigona's, you are guaranteed to be in for good eating. 399 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto; 650-329-1340; and 2345 Middlefield Road, Redwood City; 650-368-6993


A good sandwich can make your taste buds sing, but a great sandwich elicits an orchestra of savory sensations. Enter The Village Cheesehouse, the Mozart of sandwich-makers. With a cornucopia of breads, meats, cheeses and veggies to choose from, the Village Cheesehouse has the right deli delicacies to satisfy a clientele as diverse as the Village People. 855 El Camino Real, #157, Palo Alto; 650-326-9251


The Readers' Choice favorite in the auto repair category is Portola Valley Garage, a specialist in the repair of European vehicles. In a phone interview, owner Tom Ramies had a message for his customers: "Thanks for all your support and we will strive to always be the best," he said. "A big hug to all the Almanac readers who voted us number 1." 4170 Alpine Road, Portola Valley; 851-7442.


If you have long beautiful hair, shining, gleaming and streaming, the Golden Shears is the place to get it cut. Voted best barber by faithful locals for 11 years, Golden Shears has been serving its clients since 1963. Owner Louie Arenas says that customers feel relaxed, comfortable, and part of the family when they come to his barbershop. "We're serving clients from the fourth generation here," he comments. There is a vintage, nostalgic feeling about the place, according to Mr. Arenas, and people like knowing that the Golden Shears has been the same since their parents were little children. 814 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park; 650-325-0943


Patrons at Watercourse Way may leave the spa with visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads -- especially if they've gotten a sugarplum facial masque after their dry-brush skin exfoliation and cranberry-pomegranate sugar scrub. Life is sweet for Almanac readers at serene Watercourse Way. They've voted it their favorite day spa for these and other services, which include hot-tub soaks, facials, paraffin treatments and massages. 165 Channing Ave., Palo Alto; 650-462-2000


If Lady GaGa needed any of her spectacularly outrageous outfits dry cleaned, she could depend on the professional services of Menalto Cleaners, which landed the best dry cleaner laurels from Readers' Choice voters. The heart and drive of the business come from owner E. Gary Smith, who says he "loves clothes and loves people." Customers compliment the business, saying they receive "great service with a smile" from the staff, and can count on careful handling of their clothes. The website offers an explanation of all of the services, including dry cleaning, laundry, alterations and shoe repair, as well as a price list for each service. Menalto Cleaners is preparing to automate its sale and invoicing system to accommodate the growth of the business, according to Mr. Smith. 1921 Menalto Ave., Menlo Park; 650-323-7001


You can get Physical like Olivia Newton-John after attending classes at The Dailey Method, which won the Readers' Choice Award for the Best Fitness Class. The studio, owned by Erin Paruszewski, provides a "toxin-free environment for clients while it minimizes its carbon footprint," she says. Of the actual workout, she says, "It's efficient, it's effective, it's evolving." The instructors "aspire to personally connect" with their customers, who tell her that the moves are invigorating without being jarring, the instructors are inspiring, and the music is great. The Dailey Method provides childcare services, enabling parents to enjoy a workout without worrying about their children. Ms. Paruszewski says she hopes to "keep the citizens of the greater Menlo area long, lean and strong." 3528 Alameda de las Pulgas, Menlo Park; 650-854-8361


Under the ownership of Bella Hicks, Twig and Petals Floral Boutique, which opened on Menalto Avenue in Menlo Park last December, has blossomed into a blooming business that won Readers' Choice voters' pick this year for favorite florist. "Mixing textures, colors and unique flowers are what we do best," the shop says on its website. Customers rave about Ms. Hicks' flower-arranging talent. "They like our quality of work, the fresh flowers we use, and the uniqueness we provide," she says. The shop offers services for an assortment of events, specializing in weddings. Twig and Petals makes an effort to buy locally grown flowers, and works to keep its environmental impact minimal. An online ordering system enables customers to place their orders with ease. 1927 Menalto Ave, Menlo Park; 650-241-4377


Kepler's Books and Magazines made a big change recently to its popular author-talks program. No longer able to offer free admission to the talks, Kepler's began requiring audience members who are not store members to buy the event book or a gift card. Owner Clark Kepler said this change hasn't hurt attendance. "Anecdotally, we have heard comments from customers like: 'It makes sense; people ought to be willing to pay something,' and 'That's a fair amount to ask,'" he said. And Kepler's remains well-liked with Almanac readers, who once again voted it the best local bookstore. Readers also singled out the shop for its green practices, which include repurposing and reusing boxes and shipping materials, and selling products made from recycled materials. 1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park; 324-4321.


There are no "Fat Bottomed Girls" at Fitness 101, only healthful workouts and sociable staff members. "We are very low pressure and we have no pretense," says Gordon Bliss, president of Fitness 101. These qualities create a community and family feel, he says. The gym will celebrate its 25th anniversary in October 2011 with the opening of its new studio, the Evolution Training Center in Redwood City. At its current Menlo Park location, trainers offer the intense RAW (Real Athletic Workout) program for $100 a month. "[The workouts are so efficient and challenging you don't need to take more than two or three classes a week," explains Mr. Bliss, who takes these classes himself. The gym is now offering a new weight-loss program, which is capped at 12 participants to allow trainers one-on-one time with each individual. 40 Scott Drive, Menlo Park; (650) 321-7900


If Rihanna ever wanted to lose her red do, she would only have to step into Los Salonez on Alma Street in Menlo Park, where the hairstylists specialize in color corrections and emphasize the natural. Owner Klara Turner says the salon focuses on personal hair care, offering haircuts for all ages and a multitude of hair services, including a new Keratin Smoothing Treatment for frizzy hair. Hairstylists Celeste Green and Isra Albander bring the staff to three. Los Salonez sells products from Euphora, Alterna, DermaOrganics and Redken. The salon has a retail section that sells jewelry and currently displays the works of two local artists, Lisa Maloney and Lisa Dimaggio. 1010 Alma St., Menlo Park; 650-328-0735


The third time's the charm for the Rosewood Sand Hill, which opened in 2009 and wins "Best Hotel" yet again this year. Sited near Interstate 280 with plenty of hilly vistas, Rosewood has 121 guest rooms, a spa, the Madera restaurant, babysitting services, and a ballroom for inviting over 285 of your closest friends. A particular splurge is the two-room, 2,372-square-foot "Presidential Villa." There are his-and-her showers in case the sunken tub gets old, and wall-to-ceiling glass so there's no way to miss the views of the Santa Cruz Mountains. 2825 Sand Hill Road, Menlo Park; 561-1500.


PYTs can get some TLC for their nails at Cindy's Nail Spas, which was voted the best place for a manicure or pedicure for the third consecutive year. With three locations in Menlo Park and reduced prices for teens and children, locals of all ages are never without quality nail care. Owner Danny Do explains, "We do the best we can, and the customers are always number one." The staff always appreciates feedback from their customers, says Mr. Do, so that the spa can continue to refine its services, which include manicures, pedicures, waxes, and other special services. Three Menlo Park locations: 1702 El Camino Real, 322-6427; 1012 Alma St., 566-1909; and 3530 Alameda de las Pulgas, 233-9317.


