Food and Drink
Minimizing customer interaction: '180 degrees from our natural inclination'
With caviar still on the menu, Michelin-starred restaurant turns to takeout
When Village Pub servers, line cooks and dishwashers clock in to work these days, they immediately have their temperature taken. They sign a form that states in English and Spanish: "I certify that I am in good health and have had my temperature checked and recorded accurately at the beginning of my workday." They deposit the pen they used into a sleek silver container labeled "used pens," put on a mask and start their shift.
The Village Pub, located at 2967 Woodside Road in Woodside, reopened for both indoor and outdoor dining in June. While many of the signature touches of the 19-year-old Michelin-starred restaurant returned — the staff still uses handheld irons to steam wrinkles out of white tablecloths before setting the tables, caviar is still on the menu and service is paramount — much has changed in the age of COVID-19.
Diners can order on their smartphones from a digital QR code or physical menu, and the latter is sanitized after every use. The menu was scaled down from 60 dishes to just 15, which are now offered in a $75 per person pre-fixe model to reduce the time waiters spend at tables. Customers can only take their masks off when seated, and employees keep them on at all times. Only one employee is allowed at a table at a time unless it's to drop off dishes and leave.
The overarching goal, said Tim Stannard, founder of Bacchus Management Group, which operates The Village Pub, is to minimize the amount of interaction between employees and diners — a counterintuitive "180 degrees from our natural inclination, which is to spend as much time as we can (with customers)."
Reconfiguring The Village Pub's elegant dining room to allow for at least 6 feet of distance between tables meant operating at 50% capacity. The restaurant quickly secured the necessary permits to build an outdoor patio — which cost $50,000 — that makes up for the lost tables. On a recent Monday evening, every table on the patio was full while a scarce number of parties sat inside. Stannard said the split between outdoor and indoor seating requests is about 70/30.
Plenty of people still want the traditional dine-in experience, he said. When Bacchus was discussing whether to resume indoor dining, they talked to staff, investors and customers. There was a "pressure — not a pressure," he corrected himself, "but interest" from the community in reopening the dining room. It's sold out nearly every night since reopening, Stannard said in July.
The pandemic forced a major shift for The Village Pub, an upscale restaurant that places high value on the experience of dining in, into takeout. Pre-coronavirus, to-go orders generated less than 2% of sales for the restaurant, Stannard said. Now, delivery accounts for about 30% of sales — a number that's held since the restaurant reopened for indoor and outdoor dining.
Scroll down to find out how last year's winners have responded to the pandemic.
Popular for its London Fog tea, Alexander's Patisserie serves up coffee drinks and modern versions of classic French desserts from its location in downtown Mountain View. The bakery offers online pickup, delivery and outdoor seating, according to its website.
209 Castro St., Mountain View, 650-864-9999; alexanderspatisserie.com
2019: Best Bakery
Winner of Best Thai Restaurant in Mountain View every year since 1999, Amarin Thai aims to provide an authentic Thai experience through its wide variety of menu items. The restaurant now offers online ordering for pick up and delivery through third-party apps.
174 Castro St., Mountain View, 650-988-9323; amarinthaicuisine.com
2019: Best Thai Restaurant
Amber India in Mountain View serves Indian street food, traditional fare and contemporary takes on classic dishes. Amber India is open for indoor and outdoor dining, and accepts to-go and delivery orders.
4926 El Camino Real, 650-968-7511; amber-india.com
2019: Best Indian Restaurant
Nearly all of the Texas-inspired grub at Armadillo Willy's is cooked over an oak-wood fire. This locally owned BBQ joint offers traditional items like ribs and brisket, as well as more adventurous options, like jalapeno-cheese sausage. The restaurant is open for takeout and delivery.
1031 N. San Antonio Road, Los Altos, 650-941-2922; armadillowillys.com
2019: Best BBQ
Ava's Downtown Market and Deli
Open every day from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., Ava's Downtown Market and Deli offers local produce and deli and grocery items with a focus on providing organic and sustainable products. In April, the market launched a new service that uses contactless robots from Starship Technologies for home food deliveries.
340 Castro St., Mountain View, 650-961-5652; avasmarketmv.com
2019: Best Small (Non-chain) Grocery Store
Blue Line Pizza
Blue Line Pizza, the sister restaurant chain of Little Star Pizza in San Francisco, accommodates a wide variety of palates and dietary restrictions with its thin-crust and deep-dish pizzas, as well as its vegan-, gluten-, dairy-, soy- and nut-free options. Blue Line revamped its online ordering system and now offers no-contact curbside pickup, patio dining, takeout and delivery. All takeaway options come with Tamper Seal stickers for freshness and safety. Over the past few months, Blue Line has donated over 1,500 pizzas to front-line workers throughout the area.
