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About this blog: I am a perpetually hungry twenty-something journalist, born and raised in Menlo Park and currently working at the Palo Alto Weekly as education and youth staff writer. I graduated from USC with a major in Spanish and a minor in jo...  (More)

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Mendocino Farms to replace LYFE Kitchen in Palo Alto

Uploaded: Aug 27, 2018
Southern California-based sandwich chain Mendocino Farms is opening a new location at 167 Hamilton Ave. in downtown Palo Alto, where LYFE Kitchen recently shuttered.

Mendocino Farms did not respond to interview requests. Earlier this month, the company submitted plans to the City of Palo Alto to make modifications to the exterior of the building.


Mendocino Farms will replace LYFE Kitchen on Hamilton Avenue. Palo Alto Weekly file photo.

Husband and wife Mario Del Pero and Ellen Chen opened the first Mendocino Farms in Los Angeles in 2005 with a "vision of an elevated dining experience offering much more than just good food," the company website states.

In a 2016 Los Angeles Times article, the owners described Mendocino Farms as filling an "untapped market between Subway sandwiches and boutique eateries such as Joan's on Third and Dean & DeLuca."

The fast-casual restaurant serves sandwiches and salads using locally sourced ingredients, such as a seasonal BLT with heirloom tomatoes from Scarborough Farm in Oxnard, nitrate-free Applewood smoked bacon, habanero honey, Sir Kensington's mayonnaise and arugula.


A photo of Mendocino Farms' "Not So Fried" Mary's Chicken sandwich -- with roasted free range chicken breast, "krispies," herb aioli, mustard pickle slaw, tomatoes and pickled red onions on toasted ciabatta -- posted on the restaurant's Instagram.

The sandwiches are served on "artisan" bread from two Southern California bakeries and Petits Pains in Burlingame. Mendocino Farms uses Mary’s Free Range chicken from Pitman Family Farms, Creminelli prosciutto (sea salt and heritage-breed pork humanely raised on vegetarian feed without antibiotics and turkey that was raised sans hormones or antibiotics, according to the company website.

The menu includes staples and seasonal dishes that rotate throughout the year. There are several vegan sandwiches and gluten-free options.  

Mendocino Farms now operates more than 17 locations in Southern California and four in Northern California, with more on the way in both regions. Locally, there are Mendocino Farms in San Mateo, Campbell, San Jose and San Francisco.

The Palo Alto location will open in 2019, according to the Mendocino Farms website.

Comments

 +   6 people like this
Posted by Cultural Appropriation, a resident of Adobe-Meadow,
on Aug 27, 2018 at 1:11 pm

We're from LA and most of our stuff comes from SoCal. Let's just call it Mendocino farms because people will like that better. The culture of Mendocino county is vastly different that LA, but these people take it (Falsely) and run with it.
Dishonest starting right with the name.

Anyone want to buy Napa Farms Jam when the company is based in Phoenix? No, of course you don't.


 +   8 people like this
Posted by Chains- bad, a resident of Downtown North,
on Aug 27, 2018 at 5:21 pm

Do the residents of Palo,alto really want another chain restaurant in this location. The city council needs to step in and put their money where there mouth is" they have been pushing the narrative that chains are bad and mom & pop stores/restaurants is what the city neeeds . Didn't Karen Holman push through an ordinance regarding g stores on California avenue" what about downtown???
Let's say no to this chain store and ensure that a mom and pop restaurant opens there. The free market does not matter in Palo Alto. Next thing you know residents will be demanding large, fully stocked grocery stores.


 +   10 people like this
Posted by pffft, a resident of Blossom Valley,
on Aug 27, 2018 at 6:44 pm

have any of you snobs actually tried this place? i have, it's pretty goodl


 +   14 people like this
Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown,
on Aug 27, 2018 at 10:18 pm

@ Chains -bad: Actually, I would LOVE for some chains to open in Palo Alto. A chain isn't "bad" because it is a chain. I would be so happy if Ike's finally opened downtown!

We have driven to San Mateo just to eat at Mendocino Farms. It is a nice sandwich shop that would probably fit in well in Palo Alto. Besides, it is a "small" chain -- with just 21 locations.


 +   3 people like this
Posted by Sarcastic, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Aug 28, 2018 at 5:01 am

Nayeli-- I think Chains-bad was being sarcastic.
The council did pass an ordinance banning new chain stores from california avenue and that seems to be the mindset of the council.


