On Saturday, Sarah and I drove south from San Francisco to visit her alma mater, Stanford University. We took the scenic route and stopped for lunch at Alice’s Restaurant, perhaps the most famous motorcycle destination in the United States. It truly deserves this coveted status and is one of my all time favorites. All of the roads heading to Alice’s are a dream to experience. Even in a rented Chevy Malibu the route to Alice’s is thrilling! Arriving from the north or the south, you get to enjoy tall redwoods, great switchbacks, and dramatic mountain views. A page from Alice’s website gives a concise history of this legendary establishment:
Alice’s is a little slice of bliss among the redwoods. It’s a place where families, motorcyclists, hikers, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, writers, musicians, locals, and visitors can all come together to enjoy a great meal. Whether you want gourmet burgers and sweet potato fries, one of our scrumptious scrambles, or homemade pie, you can find it here. We use the finest locally-sourced ingredients, serving up mouthwatering food in a casual atmosphere. We’ve got several local microbrews on tap, as well as local wines. The building was originally constructed in the early 1900’s as a general store to support the logging industry. A hub of local history, it served the area (then called “Four Corners”) until the 1950’s when it was turned into a restaurant. Sometime during the 1960’s the restaurant was bought by Alice Taylor who renamed the restaurant after herself and the now famous Arlo Guthrie song of the same name. Already, a world famous stop for motorcyclist, hikers and tourists, Alice’s Restaurant (and the adjacent buildings) was bought in the 1970’s and has been family owned & operated ever since.
It is a special place where car and motorcycle enthusiasts converge on a regular basis. Alice’s is located high above in the mountains of Woodside on rural Skyline Boulevard where Route 35 and 84 intersect. Situated forty minutes south of San Francisco, this legendary establishment lies in close proximity to Stanford University and Sand Hill Road. Alice’s patrons are a diverse crowd that range from Silicon Valley tycoons to Stanford professors to unshaven transient bikers.
Alice’s is one of few motoring roadside restaurants that serves truly great food. Much of their menu is sourced locally. Breakfast includes a full range of options like home cooked pancakes, eggs, omelets, and burritos. You can even order the “Ducati” which is two eggs, two slices of French toast, and two pieces of applewood bacon. All this (and the scenery) for the bargain price of $10.95! For lunch Alice’s serves salads, tuna melts, turkey clubs, and fish tacos. The dessert list is impressive too. Try the homemade pie and you will find that Alice’s is no ordinary roadside diner! The full menu can be accessed here.
The variety of machines parked out front on any given weekend rivals the diversity of the menu. On our visit we saw several tiny go-kart inspired Lotus sports cars. The Lotus Elise, Evora, and Exige were all proudly on display by their enthusiastic and passionate owners. I especially liked a gorgeous and tastefully modernized Willy’s Jeep that was parked out front. The motorcycle variety was tasty too. An old and well travelled BMW GS bike was parked next to a showroom condition vintage four cylinder Honda CB 500. There were also several unique custom bikes. Tricked out choppers and Harley’s with super tall ape hangers were just the tip of the iceberg. The diversity of brands, products, and people make Alice’s a true experience unlike any other. This is not simply a place for Harley riders to meet up. In a testament to Alice’s diversity, over the years this sacred ground has been the site of several high profile product announcements including the release of the 1991 Kawasaki Ninja, the 2008 Tesla, as well as several flamboyant and rare Ducati models.
We had a fabulous visit to Alice’s! There is so much more to this sacred place than simply food, cars, and motorcycles. Alice’s Restaurant has a little bit of everything in life that I hold dear: diverse culture, fascinating people, unbridled passion, and great food. Make it a point to stop by the next time you are near San Francisco! The Turtle Garage gives Alice’s a 10.
After we left Alice’s we headed over to Stanford. On our visit I got to see all of Sarah’s old haunts. We saw her freshman dorm and her off-campus apartment. We visited the barn where Sarah kept her horses while she was in school. Leland Stanford kept his prize winning show horses in the same barn over one hundred years ago. A tidbit of Stanford history that I didn’t appreciate is that the entire campus is colloclially known by students, faculty, and alumni as “the farm.” Its named this because the gorgeous property was once the Stanford family’s sprawling working farm. The highlight of the trip was learning about the car stories that my wife experienced while in college. Driving by the Stanford solar car project headquarters Sarah told me that her classmates Marcus, Brian, Brad and BJ stored three old Porsche 914’s there in hopes of building one into a usable car. The guys also acquired a “tow vehicle”: a derelict El Camino that turned out to be undriveable. For over a year, the idle El Camino was parked outside their Oakwood apartment just off of Sand Hill Road. I got to see the actual parking spot where this classic once lived. Stanford folklore has it that the El Camino was towed over a half a dozen times by the building management before being permanntly relegated to the junk yard. We ended our wonderful day in Palo Alto with appetizers of roti prats bread at Indo followed by a Mexican dinner at Palo Alto Sol.