The knowledge and professionalism of the employees at Avi Decorative Painting has landed it another Readers' Choice Award for best painters. "Customers enjoy the help we provide before, during, and after the service," says president Avi Lenchner. Avi Decorative Painting prides itself on being an environmentally conscious business, offering better quality and healthier solutions to homeowners. Its employees take the time to "paint sizeable paint samples, enabling the customer to observe results in various lights to achieve the desired effect," according to the website. So if you "see a red door and want it painted black," you know where to go. P.O. Box 51551, Palo Alto; 650-329-0770


Walgreens,which has won again for best pharmacy, offers not only prescriptions, but weekly deals on all sorts of essentials. The pharmacy, in particular, provides customers with several refill options (phone, online, automatic), and will even send text messages to customers to let them know their prescription is waiting. A reminder system via email can also be arranged. Walgreens also sells food, cosmetics, gift cards, and assorted school supplies while giving customers access to photo labs. 643 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park; 650-321-1530


"We're thrilled," said David Guy, owner of Guy Plumbing, when told that his outfit was the top choice among readers once again. "Most of our customers we've had for 20, 30, 40, 50 and even 60 years. We're blessed to stay busy in the hard times right now." Mr. Guy said he builds his business through referrals, word of mouth and giving to the community, such as through school auctions and baseball sponsorship. 1265 El Camino Real, Menlo Park; 323-8415.


If you're flying first class, up in the sky, it could be thanks to Ladera Travel, which has once again won for best travel agency. "Our team has extensive first-hand travel experience, which is critical to providing customized international and domestic itineraries for our clients," says president and co-owner Les Burger. The agency has been serving locals for over 45 years, whether they are leisure or corporate travelers. As a Four Seasons Preferred Partner, Ladera Travel can offer its clients special benefits such as spa treatments, golf outings, and lunches, according to Mr. Burger. 325 Sharon Park Drive, Menlo Park; 650-854-3222


Recently opened in its new location on El Camino Real in Menlo Park, Menlo Pilates and Yoga has won the support of Readers' Choice voters. The studio, owned by Fran Philip, is "dedicated to human movement," and "tries to provide a refreshingly positive experience and change the way people view health and fitness," its website says. Menlo Pilates and Yoga offers various classes, including pilates for all levels, Vinyasa yoga (more active and fast-paced), Zumba, and yogilates, the ultimate combination of yoga and pilates. Ms. Philip, who has been involved in the fitness industry since 1997, teaches a number of the classes herself. More information can be found at 1011 El Camino Real, Menlo Park; 408-480-8977


Menlo Velo Bicycles will add a 2011 plaque to its wall to join some 13 others there, said owner Rainer Zaechelein. "When the customer chooses you as their favorite, that's the nicest gratification you can get," Mr. Zaechelein said. Asked about new trends, he noted the increase interest in commuting by bike and shopping around town, "which is good to see," he added. 433 El Camino Real, Menlo Park; 327-5137.


After a fire damaged the Calla boutique in downtown Menlo Park, owners Phil and Tiger Bachler decided to take the opportunity for renovation, and returned to business as Alys Grace, which has won the Readers' Choice vote for best boutique. With "extraordinary women inside and out" as their selling phrase, Alys Grace supplies fashionable locals with clothes from countless designer brands, as well as accessories and shoes. Customers enjoy the "fact that we welcome special orders when we are out of stock in sizes or when we custom-order jewelry for them, and that we have a range of styles for both the classic or conservative gal, as well as the hipster gal," says Ms. Bachler. Alys Grace is currently receiving fall orders of cashmere sweaters and a great assortment of denim, according to Ms. Bachler. 899B Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park; 650-322-5524


Whether it's newlyweds or the family mutt, the place to frame up that glam shot is University Art. The mainstay of Hamilton Avenue is a favorite place for frames from gilded to inlay. For 60 years, University Art has helped customers design the finest setting for art and memorabilia -- including three-dimensional objects such as sports medals and jerseys. All of the work is done in-house and University Art uses only archival materials to last. 267 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto; 650-328-3500


If children want to view paradise, they simply have to look around at Cheeky Monkey Toys, which has claimed the award for Best Toy Store for the 11th year in a row. It also won this year for the best Gift & Novelty shop. "People seem to enjoy our customer service and our selection of toys," says manager Dexter Chow. Both of these qualities contribute to the colorful, outgoing atmosphere of the store. "We have toys out on display for the customers to look at and play with," which keeps the children engaged and entertained, he says. The store also holds a number of in-store events, including music lessons and a birthday program known as "Ten Wishes." 640 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park; 650-328-7975


B Menlo Park Ace Hardware== has won the Readers Choice' award as best hardware store for the fifth year in a row. The store recently finished a year-long plan to expand by 1,400 square feet. Along with more room comes more inventory, as the store adds an array of batteries to power everything from a boat to a cell phone and a laptop. Friendly staff, easy parking, and now a wider selection keep the customers coming back. 700 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park; 650-325-2515


Reader's Choice stalwart Flegels is a winner for the 19th year. The downtown Menlo Park store is a longtime purveyor of furniture and interior-design services, and style choices are broad. Shoppers might opt for the Stickley Colonial Williamsburg collection, with a cushioned settee, mahogany-framed mirror, silver chest and chiming clock. Or they can go more modern with a zippy zebra-print chair designed by Jessica Charles. The Flegels interior-design staff can provide advice -- just in case you're wondering whether that turquoise gourd vase really does go with that Georgian armchair. 870 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park; 326-9661.


Gleim the Jeweler has remained family-owned since it opened its doors on Palo Alto's University Avenue in 1931. Now located in Stanford Shopping Center, Gleim remains a favorite with Almanac readers, regularly appearing in the Readers' Choice section. Visitors may be shopping for an emerald-cut engagement ring or an Art Deco brooch. Gleim also services and sells watches, does appraisals and creates corporate gifts. 111 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto; 325-3533. (Appraisals: 540 University Ave., Palo Alto; 323-1331.)


Ela Lingerie, where customers like the selection and attention to personal service, was voted best lingerie store in the 2011 Readers' Choice balloting. The store offers European designs, several of which are only sold by Ela in the U.S., according to co-owner Marcia de Lima, who says she aims to provide "the highest quality and most beautiful lingerie, sleepwear and hosiery, coupled with a great customer experience and professional fitting." Customers praise the saleswomen, who are "exceptional in their attention to the customer, and their ability to size you," she says. 1139 Chestnut St., Menlo Park; 650-325-2965


A visit to Roger Reynolds Nursery & Carriage Stop is no simple tiptoe through the tulips. Since 1919, the nursery has truthfully promised visitors a rose garden, because this is where all the flowers have gone, from azaleas to zinnias. A piece of the original redwood grove remains in the nursery's 2.5 acres, as familiar as the green, green grass of home; and the Victorian cottage contains a plant and gift shop. Special events are periodically planned; earlier this month the nursery offered a tomato-tasting, with recipes, tips on how to save seeds, and salsa with plenty of tomatoes and tomahtoes. 133 Encinal Ave., Menlo Park; 323-5612.


Henry the Horse would dance the waltz in celebration of The Pet Place and its 19th consecutive win for best pet store. This family-owned neighborhood store has won the hearts of pet lovers all over the Peninsula for its exceptional customer service and highly knowledgeable staff. Owners Marc and Lynn Macy are "lifelong animal people," says Marc, with the commitment to provide an "honest, compassionate pet supply store." They know regular customers by name, and refer pet owners to animal experts around the Bay. Pictures of pets line the walls, and the shelves are often stocked with new and engaging products. The Pet Place staffers take part in rescues for all sorts of animals, including rabbits, cats, dogs, birds, and guinea pigs. 777 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park; 650-325-7387


You can find some boots made for walking at Kicks, named best shoe store this year by Readers' Choice voters. Owner Lee Murphy says customers enjoy the selection of shoes, jewelry and gifts offered by the store. The store sells products by Merrell, Lilly Pulitzer, Tretorn, Jack Rogers, Heather B. Moore, MZ Wallance, Donald J Pliner, Kate Spade, Rebeca Minkoff, and Stuart Weitzman. Kicks is now receiving shipments of fall boots by designers such as Cole Haan and Hunter. During the next couple of months, Kicks will host a number of jewelry shows, which display accessories made by local artists. 1060 Evelyn St., Menlo Park; 650-328-5425


Even if it weren't a Friday, Rebecca Black would party at Color Me Mine, which won the Readers' Choice award for the best place to host a kid's birthday party. The wide array of objects to paint and the dizzying number of colors to choose from are enough to get any kid's creative juices flowing. Manager Ali Greene remarks that customers like the "personal aspect of the business, and the fact that it combines the activity and the product, resulting in something that is one of a kind." In addition to birthday parties, for which the business is always adding new packages and deals, Color Me Mine offers summer art camps. 602 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park; 650-328-4486

Designers: Shannon Corey, Raul Perez, Linda Atilano, Diane Haas, Scott Peterson, Paul Llewellyn, Gary Vennarucci.

