At Menlo Hub, both food and art find a place on the menu. The modern restaurant's walls are blanketed in original contemporary paintings, and on some nights, the dining space reverberates with music from live bands and solo musicians. But even on nights with performances, the main attraction is always found in the kitchen. Here, chefs design casual American dishes sprinkled with elements of Mediterranean cooking.
The menus focus on simple steaks and seafood, complemented by organic produce sourced from nearby sustainable farms. The artfully plated dishes include California sea bass, New York steaks with gorgonzola demi-glace, and eggplant-wrapped lamb shanks. While most visitors sample the cuisine in the airy main dining space, private groups eat in a secluded room warmed by a corner fireplace.
At the lively bar, flat-screen TVs broadcast sporting events as bartenders mix fruit-infused martinis and pour a range of California wines, which are made from grapes that are just thankful that they never became California raisins.
Fox Theatre lures crowds and musical acts alike with an auditorium drenched in the glimmer and charm of theater’s history. Surrounding a proscenium stage draped in red is enough gold to please a group of kings or outfit one rapper with his requisite bling. Bas-reliefs and intricate patterns line the walls while below, rows of seats on the floor and balcony beckon with simple comfort.
Originally founded in 1970 to give high-school and college students a chance to hone their onstage skills, TheatreWorks dedicated itself early on to promoting new work that grappled with America's changing social landscape. Exploring the experiences of ethnic and cultural minorities, the group built a following throughout the subsequent decades, growing to its present size of 41 permanent staffers, an annual budget of $7 million, and 8,000 subscribers. Its New Works Initiative continues to seek out up-and-coming voices from around the country, helping new playwrights find their footing and prompting embittered older writers to test new pseudonyms.
At Pasta Q, chefs roll out homemade pastas and gnocchi and douse their doughy exteriors with creamy sauces and redolent spices. Eighteen diverse pasta renditions share table space with classic Italian-style meats buffered by roasted potatoes. An eclectic selection of imported Italian wines pair with bites, and homemade desserts ease the burden of spaghetti strands trying to shape themselves into the form of tiramisu. The menu’s Mediterranean flourishes extend to the décor, with its deep-burgundy and mustard-yellow walls punctuated by mosaic-tiled benches and billowy white fabric suspended from the ceiling.
The Old Pro’s kitchen team has taken on an endeavor that most culinary artists are too afraid to attempt: making tater tots better. The menu dedicates an entire section to the deliciously deep-fried, grated potatoes, introducing mouths to six variants including bacon blue tots, truffle-and-parmesan tots, and Tot-chos—tots with nacho fixings. These crispy bites are just the beginning of Old Pro’s souped-up pub food, which reinvents popular staples by topping brawny burgers with brisket and infusing Red Sangria with blackberries and fresh rosemary. The hand-tossed brick-oven pizzas also earn a place in stomachs' hearts with toppings such as housemade sausage and truffle oil.
The sports bar’s inventive culinary approach has earned it a five-year run as Palo Alto Weekly's Best Sports Bar from 2007 to 2012, and its neighborly atmosphere has made it an ideal setting for palling around with buddies. Inside, lofty ceilings and long tables allow ample space for socializing and dramatic three-point landings off the bar’s mechanical bull. Mounted displays pay homage to a long list of teams and athletes, and 13 high-definition plasma-screen televisions broadcast sporting events in real time. To cut down on waste produced by bottles, labels, and corks, The Old Pro’s bartenders serve both draft beers and California wines straight from the tap.
Though the Lumière brothers and Thomas Edison are often credited with groundbreaking discoveries that paved the way for modern cinema, history sometimes leaves out a key player: photographer Eadweard Muybridge. Commissioned to find out whether horses lifted all four legs off the ground while galloping, Muybridge invented a device called the zoopraxiscope to display his photographed findings. His first zoopraxiscope screening was held in Palo Alto in 1879, making the city the birthplace of film. To honor Muybridge’s work, as well as the technological innovations bubbling throughout Silicon Valley, the Palo Alto International Film Festival was born in 2011. It focuses not only on new technology, but on breakthroughs in artistic expression, screening a collection of films from around the world. They range from major Hollywood releases, such as 2012’s Looper, to independent works, such as George Lucas’s home videos of himself practicing light-saber moves in his garage. Outside the theater, visitors can mingle at an array of talks, film workshops, and parties.