Menlo Park: Iberia restaurant plans to move at year-end

Alma Street businesses to be torn down if office complex is approved

By year-end, it's off to a new, out-of-town home for Iberia, the popular Spanish restaurant at 1026 Alma St. in Menlo Park.

Owner and chef Jose Luis Relinque said he's in the process of finalizing the paperwork to buy a property at 740 El Camino Real in Belmont.

Iberia's last day of operation in Menlo Park will be Dec. 31. Mr. Relinque said he had initially looked for a new spot in Menlo Park after finding out last summer that a new development would leave the restaurant and adjacent businesses homeless.

"But the market is really terrible. If you purchase an existing business, or purchase nothing more than garbage, the costs are sky-high," he said.

Iberia had been located in the Ladera Country Shopper in Portola Valley for 16 years before moving to Menlo Park in 2000. The next year, Mr. Relinque and his wife and Iberia co-owner, Jessica, opened Rock of Gibraltar next door, which offers lunch items and gourmet take-out foods. That store will not be reopened at the new location, although the restaurant will probably add a "to go" lunch menu, he said.

The Belmont property currently houses a coffee shop. Mr. Relinque said he'll have to gut the space. He plans on wrapping up the application and permit processes and getting other necessities done by the end of the year.

The new restaurant, which will focus on tapas and paella, will have the same name and phone number, according to the owner, but will be more casual, with "the same vibe that it has now -- comfortable, relaxing ... the two things really necessary to enjoy the meal."

Iberia will also keep the same staff. "My employees, which are the most important part of the equation, will still be able to get there. Most of them live in Redwood City," Mr. Relinque said, and laughed. "That's more important than (keeping) the same clientele."

Office building

Local developer Lane Partners is proposing to build a 25,156-square-foot, three-story office building at 1020 Alma St. on top of a two-level underground garage, according to documents filed with the city.

Construction will require demolishing existing businesses from 1010 Alma St. to 1026 Alma St. That includes Los Salonez and Cindy Nails Spa II, as well as Iberia.

Designed by BAR Architects, the new office complex would preserve two heritage oak trees, and add six new trees and other landscaping to create public and private courtyards.

The 0.6-acre parcel is within the boundaries of the downtown/El Camino Real specific plan, and the developer may negotiate for public benefits in exchange for exceeding the base level of density allowed on the site.

Lane Partners did not respond to a request for comment. The Planning Commission will hold a study session on the project at a future date.

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10 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 18, 2015 at 8:37 am

This is too bad that Iberia is moving. MP should have more places like this instead we get yet another office building -- should we be excited? -- not really!

14 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 18, 2015 at 8:48 am

Iberia was overpriced and poorly managed. They had a store on the side full of potential, but open at the wrong times [part removed]. Sad in a way to see it go, but not surprised.

[portion removed]

6 people like this
Posted by Gertrude
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 18, 2015 at 10:17 am


Your comments suggest that Ibera is moving because of poor quality and management. Not so. They are moving because the property was sold to make way for a three story office building. Even if they were the world's greatest restaurant they were going to have to move.

8 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 18, 2015 at 10:28 am

Getrude- I'm not suggesting that's why. If poor service and high prices was a reason for a restaurant closing, half of this town would be vacant. I know the development team who are building the office. I was only suggesting that I won't be shedding tears to see it go.

11 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 18, 2015 at 12:23 pm

My point was that if MP wants to have a community feel adding another office complex isn't moving in that direction.

If MP wants to have a downtown which attracts people, especially after hours, and provide "friendly" competition with PA and RWC then an office complex seems to run contrary.

8 people like this
Posted by lessons learned
a resident of Menlo Park: Felton Gables
on Mar 18, 2015 at 12:34 pm

lessons learned is a registered user.

@Bob, you seem to think that city staff cares about "community feel" or attracting business when their priority is catering to developers. Sometimes those developers build projects that benefit our city, and sometimes they don't, but staff doesn't differentiate. All development is good.

Like this comment
Posted by Dagwood
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Mar 18, 2015 at 1:46 pm

If the all office project involves public benefit negotiation , the Planning Commission and City Council can propose benefit reflecting that the project alone has little 'intrinsic benefit' for the city. If the developer and city cannot agree on that then a different project would have to be proposed. If the city dies not want an all office project of this size then that can be communicated as well. A smaller project below the public benefit level could also be all office , but more likely would be a mix of office and residential or retail to take advantage of maximum possible building not requiring public benefit negotiation. So there's a lot of control here still.

6 people like this
Posted by Tim
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Mar 18, 2015 at 2:45 pm

Good riddance. The food was okay, but I think the management did a lot to alienate his clientele. I once witnessed a large group of people walk out of his nearly empty restaurant after J-L confronted them about moving some chairs around to accommodate the group. I'm sure the chairs were all back in their correct locations after the group left without ordering. I hope he lets the PR job to somebody else in Belmont.

5 people like this
Posted by predictable
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 18, 2015 at 3:37 pm

losing restaurants to office buildings is so predictable because the specific plan's rules are really "off" and don't promote the mix of uses the community was led to believe would result.
We lost Roger Reynolds for the same reason - too much office is allowed in the plan but this council is ignoring that.

2 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 18, 2015 at 3:45 pm


Roger Reynolds has nothing to do with office pushing in, since it's going to be jam-packed with 100% housing. But agreed with the need for mixes of use.

