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An overhead shot of plates of tacos and a cockail. Photos courtesy Aubrie Prick

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Inside El Alto, Traci Des Jardins’s Celebration of Central California Ingredients and Mexican Cuisine

Traci Des Jardins makes her Silicon Valley debut on Thursday, March 24 when El Alto opens for dinner

Lauren Saria is the editor of Eater SF and has been writing about food, drinks, and restaurants for more than a decade.

After a last-minute delay and many long months of planning, acclaimed San Francisco chef Traci Des Jardins will finally debut her first restaurant in Silicon Valley on Thursday, March 24. As Eater SF shared earlier this year, the restaurant takes over a space adjacent to the State Street Market food hall in Los Altos and aims to honor both the history of seasonally and ingredient-driven Mexican cuisine in Northern California as well as Des Jardins’ own roots, which can be traced back to the rice farm where she grew up near Fresno and to Mexico, where her maternal grandparents immigrated from.

Working with chef Robert Hurtado, Des Jardins celebrates some of the regions hardest to source and most delicious ingredients on the El Alto menu including locally famous Blenheim apricots (known for being exceptionally sweet), scarlet runner beans, fresh hoja santa, and chayote squash. The pan-regional menu features dishes from across Mexico as opposed to focusing specifically on a single area, so you’ll see a roasted half chicken inspired by pollo al oregano from Veracruz alongside crispy fried tacos dorados stuffed with chicken thighs and a mushroom and pasilla chile tamal. View the full menu here.

The warm interior of El Alto in Los Altos.

Equally seasonally influenced, cocktails come from barman Enrique Sanchez who’s focusing in on agaves and whiskeys for the list. Standouts include the Sabina Sabe, created with Oaxaca in mind and blending mezcal, pineapple, ginger, and minty epazote with soda and Holy Water, which features dehydrated hoja santa, alongside tequila blanco, lime, and green chartreuse. The wine list meanwhile favors often-overlooked California wine regions such as the Santa Cruz Mountains and bottles from Mexico.

The space, designed by Los Altos Community Investments’ principal and founder Anne Wojcicki and architecture firm Gensler, offers an intimate and warm retreat from the soaring cavernous ceilings at the adjacent State Street Market, which is located just across a covered paseo. Light wooden furniture, terracotta tiles, and whitewashed stucco walls echo California Mission style, while a mural by artist Ben Henderson recalls the gold-and-blue beauty of agave fields. Roll-up windows stretch across the side of the dining room and allow low lounge seating to spill out from the restaurant’s interior into the paseo, and there’s a covered raised patio off State Street for more outdoor dining.

The white exterior of El Alto and the restaurant’s simple signage. El Alto
A mural showing blue mountains and a round sun over two top tables.
A window with a view into the El Alto kitchen from the dining room.
A fish wrapped in banana leaves garnished with limes.
A roasted chicken on a black plate.
Three cocktails — one red, one yellow, and a shot of clear liquor — in front of a wall.
A Dutch oven with roasted meat inside and a side of tortillas.
A bartender pours a yellow cocktail into a glass through a strainer.

El Alto, 170 State Street in Los Altos, opens March 24 for dinner Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 5-9 p.m. Reservations available on Tock.

El Alto

170 State Street , Los Altos, CA 94022 Visit Website
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