Photographers: Michelle Le, Veronica Weber, Kimihiro Hoshino.

Writers: Alison Myoraku, Rebecca Wallace, Renee Batti, Jane Knoerle, Dave Boyce, Sandy Brundage

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Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Aug 24, 2011 at 8:14 pm

Su Hong To Go? It's gotten pretty bad. Where are peoples' taste buds? We've been customers for years, but rarely go now. LuLu's for MExican food?? And Stacks for breakfast? Menlo needs some new competition!

Like this comment
Posted by Colleen
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Aug 25, 2011 at 12:11 am

Try Phils Treasure Pot over by the Post Office. They have amazing food dine in or carry out. Family run, and the love they put in shows.

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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Aug 28, 2011 at 12:39 pm

Thanks, Colleen. I forgot about Phil's! It's very good.

What's the deal w/considering Carpaccio best Italian food? The best thing at Carpaccio's are the bartenders ;-) Some of the food's decent, but the best Italian? C'mon, people!

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 28, 2011 at 3:01 pm


unfortunately I don't think there is better for italian than Carpaccios. Angelo Mio sucks. The italian restaurants I've eaten at in Palo Alto aren't very good either. Palermo had them beat when they were still in business, but that was becasue they had Dal Boffo's old chef. Since Palermo is gone it's pretty much down to Carpaccio for decent italian. You have a better suggestion?

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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Aug 29, 2011 at 10:40 am

I do have a better suggestion, MV: In short, my home cooking! My dad's too.

I was also a fan of Palermo, & miss it. Surprisingly, I've had a couple of good meals at Pasta? I've had past good meals at Spalti, also, but haven't been there in several years. I've had consistently good meals at Il Fornaio, but their menu strikes me as limited.

I like the salads & apps at Howie's at Town & Country, espec. their polenta in its sauce & my DH loves their meatballs. I'm not a fan of their pizza, though. I like the Caesar Salad at Amici. So I guess I can't say that there's local Italian where I like most of their dishes.

I like Caffe Riace for southern Italian & of course, the outdoor patio.

I still miss Dal Baffo.

Carpaccio's seems too stuffy/heavy in a lot of ways, but it's good in cold weather. It just seems so dated. What do you like there?

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Posted by Jenny
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 29, 2011 at 12:45 pm

I have always been a huge Su Hong to go fan but now my heart is with Phil and his treasure pot! He has fabulous food! If you haven't tried it, you should def give him a chance. We are sold! He's also a super super nice guy too.

Can I rant on the Mexican? Seriously people? Lulu's? I splurge on some things but the overpriced mexican food at Lulu's is not one of them. The food isn't bad. It's horribly overpriced for what it is though and you don't get that authentic mexican food feel. Has anyone been to Cafe Del Sol? What about (and even better....) El Cerrito- the hidden gem of Sharon Heights! I'm not sure how this voting is done but it always seems like these places win because they are the most trendy or centrally located, but do they have the best food?

I will agree with Carpaccio, thier food is excellent and consistant. I assume Left Bank wins because they are the 'only' French restaurant in Menlo. Everytime I go in there I order two drinks at a time because it takes an hour to get my first one. My wine has come after my food on two different occasions. (and skimpy skimpy pours...). What a love about Carpaccio is you get a full glass of wine. A "real" glass, the kind you pour at home in your kitchen, not the 3 oz premeasured pour.

What else can I talk about now that I am fully into this....I guess I agree with most other things, but best breakfast? Stacks is overpacked, overplated and overrated. You can't pay me to stand out there on a Saturday or a Sunday, I prefer Ann's or, what most people dont' know is that the BBC has an amazing Brunch (I'm sure you are picturing the old post drinking, day after BBC when the carpets smelled like beer and vomit but I promise it isn't that anymore- I do suggst eating outside though). A new ownership and chef combo the last few years has made it an excellent place for brunch. Other places I like (If anyone cares.....):

Trellis rooftop in the summertime
Pizza at the Oasis
The Ice Cream Truck that circles menlo park playing home on the range.
NAKS MARKET! (Where is the love?) They have so much fun stuff.
The park ave salon (across from stacks) does an excellent Mani-pedi combo for $45 and Calvin and his wife Tina, who own it will always take you and they are darling. Tina does the best eyebrow waxing around.
Other beauty needs? Waxing, facials and massages? Try Linda at Bella Day spa who needs a nod.

and sandwiches? Woodside Deli - If we are going that far, I assume because I saw woodside bakery, that we are. And, although most people will toss out a big "yeah right" ... give Luttekins a chance. Yes, they were on thier way out, horribly outdated and the reviews weren't great, but they did an awesome remodel - not just on the interior, on the menu as well. We have had excellent sandwhiches twice there.

Give my boy Phil a chance at the Treasure pot. Tell him Jenny sent you and maybe he'll toss me a free side of those awesome steamed pork buns I've been craving.

My work here is done. Back to work....

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Posted by Jenny
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 29, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Wait, I'm not finished. I am commenting on Hmmmm's comments now. I love Caffe Riace . Great suggestion. Everytime I am at Carpaccio I get the meat and cheese plate (whatever it's called and it serves like 4 people). The Asiago oysters are yummy and the carpaccio itself is good. They have this banana mazadamia nut cream pie that is fabulous. It pretty much is the only Italian left standing though. My BF loves the Calzones. I love the martinis.

I hear Howie's Pizza at Town and Country is amazing. I won't do Amici's, I don't get the hype, I think it's terrible.

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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 29, 2011 at 2:41 pm


my wife is italian and I learned to cook italian from my mother in law, so when I want really good italian I cook it myself just like you. But for restaurants, I haven't found any other than Carpaccios that is as good and consistent. I quit going to Il Fornaio a couple years ago as it seemed their quality had slipped and they just weren't consistent.

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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Aug 29, 2011 at 6:09 pm

Wow, all this input is appreciated!

I think Jenny's right in some cases: places are voted on due to location or because they're known, not because they're the best. I did a major eye roll w/Lulu's, also - not because it's bad, but because it's overpriced & not the best. Del Sol is decent & their family-owned group of restaurants are good.

As for Il Fornaio, we had a banquet there last summer that was marvelous - I was surprised at the high quality. I got bored of it during the .bomb era because I "took" so many (yawn!) meetings there. I used to like their butternut ravioli w/brown butter sage. They also have a decent Happy Hour. For awhile, Zibibbo was excellent. I hosted a small luncheon there last year that was nice, but not spectacular. We had a good sized party at Iberia a few years ago & it was stunningly good. Subsequent meals have fallen short in service & quality, unfortunately.

I'm not a big drinker, but I like knowing where a good bar is, & Carpaccio definitely has it. So does The Four Seasons in EPA - & they make a good Caesar, too.

