Maybe you're here on business. Maybe you're visiting your old college roommate whose firm's IPO just bought him a 24-room mansion in Woodside. Or maybe you're only passing through, and want to wring some pleasure out of this land of workaholics. No worries: It can be done. Here, a sybarite's guide to the best Silicon Valley has to offer.
WHERE TO EAT
Bistro Vida 641 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park; 650/462-1686; dinner for two $75. A mammoth bistro with a terrific French menu (coq au vin, moules frites, and other classics). The tarte Tatin and bread pudding are beyond belief.
Chantilly 3001 El Camino Real, on the border of Redwood City and Atherton; 650/321-4080; dinner for two $75. Although the pastel color scheme is a bit much, the service is excellent and the French and Italian food is exquisite, from onion soup to melt-in-your-mouth pesto-tomato gnocchi.
Le Papillon 410 Saratoga Ave., San Jose; 408/296-3730; dinner for two $100. A bit on the stuffy side, with a decidedly older crowd, but the food is delicious, from wild-mushroom ravioli to the house specialty: Grand Marnier soufflé.
Spago 265 Lytton Ave., Palo Alto; 650/833-1000; dinner for two $100. The real deal. Wolfgang Puck's nod to Silicon Valley's power crowd parallels his Beverly Hills and West Hollywood landmarks as the scene to be seen at. The California-Mediterranean menu offers more choices than any other in the area (try the sashimi and grilled rack of lamb with phyllo, baba ghanoush, and tabbouleh), and the Robert Rauschenberg murals and pretty patio make for a fun, eminently colorful setting.
St. Michael's Alley 806 Emerson St., Palo Alto; 650/326-2530; brunch for two $25. A popular little place that serves very good dinners and an excellent weekend brunch, courtesy of an attentive and friendly staff. The artwork might give you a migraine, but you could cure it with some fresh orange juice, one of St. Michael's good omelettes, or an order of thick-sliced French toast.
Il Fornaio 520 Cowper St., Palo Alto; 650/853-3888; dinner for two $100. Though it's part of a chain, this yummy Italian comes off like a family-run trattoria. A smiling staff, an intimate, country-rustic interior, and brick-oven pizzas to die for.
Higashi West 632 Emerson St., Palo Alto; 650/323-9378; dinner for two $50. This hot sushi spot is bustling with Internet capos and VC dons, who come here to feast on maki while scoping out the few females. Perhaps the best sushi in the valley.
Little Store 3340 Woodside Rd., Woodside; 650/851-8110; dinner for two $46. In the heart of Woodside's horse country, this rustic charmer is the place for comfort food: baked chicken stuffed with chorizo, amazing quesadillas, and hearty salads.
Buck's 3062 Woodside Rd., Woodside; 650/851-8010; dinner for two $65. Known for its smashing breakfasts, this ornament-laden, all-American joint is jam-packed at all times. It has become the de facto hangout for the venture-capital crowd, who like to hash out deals over the famous coffee cake.
WHERE TO STAY
Hotel Avante 860 E. El Camino Real, Mountain View; 800/538-1600 or 650/940-1000, fax 650/968-7870; www.hotelavante.com; doubles from $265. The valley's rather staid hotel scene got a boost this summer from the trendy Joie de Vivre group, known for its cool and quirky boutique hotels in the Bay Area. The Avante's 91 stylish guest rooms are outfitted in cherrywood and warm earth tones; in-room amenities range from CD players and high-speed Internet ports to Slinkys and Rubik's Cubes. A second Joie de Vivre hotel, the Wild Palms, opens in Sunnyvale this winter (910 E. Fremont Ave.; 800/538-1600 or 408/738-0500, fax 408/245-4167; doubles from $265).
Fairmont San Jose 170 S. Market St., San Jose; 800/866-5577 or 408/998-1900, fax 408/287-1648; www.fairmont.com; doubles from $149. The lobby's marble columns and Phantom of the Opera chandelier are your first clues that the Fairmont is a cut above the usual valley hotels. This 541-room haven of luxury pampers guests with five in-house restaurants, a tropical rooftop pool, and a first-rate health club.
Garden Court Hotel 520 Cowper St., Palo Alto; 800/824-9028 or 650/322-9000, fax 650/324-3609; www.gardencourt.com; doubles from $299. The prettiest hotel in the valley, with a beautiful courtyard and a prime location smack in the middle of Palo Alto.
Stanford Park Hotel 100 El Camino Real, Menlo Park; 800/368-2468 or 650/322-1234, fax 650/330-2796; www.woodsidehotels.com; doubles from $295. A warm, clubby hotel adjacent to the Stanford campus, with a pool, business center, fitness room, and lobby with fireplace. It's all pleasant and quaint, if a bit too new-looking.
Cowper Inn 705 Cowper St., Palo Alto; 650/327-4475; doubles from $70. A cozy bed-and-breakfast in a restored Victorian, only a five-minute walk from downtown Palo Alto.
Juut Salonspa 240 University Ave., Palo Alto; 650/328-4067; packages from $180. This modern, serene spa in Palo Alto has a full menu of soothing services, from aroma body wraps and sunless tanning to rejuvenation treatments and replenishing facials—not to mention the blissful massages.
LaBelle 36 Stanford Shopping Center, Palo Alto, 650/326-8522; also at 95 Town & Country Village, Palo Alto, 650/327-6964; packages from $275. At both elegant locations, LaBelle seems to offer everything under the sun. The highlight is the "Tuscan Wellness Retreat," a five-hour indulgence that includes a grapeseed body scrub, clay wrap, massage, facial, and pedicure.
THREE QUINTESSENTIAL SIGHTS
Stanford Shopping Center Palo Alto; 800/772-9332 or 650/617-8585; www.stanfordshop.com. It certainly is pretty, and beside the cute footpaths and flower beds you'll find Tiffany's, Bloomingdale's, Neiman Marcus, Max Mara, TSE Cashmere, and countless other upscale shops.
Tech Museum of Innovation 201 S. Market St., San Jose; 408/294-8324; www.thetech.org. San Jose's endlessly diverting technology museum has some great interactive exhibits that both kids and adults will get into, along with the IMAX Dome Theater.
Burlingame Museum of Pez Memorabilia 214 California Dr., Burlingame; 650/347-2301. A hidden gem. No bigger than your living room, this colorful little box of treats has the Seinfeld "Pez" episode running on a loop, a behind-the-scenes video tour of the Pez factory in Orange, Connecticut, and an archive of hundreds of dispensers collected from around the world—some for sale.