clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Your guide to Palo Alto, by The Verge's Lauren Goode

Noted technology editor reveals what’s up in Silicon Valley’s tony tech hub

Marquee of Stanford Theater Photo by Thomas Hawk

The People's Guide is Curbed SF's tour of neighborhoods, led by our most loyal readers, favorite bloggers, and other luminaries of our choosing. Have a piece to say? We'll be happy to hand over the megaphone. This time around, we welcome Lauren Goode, senior technology editor at The Verge and and host of Recode’s “Too Embarrassed to Ask” podcast.

How long have you lived in Palo Alto?

Three and a half years.

What brought you to the area?

A few reasons. I went to grad school at Stanford, so that was the main reason. But my significant other, who I met in New York, wanted to move to Silicon Valley awhile ago because he works in cybersecurity. Initially I said no. Actually, I was like, “I will never move to Silicon Valley unless you are transporting my corpse out there,” because I loved New York, and I felt that writing about the tech industry from afar gave me a more normal perspective. Famous last words!

A photo posted by Dario (@dasali) on

What do you like least about Palo Alto?

How prohibitively expensive it is. The median home price is about $2.5 million right now. That’s not boomtown; that’s bonkers town.

What's the city housing stock like?

Not enough, it seems.

Better for buyers or renters?

Renters (like me!), unless you bought in the 1960s.

Do you need a car to get around?

You mean the kind you still have to drive yourself? I wouldn’t say you need one. A lot of the students in the area get around on bicycles. But if you’re a commuter, or have limited mobility, or have a family, you’ll want your own car.

Really, though, it’s not uncommon to see self-driving cars conducting road tests, especially in Mountain View. The first time I saw one I thought it was so cool I tried taking a picture of it while driving, which is pretty much the only data point you need to prove that self-driving cars could be safer.

Most reliable public transit?

Caltrain runs from San Jose up to San Francisco, and has a connection to BART in Millbrae, so I’d have to say CalTrain.

Nearest grocery store?

There are two Safeways within a mile of where I live, both in Menlo Park. Palo Alto has a Mollie Stone’s and—you guessed it—a Whole Foods. The grocery stores are what really impressed me when I first moved to California. The entire front section is like a farmer’s market all by itself. And there’s organic, gluten-free, vegetarian everything. I think Northern Californians are as terrified of gluten as they are of the GOP. (Not that I blame them.)

Good for kids?

Yes, so I hear. There are tons of outdoor activities, and the schools are excellent. Last year the local news reported that 11 of the top 12 elementary schools in California were in Palo Alto. I’ve heard it’s also uber-competitive, which has its downsides.

Best place to get a coffee?

I’m going to upset the Philz fanatics, but Philz doesn’t do espresso drinks, so my vote is for Coupa Cafe on Ramona street.

Best park?

There are so many! Foothills Park in Palo Alto and Wunderlich Park in Woodside are both great, but the go-to hiking trail for Palo Altans is the Stanford Dish. It’s not a trail, exactly; it’s a 3.7-mile paved walkway. Some people take “walking meetings” there. Is there anything more Palo Alto than taking a meeting while trudging up a hill to a giant satellite dish? I think not. If there are extraterrestrial life forms out there, the people walking the Dish will probably learn it first.

A photo posted by Julian L (@colorful_sf) on

Beloved neighborhood joint?

Joanie's on California Ave does amazing breakfast dishes. But my favorite place, Alice’s Restaurant, is technically not in Palo Alto; it's up the hill in Woodside. It’s a diner in a cabin, and it has a cool, unpretentious vibe. Some people even cycle up the hill on weekends and reward themselves with a beer at Alice’s afterwards. I have not attempted this yet.

Best-kept secret?

There’s a gym nearby where you can find some of the tech bigwigs working out at ridiculously early hours in the morning. I recently saw two guys standing outside of the locker room, in plain clothes, pitching their Kickstarter hardware to a well-known CEO. It was impressive.

Stereotypical residents?

Apple Watch-wearing, deep-thinking, hoodie-loving tech worker.

Are the stereotypes true?

Yes and no. There are definitely a lot of tech workers. But it’s a little more diverse than that. There are people who have lived in the area since long before it was a tech hub, and lots of families, and people who have come from all over the world to go to Stanford or pitch their startup or work for a local company.

A photo posted by @ourpaloaltoeichler on

There’s also a big economic divide in Palo Alto that might not be obvious if your only impression of the area is what you see on Silicon Valley. There’s Palo Alto, and there’s East Palo Alto. You could see a Bugatti Veyron and then on the same road, see someone whose only option is to live in their car. That’s the reality.

Who wouldn’t be happy here?

Tinfoil hats.

Most common sight?

Hmmm, Eichlers. Or Teslas, ones with license plates like “HAH GAS.”

Final word?

I hope New York welcomes me back when I get priced out. [Checks New York prices, closes browser.]