Eating & Nightlife

Palo Alto is home to some of the best restaurants in the Bay Area, in many cases rivaling the best restaurants in San Francisco. It is a favorite dinner spot for locals living throughout Silicon Valley and visiting tourists and business people from around the world.

Most of the best restaurants are relatively small and independent, and without reservations you can expect to wait up to an hour or longer, especially on weekends.

Visitors looking for familiar but quality food will find lots to choose from. Chains including The Cheesecake Factory, California Pizza Kitchen, P.F. Chang's, Max's Opera Cafe, Il Fornaio, Gordon Biersch and Buca di Beppo all have Palo Alto locations.

Restaurants are the focal point for nightlife in Palo Alto, and it's not uncommon for them to still be seating customers at 10 or 11 o'clock on weekends. A popular bar scene consisting of mostly non-local young professionals and some Stanford students keeps downtown Palo Alto going until after 1 a.m. A few restaurants and bars feature live music or DJs.

For live theater, check out TheatreWorks, a nationally-acclaimed group that draws from throughout the Peninsula and Silicon Valley. Palo Alto Players, a popular community theater group that was the Peninsula's first theater group when formed in 1931, offers a regular schedule of plays at the Lucie Stern Community Center in Palo Alto. The much-loved Palo Alto Children's Theatre has it's own dedicated stage at the community center and has ignited the acting passion of many local children. Check the calendar for other theater, music and dance offerings in Palo Alto and at Stanford.

View a PDF of a useful listing of restaurants published in our printed Visitors Guide.

Looking for a good place for a weekend brunch? These restaurants offer special brunch menus.

Want to limit your search to the places our readers selected as "The Best?" These restaurants, cafes and eateries were the winners in our most recent "Best of Palo Alto" contest.

Restaurant Search

4290 Bistro & Bar at the Crown Plaza

It's no wonder that the Beatles purportedly stayed at this hotel once upon a day: The design of the new Crowne Plaza is a gorgeous study in hip good taste and the brunch buffet is a steal.


Location

4290 El Camino Real, Palo Alto
(650) 857-0787

Arte Ristorante


Location

473 University Ave., Palo Alto
(650) 329-8300

Bistro Maxine

Offers French crepes, both savory and sweet, as well as salads and sandwiches. There are crepes with liqueur for those desiring an extra kick; those selections include the Normandy (apples, butter, creme fraiche, Calvados), the Josephine (bananas, roasted almonds, Grand-Marnier) and the Malicious (orange jam, hot chocolate, Cointreau). Swimming-pool-sized cappuccinos, house red and white wine, beer and cider.


Location

548 Ramona St., Palo Alto
(650) 323-1815

Bon Vivant


Location

535 Bryant St., Palo Alto
(650) 485-3228

Cafe Brioche

Cafe Brioche serves delicious Franco-California food. Especially good starters are the crispy brioche beignet fritters, oyster mushrooms and salade Parisienne. Entrees of hazelnut-crusted salmon, grilled duck breast, beef short rib and cassoulet will not disappoint. Excellent desserts. Reasonable wine list, cozy, Provencal decor.


Location

445 S. California Ave., Palo Alto
(650) 326-8640

Cafe Epi

Cafe Epi offers a variety of soups, salads, sandwiches, appetizers, pastries and desserts. Breakfast is served from 7 to 11:30 a.m., then bistro fare until late evening. The food is French-themed, fresh and tasty. Pastries are made on the premises; sandwiches are thick and satisfying. Beer, wine and a wide range of juices and coffees.


Location

405 University Ave., Palo Alto
(650) 328-4888

Cafe Venetia

This Venice-based chain (with other coffee bars in Italy and Japan -- and one planned for Egypt) has brought its Venetian-style espresso to Palo Alto. Teas and treats, too.


Location

419 University Ave., Palo Alto
(650) 323-3600

Calafia Café & Market a-Go-Go Best of Winner - 2015

Calafia is Charlie Ayers' contribution to the revival of Palo Alto's Town & Country Village. Formerly known for feeding Google and the Grateful Dead, Ayers has a hit in this sensibly priced, enjoyably furnished restaurant. From tofu scramble to braised pork, the food is good and the menu is the soul of diversity. Pacing is problematic but servers are friendly and eager, and the ambiance sets the bar for environmentalism.


Location

855 El Camino Real, Palo Alto
(650) 322-9200

Coupa Cafe Best of Winner - Best Solo Dining, Palo Alto Weekly, 2011

High-quality Venezuelan coffee and chocolates are among the highlights of this cafe. Among the most authentic and interesting items on the menu are the arepas, cornmeal pancakes stuffed with various ingredients, from traditional Venezuelan meat stew to smoked salmon to guava jelly. The cafe has also opened a location on the Stanford University campus, at 473 Via Ortega; its phone number is 650-331-1132.


Location

538 Ramona St., Palo Alto
(650) 322-6872

Crepevine

Brunch at any time of the day with savory and sweet crepes. Also serves breakfast, salads, sandwiches with vegetarian options. Friendly waitstaff and big portions.


Location

367 University Ave., Palo Alto
(650) 323-3900

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