From Dungeness crab to tamales, local eateries offer up longtime favorites alongside seasonal specials
There’s no shortage of excellent Peninsula eateries that are providing feasts throughout the winter holiday season. Whether you want to enjoy a longtime favorite or try something new, we have a few ideas to whet your appetite as we step into December.
If you’re planning on dining out, be sure to snag your own reservation soon. On-site dining is making a comeback. Data from OpenTable indicates that in the U.S., people are making even more restaurant reservations than they were before the pandemic: In October of this year, there were 44% more bookings in the first half of October for December than the same time period in 2018, and 42% more compared to 2019. But if you’d rather stay cozy at home, pick-up and delivery options abound.
Back a Yard
At this Caribbean grill in Menlo Park, have a feast of jerk chicken, salmon or steak, oxtails, barbecued spare ribs, curried goat, coconut curried tofu, rice and beans, fried plantains and more. Takeout, delivery and catering options are available. Closed Christmas Day.
1189 Willow Road, Menlo Park
Even though the dining room in Palo Alto will be closed the weeks of Christmas and New Year’s, you can still get a gourmet feast from the fine dining destination Baumé. A holiday prix fixe menu is available to go.
For Christmas and New Year’s, there are options for several special menus featuring Ora King salmon or wagyu beef. Tasting menus include a combination of bread and butter, caviar, soup, Périgord truffle, lobster, salmon, beef, cheese, sorbet and dessert.
201 California Ave., Palo Alto
650-328-8899 (text only)
Bay la Soul
Palo Alto’s Bay la Soul by Chef Darius is planning special multicourse menus that will be available for pickup for the holidays.
The Christmas Eve menu features herb-crusted prime rib with au jus and horseradish, twice-baked potatoes with sour cream, butter, smoked Gouda, Parmesan, green onions and bacon; broiled root vegetables and Brussels sprouts; and baked tomatoes stuffed with spinach and Parmesan. For a sweet, fresh dessert, there’s raspberry cheesecake with sweet mint chimichurri.
For New Year’s Eve, indulge in surf and turf. The menu includes Dungeness crab and New York strip steak, herb mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables and mushrooms and, for dessert, apple-strawberry pie.
Chicken and vegetarian plates are available upon request.
To preorder, get in touch with Chef Darius by phone or social media.
Dig into Georgian fare in downtown Palo Alto. Make a reservation to dine in, or place an order for pickup or delivery.
On the menu is khachapuri, a hot gooey boat-shaped bread containing cheese, butter and egg; khinkali — juicy dumplings perfectly wrapped and twisted — slow-cooked soups; spiced and marinated meats; and a traditional salad with cucumbers and tomatoes, creamy burrata, grilled bread and pesto. For dessert, try a caramel pudding or a winter pear cooked in wine and served with cream, fresh mint and walnuts. To drink, there are wines, juices and sodas from Georgia, as well as Czech beers.
Note that the restaurant will be open for regular hours throughout December and closed around New Year’s.
530 Bryant St., Palo Alto
At Breakwater Barbecue in El Granada, find succulent, smoked meats like brisket, pork and housemade sausages, as well as sumptuous sides like apple cilantro slaw and creamy mac and cheese with poblano peppers, and seasonal sides like delicata squash and Brussels sprouts.
To keep an eye out for holiday menu updates, follow Breakwater Barbecue on Instagram @breakwaterbarbecue. For a Christmas feast, preorder for pickup on Dec. 24.
30 Avenue Portola, El Granada
Fish Wife Sweets
After spending the autumn at Farmer John’s Pumpkin Farm, the cottage bakery Fish Wife Sweets has moved to 4C’s Christmas Tree Farm off Highway 92 in Half Moon Bay. If you plan to pick up a Christmas tree, you can stop by the Fish Wife Sweets cupcake cart to warm up with hot cocoa and homemade marshmallows.
You can also stock up on treats like cupcakes, take-and-bake cinnamon rolls (there may even be a Mexican hot chocolate variation this year), Yule logs and a Deck the Halls pack, a sweet accompaniment for Christmas tree decorating. The pack is a trove of cocoa bombs, marshmallows, cookies and bars.
You can preorder for pickup on Christmas Eve. For the latest details, follow Fish Wife Sweets on Instagram @fishwifesweets.
The San Mateo location of this Japanese barbecue restaurant is offering special menus as part of its Yakiniku Holiday Magic Festival, through Jan. 2.
