On a hot summer afternoon, the red stools at the Palo Alto Creamery Fountain & Grill’s Formica counter are a refuge. The diner, in business since 1923, has an earnest old-school vibe. Its wood-paneled walls are adorned with vintage soda posters, and 10-cent jars of candy crowd the register. The Creamery, as it is lovingly called, is a place to unwind, where “breakfust” is served until closing and first-timers quickly become regulars.
A strong coffee can be savored with a generous slice of pie ($4.95), which runs about the same as the average Silicon Valley latte. Apple and blueberry are year-round staples, and they’re currently rotating through peach, strawberry-rhubarb, cherry and mixed berry.
The peach is sweet without being syrupy; the fruit so soft and delicate that it slides out of the crust and onto the plate. Warmed, the crust is a crumbly, buttery heaven.
If peach sounds too saccharine, their blueberry pie is tart to the core. Packed with ripe and perfectly cooked berries, there’s no liquid or custard in this pie. The crust is sprinkled with granulated sugar, which adds a sweet finish to the slice.
Classic apple toes the line between the sweet peach and tart blueberry. The thick fruit slices are baked to a near-applesauce texture, and seasoned liberally with cinnamon and pie spices. The crust hovers over the filling, which Hannah Ohlson, who started as a Creamery baker and now works as a server, said is due to the special way they bake their apple pies. Fresh apples are piled in a high mound with the dough fitted over them, and as they cook down the dough retains its dome-like shape. A whole pie ($24) comes in a glass dish to take home—but good luck recreating the Creamery’s winners.
In addition to its crowd-pleasing pies, the diner has a reputation for its enormous milkshakes ($6.95). Oreo cookie is the reigning favorite, with malted flavors—chocolate, and white-and-black—coming in second. Strawberry shakes are popular when the mercury rises, and the Creamery stocks seasonal ice cream flavors as well. At the moment, they have watermelon, which, thankfully, tastes convincing, like a slice drizzled with lemon. This refreshing treat ($3.75) is perhaps enjoyed best on its own, in an old-fashioned cut-glass ice cream dish.
Palo Alto Creamery Fountain & Grill
566 Emerson St., Palo Alto. 650.323.3131.