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.
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.
Fresh seafood and dry-aged steaks shape the menu at Scott's Seafood, which brings an elegant, marina-style setting to a sunny corner of Palo Alto. White linens swath every tabletop, their pristine hue imperiled by forkfuls of clam linguini tossed in garlic wine sauce and blackened red snapper served with salsa and lime sour cream. Roasted red potatoes and vegetables accompany Scott's Maine lobster tail, which diners splash into saucers of decadent drawn butter. Though the seafood shines, it shares the limelight with filet mignon, ribeye, and New York strip steaks—cuts of Angus beef dry-aged and grilled to perfection. Tastefully clad in white button-downs and ties, Scott's waiters make knowledgeable recommendations for pairings from the wine list, which emphasizes California vintages but also includes bottles from France, Italy, and Australia. Scott's also maintains a handsome, fully-stocked bar with mahogany-stained woodwork, leather-upholstered stools, and flat-panel TVs for watching the latest weather reports.