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.
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’.