As I leave the Bay Area in my rear view mirror, I see it only fitting that I dole out a city guide highlighting the places that have truly made Palo Alto my home for the past four years, which first and foremost, includes food. Without respite from oft-repetitive cafeteria meals or itis-inducing menus from Row House chefs with items like Chicken Fried Steak with Sausage Gravy (sorry arteries!), I don't know how I could have survived. With that said, I'm delighted to share with you some of my favorite eats (Orlando, New York, Paris versions to come).
1. Tacolicious: Somewhat of a new kid on the block, Tacolicious is a welcome addition to the street-taco vibe of Lulu’s in Town and Country and the parents-pick-up-the-tab vibe of Reposado. With an exhaustive drink menu of pitchers and “chupitos,” think shooter-esque mixed shots, to boast, you’re sure to leave happy. And if, in fact, you’re the kind that chooses to actually eat at a restaurant, I recommend you adhere to the tacos, all sound selections.
Tip: They don't take reservations, so come early or don't mind waiting during peak hours.
Great for: Pre-senior night pregame, anytime meal
2. Pressed Juicery: The California counterpart to Blue Print Cleanse and Organic Avenue, Pressed Juicery is your typical cold-pressed juice bar, conveniently located at the Stanford Shopping Center. Imbibe in the most-popular “Greens 3,” a pleasantly surprising combination of kale, spinach, romaine, parsley, cucumber, celery, apple, lemon and ginger or delicious “Vanilla Almond,” reminiscent of a vanilla milkshake, which promises to deliver protein for a post-workout recovery. But don’t get caught up, you are, in fact, spending $6.50 or $8 (hello, Signature Blends) to carry a betchy bottle.
Tip: They offer samples of all the juices, but don't be that person who tries 20 juices while a line forms out the door.
3. Joya: A University Avenue mainstay, Joya offers modern Latin cuisine. While not frequent in my rotation, the occasional Joya dinner surely hits the spot. I recommend ordering tapas to share, a pitcher of sangria and their fried Oreo’s with mint ice cream. #nom
Tip: Sit in the lounge if you just want to order drinks and dessert.
Great for: Ladies who lunch, Sunday morning recaps
4. Flea Street Café: Farm to table may not be new to the yoga-mat-toting, Chia-water-drinking Californians who religiously flock to their local Sunday morning farmer’s market, but trust me. Flea Street Café does it right. Appetizers like their Heirloom Tomato and Elberta Peaches salad with red onions, burrata and pecan basil pesto taste impossibly fresh. And don’t get me started with their cocktail menu, which features creative combinations like vodka, peaches, jalapeños and lemon juice. Oh, and you can expect to be greeted by the owner who will happily dole out some complimentary amuse-bouches. Still not sold? Consider that the parentals left the meal saying that Flea Street Café was the best restaurant I’ve taken them to, a list that includes Bay Area standouts Evvia, Flour +Water and Tamarine.
Tip: Make reservations in advance!
Great for: Special occasion dinners with friends, parents in town
5. Sprout: Beware, I currently hold the record among my friends with an $18 salad thanks to $1 extras like bacon, avocado and goat cheese –sorry, I have expensive taste. But Sprout delivers. Every. Time. Count on made-to-order salads, sandwiches (trust me on the Greek Chicken) and small bites.
Tip: Skip the line by ordering via the Sprout app and don’t forget to ask for your student discount!
Don't think this list encapsulates all of the Bay Area eateries. Other frequently notables include Evvia, Tamarine, Térun, Palo Alto Creamery, LB Steak and Oren’s Hummus.