You don't need to be outdoors to enjoy nature on the Peninsula. Local eateries have developed a flair for displaying their green ideals and aesthetics with floral decor. And these days, as the spring wildflower season beckons residents to parks and nature preserves, these eateries are flexing the flower power to create a lush outdoor vibe in indoor settings.
Here are seven restaurants and cafes teeming with green that pride themselves on thriving plant life.
Little Green, Redwood City
Little Green cafe revels in its Etsy-driven cottagecore aesthetic, with a plant bar, textile arts, pop-up vintage clothing shop, cozy armchairs and a coffee counter.
Redwood City resident Sharon Grant partnered with Michael Bell, a Loma Mar resident and former manager at S'Bastian's Coffee in Redwood City, to launch Little Green, a plant, coffee and gift shop in Redwood City.
Grant previously ran a succulent business, creating plant arrangements at farmers markets and for tech companies' team-building programs.
When the pandemic hit, she connected with S'Bastian's, which hosted an artisan market. "Between their coffee and that artisan market ... the business did great," she says. "We would daydream about if we had a place of our own."
So when a favorite building she'd admired for years posted a for lease sign, she inquired about the space. "I just thought, 'What the heck?’" she says.
That space is now their current location at 1101 Main St., a former car dealership and showroom. Working with a San Mateo County program offering free counseling for small businesses, they launched their business and opened their doors last June.
Coffee drinks include espresso-based beverages and coffees made with Red Bay Coffee. Teas come from Lovey's Tea House in Pacifica. Pastries are provided by Cocola Bakery. They also offer chagaccinos, a beverage made with coffee and chaga mushrooms.
"We want this to be a place where people can come and relax, get together again, shop small again and support other vendors and makers that are trying to make unique items," she says.
The plant bar offers live music on Saturday mornings and has an upcoming "Yo Momma!" pop-up market for Mother's Day shopping on May 7 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. A Mother's Day-themed workshop on how to make succulent-planted teacups has already sold out.
"People are really excited to see someplace like this," Grant says.
Bloomsgiving, Mountain View
Jessica Han quit her full-time job in early 2020 to focus on starting a plant store. She studied flower-arranging techniques in Paris and had spent nearly a decade working toward opening a flower shop and cafe, doing flower arrangements for events and small weddings and hosting succulent terrarium workshops at corporate offices and malls.
Launching a brick-and-mortar business during the pandemic brought uncertainty, she says, and some months were better than others. Plus, two months after opening the store, she had her first child.
"It has definitely been a very exciting and challenging time to juggle being a new store owner and new parent. I am so glad we are here and I hope that we can be a part of the community for many years," she said in an email.
Bloomsgiving offers a wide variety of plants, from low-light and beginner-friendly varieties to ones that are 6-feet-tall or that require more maintenance. The coffee menu includes drinks such as the Bloomsgiving espresso tonic, made with iced espresso, rose and orange, and the rose matcha latte, made with matcha from Uji, Japan, and served with rose syrup.
"I'm most proud of being a store that can provide people with not only plant advice but also a specially-crafted drink," she says. "I love hearing people say this store is a combination of everything they love, because it really is a reflection of everything I love."
Mazra, San Bruno
For Saif Makableh, chef and owner of Mazra, which operates in San Bruno and has a second location in Redwood City in the works, having plants as part of the restaurant's experience is important because it helps create a calming atmosphere, among other reasons.
"The natural greenery adds a sense of freshness and vitality to the space, making it more inviting and enjoyable for diners. Additionally, plants help improve indoor air quality by filtering out pollutants and releasing oxygen, creating a healthier environment for our diners to enjoy their meals,” he said in an email. “Lastly, incorporating plants into our restaurant aligns with our commitment to sustainability and our desire to connect our diners with nature and the environment."
The restaurant worked with Zarco Gardening and Landscaping in San Mateo to design and select plants, including ferns, succulents, air plants and olive trees.
To provide both visitors and plant life with natural light, they are planning to add a large skylight in the Redwood City restaurant's dining room, Makableh adds. Their menu includes kebabs and shawarma plates and wraps, falafel and other traditional Mediterranean fare.
"We are proud to have plants as an integral part of our restaurant's design and ambiance," he says. "We believe that the presence of plants enhances the overall atmosphere of our restaurant and reflects our commitment to providing a welcoming and sustainable dining experience."