146 Castro St., Mountain View; 650-938-7888; bluelinepizza.com
2019: Best Pizza
Cascal, a lively Mediterranean restaurant in downtown Mountain View, specializes in Spanish and Latin American cuisine, including tapas, paellas and ceviche. The restaurant also features a wide selection of wines and spirits. Cascal offers outdoor dining, takeout and curbside pickup. Pre-ordering is available, with pickup times Tuesday through Sunday, 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
400 Castro St., Mountain View, 650-940-9500; cascalrestaurant.com
2019: Best Fine Dining Restaurant
2019: Best Happy Hour
2019: Best Patio/Outdoor Dining
2019: Best Mediterranean Restaurant
2019: Best Place for a Business Lunch
Since opening in 1970, Chef Chu's specialty dishes, including its homemade potstickers and Beijing duck cooked in a cast-iron Chinese oven, have attracted a who's who list of diners from near and far, including Serena Williams, Steve Young, Justin Bieber and JFK Jr.
1067 N. San Antonio Road, Los Altos, 650-948-2696; chefchu.com
2019: Best Chinese Restaurant
Dittmer's Gourmet Meats & Wurst-Haus
Dittmer's Gourmet Meats & Wurst-Haus has been serving the Mountain View community since 1978. The shop offers over 30 types of homemade sausages in addition to its deli offerings and smoked meats. Its offerings change periodically, with a special Oktoberfest package currently on the menu. Online orders can be ready as soon as the next day.
4540 El Camino Real, Los Altos, 650-941-3800; dittmers.com
2019: Best Deli/Sandwich
Currently in its seventh year of business, Doppio Zero serves Italian food, including pizzas and pastas, all of which are made from scratch in-house. The restaurant is open seven days a week and offers pickup, delivery and outdoor dining.
160 Castro St., Mountain View, 650-938-4147; dzpizzeria.com
2019: Best Italian Restaurant
Garden Fresh serves Chinese vegan cuisine with the aim of pleasing vegans, vegetarians and meat eaters alike. A partner of the Palo Alto Humane Society, Garden Fresh is a Humane Planet-certified business. To-go orders can be placed online or over the phone, and delivery is available via third-party apps.
1245 W. El Camino Real, Mountain View, 650-254-1688; gardenfresh.us
2019: Best Vegetarian Cuisine
Located in downtown Mountain View, Gelato Classico sells more than 20 flavors of traditional Italian ice cream and sorbet. The shop offers favorites like pistachio, chocolate hazelnut and lychee, as well as classics like spumoni, dark chocolate and tiramisu. It also combines gelatos or sorbets with espresso coffee to create affogatos. Pickup orders can be placed in person or over the phone. Outdoor seating is available.
241 Castro St., Mountain View, 650-969-2900; caffeclassicofoods.com
2019: Best Ice Cream/Frozen Yogurt
Founded by Paul Taber in 1974 and now operated by a new generation of owners, Hobee's remains an iconic Silicon Valley chain known for its funky vibe and ample breakfasts — including its legendary blueberry coffee cake with crumbly streusel topping — and assortment of healthy menu items. The restaurant is open for curbside pickup and delivery (and its blueberry coffee cake can be shipped nationwide.)
4224 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 650-856-6124; hobees.com
2019: Best Breakfast/Brunch
House of Bagels
Open for takeout seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., House of Bagels serves fresh, New York-style bagels that are boiled and then baked in custom-designed brick ovens.
1712 Miramonte Ave., Mountain View, 650-694-4888; houseofbagelsonline.com
2019: Best Bagel
Founded in 1948, the West Coast fast food chain In-N-Out Burger serves variations of its famous hamburger patties, as well as fries, shakes and beverages. Both drive-thru and takeout ordering are available.
53 W. El Camino Real and 1159 N. Rengstorff Ave., Mountain View, 800-786-1000; in-n-out.com
2019: Best Burger
La Costeña, known for its made-to-order giant burritos offers traditional Mexican staples at affordable prices, including its $7 special of the day. During the pandemic, the restaurant is serving food to-go only. Orders must be placed in person.
235 E. Middlefield Road, Mountain View, 650-967-0507; costena.com
2019: Best Burrito
Japanese noodle house Maru Ichi is best known for its kuro and tonkotsu ramen and offers a variety of udon, soba, ramen and cold noodles. During the pandemic, the restaurant is offering outdoor dining, takeout and delivery service.
