What is the best restaurant in downtown Palo Alto to go to on a first dinner date on a Friday?

I second Adam Bossy's recommendation for La Bodeguita del Medio. Its location off California Avenue makes the restaurant a little more low key than the bustle on University Avenue. It's a great place to bring someone that you want to chat with and get to know and the energy / soft music in the restaurant are a great compliment to the quiet stroll in from the car to dinner.

You won't go wrong (unless one of you is a vegetarian) if you stick to standard Cuban fare when ordering. The Ropa Vieja is a shredded skirt steak marinated in tomato sauce served over rice with sweet, fried plantains and they have many great rum drinks — the most popular is the Zacapa Manhattan.

If you and your date are into cigars or trying new things, there is an outdoor cigar divan in the back where you can share a cigar — not an everyday thing for me so it was interesting the first time.

If you insist on being downtown, in the middle of the action, Joya is another great place for a first date…but not because of its food… It's a high energy place with modern ambiance and there are usually plenty of well-dressed, attractive people to look at while you sip on a fruity cocktail or two.

The fare is Latin tapas with mostly hit-or-miss dishes (e.g. the sliders are terrible). While the variety of the plates makes for great first date conversation, it's better if you've actually been there before and know what to order.

The fried Oreos with ice cream at Joya are warm, gooey, and delicious! Whether you eat here or take a walk down University from your original dinner spot, this is a great place to grab a final drink and dessert.

If you want something less fancy AND you want to be downtown, I recommend Patxi's for some Chicago-style, deep-dish pizza and beer. The pizzas take a long time to make so you should definitely share a salad to start. The long wait up to dinner will give you enough time to talk and decide if your date will level up; if not, you'll at least have enough time to have another drink. The pizza tends to be filling, so if you're having a good time, you should save some room for dessert. The gelato place next door is cute and a good place to stop in at before taking a stroll down University to work off some of the greasy pizza, beer, and ice cream.

A place that I have not been to yet that I've been hearing good things about is Reposado — possibly the next date restaurant for me…

And since it's always hard to plan, here are a few places in downtown Palo Alto that I would NOT recommend for any initial, get-to-know-you dates: Osteria (while I like the food, the service is not awesome — great for a rainy takeout date), Slider Bar Cafe (like the sliders but it's too crowded), Tamarine (too bland for an initial outing), Cheesecake Factory (makes a statement about your inability to plan a date), La Strada (don't be fooled because it's Italian — it's mediocre and unimpressive).

What restaurants have the best salads in Menlo Park / Palo Alto / Mountain View / Sunnyvale?

Per Adam D'Angelo, Sprout is clearly the best answer to this question and the consensus #1 pick among Downtown Palo Alto lunchgoers.

Sprout's salads are awesome. The ingredients and dressings are so good. I think it's the best fast-salad place I've been to anywhere. I used to not like salads, and now I eat at Sprout 2-3x per week.

Pluto's is fine, but don't kid yourself — Sprout is in the NFL of places that serve quick lunches in downtown US metros. Pluto's is not.

See Which is better: Sprout or Pluto's? for more on this important debate.

If we're building out a top 5 list, I can think of two other contenders:

  • The salads at Madera at the Rosewood hotel in Menlo Park are great, although pricey.
  • The spinach salad at Bistro Maxime in downtown Palo Alto is awesome.

Where is the best sushi in Palo Alto?

It depends on if you care first and foremost about fresh fish and are looking for sashimi, or if you're a big fan of fancy rolls that are more interesting… Fuki Sushi is probably your best bet if your main concern is delicious sashimi, but Kanpai is excellent overall and easily the best place around University Ave.

Where can you get food near Palo Alto after midnight?

See also Which restaurants stay open the latest in Palo Alto?

Jack in the Box on El Camino is open 24 hours.

If you have a car, you can also go to In N Out in Mountain View which is open until 1am (1:30am on Friday and Saturday nights) or McDonald's (open 24 hours.)

As an alternative, the Safeway supermarket in Menlo Park (off El Camino) isn't far from Palo Alto and has sandwiches and other deli stuff sometimes in addition to groceries.