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brunch at Empire Grill and Tap Room in Palo Alto-long

thejulia | Nov 16, 200406:26 PM

I know that this place doesn't get stellar reviews, but I went there for brunch this Sunday and thoroughly enjoyed it. I can see how it might be boring for dinner but I highly highly recommend it as nice alternative for brunch/lunch in Palo Alto. They serve from 11-4.

My BF and I went at around 3 when there were only a few other tables occupied. We had one of the best waiters in recent memory (although since it was so quiet when we arrived, it would be difficult to gauge how he would have been under pressure).

We opted to sit outside- their patio is surrounded by ivy, has spaced out tables, a fountain and heat lamps which are integral for this time of year. It's romantic and the gurgling fountain means that you can't hear what the other patrons are saying at all. I could imagine a bunch of my girlfriends coming here and dishing about the previous nights events (replete with the hooting laughter that always comes along with these powwows) and not being embarassed. The waiter automatically moved a heat lamp even closer to us and took our drink orders. (I ordered an iced tea which came very promptly and then was refilled about 6 times throughout the meal without my having to ask once and without my having to sip at any dregs).

We took forever to decide what to get and the waiter very unobtrusively came by at good times to ask us if we were ready. I ended up ordering their special soup of the day of red bell pepper puree, a warm chevre salad with baby greens, and italian sausage on the side (I couldn't decide between breakfast and lunch). I also asked grilled chicken to be added to the salad, which they easily accomodated. Next time I go I will try to order a meal that doesn't consist only of sides, but I think the order was so eclectic because I was, ermm, very hungover.

My BF had a cheeseburger, medium, with salad on the side.

My soup was perfect, the perfect size and big enough for us to share. The waiter brought out two soup spoons of his own initiative for us. It was sweet with a smoky flavor, and probably made with some flavorful stock- no obvious onion, maybe a hint of roasted garlic. I don't think they pureed any potato into it to thicken it, yet it wasn't too thin. It captured everything good about roasted red pepper.

Salad was pretty good though I thought that it was over dressed (however I mostly prefer very lightly dressed salads). The chevre and grilled chicken were nice and warm and went well with the garlicky vinaigrette and peppery bits of baby greens.

The italian sausage tasted very chinese to me, maybe the fennel seed reminded me of star anise?- this worked out perfectly because 1) I am chinese and like chinese food, and 2) it was the perfect antidote to my hangover.

What I wish I had ordered though, was the cheeseburger my BF got. It was perfectly medium rare, with a great toasted and substantial bun. There was a lot of cheese that you could actually taste. It was all just juicy goodness, and I ended up eating a lot of his because I couldn't keep my hands off it.

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