Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Alpine Inn Beer Garden, Portola Valley

So here's the thing: Portola Valley scares me. Just a little. It's all woodsy and full of nature -- big trees, dirt roads, creeks, bugs, birds, etc. A couple of weeks ago, while driving to a friend's house in PV, we almost ran over a coyote. And there was a lady riding a horse alongside us on the road. Jon rather enjoys this type of environment. Me? Not so much. It feels too removed from civilization or something.

Yet I still agreed to go to the Alpine Inn Beer Garden the other night -- an eatery most locals refer to as "Zott's" (short for Rossotti's, one of its former names). This place is RUSTIC. Yes, worthy of all capital letters. Afterall, it is one of the oldest establishments on the Peninsula, dating back about 150 years. It's been a gambling house, a saloon, a "picnic park," and now, it's a restaurant/beer garden.

After parking in the dirt parking lot, we headed into the oversized shack to order our food. A bar immediately greets you when you enter the restaurant, with the grill towards the back of the room. This is where you actually do your food ordering. I went with a cheeseburger with a side of pickles and a large side of fries (there were three of us eating). After you've ordered and paid for your food, you head towards the bar area and order your drinks. Efficient? Maybe not. But I just did as I was told.

Then we went outside to secure a spot at one of the 2-3 dozen picnic tables in the beer garden. It's a massive space, with trees offering much-welcome shade and a creek adding to the feeling that you are indeed deep in this thing called nature. When our order was ready, our name was called on the outdoor speaker and we went inside to retrieve our food.

The burgers here are rectangular, served on a roll that's been put on the grill as well (nice!). The cheese in the cheeseburgers = cheddar. As good as the burger was, it was the crinkle-cut fries that really got me. They're crispy, and still managed to be tasty even after they had been on our table for over half an hour. (I saw Jon checking out another group's bag of peanuts; he likes that you can just throw the shells on the ground here.)

So I admit it: On a warm summer night, sitting in the garden at Zott's, is hard to beat. Even with the tree sap getting my arms all sticky. Even with the bugs landing on me and my food. Even with all that nature that freaks me out so much.

Alpine Inn Beer Garden
3915 Alpine Road
Portola Valley, CA
(650) 854-4004