Saturday, February 9, 2008

Los Altos Grill, Los Altos

Los Altos Grill
Wood-fired rotisserie grill with terrific steaks and chicken--and cornbread.
(image from

Formerly Bandera's, this restaurant changed its name back in around 2004 to "Los Altos Grill." We'd liked Bandera's and were pleased to see that the menu remained pretty much the same.

The big drawback to this place is the crowds. If you try to go at any time when other people might be thinking about eating out, you'll wait for your table. There's not much waiting space inside, if the weather is chilly or wet; of course, this is California, so odds are you can just hang out near the entrance outside. The good news is that the interior is very nice, the restaurant quiet enough to permit conversation, and the waitstaff very helpful, once you are seated. The booths are nice and roomy, with nice views of the bar in the center of the restaurant (TVs if you're inclined to watch sports) and the kitchen in the back. There's a lot of stained and polished wood inside, and the wood-fired cooking is highlighted by flickering firelight from the ovens. When we went, they also had the pork chops roasting on a spit out front.

We always get the jalapeno cornbread here. It's a little dry, but ask for honey with it and it's perfect--maybe the second-best cornbread in the Bay Area (after Armadillo Willy's, strangely enough). It comes in a skillet and is about a four-person portion, though three of us managed to finish it off on this occasion.

Our waiter very enthusiastically talked us through the specials and the menu, answering all our questions happily and making recommendations whenever we asked. It's hard to go wrong with steak as a main course. They make it tender and tasty, and Mark's filet was served with a side of thick-cut tomatoes topped with basil and blue cheese that worked really well (even for someone unenthusiastic about tomatoes). We also sampled the pork chops, a special for that evening, which were amazingly tender and flavorful, one of the better chops I can remember having had. The side of red cabbage that came with them was a great complement. I had the halibut, the fresh fish of the day, which came "simply grilled" with little seasoning and a side of delicious brussels sprouts, lightly grilled themselves with compound butter. It was good, but I think I would have liked a little more seasoning.

We let the waiter talk us into a dessert of Oreo ice cream sandwiches, two large chocolate cookie sandwiches of cookies 'n' cream ice cream topped with whipped cream and surrounded with chocolate sauce and espresso shavings. Even though we were fairly full from dinner, the temptation was too much, and we ended up finishing it easily.

The Los Altos Grill, under whatever name, remains one of our standby restaurants, but we prefer to go on off-hours, when the experience of eating isn't preceded by half an hour to forty-five minutes of waiting.