368 Castro St., Mountain View, 650-564-9931
2019: Best Noodle Place
Mountain View Farmers Market
Open on Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., the Mountain View Farmers Market is the place to find local produce, meats, bread and prepared foods offered by 80-plus farmers and vendors. To create a safer environment, the market expanded its aisles for social distancing, suspended food sampling and created limits on the number of people allowed per stall. Face coverings are required at all times.
650 W. Evelyn Ave., Mountain View, 800-806-3276; cafarmersmkts.com
2019: Best Produce
Famous for its fresh, direct-from-Israel hummus, flavorful meat skewers and stuffed-to-the-gill pita sandwiches, the menu at Oren's Hummus is full of Israeli staples. The restaurant also offers gluten-free pita. Patio dining, takeout and delivery are available.
126 Castro St., Mountain View, 650-938-6738; orenshummus.com
2019: Best Middle Eastern Restaurant
The West Coast fish house chain Pacific Catch serves sustainably sourced seafood in its sushi rolls, bowls and grilled and pan-seared entrees. During this period, Pacific Catch is adding a COVID-19 safety and sanitation surcharge of 2% to help offset the increased cost of protecting staff and guests through stringent safety protocols that include sanitation after each guest, double-sealed takeout bags, sanitizer stations for guests, disposable single-use menus, contactless payment and temperature checks.
545 San Antonio Road, Suite 34, Mountain View, 650-941-1810; pacificcatch.com
2019: Best Seafood
Red Rock Coffee
Red Rock Coffee, a community nonprofit coffee house known for its roster of guest artists and live music, serves coffee, Italian-style cappuccino, pastries and snacks. The longtime institution was facing permanent closure after the pandemic shutdown. In a Hail Mary, an anonymous buyer stepped up in November to rescue it. The shop, which will be restructured as a for-profit business, will operate exactly the same as it has for 15 years. It is currently open: On-site live music has been temporarily suspended, but the coffee house hosts weekly open mic nights via Zoom, and orders can be placed online or at the register.
201 Castro St., Mountain View, 650-967-4473; redrockcoffee.org
2019: Best Coffee House (Independent)
At SAJJ Mediterranean, customers can create custom wraps, pita sandwiches and rice bowls. Pickup and delivery options are available, and the store has launched a new SAJJ Market online where guests can order readymade Meal Kits, pre-marinated meats, Mediterranean grains, spices in bulk for next-day delivery.
2580 W. El Camino Real, Mountain View, 650-941-7255; sajjstreeteats.com
2019: Best Takeout
St. Stephens Green
St. Stephen's Green, an Irish-themed pub, lists 36 draft beers from local craft brews to imports like Guinness, and pub-style chicken curry served with rice and fries for dipping. Outdoor dining, curbside pickup and delivery are available every day. The pub now broadcasts live football games on the big screen in its beer garden every Sunday, Monday and Thursday.
223 Castro St., Mountain View, 650-964-9151; ststephensgreen.com
2019: Best Bar
Popular for its sushi and sashimi, Sushi Tomi offers authentic and unique Japanese menu items with vegan and vegetarian options. The restaurant, which posts daily specials on its website, currently accepts to-go orders that can be placed over the phone.
635 W. Dana St., Mountain View, 650-968-3227; sushitomi.com
2019: Best Sushi/Japanese Restaurant
Tea Era offers over 80 varieties of teas, smoothies and juices, with a focus on providing more healthy options to its customers. The shop is offering takeout, delivery and curbside pickup.
273 Castro St., Mountain View, 650-969-2899; teaeracafe.com
2019: Best Pearl Tea
The Midwife and The Baker
Run by a husband-and-wife team, The Midwife and The Baker produces breads and pastries using California-sourced whole grains and freshly milled flour. The bakery accepts walk-ups and pre-orders at its Independence Avenue location from 7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Monday-Saturday. The bakery's goods are also sold at local farmers markets, grocery stores or restaurants, For more information, check the "Where" page on the company's website.
846 Independence Ave., Mountain View; themidwifeandthebaker.com
2019: Best New Restaurant
Vive Sol serves authentic cuisine from Puebla, Mexico, with unique and varied flavors as colorful as the many tequilas and spirits on display in the restaurant's outdoor bar. Vive Sol are now offering their margaritas to-go, and food can be ordered for delivery or pick up, or enjoyed outside on the patio.
2020 W. El Camino Real, Mountain View, 650-938-2020; vivesolmv.com
2019: Best Mexican Restaurant