I guess I like specific things at specific places but don't feel like any of them are truly excellent, all around, when it comes to Italian. Howie's decor is boring & it's rife w/loud families, so we go at off times, or get to go & eat at the park. The salads are marvelousy fresh & feed more than one. Their pizza bores me, but their plain flatbread w/hummus is a feast - & the flatbread as a side is just $2. But it's not a special place like Carpaccio. But then, I've had some bummer deals at Carpaccio w/uneven service & seriously - loud, screaming hooker types w/their men out front to navigate through on more than one occasion. Now, that was pretty David Lynch-like. But that said, we had a memorable family NYE dinner one year...I guess I think it just needs a bit of new blood, a shot of new espresso, if you will. Some memorable times at Carpaccio have been w/old time realtors who've been customers for years & know how to live it up.

I forgot about Trellis! Must take DH there -it's a lovely summer indulgence. I agree about Amici's in a lot of ways, but their Caesar Salad is consistently good. I think it's nice that families can go there - they aren't stuck w/Chuck E. Cheese or an overpriced fancy place - it's a good in between for them.

Good to know about the brunch at BBC - we'll have to try that.

I miss that little French place - I mean, tiny - that was in downtown Shallow Alto some years back - on Bryant, maybe? L'Amie Dona, I think it was. So not into Left Bank.

How about the new fro yo place on WIllow just west of 101, in that place that was vacant for years? I'm just glad to see a new biz there & still miss its predecessor - Luxie-Q. Great blue crab crab cakes & marvelous desserts...

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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 29, 2011 at 7:46 pm


that little french place you're talking about was great. My wife and I used to eat there. the owner (I think her name was Annie) was a very nice woman and the food was fabulous. Unfortunately, it is gone. victim of the bad economy.

I have spent a lot of time learning to cook and I do so with much less salt so my wife would rather eat my cooking than go out (not bragging, just what it is).

Ther are some things we like at The Left Bank, but we only go there on occasion. Sorry to say, Bistro Vida, just down the street, just doesn't cut it. Downtown Menlo is iffy for a nice sit down dinner these days it seems.

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Posted by Jenny
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 29, 2011 at 7:47 pm

I guess when I think of Readers choice in the MP almanac, I just think of Menlo Park, PV, Atherton and woodside, the area's the paper covers, if we could go into Palo Alto (Il Fornio is definitley great and the Four Seaons, I could go on and on).

No one mentioned Flea Street. Very Pricey - but VERY worth it for a really nice date night out. I was never a fan of Jesse Cool's place on Santa Cruz ave (the cool cafe or cool eatz) the deli style cafe but Flea Street in pretty phenomonal.

About Breakfast, If Alice's in consider Woodside, they are off the hook. It's definitley a 20 minute hike up the hill but if you get there early enough on a Saturday morning (or anytime on a weekday) then it is well worth it. Mike's cafe (both locations) are great.

If you go to Trellis make sure to get susan's downfall - the walnut gorgonzola ravioli - it's super rich so split it as an appetizer, you only get about 6 pillows.

A few things I forgot.....

Su Hong (Dine in) has a great dine in at the bar deal for lunch, it's like $8.99 and you get an entree, chow mein, soup, salad etc. . . Andy will make you a mean Tokyo tea too.

BBC has excellent Nachos and I love thier baked Garlic. I also forgot to talk about the Eggplant Parmesean at Carpaccio - that's my favorite entree. Ericks deli in Sharon heights also makes great panini style sandwiches (the melty kind). Unamas (although they are a chain *cringe*) has a foghead burrito that is different and great. Back to the goose, you really can't go wrong with any of thier specials. People will say the burger has lost it's ooomph there, but I think it's great still. Esp the Grilled Cheeseburger. Not Cheeseburger - a "grilled cheese" with a patty in the middle. Bomb!

I'm over Iberia, but I used to love to go there for the tapas - specifiacally the bacon wrapped dates stuffed with chorizo. I know this is a stretch because it's redwood city - but it you want a great sushi place "Higuma" on El camino is a hidden gem. I love all the new frozen yogurt places in Menlo, they actually don't seem too overpriced. I paid $10 for two double scoops after a late night craving we had the other night at B&R, that suprised me. The place that caught on fire next door to Posh Bagel never had much business (cafe Silan) which was too bad, because I thought it was cute and I loved thier little mediterannian plates. I would love to see a little medd/greek place go in downtown.

And I would love to see a pub. Like an old fashioned PUB. Just saying. I love sharing all these comments/opinions It's good to hear about new things/share opinions.

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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 29, 2011 at 8:12 pm

I'm surprised Evvia doesn't come up. They have great food. Their lamb shank is incredible! Make reservations at least two weeks in advance if you want to eat between 7 and 9.

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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Aug 29, 2011 at 8:32 pm

MV, what do you make Italian-wise?

I don't recall how long ago that nice French bistro disappeared, but it was a gem.

Jenny, you should be a restaurant reviewer! You show a lot of enthusiasm and balance it w/reality - good combo. Thanks for what you've shared.

I recall, when they opened the MP Mike's Cafe, they had a lovely tomato bisque. Simple, creamy, tart/sweet. It was only for a short while. Their club sandwich is a classic. Had first date brunch w/DH there, so we're a bit sentimental about it. I'm not into their whole sports bar "ethos" - annoying. My parents still enjoy Mike's when they're in town. I have friends who loooove their baked 2 cheese pasta thing w/breadcrumbs - it's their total comfort food.

Jenny's right about limiting the coverage for Best Of, but I think The Four Seasons, since it's EPA, should be an Alamanac option.

I love the tortas at Los Gallos- I prefer torta meat chopped, which they do.

I agree, Jenny, about the bacon-wrapped dates w/chorizo at Iberia - wow! A mouth full of flavor.

I wish downtown MP would get a snappin' Indian place. Something w/Darbar's quality, not as fancy as Amber, w/some great standard fare as well as their own twists on things - something like a Menlo version of Shiva's in Mt. View.

I've found the redo of Lutticken's a nice surprise. When I'm in that 'hood it's a nice stopping point. I never knew The Goose had a grilled cheeseburger - it sounds pretty filling. I haven't been there in years...

DH had a hard time adjusting to The O - he's not from around here. But once he tasted the burgers, he grokked it completely.

Thanks for the rec at Trellis - I've only had lighter fare, not pasta, so looking forward to it.

What about bargain bites? My bargain deal is taqueria food, or, as mentioned, Los Gallos, but split the sandwich or a chicken platter.

Flea Street of course is non-bargain, but truly lovely. I don't really like the Stanford Museum Cafe - it's ok, but overpriced.

Jenny, if you go to Howie's & like polenta, you'll love their baked polenta wedges in a sundried tomato sauce. Delish. The meatball app comes w/greasy, rich, pungently marvelous garlic bread.

How about Jonathan's Fish & Chips on Willow for a trip to southern-style comfort food?

How about that egg salad/tuna salad double sandwich at Draeger's? I have old friends who go in there just for that when visiting.

How about Jason's on ECR in MP for brunch? I haven't been.

Our family past fave go-tos for special occasions, besides Flea Street: John Bentley's, & Chantilly, Carpaccio. My parents used to enjoy Pear Williams.

If MV or Jenny want to email me any suggestions that you don't want to add here, you can email me: hmmm (at) yahoo. Thanks!

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Posted by Jenny
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 30, 2011 at 8:26 am

Thanks for the compliment - I can talk about food all day, I wish I was a restaurant reviewer! I seriously need a new path.

I could say a lot about bargain bites, but I have to say I am truly impressed with your comment about the double decker egg and tuna sando at Draegers, I used to eat it at least once a week. (on the dark rye).

I've been to Jason's and it's ok. I Just never think to go there, the breakfast is good. They have good pancakes. I used to like the Burger place that was there before (same owners as Clarks I think, they made some great onion rings.). I love Bentley's fois gras, they make it with these sweet and sour cherries on toast points and it's really good if you are into fois gras.

