The Best Restaurants In Palo Alto

Whether you’re looking for dim sum, tacos, or excellent jerk chicken, this is where you should be eating in Palo Alto.
A spread of japchae, soft tofu soup, and a pancake at So Gong Dong Tofu House

photo credit: Brit Finnegan

Ah, Palo Alto. Where to begin? The sunny suburb south of the city is much more than Sand Hill Road and high-achieving 18-year-olds. It’s a land of free street parking, Vuori jackets, and a shopping center that looks straight off the set of The Good Place. And, as you may have guessed, great restaurants—with Silicon Valley prices to match (though we promise not every spot will make you want to throw your wallet into the ocean). Here’s where you should be eating in this Peninsula city (and for the best restaurants in SF, use this guide).


photo credit: Brit Finnegan


Palo Alto

$$$$Perfect For:Walk-InsQuick EatsCasual Weeknight Dinner
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If you live in Palo Alto you probably already know Zareen’s. This iconic Indian and Pakistani place operates with lightning-fast efficiency and the food is excellent. Do we wish that we felt less pressure to vacate our table? Yes, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that the chicken tikka masala is buttery, the palak methi paneer is full of crispy cheese, and the lamb gosht falls apart with a stern glance. Grab a mango lassi while you wait for the (very) short amount of time it takes to get your food. Just make sure to order a side of the fluffy garlic naan. 

Ramen Nagi is a Tokyo-based chain ramen spot that’s mobbed every night of the week, with hour-long waits—for a good reason: the simmered-for-24-hours tonkotsu broth. It’s silky and rich without being too fatty, and the chashu is tender. The bowls are a choose-your-own-spice-level kind of adventure, with options ranging from one to a burn-your-mouth-off 10. You can also customize noodle thickness, broth richness, garlic, saltiness, and whether you’d like to add squid ink or basil—in other words, just about everything. 



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This classic Greek spot has been a Palo Alto fixture since 1995 and looks straight out of a wine country postcard. Evvia is the sister to Kokkari Estiatorio, and, like its sibling, power lunchers dominate the daytime scene while families and couples are here at night for roasted dishes from the massive hearth—like lemon-oregano rotisserie chicken and souvlaki with onions and tzatziki. The meat always has a caramelized char, and the juices mix with everything on the plate, creating a combination of citrus, fat, and umami that keeps us coming back. 

One step into this two-floor Indian restaurant will make you forget about the alley you walk through to get here. The domed skylight looks like it could belong in a cathedral, and intricate blue flowers line the walls. Ettan (from the same folks as Copra) serves dishes from across the subcontinent like a maa ki dal with slow-cooked black lentils, a wonderfully crispy Kerala fried chicken, and a paratha with enough paper-thin layers to qualify as a book. Expect every plate to be as elaborate as the space, filled with pops of color like an intensely maroon beetroot with the shrimp. 

Coconuts is making the best jerk chicken in Palo Alto. This colorful and casual Caribbean spot right off of University Ave. is where to get an excellent and reasonably priced meal (a rarity down here). Order the $15 dark meat combo plate with juicy chicken, sweet plantains, and perfectly cooked red beans and rice—plan to lick the tangy sauce off your fingers with reckless abandon. The large space fills up with large groups on the weekends, and on sunny days the adjoining patio is the perfect place to sip on a dark and stormy.

The headliner at the Georgian spot Bevri on University Ave. is the khachapuri—the boat-like bread filled with a Wisconsin basement’s worth of cheese deserves its own statue in the Rodin Sculpture Garden. You should also order some of the fist-sized khinkali for the table, and the chicken kebabs you could cut with a spoon. This upscale-ish spot has a great outdoor seating situation for an al fresco lunch date, or you can hang out next to some VCs under the Georgian flag hanging inside. 

The “two to three small plates” mania was bound to trickle down to Palo Alto at some point—and luckily, Ethel’s Fancy is nailing it. That’s thanks to an airy space decked out with a full bar and the menu, which has a good amount of Japanese influence but mostly just looks like a local farmers market exploded on the page. It’s packed with hits like the miso caramel pork belly and the katsu-style swordfish, which gets a kick from a swath of hot mustard. Sitting at the terrazzo bar with a date and one of their “fancy cocktails” is the Friday night move.    

Located on the main drag of California Ave., Kali Greek Kitchen is almost a carbon copy of Souvla in the city. This fast-casual Greek spot serves juicy lamb pitas, salads with feta, large rice plates that will keep you full for hours, and a thick frozen Greek yogurt that's very creamy. The inside feels like a coworking spot circa 2017, so we recommend enjoying their pitas out on their permanent outdoor parklet-patio situation (especially now that California Ave. is car-free).  

Taqueria El Grullense M&G is part of a group of similarly named taquerias across the Peninsula that are all owned and operated by the same extended family. This small location is Palo Alto’s version, and it’s the best taqueria within city limits. The menu is long and all of the meats are tender, but the differentiating factor is their salsa—specifically, the fresh green tomatillo with a tangy kick and the ever-so-slightest hint of smokiness. Douse your tacos in plenty of it. They’re open from 8am to 11pm, seven days a week, so you can get your asada all day long. 

Palo Alto doesn’t have many sceney restaurants, and that’s where Sekoya comes in. But this seasonal American spot is more than just a place with tons of cute couches, bespoke light fixtures, tech execs, and the occasional Stanford student pretending they’re in Lower Manhattan for the night. Sekoya is a trendy spot where the food is quite good. The parker house rolls with mascarpone are fluffy, the zesty lamb tartare gets the balance of citrus just right, and the chicken thigh topped with cara cara is about as juicy as the orange.

photo credit: Julia Chen

$$$$Perfect For:LunchBig Groups

Tai Pan is a multi-room maze with excellent classic Cantonese-style dim sum and plenty of space for groups. It’s also one of the few places where you can roll up with your entire discussion group or mystery book club and have saucy char siu bao, bouncy XO noodles, and steaming hot siu mai spinning on a lazy susan within 15 minutes. Whether you go steamed, boiled, pan-fried, or all of the above (a decision we always endorse), it’s easy to leave satisfied. 