3 people like this
Posted by Jon Castor
a resident of Woodside: Woodside Heights
on Mar 18, 2015 at 3:47 pm

Jon Castor is a registered user.

We'll be sorry to see Iberia, Jose Luis, and his excellent staff go. Loved this quiet corner of Spain in Menlo Park!

3 people like this
Posted by Ted Wobber
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Mar 18, 2015 at 6:05 pm

So sad. This was really the only place to get decent tapas anywhere near Menlo Park. And the little shop had many hard-to-find items as well.

I guess at the end of the day, Menlo Park is going to wind up with wall-to-wall banks and VC office space, just like downtown Palo Alto.

2 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 18, 2015 at 6:47 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

"I guess at the end of the day, Menlo Park is going to wind up with wall-to-wall banks and VC office space, just like downtown Palo Alto."

Right. That's why everyone from MP goes to PA for the restaurants. Because it's "wall to wall banks and VC office space." Have you even been to downtown PA?

6 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Mar 18, 2015 at 7:05 pm

I remember well when Iberia was in Ladera. I did not like how customers, particularly single women, were treated back then, and the food was mediocre. My husband and I were treated so rudely by Jose that we never went back. The Menlo Park location also has a poor reputation. If Jose Luis wants to be successful, he needs to improve both his attitude and his cuisine!

18 people like this
Posted by Percy Myers
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Mar 18, 2015 at 7:09 pm

If the office is filled with tech/VC people, our restaurant scene will likely improve. Those people spend money! Not like the chattering classes who sit in their Prop 13-subsidized houses they've lived in for 30+ years, who only get out on Tuesday nights to yell at the Council and staff.

5 people like this
Posted by Mike Keenly
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 18, 2015 at 11:13 pm

There are plenty of excellent restaurants in downtown Menlo Park that are properly priced (Boronne Market Bar, Bistro Vida, Carpaccio, Galata Bistro, Shiok, Sultana - I could go on).

There's little reason for us to go to University Ave., unless I want to get my sushi wrapped up like a burrito or spend $15 on a hot dog.

9 people like this
Posted by Louise68
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 18, 2015 at 11:28 pm

Not another office building! What is our City Council thinking? I guess they just love being rubber stamps for every developer who wants to build yet another unneeded office building -- or hotel. Menlo Park is being Manhattanized. It won't be long before our once-interesting downtown is turned into rows of boring office buildings.

Yes, those young techies do spend money on restaurants and in stores -- but those restaurants and stores have to be there before they can spend money in them.

And you people who sneer at older people who have been here a long time ought to be ashamed of yourselves. I guess the only people you think are worth listening to are very rich people. That is sad. You will miss a lot of very worthwhile interactions and just plain fun by restricting yourselves to only being with very rich people.

And all this will be moot sooner, rather than later, because of the scary and sad fact that California has only one year of water left in its reservoirs. Yet our City Council acts as though this scary fact is not true, and rubber-stamps construction of more and more and more office buildings and hotels. And yet we residents are still supposed to do our best to conserve water, under threats of large fines if we don't? Isn't this wrong -- having one set of rules for ordinary people and another for the very rich?

Ignoring unpleasant facts about the drought will not make that drought go away. Wake up, city officials!

There. Is. Not. Enough. Water. For. All. This. Development.

6 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 19, 2015 at 9:01 am

really? is a registered user.

So Louise68:

If you look at the Roger Reynold site, which land use do you think is a bigger waster of water: Garden Center, 24 Family Homes, or offices?

Ban the irrigation of lawns as a first step, but after that, saving our state's water is going to be cutting back agri-business. Ice-water in restaurants is laughable.

But getting upset about office development as a water issue is setting sights in the wrong direction.

Like this comment
Posted by Louise68
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Mar 19, 2015 at 3:03 pm

@ "really?" ---
You do make a good point about Roger Reynolds. And about houses. But making concrete for all those office buildings does use some precious water -- to mix with the cement. And new workers do use more of our scarce water.

And I did not even mention the impact of all these new office buildings on our already-congested roads. Yes, some of the workers will be able to use public transit, as this building is right across the street from our Caltrain station -- which will be very convenient to those employees who are north-south commuters.

I still do not think it wise or practical to encourage more people to come here. We're full!

At least the developer is going to preserve the beautiful heritage trees that are now on the property, and will try to make that building attractive -- which I really appreciate a lot

2 people like this
Posted by predictable
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Mar 20, 2015 at 8:34 am

@ Really?
I should have said that the downtown plan made it predictable that we would lose restaurants and retail.

We can't weigh just the tradeoff of water for a garden nursery for housing complex even though a housing complex easily could use more than a nursery, depending on the landscaping done for it. We also have to weigh the loss of lots of plants near our increasingly congested downtown, and the need for residents to drive to other cities to procure plants.

How is it good to add demand for things that we are losing? Besides, most tech companies provide free food and other amenities so their workers don't need to go out much. Who says the new buildings will be filled with tech workers? MP seems to attract realtors, VCs, lawyers.

3 people like this
Posted by Hank Lawrence
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jun 17, 2015 at 9:50 pm

I am sorry to see it go. Iberia had the best zarauelas. I also loved their Cesar salad. It is almost as good as the Tijuana original that I used to slip over the border to enjoy when I lived in San Diego. That is when I wasn't going to La Costa for its huachinango veracruzana or abulon a mojo de ajo- just a few blocks away.

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

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