Before purchasing our home in Santa Cruz the husband and I lived in Menlo Park for a year. It was conveniently located to both our offices so our commute was short and sweet. For about every other weekend we were heading down to Santa Cruz to spend time with friends and family but the other half of the time I was exploring the surrounding areas because even though I was born and raised in the Bay Area, Santa Cruz to be exact, I didn’t spend much time on the Peninsula except for the occasional shopping trip to the Stanford Shopping Center or Santana Row. It was an area I mostly drove by to get in and out of the city. While Menlo Park is a pretty small city there are some gems worth noting if you’re ever in the area. Here is my roundup of Menlo Park, while the stint was short there were some notable places I am going to miss being in walking distance to.
1. Cafe Borrone: Situated right next to Kepler’s bookstore and set back from El Camino Real in Menlo Park, Cafe Borrone is one of the busiest and most popular restaurants to dine in Menlo Park. It’s a family run restaurant where you order at the counter, pay for your food and drinks, before finding a table inside or outside depending on your preference. Their Euro style restaurant features raw ingredients carefully selected and supporting local farms. They have an excellent atmosphere, though try to avoid going during peak dining hours because it can feel a little tight when you’re waiting in line and people are passing in front and behind you to get through the restaurant. Their food is delicious and I have yet to try something I don’t like. If you are a coffee lover like I am don’t forget to order an espresso drink they’re seriously good.
Location: 1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, CA 94025.
2. Left Bank: I first tried the Left Bank restaurant at their Santana Row location. My husband is a huge oyster fan and he loves their oysters. I had been a vegetarian since I was 9 years old and until two years ago when I started to introduce some fish into my diet. Two years ago I never thought I would eat, let alone enjoy oysters. I had never tried one until about a year ago and now I am all about them! I like to come here for the oysters and for their brunch. They also have a good happy hour!
Location: 635 Santa Cruz Ave, Menlo Park, CA 94025.
3. Bistro Vida: This was the first place i tried after moving to Menlo Park. I was walking the pups and checking out the neighborhood and this place caught my eye. They weren’t very busy for brunch so I sat down at a small table outside. They were so friendly and accommodating. They brought water out for Lexie and Jackson and a mimosa for me! I highly recommend their spinach and goat cheese omelet, my mouth is watering just thinking about it! I love their traditional french decor; their bistro tables and chairs are so quaint. The ambiance here is great, their food is great, and their customer service is great.
Location: 641 Santa Cruz Ave, Menlo Park, CA 94025.
1. Afterwards: This high end consignment shop is not to be missed. They have everything from designer clothing, shoes, handbags, and jewelry, to gently used furniture. They consistently have pieces from Missoni, Christian Louboutin, Diane Von Furstenberg, Chanel, Prada, and the like. I have scored so many great pieces from them like this blouse, this dress and these Manolo Blahnik pumps, to name a few. If I’m ever in a pinch and want something new to wear I can usually find what I’m looking for, or not looking for but can’t pass up when I’m there. The employees are super helpful and the owner is very sweet. They are also willing to work with you especially if you are looking a purchasing a number of items at the same time. If you’re like me and have expensive taste but can’t always justify the splurge of paying full price you will absolutely love this place!
Location: 1159 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, CA 94025.
2. Stanford Shopping Center: Probably one of the most beautiful shopping centers I have ever been to. They have everything you would ever need to shop for, no really! I frequently visit Nordstroms, Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdales (their new location is stunning), DryBar, Apple, Vince, Calypso St Barth, Pressed Juicery, Kate Spade, Sephora, J. Crew, Max Mara, Tory Burch…ok the list is pretty long! I love that it’s an open air mall and the landscaping is always so beautiful. They also have lots of events fashion and non-fashion events including their Jazz Festival in the summer. It’s my favorite outdoor shopping center in NorCal, enough said.
Location: 660 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto, CA 94304.
3. The Shop: Being a Junior Leaguer I can’t not mention The Shop. Members of the Junior League of Palo Alto•Mid-Peninsula volunteer at The Shop as well as donate as part of their membership. All of the sales proceeds go to the Junior League to help our organizations that we support and raise money for. Members and locals alike donate to The Shop. It’s very selective on what actually gets put out on the floor to sell so a large number of donated items end up going to other organizations like the Goodwill or Salvation Army. This means only lightly used, in season items make it in The Shop. They don’t take anything they wouldn’t buy themselves, in the sense that if there is a stain, hole, or snag, or it’s just waaayyy out of style they won’t sell it. That’s a good thing for those who want to browse and hopefully find a thing or two they can’t live without! I’ve picked up a few bracelets from The Shops, pop-up shop at a league meeting, like this one from Kenneth Jay Lane that I always get compliments on!
Location: 785 Santa Cruz Ave, Menlo Park, CA 94025.
1. Burgess Park: Luckily for us, Burgess Park was right down the street from our place in Menlo Park. It’s a beautiful park to walk the dogs, have a picnic, or go for a run. They have a recreation center as well. I just love the man-made creek at the park with the mini waterfall and enjoy that there are ducks year round. We’ve even been able to see a group of ducklings grow up.
Location: 701 Laurel St, Menlo Park, CA 94025.
2. Sunset Magazine HQ and Garden: Sunset Magazine’s headquarters are located in Menlo Park. Once a year during the summer they host a Sunset Celebration weekend where event goers can eat, drink and view demonstrations. It’s something straight out of Sunset Magazine. This one weekend event draws a lot of people from all over into Menlo Park. Our street and the surrounding streets were packed with cars because of the event. Presentations from Top Chefs, Home, Garden, and Travel experts are going on all weekend long. I didn’t make it to this years event but I definitely plan to make it next year!
Location: 80 Willow Road, Menlo Park, CA 94025.
3. Off the Grid: Just like in San Francisco, Off the Grid, which runs in the Summer months, is a weekly event where Food Trucks and people come to gather to try new food, listen to music, and dine outdoors on park benches that are set up near the Menlo Park Cal Train station. It draws quite a crowd and is a lot of fun for foodies as well people who just like to eat!
Location: 1120 Merrill St, Menlo Park, CA 94025.
I hope you enjoyed my roundup of Menlo Park on what to Eat, Shop, and Do while you’re in town!