Tag Archives: downtown Palo Alto restaurant

Bird Dog Soars

Irresistible curry-dusted fried chicken at Bird Dog.

Irresistible curry-dusted fried chicken at Bird Dog.

 

The tech world has been blamed for a lot of things of late — worsening traffic, skyrocketing housing prices, widespread impatience, and a growing lack of civility.

But one thing we can be thankful for is that it brought us Chef Robbie Wilson and his wife Emily Wilson.

Chamath Palihapitiya, venture capitalist, part owner of the Warriors, and former Facebook executive, and his wife, Brigette Lau, also a venture capitalist and former Navio Systems engineer, met the Wilsons and were so captivated by them, they agreed to partner and invest in their restaurant — as long as it opened in Palo Alto, the city where the influential tech couple lives with their kids.

Bird Dog opened last winter in downtown Palo Alto. The name refers to pursuing something with unwavering, laser-focus and determination, which is appropriate for a restaurant that’s been a hit since the doors opened. I had a chance to visit a few weeks ago when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant.

Chef Robbie Wilson brings impressive credentials to Palo Alto.

Chef Robbie Wilson brings impressive credentials to Palo Alto.

Robbie Wilson trained under some of the best: Michael Troisgros at Maison Troisgras; Tom Colicchio at Craft in New York, Thomas Keller at the French Laundry, and Nobu Matsuhisa at Matsuhisa in Aspen. Emily Wilson, who worked in luxury real estate development sales, is a gracious presence at the restaurant, darting from table to table, to welcome and chat with guests.

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What’s Old Is New Again At Dan Gordon’s

Fried chicken and barbecue star at the new Dan Gordon's in Palo Alto.

Fried chicken and barbecue star at the new Dan Gordon’s in Palo Alto.

 

Some laws are meant to be broken. Or rescinded.

Especially when it comes to the one that California enacted in 1999 that prohibited someone from owning both a restaurant and a bottling brewery.

The result was that long-time brewer Dan Gordon was forced to sell his 12 Gordon Biersch Brewery restaurants in order to maintain ownership of his Gordon Biersch Brewing Company in San Jose.

It was not a decision he wanted to make. And it was one that haunted him.

When California legislators rescinded that law this year, Gordon rejoiced. By chance, he learned that his original Gordon Biersch restaurant in downtown Palo Alto was about to be shuttered and sold. He managed to buy it back.

The expansive bar.

The expansive bar.

The soaring, barn-like dining room.

The soaring, barn-like dining room.

This March, he and his business partner, Steve Sincheck (Gordon’s original bar manager at that location, and now owner of Palo Alto’s Old Pro and Local Union 271) reopened the restaurant, christening it Dan Gordon’s and transforming it into a contemporary barbecue joint. It is the only restaurant Gordon actually owns now.

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Palo Alto Grill Grows Into Its Own

Mango cheesecake at the Palo Alto Grill.

Mango cheesecake at the Palo Alto Grill.

 

The Palo Alto Grill in downtown Palo Alto has undergone some tweaks.

When it first opened last year, it was decidedly much more of a steakhouse with a dedicated section of the menu devoted to various beefy cuts. That has been jettisoned, leaving just one steak on the menu.

For a time earlier this year, it also featured a separate menu of Croatian specialties in homage to co-owner Luka Dvornik’s heritage. That, too, has now been abandoned.

In its place now are dishes that lean more toward Modern American that highlight plenty of local, seasonal California products, sometimes with an Asian sensibility. The whimsy also has been turned up, as evident in the plating of several of the dishes.

Husband-and-wife team Chef Ryan Shelton and Pastry Chef Yoomi Shelton helm the kitchen with a fine eye for detail. Their previous experience includes stints at Baume in Palo Alto, and Randall Grahm’s former Le Cigar Volante in Santa Cruz.

Recently, I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant for a return visit to try out the new menu.

The bread basket you can't stop eating.

The bread basket you can’t stop eating.

A cocktail made with fresh blackberries.

