Taverna – Palo Alto, CA

You have 10 minutes.” A harmless threat to leaving the office and facing traffic of the Dumbarton Bridge to the East Bay if he wasn’t done ‘seeing what kind of trouble’ two other coworkers were getting themselves into. Before I could pack my Burberry, he finished in record time and we were off down the street to Taverna.

I have only seen this restaurant on my walks around town to get my daily steps in and those rare time I went to what my friend calls “Whole Paycheck”, aka Whole Foods. Ivan said Taverna was a bit higher priced but one of the top restaurants in Palo Alto. Wanting a unique glass of wine, I voted Greek. Having been to Greece a couple of times and a former write up on Orexi in San Francisco, I thought it’d be nice to change things up a bit. The owners are also associated with Kokkari in San Francisco, a popular restaurant I often tried to get my hotel guests a reservation. Book yours ahead of time.

Not terribly hungry, we were looking for something light to go with our red wine, a Xinomavro. The two items that caught my eye was the tzatziki and the octopus. They are common dishes and thankfully Ivan’s favorites as well. Sometimes, it’s easy with this guy. Both dishes were ordered. Two glasses were enjoyed, bread and butter arrived and friendly faces greeted my new boss who used to work for me. My, how the tables have turned.

A mound of firm yogurt and olive oil with grilled, seasoned pita bread appeared at our section of the bar top. It looks like a lot of dairy for four pieces of pita. I agreed to the extra slices of cucumber as a side to help finish it off. The side of bread also played a part.

Before the tzatziki was finished, the long grilled octopus tentacle appeared with a squash mash, capers, sausage, sauteed greens and a sort of chutney. I recalled the huge order of octopus I had placed in front of me while in Thira, Greece. It was the first time I couldn’t finish my octopus! This time, it was a perfect size to share between the two of us. It was perfectly cooked and the citrus flavor to the veggies added acidity to the dish.

The restaurant of maybe 40 seats was buzzing for a Thursday night. Apparently, it’s common and have successfully made it past their one year with expansion plans next door. People we were waiting just inside the door to be sat. Unfortunately, it was not quite warm enough that evening to sit outside lining the sidewalk. We came at just the right time. With that, we chatted with our bar neighbor, a local and friend of the owners. We shared laughs, the ‘what do you do?’ exchange and he convinced the restaurant to give us a taste of the wine he was having. It was a fruit bomb of a Cabernet Sauvignon. Quite a difference from our Xinomavro, which was easily drinkable. Perhaps it was a better pairing with his burger.

Not intending on having more to eat, I couldn’t turn down checking out the dessert menu. Before having a thorough look, Marlena highly recommended the bougatsa. Ivan described it was a baklava with custard. It was made with phyllo dough, custard, pistachios and ice cream. And it was warm. Not bad, but now I want a baklava.

It made me miss Greece and needing to go back to visit Mykonos. I love the white buildings, blue doors, the islands. Taverna also has a blue door and is a white building. The inside has clean walls, an darker blue-green accent wall, subtle Greek type on their white curtains, colorful but a bit muted and imperfectly shaped vases above the windows and very comfortable furniture. The staff is friendly, obviously appreciative of their best customers and the service was timely and well-organized. I’m sure we’ll be back.

Related articles:
Taverna brings warmth of Greek isles to downtown Palo Alto – SF Chronicle

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