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.


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

Arte Ristorante


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.


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

Bon Vivant


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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

Fambrini's Terrace Cafe

Straightforward sandwiches and salads served in a beautiful terrace setting with a view that just won't quit. Affordable coffee drinks and good range of cookies as well.


2600 El Camino Real #220, Palo Alto
(650) 858-1268

Hobee's Palo Alto Best of Winner - Best Breakfast, Palo Alto Weekly, 2008, 2011

Country-style restaurant with healthy California influence. Long lines for weekend breakfast.


4224 El Camino Real, Palo Alto
(650) 856-6124

Il Fornaio

Il Fornaio is a sprawling restaurant and bakery specializing in Italian cuisine. House-made breads, antipasti, pizza, pasta, meat and fish are offered. Each month, a different regional cuisine is featured along with the regular menu. Stylish ambiance, full bar, great wine list.


520 Cowper St., Palo Alto
(650) 853-3888

Local Union 271


271 University Ave., Palo Alto
(650) 322-7509

MacArthur Park


27 University Ave., Palo Alto
(650) 321-9990

Mayfield Bakery & Cafe Best of Winner - 2015

Mayfield Bakery & Cafe, located in the Town & Country Center, serves lunch and dinner seven days per week in a contemporary whitewashed interior. The menu is imaginative and easily approachable. Especially good are appetizers, fish and rotisserie meats. Baked goods and desserts excel. The sour cherry bread pudding is par excellence. Excellent beer and wine selection at sane prices. However, the service is spotty, ranging from neglectful to overbearing.


855 El Camino Real, Palo Alto
(650) 853-9200

Mike's Cafe Etc.

Owner Mike Wallau has been in the restaurant business for a quarter century and has decided simply to serve his favorite dishes at his popular Midtown eatery. Many of the dishes are Italian.


2680 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto
(650) 473-6453



535 Ramona St., Palo Alto
(650) 328-2722



140 University Ave., Palo Alto
(650) 391-9855

Paris Baguette

The "review" listed above is actually a feature, but this database doesn't allow for that.


383 University Ave., Palo Alto
(650) 838-0404

1 2 3 4 > >>
Page 1 of 4