The lands around Stanford are some of the richest and most indulgent in the gastronomic world. Before you head out for a week of restaurant-hopping, here are a few things you should know about making the most of your Restaurant Week experience.
1. Seize the Bay: You can’t go to a Bay Area restaurant and ignore the seafood — it’s unthinkable blasphemy to the High Altar of Your Culinary Nirvana. The most reliably tasty critter this time of the year is Dungeness crab, but spiny lobster, black cod and clams truly complete a meal. We’ve found that Bay Area restaurants have developed a distinct way of preparing seafood dishes that is distinctly lighter on the palate than elsewhere in the nation. The best part about it though? It’s usually lighter on the wallet, too.
2. Tis the season for veggies: Winter squash, artichokes and potatoes are the foods of the fall. If you’ve never consciously thought about eating what’s in season (or if it’s always bitter winter where you’re from — that’s you, Alaska), there’s no better place than the Bay Area to be a fanatical season-vore. For the best artichokes in the Bay, Loft Bar & Bistro dishes up a miraculously melt-in-your-mouth marinated fire-roasted artichoke, while surely the tastiest incarnation of potatoes is Morton’s Steakhouse’s sour cream mashed potatoes.
3. Brussels sprouts are bomb: Now, we all know how you feel about Brussels sprouts — it’s slimy, suspiciously eyeball-y and makes you fart the foulest farts at the most inopportune of post-dinner times. Absolutely the foulest! It’s pretty much the Veggie Antichrist. But the Bay Area has one of the finest climes for growing Brussels sprouts, and at this time of the year its flavor reaches its peak, which translates to actually delicious slimy fart-inducing eyeballs being served at restaurants here. And while not every joint will have them on the menu, here’s an industry insider’s tip: More likely than not, restaurants will have them stashed away for the regulars, so ask for them anyway. You’ll be absolutely blown away. (As will your sexy post-dinner plans, unfortunately, but hey, it’s a worthy trade-off.)
4. BYOB: Unlike restaurants and bars on the East Coast, most places in the Bay Area are exceedingly diligent with carding anyone ordering a drink. Which makes sense, considering how young and fresh-faced everyone looks in California (we blame you, Hollywood). We’re not advocating underage drinking, but if you absolutely must enjoy your dinner with that delicious Riesling, throw on a jacket, go with someone actually over 21, bring your own bottle and ask the server how much the corkage is on the way to your table. It almost always works.
5. Coman Latin American: Tired of all the Italian and Thai restaurants that the Bay Area is festooned with? (Not that we’re complaining about that one.) Try upscale Latin American. You won’t be getting your hangover taco-to-go with extra guac, and it’s not just going to be clearing out your spare change, either, but you’ll definitely be surprised at the complexity of flavors and range of dishes. Silicon Valley Restaurant Week’s lineup offers ample opportunities for this: Palo Alto’s own Reposado is as good a place to start as any, but if you want to venture out further, Palacio in Los Gatos, Mezcal in San Jose and Ciano’s Modern Latin Flavors in Campbell are phenomenal Bay Area stars too.