Flora, Los Altos
This lounge in downtown Los Altos recently opened in the home of the former BariBar and offers food, drinks and happy hour specials from 4 to 6 p.m. daily and all evening on Tuesdays, plus Sunday brunches from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. True to its name, Flora has green walls and plants cozied up in corners and alongside cushy couches and chairs, plus little nods to the theme like a cactus-shaped lamp.
With indoor and outdoor seating, Flora has craft cocktails like the Peru-inspired "Miraflores," made with pisco, passion fruit, pineapple, hibiscus and egg white, and the "Papiazucar," made with rye whiskey, montenegro, amaro nonino and a Grand Marnier rinse.
Shareable menu items include lamb birria tacos and Korean barbecue wings, while mains include a pesto and fig flatbread, halibut and yucca root stew, pork belly sliders and lomo saltado. For dessert, pumpkin churros, a chocolate tres leches cake, passion fruit cheesecake and a vegan brownie served with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce are all on offer. Sunday brunch items include a breakfast burrito, chicken and waffles and paninis, plus bloody mary and mimosa drink options.
Ettan, Palo Alto
Open since February 2020, this Palo Alto restaurant offers lush plant life throughout its indoor and outdoor spaces alongside innovative Cal-Indian cuisine. Ettan means "breath" in Sanskrit, and its founder has fittingly brought a breath of fresh air into the restaurant with its plant life.
Ettan was rebuilt from the bones of the former Vietnamese restaurant Three Seasons, which closed following a kitchen fire. Guiding the aesthetics of the restaurant has been founder and co-owner Ayesha Thapar, an Atherton resident who has spent about half of her life in India and worked in internet marketing, real estate development and fashion.
She told the Peninsula Foodist in 2020 that she aimed to "create an iconic space for Silicon Valley ... but not in any way, shape or form (to be) intimidating."
Dangling planters hang alongside chandeliers and lanterns from the atrium, and large pots holding plants of all textures border the restaurant’s patio. Los Angeles-based Schoos Design told Architectural Digest that they wanted to emulate Ettan’s unique dining experience in the design.
Two-Michelin-starred chef and co-owner Srijith Gopinathan is behind the restaurant’s menu, which includes meat and seafood like lamb chop and black cod, as well as dishes like chicken biryani and the Ettan salad with mixed greens, avocado, grapes, pumpkin seeds and fermented curry leaf chutney. Desserts include dishes like early citrus (avocado ice cream with olive oil cake, citrus milk and candied pecan) and tender coconut (kheer, mango sorbet, almond and cardamom). Ettan also serves Sunday brunch in addition to its nightly dinner menu.
Son & Garden, Menlo Park and Palo Alto
With its newest location in Palo Alto, Son & Garden has become a destination brunch spot for the social-media savvy – an extravagant collection of flowers decks out the restaurant's walls and ceilings at its Menlo Park and Palo Alto locations.
The breakfast menu includes a collection of omelets, scrambles, Benedicts and griddle offerings, plus a bibimbap bowl with fried chicken, fried egg, asparagus, bell peppers, kimchi and spinach, while the lunch menu offers sandwiches, salads and burgers. Among them are the "My Son!" burger, made with a grilled Wagyu beef patty, bacon jam, bacon, fried egg and cheese and served on a brioche bun, and the grilled cheese panini with eggs, three kinds of cheese, caramelized onion and bacon jam. Instagrammable brunch cocktails include the "Cloud 9" made with Lillet Blanc, Dolin Blanc and pineapple sparkling wine and served with a cotton candy cloud and edible butterfly. The restaurant also offers specialty tea sets by reservation.
Feast & Floral at Salvaje Wine Bar, Palo Alto
Feast and Floral is a grazing table and floral design business at Salvaje Wine Bar in Palo Alto. Menlo Park resident and Palo Alto High alum Ashley Higashi creates boards, boxes, “grazing tables” and floral arrangements. She and her sister started the business in 2019, catering for private and corporate events. When the pandemic hit, they pivoted toward small boards and snack boxes. As time passed and demand grew for larger cheese and charcuterie boards, they teamed up with Salvaje in Palo Alto and opened a brick-and-mortar space at the wine bar last year.
“It’s a perfect match: cheese and charcuterie and wine,” Higashi said in an interview with the Peninsula Foodist in 2022.
Plants are abundant inside and out at Salvaje, where patrons can dine on smaller boards and natural wine. They also sell grab-and-go cheese and charcuterie boxes, flower arrangements, houseplants and succulents, in addition to gifts like cheese board accessories and specialty foods. Feast and Floral also offers private catering and holds events at Salvaje, including an upcoming Mother’s Day weekend DIY flower bar.