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Train Spotting

Carolyn Jung | June 6, 2016 | Food & Drink Story Eat Eat and Drink

Commuting is such a chore these days, and long ones can work up an appetite. Good thing so many Caltrain stations are mere steps away from surefire sustenance, guaranteed to get any weary traveler going again. Truth be told, these finds are worth seeking out whether you ride the rails regularly or not.

Redwood City Station
Husband-and-wife owners Zu Tarazi and Kristi Borrone affectionately describe their Kristi Marie’s as akin to “a food truck—that’s not going anywhere.” With only a couple of tables inside, this shoebox-size cafe necessarily packs all its food conveniently to go. And what offerings they are. All breads, buns and pastries are made inhouse, including a spiral bun smothered in cinnamon-sugar ($3.75); a breakfast pain au lait stacked high with chorizo, egg, queso fresco, avocado, sour cream and cilantro ($7.50); and a juicy burger slathered with bacon-onion marmalade ($7.50). There’s also Equator coffee, kale-avocado-almond milk smoothies ($7) and a changing roster of cold-pressed juices like the racy blend of carrot, orange, mango, Meyer lemon, ginger and turmeric ($7). It’s amazing what’s turned out in such a tight space. But the couple are old pros—former owners of Station 1 Restaurant in Woodside. Borrone also grew up in the business, as her parents founded the beloved Cafe Borrone in Menlo Park. 318 Broadway St., Redwood City, 650.369.4351

Menlo Park Station
Chef Bradley Ogden has always had a soft spot for hot dogs, a favorite childhood nosh at summer festivals he frequented in his hometown of Traverse City, Mich. Bradley’s Funky Franks, with its reclaimed wood tables and barn-like vibe, captures that spirit with modern-day sensibilities, serving up organic dogs and sausages with a heap of fun. Choose your favorite type of tube steak (even a vegan one) for $6; then add three complimentary toppings or premium toppings for an additional fee, such as sauteed mushrooms (75 cents) or sauerkraut (50 cents). Or choose a signature item like the Morning Dog ($8, bacon-wrapped and topped with a fried egg) that’s actually served all day long. Don’t miss the out-of-this-world tater tots ($3.50). If you’re craving a more formal sit-down experience, the expansive Bradley’s Fine Diner next door offers up grilled shrimp Louie ($18), Yankee pot roast with creamy polenta ($24) and cocktails such as The Ghost Mule ($13), where Moscow meets south of the border with ginger beer, lime and ghost chile vodka. Bradley’s Funky Franks, 1195 Merrill St., Menlo Park, 650.391.9634; Bradley’s Fine Diner, 1165 Merrill St., Menlo Park, 650.494.4342,

Palo Alto Station
Venezuelan Coupa Café added its eighth location this year, and the second one in downtown Palo Alto. The latest one is on the ground level of the Lytton Gateway building that houses SurveyMonkey. The family-owned company takes coffee seriously, sourcing its own shade-grown, fair-trade, organic single-estate Arabica coffee beans and roasting them in small batches. Enjoy a dark, rich cup dripped, pulled, cold-brewed, Vietnamese-style with condensed milk ($3.90), or frappe blended with Oreo cookies and whipped cream ($5.95). True connoisseurs will favor a cup made by the state-of-the-art Blossom Brewer ($4.25), a sous vide-like coffee machine that maintains a single temperature accurately without the usual heating variations that result in bitter or sour notes. Coupa’s all-day menu features Venezuelan specialties such as corn arepas stuffed with avocado, cheese and sweet plantains ($11.25); and gluten-free fried empanaditas folded over ground beef and fresh white cheese ($7.95). All pastries are made in-house, including a lighter-than-air brownie ($4.25) that won’t weigh you down if you have to sprint for your train. 111 Lytton Ave., Palo Alto, 650.741.0713

California Avenue Station
Calave Wine Bar—the name is a mashup of California and Avenue—is the perfect spot to take a load off. Once home to the pre-Prohibition Mayfield Brewery, the space is now dominated by a sleek black granite-topped bar, the ideal perch from which to enjoy 10 craft beers and 40 boutique wines by the glass. Flights are a popular way to go, particularly the $20 trio of bubbles: NV Graham Beck Brut from South Africa, 2012 Argyle Vintage Brut from the Willamette Valley and NV Gosset Brut from Champagne, France. Opened last summer, Calave is the inspiration of two wine-loving local couples who wanted to create a convivial, unpretentious hangout. That shows in the menu, which includes truffle oil-drizzled popcorn ($6), a bountiful charcuterie plate ($18) and three variations on PB&J, including one combining caramelized onions, Gruyere and peanut butter ($11). Best yet, if you fall in love with a particular wine, you can buy a bottle to take home. 299 California Ave., Palo Alto, 650.521.0443

Mountain View Station
Poké is decidedly having a moment. That’s no more evident than at Poké Bar, where the line for customized Hawaiian raw fish salads can stretch to more than a dozen people at lunchtime. This fast-growing franchise was founded in West Hollywood only last year. The Mountain View location, its first in the Bay Area, happens to be inside Ava’s Downtown Market & Deli, where you can pick up Acme loaves and Marin Sun Farms grass-fed meat while you’re at it. Think of this as Chipotle crossed with Cold Stone Creamery. Determine your bowl base (white rice, brown rice, salad or nachos), which gets crowned with a scoop of seaweed salad and imitation crab. Then choose a size ($9.50 for two scoops, $11.50 for three scoops or $13.50 for four scoops) and your corresponding protein (tuna, albacore, spicy tuna, salmon, octopus, shrimp, scallop or tofu), mix-ins (such as cucumber, green onions, corn kernels or edamame) and dressing (house, ponzu, sweet chile, spicy mayo or wasabi mayo). The whole shebang gets tossed together before being laid atop your base. Garnish with fried garlic, crispy onions or sesame seeds, and you are good to go. 340 Castro St., Mountain View, 415.967.9728

Originally published in the May issue of Silicon Valley

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