 +   11 people like this
Posted by LA Farms, a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood,
on Aug 28, 2018 at 6:27 am

Nah. Its truly not special and a REALLY stupid name. They're from LA sourcing from LA...why the need to hide that? It has nothing to do with Mendocino.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Laura Stec, a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge,
on Aug 28, 2018 at 7:15 pm

Wow - Califia and Lyfe in the same week. That teaches us all something.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by Hank Lawrence, a resident of Menlo Park,
on Aug 29, 2018 at 10:42 pm

I used to eat lunch at the Mendocino Farms in El Segundo when I was doing some work at Los Angeles Air Force Station. It was first rate then. Good food, not cheap. You get what you pay for.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Invisible loyal customer, a resident of Green Acres,
on Sep 2, 2018 at 9:51 am

@Laura Steck,
I hope the lesson it teaches us is that it is possible to offer great food at a reasonable price here and sustain that, but that it takes vigilance to maintain quality, and that restaurants risk death if they fail to be consistent or fail to have ways of hearing about problems from loyal customers. There is a lag time between when the problems crop up and when the loyal customers give up, and it's crucial not to take that for granted. Read the comments after the blog post about LYFE closing - we experienced this, too, and were surprised it took LYFE that long to close. The change was so dramatic, it's hard to understand how they hung on as long as they did after that. Probably because of how good they were before the shift.

Inconsistency is the big killer of restaurants, especially expensive ones. I have seen many a closure coming from miles away, including those. Patrons of LYFE braved downtown because of the great food at reasonable price. Once it becomes clear that an evening out chances a really lousy meal (two or three even inedible meals for us at LYFE), customers leave never to return. The restaurant business is pretty competitive here and I have sometimes wondered if there was even sabotage going on by the competition in the kitchen - sudden inedible saltiness in some dishes hitting several restaurants in succession being one such problem - certainly given the difficulty of retaining staff (does poaching of staff happen?), one doesn't have to consider sabotage, but in several instances I can think of in which restaurants subsequently closed, someone would really have to try to make food that bad.

There are other restaurants I wish I could warn, but if anyone knows how to get through, please let me know. In that lag time stage, there is a huge dose of denial when customers bring up problems (and there is always the spectre of the customers who just complain for less noble reasons creating distrust of the ones who get up the courage to complain legitimately). I had a bad experience at a restaurant I love recently, following the same experience twice before and complaining to the manager about it once. While I care about getting a refund for those items, once I was too tired to complain, and the first time they didn't even offer a refund, and I said nothing on yelp because I really want them to succeed. I care that they fix it because they are a bright star of quality and reasonable cost. But when things seem irretrievable, then I may write in yelp, but right now they are in that lag time and business is still good. I hope they catch on but it's not looking good since the problem keeps recurring.

As a customer, I find the process of trying to speak up the chain pretty impossible and often met with denial. (Any restaurants want to hire me as a secret critic, I am a pudgy ordinary-looking matronly late middle-aged woman foodie, i.e., nearly invisible and overlooked in SV, and I really care about restaurant qualty and where we spend our restaurant budget, thus I am a great person to catch problems as they develop. The longtime critic for the NYT maintained anonimity via disguises but at the base of it, she also had the cloak of matronly middle-aged woman invisibility...)


 +  Like this comment
Posted by @ Invisible loyal, a resident of another community,
on Sep 2, 2018 at 2:20 pm

Very thoughtful remarks. If you really want Laura Stec to see them, make sure also to email her directly (her blog page Web Link includes an email contact link right under her byline). This current blog isn't Laura Stec's, and there's evidence Laura Stec hasn't noticed past comments addressed to her on other blogs.

Having been part of the management of some restaurants I will add a few comments. Owners and committed managers desperately want sincere customer feedback, so your impulse is right on target -- where you found "denial," you might have just caught the wrong person. It's worth taking the effort to track down or ask how to contact the people actually in charge. Also -- you rightly mentioned "less noble reasons" for complaints -- senior staff of restaurants ("especially expensive ones") can be made skeptical by the regular, wearing experience of people trying to hustle free meals by all sorts of sleazy gambits from simple dine-and-dash to manufactured complaints. That's a part of the restaurant business that many customers never see. Finally, I've spent time with Mimi Sheraton post-NYT, and middle-aged or not, she also had a natural poise and authority, and the disguises were made necessary because she dined out professionally literally every night for years, returning several times to reasearch each restaurant she later wrote about, and therefore in need of all possible anonymity. (Unlike say Bauer in SF, who I don't think ever dined anonymously, his appearance and standard pseudonyms were known throughout the local restaurant industry.)


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