At Gyu-Kaku, choose from either the Holiday Magic Course, which includes items like hanger steak, yaki-shabu beef, kalbi chuck rib, toro beef, chicken breast and shrimp, or the Premium Holiday Magic Course, which includes hanger steak, skirt steak, kalbi chuck rib, toro beef, prime kalbi short rib and shrimp. Both options include assorted sides and dessert, and offer a promotion for savings on a future visit.
329 S. Ellsworth Ave., San Mateo
At the San Carlos outpost of this long-standing institution that serves steaks, chops and more, the team is debuting a cocktail menu that combines classics with fresh, seasonal flavors: Think rosemary, cranberry, pear and blood orange.
The Izzy’s in-house beverage team is collaborating with mixologist Greg Lindgren, who helped develop the Roger’s bar program in Mountain View, led by his wife, James Beard award-winner Shelley Lindgren, and also co-owns 15 Romolo, Rye and The Cordial in San Francisco.
At Izzy’s, sip a Rosemary Bourbon cocktail with lemon, ancho reyes chile and ancho liquor, a Cranberry Caipirinha with cachaça, lime, muddled cranberry, sugar and mint, or a Pear Tree with gin, St. George spiced pear liqueur and soda.
525 Skyway Road, San Carlos
Left Bank Brasserie
Choose from a number of special Christmas Eve meals at Left Bank Brasserie in Menlo Park. On the menu for these four-course prix fixe meals:
- Rack of lamb with parsnip puree, baby carrots and lamb jus
- Pan-roasted duck breast with orange-cranberry gastrique, baby turnips and wild rice
- Filet mignon with black truffle potato gratin and Madeira mushroom sauce
- Butter-poached lobster tail with truffle risotto and winter vegetables
- Bouillabaisse with prawns, clams, mussels, scallop and saffron tomato broth
- Black truffle and wild mushroom risotto with shaved Parmesan and goat cheese
The restaurant has options for dining in, pickup and delivery.
635 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park
Gather round the table for a meal at a Pan-Asian restaurant in Menlo Park that takes time to make delicacies like salt and pepper Dungeness crab, tea-smoked duck and rock cod in spicy black bean sauce. Coming up, The Mandarin will be hosting a special Christmas dinner featuring traditional Chinese dishes. At the time of writing, the team is finalizing a menu, but you can make reservations via Yelp to dine in now, or place an order for pickup or delivery.
1029 El Camino Real, Menlo Park
For barbecued meats, boiling hot soups and stews with housemade tofu, head to Mom’s Tofu in Millbrae. Also on the menu are hearty stone pots filled with rice and your choice of vegetables and tofu, kimchi, sirloin, pork, chicken, ham and cheese or seafood.
Closed Dec. 25. Takeout will be available on Dec. 24.
133 El Camino Real, Millbrae
Quattro at the Four Seasons Hotel Silicon Valley is open Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Special menus are available with or without a welcome drink and wine pairing.
The Christmas Eve menu includes delicata squash salad, celeriac and truffle soup, and a choice of porcini mushroom risotto or wagyu beef tenderloin, served with a dessert called the Santa Sleigh with hazelnut cake and raspberry, chocolate cremeux and hazelnut praline.
The Christmas Day menu also features several courses, including options for cacio e pepe and seared scallops. But you’d best save room for dessert: There’s a Christmas dessert buffet by new pastry chef Guillermo Soto.
The New Year’s Eve celebration menu includes a midnight toast, and there will be a New Year’s Day brunch with a mimosa and bloody mary bar as well.
Make reservations through OpenTable, or call the restaurant.
2050 University Ave., East Palo Alto
Sandy’s World of Eats
Dive into a fusion of vibrant flavors from Laos and around the world with Sandy’s World of Eats. For the winter holidays, the menu celebrates seafood, harvested by Legasea Fish Co, and hot soups.
Visit Sandy’s World of Eats’ pop-up on Mondays in December at Breakwater Barbecue (30 Avenue Portola, El Granada). There, dig into seafood noodles, Laotian tamales and crab fried rice. As a thank you to guests who visit in December, owner Sandy’s World of Eats will be sharing pandan coconut horchata with lemongrass. In January, focus turns to hot soups: There will be coconut and fish soup as well as ramen with seasonal ingredients.
