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CITY PROFILE: MENLO PARK

 

Sandwiched between Palo Alto’s urban bustle and the mansions of sedately genteel Atherton, this peaceful enclave embodies a Mayberry-esque quality with its tree-shaded streets, quirky independent boutiques and restaurants, and sidewalks strolled by locals who call Menlo Park home.

This quintessential culture is best reflected within the downtown area spread out along five or six blocks of Santa Cruz Avenue west of El Camino Real. Here you'll find an appealing range of shopping options, from mom-and-pop home furnishings and upscale second­hand clothing shops to high-end jewelry stores, luxury shoe stores and chic boutiques.

The downtown’s downtown amenities also include a number of gastronomically satisfying dining spots. Palate-pleasing options include Asian bistros, several cool European-style cafes, a trendy French restaurant and Middle Eastern eateries. You definitely won’t leave town hungry.

Bookworms will find their personal nirvana at the eastern end of Santa Cruz Avenue, where it intersects with El Camino Real. Here sits Kepler’s bookstore, a landmark indie bookseller that not only holds its own but thrives against the big chain stores. Movie aficionados flock to the nearby Guild Theater, one of the oldest cinema houses on the Peninsula. There they can catch foreign and independent films as well as occasional classic midnight flicks.

Tucked away a few blocks from downtown and well worth visiting, the Allied Arts Guild is a beautifully renovated historic, hacienda-style California property with artists’ studios, one-of-a-kind shops and the lovely Blue Garden Cafe.