So Gong Dong Tofu House is where Stanford students can escape the dining hall for great tofu soup. While the wait (and road rage in the tiny parking lot) at this Korean spot off of El Camino might test your patience, the gochugaru-filled tofu stew is worth it. There are 16 different varieties, but the dumpling version is the best thanks to the contrast between the chewy dumpling wrappers and the silky smooth tofu. Each bowl is served with plenty of banchan, and they also have a few bibimbap and some KBBQ items like bulgogi. But the soup is why you’re willing to put up with the guy shouting from his Tesla. 

photo credit: Brit Finnegan

$$$$Perfect For:LunchDrinking Good Wine


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At Taverna, prepare to overhear IPO jargon as you sip on Greek wine poured by waiters in suits. The all-day Greek restaurant, which looks like a Palo Alto-ified restaurant straight out of Mamma Mia (rickety blue chairs and all), is a hot spot for business lunches and team bonding for folks in embroidered puffers. Start things off with the fried zucchini cakes that are crunchy around the edges, and follow with the pork gyro stuffed with french fries. It’s filling, but won’t leave you in need of a nap on the office couch later.

photo credit: Julia Chen

$$$$Perfect For:Special Occasions


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Iki Omakase is one of the many places in Palo Alto serving expensive fish. At the eight-seat counter, you’ll get so many courses of expertly prepared uni, octopus, and torched toro you’ll lose count (on our last visit we tallied 24, which were tasty but very filling). The $195 dinner is the most intimate sushi experience in town, and they take their sushi seriously—you could hear a pin drop in the stark, black and gray space, so prepare to whisper with your date or risk the entire room knowing about your upcoming DMV appointment. 

This old-school diner is a hub for students to drink milkshakes instead of studying. Heading here is like stepping back into a more analog time—the walls are plastered with vintage Coca-Cola signs, there’s cow art everywhere, and classic red vinyl booths line the space. The best thing on the menu is the hash brown pie, which is a hefty brick loaded with bacon, green onions, and bell peppers (and, in the name of good ol’ diner excess, a blanket of cheese across the top). Know that breakfast is served all day, for all your 5pm french toast needs. 

Terún is a white-tablecloth pizza and pasta spot that works great when parents are visiting, you’re with a picky eater who will only accept a margherita pizza, or you’re just looking for a place to eat outside and sip on a spritz. Is the rigatoni mindblowing? No, but the pasta is cooked al dente and the sauce is tangy. Order a crispy Neapolitan-style pie for the table, share a pasta or two, and do your best to pretend you’re off the Amalfi coast and not off of the sidewalk of California Ave. 

Bagel-loving Peninsula-dwellers rejoiced when Berkeley-based Boichik Bagels expanded to Palo Alto. Their location here (in Town & Country Village) is takeout-focused, but there are a few tables outside of the shop, a.k.a. prime real estate for digging into your paper-wrapped sandwich immediately. Loose bagels are available, as are sandwiches with things like whitefish salad or lox, but we like to keep things straightforward at Boichik: everything, untoasted, with chive spread—simple perfection. 

As the name suggests, Nola is a New Orleans-themed restaurant and bar and the main reason to come here is for their weekend bottomless brunch. This place manages to look like a southern-style townhouse with an indoor balcony, indoor fountain (that’s not running), and an excessive amount of Mardi Gras beads. Brunch dishes include kind-of-dry buttermilk fried chicken and waffles, fluffy beignets, and a benedict with Tabasco hollandaise. The food is passable, but it's also not the point—you're here to drink mimosas in the most party-like setting Palo Alto has to offer.

For fancy Mexican food dressed up with delicate radish garnishes and access to a full bar, get to Sun Of Wolf. The minute Happy Hour rolls around, this modern, high-ceilinged place fills up with coworkers in vests splitting tuna tostadas and drinking mezcal flights on the patio. And you should join them—especially if it means getting to spend quality time with the Sun Of Wolf carnitas, which pull apart with minimal effort. 

Naschmarkt is a fancy Austrian place that nails the art of a power lunch. Water is served in goblets, there are wine bottles in neatly shelved rows on every wall, and the soundtrack is smooth jazz. While a place like this could easily be corporate card fodder with no substance, the food is as hearty as it is delicious—especially the beef goulash that falls apart, and the pork schnitzel sandwich on a pillowy pretzel bun. But the sleeper hit is the fries, which have a touch of truffle oil and extra crispy edges. 

After wandering through Town & Country Village and spending unspeakable amounts of money on bespoke dresses and designer candles, end the day at Wildseed. The 100% vegan restaurant (their original location is in SF) serves an earthy, umami-packed burger that stands up against any meat version, made with a mushroom-based patty and topped with sweet grilled onions. If you’re after something a little more light, they also have salads, flatbreads, and mezze plates, plus a full bar. 

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bright plant filled space with tiled wall and hightops

Ettan is an upscale Indian restaurant with the prettiest dining room in Palo Alto.

Ramen Nagi image

Ramen Nagi is a Tokyo-based chain that’s busy every night thanks to their rich tonkotsu broth.

spread of indian curries, breads, rice, and meat

Zareen’s is a casual quick-service restaurant with fantastic Indian and Pakistani food.

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