There’s a massive new food hall coming soon to the Peninsula. State Street Market is a highly anticipated and colossal project that’s been in the works for several years, and is finally slated to open in Los Altos in August 2021. It boasts a tech visionary, an award-winning architecture firm, and never least, a growing lineup of star chefs, including Traci Des Jardins of Jardiniere in San Francisco, the Kims from Maum in Palo Alto, and more big names to come. State Street Market will be the first food hall for Los Altos, as well as the larger Peninsula, and while the team says they’re focused on creating a community space, it may well turn the tree-lined and tech-tony town into a food destination.
Anne Wojcicki, co-founder and CEO of 23andMe, leads Los Altos Community Investments development group, which took over 170 State Street in 2010, as first reported by the Los Altos Town Crier. It was originally a mid-century modern grocery store called Purity Stores, before Gensler architecture firm extensively renovated the structure as a Spanish Colonial–inspired mixed-use space. There’s a food hall on the ground floor, with a passage to an attached restaurant, a combined 20,000 square feet, and offices on the second story, bringing it to 33,000 square feet in total. There will be several restaurant concepts; nearly a dozen smaller food vendors; indoor and outdoor seating; and designated pick-up points for delivery drivers.
The lineup of star chefs is still growing, with a few more big names to be announced, but as of publication: Traci Des Jardins, formerly of Jardiniere in San Francisco, will open El Alto, a full-service Cal-Mexican restaurant and speakeasy; Meichih and Michael Kim, formerly of Michelin-starred Maum in Palo Alto, will open Bǎo Bèi, a more casual restaurant with Korean and Tawaianese influences; Tin Pot Creamery will serve locally made, small-batch ice cream; and Cowgirl Creamery from Point Reyes will kick in their triple-cream and washed-rind cheeses.
Two more names are still to be confirmed, but there are promises of spinning rotisserie chickens and a coffee bar. And in addition, Bon Appetit Management Company, the on-site catering company that feeds hungry masses from Google to Chase Center, will be filling in with a raw oyster bar, woodfired flatbreads, grilled burgers of the meat and plant persuasion, bowls filled with smoothies and salads and grains, and a cocktail bar, to keep tech workers and locals buzzing from morning meetings to evening happy hours.
Traci Des Jardins has been involved since early days, which makes sense, given her connection with Bon Appetit (they were also partners in the now closed Commissary and Arguello, and the recently reopened Public House). She’s moving into the full restaurant and bar space, which isn’t technically within the food hall, but attached by a covered “paseo.” Thinking pre tech, and digging into the agricultural roots of the area, “I’ve had this idea for a long time about rancho California cooking,” Des Jardins says. “Which is really about the history of the Mexican ranches in California.” Gensler is still putting the finishing touches on the interior, which she describes as light wood floors, lots of blonde neutrals, striking dark blue walls. There will be ropes and other ranching details, while avoiding kitsch and staying modern and clean. And while the restaurant is airy, with seating indoors and out, the speakeasy is hidden away downstairs, through an entrance in the paseo.
Chef Robert Hurtado, coming from Arguello, is currently developing the menu, which will feature live-fire cooking in a big hearth, and go well beyond tomato and avocado, pulling seasonal produce from surrounding farms. For instance, Des Jardins is particularly excited about an apricot mole, which features an heirloom apricot specific to Los Altos. “People have this impression that moles are these really rich sauces … But if you know Mexican food, you know that’s not true. There are lighter moles. They don’t have to have chocolate. They don’t have to have dark chiles … so I want to create this beautiful and light apricot mole, that will be one of our signatures.” The speakeasy will serve agave-based drinks, meaning tequila and mezcal, and likely whiskey.
This is the first food hall in Los Altos, and a big ambitious project for the Peninsula. Of course, the larger Bay Area has always had landmark food halls, most notably the Ferry Building in San Francisco and Oxbow Market in wine country. But the concept does seem to have taken off in recent years: Pre pandemic, China Live and One65 broke ground as immense multi-story food emporiums. Post pandemic, La Cocina’s long-awaited food hall did finally and successfully get off the ground, although the Oakland Assembly still seems to be struggling and losing chefs.
Anne Wojcicki of Los Altos Community Investments says her goal is to create a beautiful community gathering space. With offices above and designated spots for delivery drivers to pick up, it may also be a smart setup for a hub for takeout and delivery. But regardless, it should be a welcome addition with all-day food options. Los Altos is already home to Manresa Bread, which is well worth a detour for extraordinary freshly milled sourdough bread, and it just got a splashy and colorful new Indian restaurant with Aurum. Perhaps the tech town with farming roots could become a food destination yet.