The city of Cupertino calls itself the “heart of the valley.” Its location does put it at the crossroads of Silicon Valley, but strangely the city itself has no center. If you go looking for the city’s core, you won’t find it. There is no downtown. No central meeting place. No town square with a statue of Steve Jobs. It’s a donut town.
But every city needs a center, and I nominate Park Place restaurant. It’s not a particularly civic-minded place. It’s a bar, really, that serves food. But since Park Place is located at De Anza and Stevens Creek boulevards, the de facto geographical center of town, it’s as good a choice as any. If fact, for a place to meet and hang out with friends and drink and eat, it’s a good choice.
I went to Park Place a few years ago, and the restaurant was much bigger then. Now, it looks like they chopped off the dining room and just left the bar and lounge. The bar seemed to do better business anyway, so I guess that made sense.
For reasons I don’t understand, the restaurant never really caught on. In a town dominated by Asian food, I would have thought the outpost of upscale new American food would fulfill a neat little niche. The food wasn’t particularly inventive, but it was satisfying and generous nonetheless. The old dining room is now reserved for private events. What’s left is an indoor/outdoor lounge and a lively bar. Park Place occupies the ground floor of the Cypress Hotel.
But you don’t have to be from out of town to enjoy Park Place. For better-than-average bar bites and good cocktails, Park Place is the place to go in Cupertino. There are larger plates, but I think Park Place is best for drinks and small plates. I especially like it in warm weather, when you can sit outdoors in the shade and enjoy the fading light of the day.
The bartenders are fast and professional and know their stuff. The lively bar is a long, good-looking space with several TVs ablaze with various games. (I would love a bar that wasn’t like walking into Best Buy with multiple monitors tuned to five different games; I come to enjoy conversation and my cocktail, not watch TV).
If you can look past such offenses as the Blueberry Lemondrop (Stoli blueberry vodka, Cointreau and blueberries) and the Apple Byte (Ketel One vodka, apple liqueur, butterscotch schnapps, cream and caramel), there are some respectable drinks, like a classic Old Fashioned made with Woodford reserve bourbon ($10), the refreshing Gin Splash (Plymouth gin, Pimm’s Cup, Drambuie and fresh mint, $10) and the highly sippable Park Place margarita (Cuervo Tradicional tequila, Cointreau, lime juice and agave syrup—$12).
The menu of starters and appetizers goes beyond the same old chicken wings and celery sticks. The duck confit nachos ($12) are messy but good. The savory duck meat is a definite improvement over ground beef. The Anchor Steam–steamed clams and mussels come with fries and a tarragon-flavored aioli. If that’s not beer-friendly food, I don’t know what is.
Speaking of fries, don’t miss the short-rib fries ($12). The chunky, succulent meat is ladled on the fries with gooey white cheddar and red wine gravy. I suggest a meaty zinfandel to wash this one down.
The kitchen makes a number of what it calls flatbreads, which look a lot like pizzas to me. I like the wild-mushroom flatbread ($10) made with fontina, arugula and grana cheese. I mainly kept to the small items on the menu, but I enjoyed the house-made falafel burger, a moist, well-seasoned patty that’s memorable for its spicy, smoky harissa, a North African–inspired sauce.
Now when someone asks where to meet in Cupertino, tell them you’ve got the place right in the middle of town—and they serve food and drinks.