The Peninsula’s second locations of Maison Alyzée and Wahlburgers join newcomers like K-pop inspired Cafe Siete.
I’ve been a resident of Burlingame long enough to pair my adult-life milestones with the city’s restaurants: date nights at Ecco, worknight takeout from Gau Poang, baptismal receptions at Nathan’s and end-of-the-season youth soccer parties at Round Table. Though these places have been replaced with new eateries, they still exist fondly in my repertoire of memories.
The restaurant shuffle is at it again along Burlingame’s downtown corridor between California Drive and El Camino Real. Places that weren’t quite making it during the pandemic quietly closed, and businesses and entrepreneurs that weren’t risk-averse saw an opportunity to open on a street that can prove to be rewarding with the right timing and concept.
Some of the new spots listed below are part of a new trend of fast-casual cafes that service a generation adept at digital menus and contactless payments. Others are building out large venues that bank on hosting those baptismal receptions and retirement dinners, possibly adding to that memory repertoire.
Stella Alpina Osteria has been part of the city’s dining scene for 17 years and built a loyal clientele in the small Chapin Avenue multi-tenant building, but they’ve outgrown it. With an expansive parklet and a labyrinth of small dining rooms, manager Danielle Kostevich says, “We simply cannot expand any more here.” The restaurant’s new location at 1448 Burlingame Ave. (formerly Sixto’s) should be ready to greet customers early next year. San Mateo’s Backhaus is also slated for an early 2023 opening. Next door at 333 California Drive is Twelvemonth, Bob Trahan’s vision of an all-day plant-based eatery and bar. He’s hoping for an early November opening.
It’s been four years since French native Laurent Pellet opened his first Maison Alyzée on Mountain View’s Castro Street. Its second location on Burlingame Avenue is set to open this Thursday, Sept. 8, with the same chic French-inspired interiors (wood floors, lots of marble and brass fixtures). The French patisserie experience includes classic viennoiseries like kouign-amann, cannelé de Bordeaux and various croissants. To start, savory options include quiche and croque monsieur. Celebration cakes like Mille Feuille, Paris Brest and Saint Honore come in different sizes to accommodate your party and appetite. Though Burlingame’s downtown corridor does have plenty of other bakeries and morning cafe options, none is run by an all-French squad. “Most of our ingredients are imported from France, Italy and Switzerland, and our executive chef used to be second-in-command at Meilleur Ouvrier de France in Paris,” Pellet says.
Being a lifelong lover of all things Korean, Marissa Ramirez traveled to South Korea in 2020 and fell in love with Korea’s coffee culture. By the time she returned home from her several-month stay, she had decided to pivot from being a hairstylist to opening her own cafe. Ironically, the space she chose on Primrose Avenue was a former hair salon. Cafe Siete opened in July in an Instagrammable space filled with her childhood collections of K-pop memorabilia and pop culture kitsch. “I’d say about 60% of the stuff in here comes from my home,” she says. The petite cafe serves hot and cold coffee and tea drinks, special whole-fruit-infused bubbly drinks, sweet and savory toasts, fresh desserts and pastries from San Carlos’ Sweet Production and four sweet versions of Ramirez’s croffle, the croissant-dough waffle. The space is often used as a “birthday cafe” where K-pop fan groups host themed birthday parties for these pop culture idols.
Though build-your-own smoothie bowls aren’t new to Burlingame, the Palmetto Superfoods brand is, having just opened in the former Yogurtland location on Primrose Road. Charles Lee along with Burlingame native Hessam Shirmohammadi and sisters Thaís and Amanda Moreira offer a sleek space for healthy eaters looking for acai bowls and smoothies. For the morning, try the “Bom Dia” Breakfast Bowl with layers of acai, oats, chia pudding and “coconut beach” and topped with blueberries, bananas, almonds, almond butter, coconut, pumpkin seeds and raw honey. The ‘Palm Blend’ is a meal anytime with layers of acai, pitaya, tropical spirulina and matcha and topped with pumpkin-flax granola, pineapple, banana, mango, chia seeds, coconut, peanut butter, and housemade vegan honey.
Tiny Tea Co
Jade and Phillip He launched their yellow tea trailer at the Burlingame farmers market in 2020 and opened their first brick and mortar in April. “The market was a great place to validate our elevated drinks and mocktails,” Philip He says of the couple’s assortment of signature and seasonal specialty iced tea beverages and their cocktail-inspired options. “Our menu is very recipe-driven, and we make all of our own simple syrups.” Fresh blueberries and lemongrass are muddled to create Rosie’s Purple Fizz. Additional flavors include rosemary simple syrup and fresh lime juice. One of their most popular mocktails is the Twice Melon Bittery, with bitter notes coming from fresh bitter melon. Other ingredients include jasmine green tea, lime and cucumber. Jade says the team is looking to add hot versions of their iced tea offerings this fall. All drinks are sweetened with cane sugar, and you can inquire about the sweetness of each drink since it varies depending on the recipe.
Time will tell if Burlingame will embrace this celebrity-founded burger chain, established in 2011 by brothers Paul, Donnie and Mark Wahlberg, and the brand’s ground beef burgers with Wahl sauce and American cheese. The chain, which first opened a Peninsula location in Palo Alto almost five years ago, also serves an Impossible burger with smoked cheddar and caramelized onions. Besides burgers, they offer chili, bacon mac ‘n cheese, fish and chicken sandwiches and loaded tots. Several milkshake options, including adults-only boozy shakes, round out the indulgent menu. Several wall-mounted flatscreens stream sports, and the compact bar with seating accommodates those looking to have a beer with their burger.