I grew up going there when it was Fabbro's in the 80's I rememeber they had the best Fettuccine Alfredo, my family also used to frequent the Acorn, which I loved too up until it closed. I LOVE Evvia. I've had the lamb shank - it's amazing, if you go for lunch you need to get the roated lamb sandwich, it's made with homemade tzatziki (sp?) and pita. The lamb riblets are also great. Someone was telling me the other day that the best thing on that menu (aside from the lamb shank is their whole fish that is baked with lemon and herbs, I have yet to try it but I plan to.

Back to brgain bites... I'm a big "el camino El Grulense fan" they have awesome carne asada taco's for just about a buck a piece. This whole conversation has prompted me to think about all my favorite dishes in Menlo/Woodside/PV/ATherton area. So here she goes:

Note: I know these posts are getting long, clearly those who don't care don't have to read them but I am also hoping this inspires people to go out and try these great things. I'm a foodie, but I don't discriminate.. I love everything from The boat scallops at the Village Pub to the taco truck that parks outside the construction site across from my place downtown. (Great egg rolls and tacos). Anyway, If you make it by any of these places my recomendation would be:

BBC-brioche french toast with banana and carmelized pecans
The chicken nachos
Bentley's-Fois Gras
Su Hong - Hot & Sour Soup
Triple mushroom chicken
Flea Street- the menu changes but they have an heirloom tomato,
peach and burrata salad
El Cerrito (sharon Heights) - the super street tacos
Alice's - make your own omelette's - they are all great
Dutch Goose - Grilled cheese burger, eggs and hot pastrami
Applewood pizza- makes the best hawaiian pizza I've had.
Woodside Deli - THe godfather sando
Harry's Hofbarau - the Prime rib french dip and the enchiladas
Mex to Go (El Camino) - Chilli Relleno's (when they have them)
Ann's - French toast combo and great pies.
Carpaccio - the oysters asisago
Draegers - they will make banana pancakes there on request, it's not on the menu and they are awesome. I also love the glazed shortbread Frog cookies in the bakery.

That is all for now. Probably should get some work done this morning. . . .

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Posted by Judy
a resident of Atherton: West of Alameda
on Aug 30, 2011 at 12:37 pm

Jenny, I love your recommendations and enthusiasm as well! Maybe you should write a 'special' column for the Almanac :) I'm sure the entire community can use these recommendations, we don't get out much anymore and I love to keep up on where to go and what to eat. In the meantime, I'll be going by Draegers today and I'll pick up one of those egg and tuna sandwiches!

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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 30, 2011 at 7:58 pm

St. Michael's Alley for brunch.

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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Aug 30, 2011 at 8:59 pm

Was just talking to a friend about SMA for brunch! Do you mean the old one, MV?

Had a lovely sandwich today from San Benito House in Half Moon Bay. Love the bread.

Yes, the Draeger's egg salad/tuna salad on dark rye Jenny - that's how I do it, too. But can't eat all of it. Perfect to split w/someone.

MV, I also love Evvia. It wins every year in various categories, I think. It's the only lamb I'll eat - not a big lamb fan.

Jenny, do you know which taco truck parks near your place? I used to like The Flying Taco that parked near Palo Alto Airport. Never see it anymore :-(

Remember Fontana's? Who was it that made the excellent chicken rollatini - The Acorn? It was a place on ECR.

Which place was the old fogey restaurant near The Acorn on ECR that may have predated Fontana's or it was nearby? We used to get stuffed lobster there. I recall one of their bad live musicians actually used a BUBBLE machine. We were the only kids in there & still laugh about it. It was like live elevator music!

When I was a kid, a lot of FBI used to eat at Ann's, dunno why. My friend's dad would take us & we'd try to listen in on their convos.

What a Shiok! Is it still good? I recall pricey lunches, iirc.

How about that Menlo breakfast place just down a bit from Stacks? I've never been.

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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 30, 2011 at 9:37 pm


the only St. Michaels Alley I know is in Palo Alto on Emerson right near Whole Foods.

Where's the breakfast place near Stacks? Stacks is too crowded and the food just isn't worth the wait.

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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Aug 31, 2011 at 12:30 pm

MV, it's called Menlo Station, on Santa Cruz, just past the alley behind Stacks. I haven't been there. The Yelp reviews for Jason's are pretty good - maybe you've tried it?

As for SMA, when they moved to their new, uber modern location, they kept their brunch at old location. I just checked & they still have brunch at the old location, on Emerson. The new, non-brunch one's on Homer.

I think a Wing Stop would be a huge hit in dowtown MP.

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Posted by Dawn
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Aug 31, 2011 at 1:13 pm

Where's the love for awesome jerk takeout at Back-A-Yard? The only reason it isn't the best take-out is because not enough people have tried it, IMHO. I take that over Su Hongs any day of the week.

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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Aug 31, 2011 at 2:01 pm

Dawn - I totally forgot about Back-A-Yard but we love their to go. We like to surprise our spice-loving Indians friends w/Back-A-Yard & they adore it. Thanks for the reminder :-)

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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Aug 31, 2011 at 4:37 pm

EDITOR - two things...

1. What an excellent thread! This is the best thread on the Town Square Forum in a very long time. No politics. No scandal. Just fun!

2. Editor, you are crazy if you don't hire Jenny, Hmmm and Menlo Voter to write restaurant reviews for you. I think this would be a real winner for The Almanac! I will be trying new places just on their advice.

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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 31, 2011 at 5:05 pm

I agree POGO. Although I have a fear that someone is going to try to insert politics in here somewhere. The real restaurant reviewers here are Jenny and Hmmm. It's obvious they go to many more restaurants than I. I must say though, writing reviews would be an excellent excuse to go out more!

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Posted by MMR
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Aug 31, 2011 at 6:37 pm

Cafe del Sol for Mexican--Food is terrific, Luis is very nice. Takeout is as good as eating there. Ceviche delicious!
Menlo Cafe--great "Wild and Nutty" sandwich!

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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Aug 31, 2011 at 9:05 pm

Aw, shucks, thanks POGO. I agree that MV should also be a reviewer, even if he doesn't get out as often. I walked by Coconuts today in Shallow Alto & thought, "Fun interior, looks interesting, sheesh, have never been & gotta get out more!"

Jenny really knows her stuff. I don't think I'd eat foie gras- she's a little more adventurous :-) I'm not a "see & be seen" kind of diner at all - but I really appreciate what goes into a good meal.

Thanks, MMR, for your recs. I'd forgotten how good the Sol ceviche is, & I normally am not a big ceviche fan.

For me, the politics involved in food have to do w/sourcing it. I try, at least at home, to cook & eat organic as much as possible. I'm not happy w/the influence factory farming has had on my life. I know it doesn't matter to some people, but it matters to me. Shifting the focus to quality rather than quantity is ongoing for us. I am digressing from the main subject, but I am aware of & respect how expensive it is for restaurants to create good, affordable meals - & when we eat out, we often don't know the source of our meal. So I try to at least be aware when eating at home.

But back to the main subject...I've heard the pizza at Pizza Primo is good, but never had it. Anyone?

And what about cafeterias, like airport & courthouse style places? Are they all gone now?

I think it's time to re-watch Doris Day's That Touch of Mink - love the automat scenes.

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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Aug 31, 2011 at 9:33 pm

I love foi gras. The best place for it isn't even in town - Le Papillon in San Jose. A favorite for at least thirty years. Will be having dinner there next saturday.

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Posted by Jenny
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Aug 31, 2011 at 9:38 pm

This has been super fun for me, given the opportunity I would write about food all day long! No politics here, I don't discriminate when it comes to local restaurants, I'll try them all. Thanks for the compliment POGO.

