Before they began their careers and gained fame and fortune, people like Sandra Day O’Connor, John Elway, Phil Knight and Sigourney Weaver, were students at Stanford University. Like almost all undergraduates, they ate at the campus dining halls and at inexpensive restaurants near Stanford. While the Supreme Court Justice, Super Bowl winning quarterback, founder of Nike, and Oscar-winning actress may never have been penniless college students, they were not multimillionaires either. Like their classmates, they ate at sandwich shops, hamburger joints, pizza parlors, and other neighborhood eateries.
While the names and owners of many of the restaurants around Stanford have changed over the years, the need for inexpensive dining options for budget-conscious students and visitors has not. If you are visiting Silicon Valley and are near Stanford, you have many great choices for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You can always find the national chain restaurants, but it is more fun to be a little adventurous and try some of the locally owned eateries. Following are some of the best places to eat near Stanford.
Coupa Cafe – 571 Escondido Mall
Located by the Green Library, breakfast is reasonably priced and available all day. Outdoor seating allows you to people watch as you start your day off with a large cup of steaming hot coffee. A favorite breakfast beverage at Coupa Cafe is the Spicy Maya mocha, a delicious hot chocolate drink. Espresso, organic teas, fruit smoothies and a good old glass of fresh orange juice are some of your other drink options. You can’t go wrong with the fresh-baked pastries. Try a chocolate croissant or maybe order a sweet and savory breakfast crepe. How about some waffles or pancakes with fresh strawberries and bananas?
The menu is extensive and you can get a satisfying breakfast for well under $10. Eat outside or place an order to go.
Tootsie’s at the Stanford Barn – 700 Welch Road
Breakfast is prepared Italian style and it is delicious! You can choose to eat inside the red brick building or, on a nice California day, enjoy your breakfast under an umbrella at one of the outdoor tables. You can always tell a good restaurant by their bread. Taste the real butter flavor as you bite into a freshly baked, still warm, croissant. The breakfast panino is a menu favorite and includes spinach, cheese and a fried egg on a ciabatta roll. Tootsie’s makes homemade scones and granola and fantastic ricotta pancakes. You can get traditional coffee, espresso, hot chocolate or tea to go along with your meal and you won’t find a better cup of cappuccino anywhere else in the Silicon Valley.
Fambrini’s Terrace Cafe – 2600 El Camino Real
While you do have to walk up a flight of stairs to order your lunch, the fabulous sandwiches, salads and stews would be worth the climb even if Fambrini’s was on the fifth floor. They always have a daily special and every sandwich is packed with flavor. The portions are very generous and if you are not starving, you can share a sandwich with a friend. Favorite sandwiches include the signature Fab sandwich, the tri-tip pastrami on Dutch crumb bread, and the mango chicken. If you don’t feel like a sandwich, you can select the Hungarian stew or the Cobb salad. Enjoy your lunch outdoors on the spacious terrace!
Cheese Steak Shop – 2305-B El Camino Real
If you are craving a mouth-watering cheese steak sandwich and are 2,500 miles west of Philadelphia, you can’t go wrong at the Cheese Steak Shop. Choose a 7, 10 or 15 inch version of California’s version of the Philadelphia cheese steak sandwich. Sink your teeth into the perfect combination of steak, onions, sweet green peppers, and gooey provolone cheese on a fresh sub roll. Add some curly fries or onion rings and a drink of your choice. It is not a fancy place, but the food will make you happy!
Jeffrey’s Hamburgers – 888 El Camino Real
If you feel like a hamburger, Jeffrey’s serves juicy and delicious Angus beef burgers made just the way you like. While just a little more expensive than the big hamburger chains, you will notice the difference in taste. How about a burger with your favorite toppings, an order of sweet potato fries and a root beer float?
Patxi’s Pizza – 441 Emerson Street
Chicago-style deep dish pizza is their specialty and they do it right. Pies have just the right kind of crust- not too thin and not too thick. If you are in the mood for a good pizza, come on down o Paxti’s and order a pie. You can eat-in, pick-up or call for delivery.
China Delight – 461 Emerson Street
It is hard to find a decent place where you can get dinner for two in Palo Alto for about $20, but it is possible at China Delight. Table service is excellent and you have a wide variety of entrees and appetizers from which to choose. Start with a bowl of wonton soup and maybe order a pepper steak dinner. Try the sweet and sour chicken. The combination fried rice and spring rolls are delicious.
Palo Alto Sol – 408 S. California Avenue
One of the best places for authentic Mexican cuisine, you might have to wait in line for a few minutes before you can be seated for dinner. Family owned and operated, Palo Alto Sol serves the best enchiladas in town. Try the steak fajitas, tacos, salads and other menu items. Whether you like mild, spicy, or something in-between, you have your choice of three different salsas. The restaurant includes a full bar and is suitable for both couples and families alike. Great food and great atmosphere!
Lyfe Kitchen – 167 Hamilton Avenue
Founded by a former top executive of McDonald’s, the Lyfe Kitchen brings a new concept to the fast-food or quick service restaurant. The mission is to provide healthy and fresh dining choices to Vegans, Vegetarians and those that also include meat, poultry and fish in their diet. Patrons can order their food at the counter and seat themselves in the restaurant. Menus are coded so items are easily identified for Vegans and Vegetarians or for those who are on a gluten-free diet. Produce is locally sourced, organic fruits and vegetables are used as much as possible, and the chicken and beef are all free-range. You can choose soups, salads, tofu, chicken and salmon, all prepared with your health in mind. The menu has been prepared by leading chefs and flavor is never sacrificed. You will be surprised not only by the delicious tasting entrees, but also by the surprisingly low prices.
These are just a few of the many affordable places where you can enjoy a nice meal. Stanford University is located in Palo Alto, but less than five miles away is the city of Mountain View. If you are coming to visit Stanford, be sure to visit Mountain View. Some of the best and most affordable restaurants are just a 5 or 10 minute drive, straight down El Camino Real.
If you are planning to stay for a few days, the most affordable places to stay in the area are in Mountain View. The El Camino Inn and Suites, located at 1984 W. El Camino Real in Mountain View, is a family-friendly place where you can get real value for your money. Close to everything, this property offers a free continental breakfast, microwaves, mini-refrigerators, hair dryers and other amenities for nightly rates that are usually well below $100. While Silicon Valley has many millionaires, most people still have to watch their budget. If you know where to look, you can eat well and stay at a nice hotel when you visit Stanford and the Silicon Valley.
- Historic Silicon Valley Bar and Restaurant Review (via blog.invention.smithsonian.org)
- The Top 6 Silicon Valley Restaurants to Get a Deal Done (via archetypes.com)
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