Dishes from Sandy’s World of Eats are also available for delivery between Pescadero and Pacifica. Through REBYL Food, Sandy’s World of Eats will be offering Laotian vinaigrette dressing, Asian-inspired pozole and vegetarian Laotian-style tamales.
Son & Garden
Famed for breakfast, Son & Garden by Farmhouse Kitchen is offering a special Winter Tea Set. Make a reservation 48 hours in advance for this three-tiered afternoon tea. The Wonderland Dessert collection features sweet bites like pate de fruit, pistachio cup praline, and macarons, clotted cream and homemade jam. There are also homemade pastries, as well as savory finger sandwiches with cucumber and dill, salmon and cream cheese, and smoked ham and cheddar. To request a reservation, email [email protected].
1195 Merrill St., Menlo Park
Find gluten-free, dairy-free baked goods for Hanukkah at Sweet Diplomacy. The menu includes sufganiyot-inspired mini donut muffins filled with strawberry jam and hand-decorated almond cookies. Preorder a day in advance for delivery or pickup.
209 First St., Los Altos
In South San Francisco near City Hall, La Tapatia has been making tortillas and more for the community since 1976. Not only has the team steadily supplied equipment like molcajetes and rice pails, but they’ve also provided meals of masa, salsas, meats, burritos, nachos and quesadillas, and fulfilled catering orders of fajitas, stews, meats and tamales.
La Tapatia will be open until 5 p.m. Dec. 24 before closing for Christmas Day. They’re currently accepting preorders for tamales by the half-dozen or dozen for pickup Dec. 22-24 and Dec. 30.
411 Grand Ave., South San Francisco
In Mountain View, Vaso Azzurro is open for lunch throughout the December holiday season. Plan ahead and make a reservation to dine upon Italian fare. The menu includes items like steamed clams and stewed eggplant, salads and bruschetta, saffron risotto with salmon stromboli or sauteed scallops and prawns, lasagna, fettuccine, ravioli, gnocchi, linguine and penne, and chicken or veal marsala.
108 Castro St., Mountain View
There’s all manner of wursts and much more at this San Mateo beer garden opened by “The Food Lab” author Kenji López-Alt and partners.
That’s true of the menu throughout the winter holidays. There will be schnitzel and spaetzle, Kenji’s Korean hot chicken and Impossible Turkish-ish sausage, haus potato salad and wood-fired pretzels, smashed cheeseburgers and thrice-fried potatoes.
General manager Xian Choy says that it’s pretty much business as usual, except for this: Keep an eye out for the Butcher’s Special. The turkey cranberry sausage is made of ground turkey with a blend of holiday spices, and topped with housemade cranberry sauce and braised celery.
For a cozy evening tipple, make a reservation and snag a hot cocktail at the newly opened Wunderbar, located downstairs.
310 Baldwin Ave., San Mateo
With locations in Mountain View, Palo Alto and Redwood City, Zareen’s serves contemporary Pakistani and Indian fare that includes a la carte items, sandwiches, salads, bowls and meal platters. The meals present a gorgeous spread of vibrant basmati rice and daal, crisp salads and tamarind chutney and curry, accompanied by paneer, potato or meat.
During the holidays, Zareen’s is offering 10% off eGift cards. There’s also a special promotion for catering orders: with any $400 order through December, receive a $25 gift card.
The Redwood City location will be open on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Dine in or place an order for pickup.
1477 Plymouth St., Mountain View
365 S. California Ave., Palo Alto
2039 Broadway, Redwood City
In Redwood City, the team at this family restaurant cooks up Salvadoran and Mexican dishes, including pupusas, tamales, soups, omelettes, burritos, quesadillas, atole, empanadas and more.
You can preorder and pick up before the restaurant closes for Christmas at 2:30 p.m. on Dec. 24.
828 Fifth Ave., Redwood City
Zola and Bar Zola
Zola’s is offering special menus for both Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, as well as an updated cocktail menu for the holidays.
From the bar, the Pagan Holiday cocktail incorporates gin, chai-spiced yogurt, Jägermeister, lime and egg white. Zola’s Christmas Eve menu includes a choice of prime rib or a salmon, prawn and scallop cake, smoked trout salad or leek and potato soup, flourless chocolate cake or truffled cheese from Nicasio Valley.
Reservations are available on OpenTable. Keep an eye out for the upcoming New Year’s Eve menu there.
565 and 585 Bryant St., Palo Alto