I don't know the name of the Taco trucks, the construction is complete on the new townhomes, so the taco truck hasn't been by for a few months (it is greatly missed!). I was between jobs at the time, so I really enjoyed taking a few steps off my porch to grab a couple carne asada tacos.

What is this Menlo Station and why haven't I even heard of it? I am going to make it my mission to check it out this weekend. There is a new little polish place across from Phil's Treasure pot that my friend told me about. I've never tried polish food, I am going to put it on the list for "date night" sometime this month and I'll let you all know how it goes. I hope we can keep this thing going (if I don't get my weekly food column in the almanac of course....)

Hmmmm - here is the deal on Cafeteria style. Harry's Hofbrau is still where it's at. The place is amazing. Yes, it looks like the kind of place my grandparents ate at 5pm sharp every night, but don't let the ambiance fool you. First of all. They have a great bar!! Isn't it nice to get a cocktail for $5.00 still? A $3 beer? The older men place dice, the Giants game is on in the corner and if you get there right around 4:30 the chef puts out a free happy hour appetizer that will cater to any taste bud. Last time I was in there it was chicken enchilada Quesadillas.They were awesome, Penny is a great bartender and sometimes you'll get the older guy who tells really bad (but funny) jokes.

I love getting the turkey/cranberry sandwich or the french dip. You can mound their home made stuffing on top. They always have the perfect seasoning in that stuff, it's addictive. You can't go wrong with ANYTHING on this menu. Mac and cheese - awesome. They even make a killer (and huge, enough for two) Turkey Cobb salad. They have great small salads, the kind that my grandma made (shredded carrot/raisin, ambrosia) and the pies.... lot of pies.

Go mid afternoon or around 11 or the line tends to get pretty long.

Across from Harry's in the Thai house which I also love for you Thai fans out there.

Now, will someone go into detail about this back-a-yard place that I have never heard of?

The small french place that was mentioned early in this string was that Pot au Feu or something like that? I vaguely remember my parents going there. . .

What about Little Copenhagen? Their Ghostly remains linger on El Camino but they are open in that strip mall where Lucky's is on Woodside Road. They are hit or miss I think. Their Reuben is one of the best I've ever had and the breakfast is good. It's pretty quiet and I just never think to go there.

Breakers Cafe is over there too for breakfast. Reminds me of a perfect mix between Ann's and Stacks. The food is ok, I wish the outside seating were better so I can sit and listen to the Parrot who will chat your ear off out there. Next time your over there, walk by. You'll hear him, he's hilarious.

All for now! Please though - do give the scoop on the "back-a-yard"

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Posted by Dawn
a resident of Menlo Park: Belle Haven
on Sep 1, 2011 at 12:47 pm

Back-A-Yard is the much smaller sibling of Coconuts in PA. Its on the MP side of Willow just after you cross 101 towards the bay. Its super easy to miss - and I only do take out there - but its well worth the effort. The corn festivals are probably not very good for me, but I love them. The jerk chicken is just so good. I think its location is why more folks don't know about it, but hopefully this will help. I've gotten a couple of good ideas out of this thread.

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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Sep 1, 2011 at 1:00 pm

Okay, some responses - to MV:

How is the foie gras at Le Papillon done? That's a family fave place, but I haven't been.

To Jenny:

-MV & I weren't thinking of Le Pot au Feu, but a place in Shallow Alto called L'Amie Donia, on Emerson. Not sure why it closed down - maybe post-9/11 finances. This thread made me think on that place & I did a lil nosing around, & found the owner's website: Web Link

I went to Le Pot au Feu as a kid & liked it, but don't recall specifics.

As for Harry's, haven't been in years! I do recall their turkey & stuffing. I've never had a drink there, but that shall soon be rectified - it fits in w/bargain bites. I must take DH - thanks for the reminder. I used to work not far from there & we'd all go there & Thai House, enjoying both. And of course, La Azteca.

Yes, the ghostly remains of Copenhagen - makes me sad, but I've heard their Reuben, still obtainable at current location, is kickin'.

How about good Vietnamese? I've been to the place in downtown RWC. I haven't found any local places that make shrimp cupcake...not a fan of Tamarine due to rude service, so they don't count. But doesn't this place in Redwood City look good, menu-wise? Web Link

Never been to Breakers - might be worth a trip to RWC. How about the former Pete's Harbor place? I've heard it is awful - not that that the original was that great, but you could get an app & beer & sit upstairs.

So Back-A-Yard is Caribbean. It's on Willow Rd, just east of 101, on the left side. I love it fresh, but get it to go mostly cuz it's so small there. Here's their site: Web Link Get read y for their theme song! Coconuts in downtown PA is their sister restaurant - ambience, higher prices, larger, supposed to be good. It's right across from the city hall parking garage. Theoretically, it's a safer neighborhood. I say theoretically because there was a notorious homicide right nearby a couple years ago.

As for Menlo Station, here are reviews: Web Link
I think it's overshadowed by Ann's & Stacks. Gotta go try it.

Jenny, I know of several sets of townhouses being built in downtown MP. What's kinda weird is that one of my friend's lives on a street where they just finished some places on her street, another set are in progress further town, the house she lived in 5 years ago has been razed & townhouses are being built & to get to her current place, I'd often drive by a new bunch of townhouses that I think are just finished. So maybe you live near one of those locations - small world.

I used to get the bbq chickens, done outdoors in front of that market/taqueria on Willow Rd east, on the left. LE friends of mine said that health inspectors said the restaurant kitchen was clean, so I frequented it. Post-911, when I lost my job, "going out to eat" meant taco trucks & taqueria food.

As for the Polish food- the Yelp reviews are interesting & give hints on what you might want to avoid. Sounds like the cheese crepes w/blueberry sauce are a delish dessert. Given the heaviness of Polish/Hungarian food, I may wait to go when the weather's cooler. I look forward to your review!

Happy eating, everyone. We live in an area filled w/true gastronomic diversity & we also have the weather to grow food all year along - we're very lucky.

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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Sep 1, 2011 at 3:04 pm

I don't claim to be a restaurant critic (as you'll quickly tell) but here are few comments.

1. Coconuts. I've been twice and liked it. Very fun, especially for Sunday lunch when the Haitian and Jamaican church crowd arrives! I like the whole fried snapper - it's huge - but order with all the stuff they put on it "on the side."

2. Harry's. Call me pedestrian, but I still like this place where it's still 1960. I like turkey (dark meat) on Dutch crunch with the bread dipped in au jus. Unbelievable. I've never had the courage to order any sides - it looks like they'll give me a heart attack.

3. Vietnamese/Asian. I like Tamarine but Three Seasons is always good. I also like their whole fried snapper, garlic crab and shaking beef - order those three for a party of six and you'll be fine!

4. Thai. I go to Bangkok Bay in RWC and Karakade on Woodside Road, but only for lunch. Both are quite good and Karakade has excellent food presentation.

5. My favorite local restaurants are Evvia (PA) and Town (San Carlos). I've never had a bad meal at any of them.

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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Sep 1, 2011 at 3:07 pm

Has anyone ever checked out Restaurant dot com? They offer coupons where you can buy a gift certificate, usually for $25, for only $10. Not bad!

They have special sales where these $25 certificates sell for just $2. Yes, two dollars! There can be restrictions such as using just one certificate per meal or one certificate per month or you have to purchase at least $35 worth of food. But they do work!

Check it out. If they happen to apply to one of your favorite restaurants, you're going to save a bunch of money.

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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Sep 1, 2011 at 3:24 pm

Oh, POGO, thanks for the info! Will try it. We recently tired & it worked really well. No hefty fee like Waiters On Wheels; the restaurant from which you order actually does the delivery.

POGO, do you have local favorite places to eat that you can recommend?

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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Sep 1, 2011 at 6:17 pm

I mentioned some favorites above.

