Year in review: Dining out on the Peninsula | January 1, 2020 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


Arts & Entertainment - January 1, 2020

Year in review: Dining out on the Peninsula

Old favorites closed, a few got revived, fine dining took flight and delivery services got bigger

by Elena Kadvany

This was both a dynamic and a trying year for the Peninsula dining scene. Palo Alto's Maum won its first Michelin star. Bacchus Management Group, perhaps the area's best-known restaurant group, added swanky Selby's to its family, which includes the Village Pub in Woodside. International eateries opened or are on their way here, from Teleferic Barcelona to Singapore's Killiney Kopitiam.

Restaurant owners spoke out about struggling to keep their businesses afloat amid a tight labor market, high turnover and the increasing cost of doing business in the Bay Area. These pressures will continue to play out in 2020, with many in the industry worried about the future of the locally owned, middle-range neighborhood restaurant.

Read on for a roundup of noteworthy restaurant news of the year and the openings we're most looking forward to in 2020.

TEARFUL GOODBYES We said goodbye this year to a handful of longtime eateries: The Prolific Oven (39 years) and Round Table Pizza in Palo Alto (52 years), Applewood Pizza in Menlo Park (36 years), Martin's West in Redwood City (10 years) and Cho's Mandarin Dim Sum in Los Altos (39 years, including at the original Palo Alto location), and Mountain View's Tied House (31 years), which closed abruptly over the weekend, the owner said because of a need to remediate a chemical spill linked to a prior tenant's dry cleaning business.

While there's no singular reason for the closures, the owner of The Prolific Oven had some pertinent words for what customers can do to prevent family-run independent food businesses from becoming an endangered species: "It's in the power of the people where they choose to spend their money," said Regina Chan, whose parents Henry and Sophia Chan bought the bakery in 1996. "I hope that I'm wrong and that small businesses and family businesses can continue to thrive in the Bay Area, but it's going to be up to the consumers to really show that."

HAPPIEST REVIVALS A happy counternarrative to all the closures was the revival of much-loved restaurants this year. Mike's Cafe gave Palo Alto's Midtown neighborhood its favorite restaurant back after a lengthy renovation. New owners renovated and rejuvenated the 167-year-old Alpine Inn, giving the Portola Valley community a gathering place and watering hole (now, plus wines on tap and wood-fired pizza) for generations to come. Su Hong Palo Alto closed, but a former waiter reopened it under a new name, keeping on the same chef and changing little on the menu. Rose International Market returned to Mountain View after a four-year development-induced hiatus. And in a holiday miracle for sandwich lovers everywhere, Woodside Deli reopened in Redwood City last week, with the owners of Colombo's Delicatessen in Pacifica, who are related to the original owners of the local deli, at the helm.

MOST EXPENSIVE BURGER Selby's wanted to make a name for itself by serving "the coldest martini on the West Coast," but perhaps should have considered going with "the most expensive burger on the Peninsula." The swanky restaurant, located on the border of Redwood City and Atherton, drew attention for its $50 Black Label cheeseburger: a patty of dry-aged hanger steak, short rib and chuck, topped with black truffles and

Elena Kadvany writes for the Palo Alto Weekly, The Almanac's sister publication. Her blog, Peninsula Foodist, can be found at


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