Ditch the soggy pancakes, lines of strollers and strained service for fancy, affordable, fare.
Like whiskey cocktails and artisan breads, brunch has been having its moment for a while now. Couple that with the fact that there are few traditional breakfast spots in the mid-Peninsula that accommodate groups and children and you have the recipe for overcrowded diners serving lukewarm coffee and eggs while dropping hints that someone is waiting for your table. But we’ve been borrowing a page from the financial world and buying what’s out of fashion and overlooked.
Among our unexpected brunch finds: hotels, power lunch restaurants and the mall. If you’re willing to forgo the classics for something more offbeat or refined you can snag an uncrowded table, white tablecloth service and a check at the high end of the diner range for food that will make you swear off of IHOP.
The Epiphany Hotel’s modern suites currently go for $350 $800 a night, and (excellent) dinner at the ground floor restaurant can set you back $60 a person, but brunch at Lure+Till is something else. Tables to spare, inside and out, relaxed but attentive service and dishes such as Nicoise salad with quail egg ($20) and fried chicken sandwich ($15). Kids and babies get a warm welcome from staff — we’ve seen the same families on several weekends, though never more than a handful of tables taken — and no one drops off the check until you ask for it. Intelligentsia coffee and fluffy omelets round out the offerings.
339 University Avenue
Palo Alto, CA 94301
Hours: Opens 11:30 a.m. weekends
Packed many evenings, Spanish-Latin fusion restaurant Joya has become a favorite for tech bigwigs doing deals by day and locals looking to class it up at night. Weekend mornings, however, the normally dark interior is bathed in sun and serving sangria, light cocktails and a breakfast menu with something for everyone. Even on Sunday Joya isn’t made for strollers but it is right for a large family. For the price of a diner omelet you can savor poached eggs with black forest ham in an orange hollandaise ($13.50) or kale and eggs morning tacos with queso fresco and roasted garlic ($12). Spring for the paella ($48) if you have a large group and share.
St. Michael’s Alley
140 Homer Avenue
Palo Alto, CA 94301
Hours: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekends
Intimate and sophisticated. That’s the atmosphere St. Michael’s Alley has cultivated for itself (though the Stones and Grace Slick once frequented it in rowdier times). It’s the dinner place your parents take you to when they visit town, a first date venue for people of a certain age. Around the corner its dressed-down sibling, the Annex, does brisk eggs-and-pancakes business on the weekends despite high prices, long lines and inconsistent service. So skip the Annex and head to the mothership. Classics like waffles for the kids, bucatini carbonara and chicken and barley salad for the grown-ups, all of them priced about the same as a nighttime appetizer.
Tootsies at the Stanford Barn
700 Welch Rd
Palo Alto, CA 94305
Hours: Opens 10 a.m. Saturdays, closed Sundays 🙁
Tootsies comes close to a traditional breakfast spot, except that its unpretentious vibe (and friendly staff) serves up delicacies and does so at bargain prices. The downside: this small cafe near the Stanford Shopping Center is hectic on Saturday morning (opens at 10 a.m.) compared to weekdays. It’s worth it, though. Ricotta pancakes, outstanding espresso, octopus salad and panini galore. Did we mention it’s friendly? Kids won’t get in the way, either.