Sticking to the Peninsula, Evvia and Town are regulars. We also go to Fish Market, all of the Mike's Cafes and Lobster Shack.

We go to Oak City, Carpaccio, Tamarine, Three Seasons, Astaria, John Bentley's, Ming's, Cascal, Jeffrey's, Cantankerous Fish, Caffe Riace - the usual suspects for everyone, I suspect.

Pretty pedestrian.

My restaurant choices in San Francisco would be - hopefully - more impressive.

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Posted by Jenny
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 1, 2011 at 8:51 pm

I Love this thread.

Last night I let my boyfriend of two years read this and he just turned an looked at me. "You mention every restaurant in a 5 mile radius of us but you forget to mention Pampas?"

It's where we had our first date and our anniversary - I don't think he cares what I say about it, I just can't believe I didn't mention it. So Pampas- the Brazillian Meathouse in PA is impressive - but it all depends on how you go about it. The only way to really go about it is to order the $49 a head plate. You get all the sides - the hot and cold bar - and then more meat than anyone could every handle.

So... here is what is great - if you love meat, and you save your appetite (I mean, don't eat ALL day) you will love this place. All the meat that is shaved off spit is always cooked perfectly and everything from Lamb, Prime rib, chicken, Duck, you name it. . . is at your table as often as you want it.

Where they make their money. They bank on you filling up at the pre-side bar so you eat less of the $$$ meat, and although I know this, I usually always do it anyway. Why? Because, even though I can't stand buffets/ salad bars - this one is done lovely. Beautiful artisan cheeses, Fresh roasted beets, fruit, meats, hummus, grilled veggies, on and on and on - they don't skimp on the quality of the food, but like any buffet, if it sits long enough, it might appear/feel less that what it is. I won't say it's the greatest place to go, but you should experience it once. . . when you are super Hungry.

I have to tell you about the best turkey sando I've ever had. After my meeting in San Carlos today (POGO- I love TOWN too) I wandered over to a place that she suggested called "gracies catering" they roast home made turkeys every morning and serve turkey on Homemade Oatmeal Rolls. If you have never had this - you need to go. It's phenomenal. I had a roast Turkey on the oatmeal roll with swiss, cranberry and red onion and mayo. We were there at 11:15. The word is by 12:30 the line is out the door and they run out of this bread. The REFUGE is across the street - that is an entire separate post. . chime in if you have been there. It's $$ for a sandwich , but you won't have a pastrami like it ever again.

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Posted by Jenny
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 1, 2011 at 8:52 pm

POGO what is Cantankerous Fish?

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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Sep 1, 2011 at 9:14 pm

Thanks, Jenny - I'll try Gracie's!

Cantankerous Fish is next door to Cascal's in Mountain View. Decent - I only mentioned it because we ate there last week. It's similar to Scott's... it won't knock your socks off.

If you're on Castro Street, Cascal's serves tapas, has a great atmosphere and wonderful white wine sangria.

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Posted by Jenny
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 2, 2011 at 8:27 am

Seriously, can we talk about timing? Get it while it's hot! 50% at Trellis. It's so nice to dine on the rooftop.

Web Link

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Posted by Jenny
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 2, 2011 at 11:16 am

HMMMM/Pogo/Voter.....Here is the link Web Link for 50% off at Trellis.

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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Sep 2, 2011 at 12:25 pm

Thanks, Jenny!

Hey, y'all, how could we forget Kaygetsu?! See article here that it's closing next month, but the chef, thankfully, will stay on. It's not affordable for us very often, but we've found it to be a wonderful experience.

And a steakhouse replacing Marche. I miss Marche.

What happened to that salumi-ish & wine place on Oak Grove? I tried a bunch of times to buy a gift certificate there, to no avail. That struck me as very strange. Perhaps they just never had a real chance in this economy.

Jenny's sandwich adventures remind me of a caterer we used at use at my former employer in Redwood City. They had a turkey/cranberry/stuffing sandwich that was incredible. Of course, you couldn't eat the whole thing. One half w/salad was more than enough. I am not kidding - people would wait for a meeting to be done, then swarm the conference room to have a chance at those sandwiches!

Jenny, I'm in SC frequently, so will check out your recs. Howzabout Rumi? I haven't been there in awhile. I had the opportunity to have convos w/the chef & owner a few years back & it was very interesting.

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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 2, 2011 at 5:08 pm

Thanks Jenny.

I'll have to try the place in San Carlos for roast turkey sandwich. There's a little sandwich shop across the tracks from the train station in Menlo Park that does a roast turkey sandwich like that. They're fantastic!

Hopefully the new steak house in the Marche location will be good. As long is it's along the lines of a Forbes Mill in Los Gatos.

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Posted by SM
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 2, 2011 at 6:16 pm

Flea Street.

What's it been, 30 years?

Had a bad patch years ago, of course, but back to lovely.

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Posted by Italian food expert
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Sep 2, 2011 at 10:08 pm

I enjoyed everyone's remarks. If you are looking for authentic Italian cuisine prepared by two fine Italian chefs, you should take the short drive to these two great places: Donato's (formerly from La Strada in PA) in Redwood City between Jefferson and Main streets, and Divino's in the first block off of El Camino in Belmont.
Buon Appetito!

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Posted by Ugh!
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 3, 2011 at 8:48 am

Cannot agree more on the Su Hong bashing. Their food is a complete abomination but we are beholden ever since Yuen Yung's closed. Still miss them. Around our house, we call it "Spray Hong."

Lulu's is a complete joke. They're trying to pass themselves off as authentic mexican when they're just about as authentic as Taco Bell. Oh, but you'll pay 10x what you pay at Taco Bell.

I spent $80+ on an order for the family. While we were waiting for it, I asked for chips and salsa. They said sure...for $1.50. Really guys?

I've been here all my life and love the discussion about the old joints. Fabbro's defines old school joint.

Before Celia's, before Fontana's, it was Luv's Menlo House. Good and fine place but still a tough location.



Scotty Campbell's

But you can NEVER go wrong with the ol' standby...Goose!

Cheers gang.

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Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Sep 5, 2011 at 9:59 am

If you are a New York ex-pat then Amici's has the best Pizza. But you should try some of their other dishes. The Anti-pasto salad is terrific. Also the pesto e vongole (my favorite)is out of this world.

Caffe Riacce is also terrific. It makes a pollo parmesano that will melt in your mouth. It is the perfect fusion of chicken, tomatoes, olive oil, garlic and parmesano reggiano.

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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Sep 6, 2011 at 10:32 am

MV: Do you think MP can support a steakhouse? If it can be a destination place, like Marche, I think it can. Otherwise, it might just be short-lived trend or people will continue going - where? To Fleming's? I also like the deli on Alma by the train tracks, owned by Iberia. I also pick up Spanish food supplies at times there.

I agree w/Hank on some of the Amici's fare, but I am not into their pizza or pasta. This is what I like there:

-Gnocchi w/butter & parm (side dish, great w/salad, generous portion)
-Spinach, Caesar or panzanella salad (the latter is rustic & quite filling)
-Oven-roasted veggies (side dish)
-Broccoli w/EVOO & lemon (side dish)

As for Riace, we'll have to try the pollo parm - it sounds great!
Love their arancine, salmon & polenta.

Just figured out that Cool Cafe moved to the business park in east Menlo, so will try their organic fare. They're only open M-F for lunch.

Really glad that Kaygetsu chef will remain. It's not cheap fare, but it's made w/respect for the ingredients & their origin - I appreciate the un-fussy, clear-headed artistry that goes into their food.