A cocktail made with fresh blackberries.

You could easily fill up on the bread basket alone, as the offerings are superb. Shelton bakes them all in-house every hour, including airy brioche, fragrant walnut bread and a fantastic salted pretzel shaped like a wheat stalk. Alongside is a Dijon-parmesan sauce for slathering on.

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Lure + Till Takes Root in Downtown Palo Alto

First of the season Alaskan halibut at Palo Alto's Lure + Till.

First of the season Alaskan halibut at Palo Alto’s Lure + Till.

 

What was once a senior care facility in downtown Palo Alto has morphed into a splashy new boutique hotel and restaurant.

The eight-story Epiphany Hotel, a Joie de Vivre property, opened at the end of March after a  year of demolition that took the structure down to the studs, followed by nearly two years of construction.

The six-story mosaic of El  Palo Alto, the 1,000-year-old coastal redwood for which the city is named, was kept on the outside of the building. Moreover, throughout the structure there are nods to both that tree and to the city’s prominent place in Silicon Valley history. For instance, binary code is used as lighted artwork in the lobby. Historic maps of Palo Alto adorn hallways. Room rugs are woven with tree images. Cocoon-like “hoodie” chairs on the mezzanine not only have built-in outlets but were designed to be noise-cancelling. And perhaps in the ultimate oxymoron, the desks for all those hustle-bustle guests who never met an electronic device they didn’t like were made by the Amish.

Only in Silicon Valley: binary code as art.

Only in Silicon Valley: binary code as art.

The chic lobby.

The chic lobby.

Now, I’m not in the habit of snapping pictures of urinals in the men’s room. But this one was too good not to memorialize after being escorted in by the general manager. Yes, in the men’s room of a hotel just a stone’s throw from Stanford University, you will find this unique urinal, a deprecating symbol of the Big Game rivalry between the two institutions.

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Palo Alto Grill Sizzles

Clever and wonderful avocado corn dogs at Palo Alto Grill.

Clever and wonderful avocado corn dogs at Palo Alto Grill.

 

Downtown Palo Alto has a bevy of talented chefs. But now, it also has the acclaimed Ryan Shelton, who’s the executive chef and partner of the Palo Alto Grill, which opened its doors in April.

A San Jose native, Shelton has amassed quite a reputation, having worked in Europe and Asia before becoming pastry chef at Chez TJ in Mountain View, then chef de cuisine at Baume in Palo Alto, where he helped that restaurant garner two Michelin stars. Most recently, he helmed the kitchen at vintner Randall Grahm’s Le Cigare Volant in Santa Cruz.

Shelton is continuing those high standards at the Palo Alto Grill, as evidenced by my visit recently, when my friend Donna treated me to dinner for a belated birthday celebration.

The 80-seat dining room is warm and clubby with dark wood tables, exposed wood beams, brick accents and a black granite bar. On an early evening, it gets plenty of light, too, from floor-to-ceiling windows.

Steak is front and center on the menu. But there’s so much more, too.

You know you’re in the hands of a restaurant that cares about the details when the bread basket comes out. It’s filled with warm house-made focaccia and chewy pretzel sticks. Alongside is a ramekin of creamy mustard cheese sauce. You could fill up on this alone. But save room.

Forget the low-carb diet here. Don't pass up the pretzels and focaccia.

Forget the low-carb diet here. Don’t pass up the pretzels and focaccia.

The dining room.

The dining room.

That’s because you have to order the avocado corn dogs ($7) under the small plates portion of the menu. There are no hot dogs in this version. But you don’t miss them. What you get instead are nuggets of creamy avocado on sticks that are breaded in the familiar cornmeal batter, then fried until golden. The sweetness of the batter plays nicely with the richness of the avocado. A chipotle mustard sauce adds smokiness and a dash of spiciness. It’s the kind of nosh all too easy to reach for in the company of a cold beer. Three come to an order. So, if there’s two of you, you may end up fighting over the last one. Just sayin’.

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