The doors to Calafia Café and Market A-Go-Go were opened over a year ago by famed Google chef Charlie Ayers. Is the café still reigning like the queen of mythical California for whom it was named?
It’s difficult not to love the restaurant – it’s a visual delight of recycled and repurposed materials, it features a variety of local products, and it’s a weekly pick-up site for community supported agriculture Capay Valley Farm Shop. Although it’s a bit noisy and the tables are too close together, it’s a place where you immediately feel welcome. Weekday lunches still find Paly High students queued up in the Market A-Go-Go for the organic salad bar and deli sandwiches, and the café area bustles with business professionals. During dinner there’s a more eclectic mix that includes families with young children.
Calafia won Palo Alto Weekly’s Best Vegan/Vegetarian Restaurant award in 2009 and has plenty of vegetarian and vegan options. Vegan Love Fest Pizza was a delight with its crispy crust brushed with lemony garbanzo paste. The pizza was topped with a delectable shred of roasted vegetables and briny Kalamata olives. Papas Con Ajo were perfectly seasoned fried potatoes with tomato dip and were an all-around people-pleaser. Other dishes were not as successful – Dragon’s Breath Noodle Bowl offered a tasty sauce on top, but the noodles were overcooked and the dish was generally bland. The Vegetable Pot Pie, with its cubes of tofu and mixed vegetables should have been a comfort classic, but the sauce was unpleasantly sour and the crust was limp. Overall, diners were disappointed with an overly-restrained use of seasoning and sauce.
According to the carnivores at the table, the Angry Pork Sandwich had levels of good flavor, but the Queen Calafia Cheeseburger, even with its crispy bacon and bakery bun, tasted like it was “missing something.” Shrimp Roll appetizers included noodles and citrusy dipping sauce, but the filling was bland and spongy.
Desserts were delectable with the Pear Galette as the table winner. Crisp, warm pastry, sprinkled with coarse sugar, encased succulent pear surrounded with a sweet caramel drizzle. The ginger ice cream from Rick’s Ice Ceam in Palo Alto was stellar, creamy with a sweetly subtle kick. Chocolate Cookies and Cream was soul-satisfying with chewy chocolate chip cookies, rich vanilla ice cream and bittersweet chocolate syrup.
Calafia has a thoughtful selection of local beer and wines, including Devil’s Canyon Dedication Ale from Belmont and Storrs Chardonnay from Santa Cruz. Be sure to try a So Ju cocktail – made with Korean sweet potato wine: the Calafia Cosmo tasted similar to a traditional vodka cosmopolitan, but with a pleasant sweet potato aftertaste.
The prices are very reasonable, ranging from $5 for salads to $14 for main dishes. Service was friendly and attentive, without being intrusive.
Although the menu is a bit inconsistent, Calafia is one of the most vegetarian-friendly and environmentally-conscious restaurants in the area and because of that, she may still yet rule in Palo Alto.
Calafia Café and Market A-Go-Go
Town & Country Village
855 El Camino Real (near Trader Joe’s)
Palo Alto, CA