We tried Thai Orchid Organic this weekend. Not bad & I understand a higher price point for organic. Maybe it was because our order was to go that we were less than thrilled, but chicken was underdone & the coconut rice so mushy couldn't eat it - & paid extra for it. Also paid extra for basic jasmine rice. DH liked his curry a lot, though. They do have brown rice which is a nice option & I've noticed a lot of Asian restaurants do that now.

Anyway, it wasn't nearly as good as what I threw together for a late lunch on Sat: plain, packaged linguini w/some various fresh ground black & pink peppers & a bit of salt tossed on, then some crumbled bleu & long, thin shards of parm cheese thrown on the freshly drained noodles, add back a couple tablespoons of the pasta water, swiftly tossed w/a super thick, homemade veggie red sauce on the side (all the veggies in it in tiny bits to thicken, plenty of garlic of course). Served w/a side of fruit, it was delish.

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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Sep 6, 2011 at 12:34 pm


I think MP can support a steak house. It needs to be done right though. It can't be along the lines of the place that was in the Jefferies space. It needs to be upscale and white table cloth like Forbes Mill in Los Gatos. If you're ever down that way give them a try.

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Posted by M.K.
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 6, 2011 at 12:47 pm

Great thread. Some good ideas for a couple new places to try- thanks for the tips.

Speaking of new places, anyone tried the Menlo Grill? Have heard some good things, but no one has seemed to mention it above.

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Posted by The most Interesting Man in the World
a resident of another community
on Sep 6, 2011 at 12:56 pm

I usually drink Dos Equis; but whenever I am in Menlo Park I go to my favorite watering hole in the Willows, operated by a former Menlo Park mayor, for a mind jolting libation made famous by former Menlo Park resident Kenny K.

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Posted by Jenny
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 6, 2011 at 1:14 pm

Wow, I've been on vacation, a lot happened over the weekend! I would love a steakhouse in Menlo but I think with Flemmings and Sundance, it would have a tough time surviving. Maybe not though......

One of my regrets is never going up to Kaygetsu, I've heard it is awesome. I will miss Marche too. It's too bad they closed. I ate there a couple times and it was fabulous. I really enjoyed just having a martini and an appetizer at the bar and moving on. You could do that and not spend a ton of money.

GC's Wine and cheese shop was on Oak Grove - I frequented it. I loved those guys, they were so nice and they had the BEST thing going....and they killed it. I don't know how they didn't see that for such a great place the ambiance was a train wreck. Great cheese plates, great wines at great prices, cute things for sale.... but it was lit with bright neon lights like a 7-11 and there was outdoor patio furniture in there that was soo uncomfortable. If they would have changed the mood - lighting, candles, loungy feel (at night) then I think they would have had more of a following. I purposly stopped going there with groups because of that - and I feel bad they had to close because you could tell that store was his passion

Ugh! mentioned Barbarosa, my family was friends with Gary who owned that and he wound up opening a great italian place in Belmont - I don't think it's still there anymore and I am curious now. He was an excellent chef.

Need to try the Menlo Grill for sure. And the new place going into Marche. Then I'm organizing a happy hour for us all to meet up there and talk food, where we will write the first review of the place! :)

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Posted by Alfred E Newman
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 6, 2011 at 3:18 pm

Best steak?

I tool on up the road to Flea Street.

Don't understand why more folks don't know about it. Also one of my favorite places for a martini.

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Posted by Jenny
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 7, 2011 at 10:39 am

I am HUGE Flea Street Fan, her food is excellent. They have a strawberry/jalepeno martini that is awesome. I have her cookbooks as well. I've made a ton of dishes and they turned out great.

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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Sep 12, 2011 at 5:03 pm

I'll be trying Ms. Cool's cafe at Menlo Business Park this week. Anything to recover from a thoughtless visit to The Sizzler over the weekend. Jenny - we shoulda hit The Carvery instead! In addition to a disgusting restroom, we were followed out of the "restaurant" by a couple. The man let out a belch that would've caused dogs to howl if any were around. I still haven't recovered from that experience...

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Posted by Jenny
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 12, 2011 at 9:20 pm

I don't know if it will be the same as Flea - (not sure of the business park location) Let me know what you think? I am not going to comment on your experience.... I have made several trips to the McDonald's on El Camino (vanilla cones and egg mcmuffins), and I actually loved the Chili's over by Ravenswood before they closed... so I don't knock the chain. . . . .

But......Sizzler?? Really? Give a review, I went to the sizzler after basketball tourneys in high school, after a bout with food poisoning that almost cost me the state game..... I gave it up. Is there anything worth trying? The all you can eat shrimp?

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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Sep 15, 2011 at 7:56 pm

Ahhh, Jenny, we didn't go to Cool Eatz; we went to Mike's in MP. I had soup & salad, nothing wild, but my friend loved her chicken parm. They used a panko & parm crust that she really liked. The patio was pleasant, but as is common, the service was uneven. Still to go: Cool Eatz!

As for The that I'm recovered from Mr. Belch-o-rino. I can report in: mediocrity at it's most celebrated is The Sizzler. I had salad. My Mister had steak & chicken w/endless salad. The chicken, a boneless, skinless breast, was just bad- he didn't bother finishing it. We watched people eating pile after pile of food from the salad bar & frankly, it was a little disturbing. People were eating like it was their last meal - & it's not like it's great food. They now have a soft serve icea cream bar, a cookies & cream dessert that we indulged in, soups & some kind of scary looking taco bar. Very middle America & not in a good way. I regret that we didn't remember to go to The Carvery instead!

The restroom was frightening & of course, our visit was topped off by The Belch doing his thing upon exit. Arrrrrrrrrrrgggggggghhhhhh!!!!!!

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Posted by Alfred E Newman
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Sep 16, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Loved Cool Eatz on Santa Cruz. My kids loved it more. Hand made potatoe chips!!

Want something WAY different? try:

Off The Grid on Monday nights AT the San Mateo train station. White table cloths it ain't!!!!

A dozen food trucks.

Funky. Different. Variety. Worth a try when you're in the right mood. If I had young kids still, I'd make a special trip on the train and make a mini event out of it. Much conversation ceases when the 7:30 freight or the babybullet/express's ROAR through or when the locals stop. Not quiet!!

Stay away from the Kara's cupcake truck!!

Looking for "real" food up there? Ostrio Coppa (sp?) was stellar the time I tried it.

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Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Sep 16, 2011 at 2:33 pm

Alfie, thanks for the suggestion. We have Edgewood Eats down the street on Monday eves. You should try it! It's at the junky, empty shopping center on Embarcadero & Channing & St. Francis, near 101. Of course, you have to be brave enough to venture into Shallow Alto & there're no chairs, etc. We've brought our own before. Lotsa good food trucks to try & you might spot Zuckerberg - or you can drive past his house & point it out to your kids.

The current Cool Eatz is only open for lunch in Menlo Business Park, so that's a bummer.

We'll be indulging in wonderful chai at Raman's Chai in Half Moon Bay this weekend, as well as the delish sandwiches on the fresh baked bread at San Benito House deli.

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Posted by Pam
a resident of Portola Valley: Portola Valley Ranch
on Jan 14, 2012 at 10:41 pm

Reading the favorites makes me wonder if these 'choices' are rigged somehow. Every year it's the same-old, same-old choices with only a few changes. Disappointing. As for Carpaccio and Left Bank--pretentious with mediocre food and service. Llu's--that's a joke.

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Posted by Of course it's rigged
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jan 14, 2012 at 11:37 pm

There are a few merchants who actively campaign for these awards. And the strategy works! I went to Klara Turner because I didn't know better (no knocks against that salon, but it's nothing special) and they are begging customers to vote. Other salons don't even seem to care.

The merchants who win are the ones who put some energy into promoting the awards. But I'm not sure they even matter any more. I'd go by Yelp rather than these semi-bogus awards.

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

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