Palo Alto High School's News and Features Publication

Verde Magazine

Verde Magazine

Verde Magazine

100 years of Peninsula Creamery: 50s diner reaches centennial

Stanford Daily, 1950
70 YEARS PAST — Two Stanford students enjoy a meal at the Creamery

With burgundy booths and retro radios bolted to the walls, the Peninsula Creamery, a classic 1950s diner sitting on the corner of Hamilton Avenue and Emerson Street, holds decades of Palo Alto history.

The Creamery serves as a time capsule of the Bay Area’s dairy farming past.

According to California State Parks, the Bay Area was California’s first major dairy center. Because of this, creameries were extremely popular in this area, providing milk to Stanford University and San Francisco.

Before Silicon Valley became a tech capital, cows roamed pastures on what is now Stanford Shopping Center, according to the city of Palo Alto’s website.

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John Santana Sr. and J.B. Howell opened the Creamery in 1923 with the promise of fresh milk and cheap food, according to Creamery’s website.

In 1932, John Santana Sr. bought the Creamery dairy plant, where the milk was processed, located at the time on Alma Street.

According to the Creamery’s website, the plant was the sole milk provider to Stanford University and operated over 60 trucks before closing in 1985 because of the decline of milkmen. This plot of land was turned into the Peninsula Creamery Dairy Store and Grill which still stands today.

The Peninsula Creamery diner and Dairy Store and Grill were originally owned by the same family, but now only the Dairy store is family-owned. The Santanas sold the restaurant in 1987 to Rob Fischer, who is still the current owner.

Peninsula Creamery still carries traditions started by the original owners.

It has kept the same recipes for items such as its meatloaf and egg salad and still blends its milkshakes in metal cans in an old-fashioned soda fountain way.

James Santana, the current owner of Peninsula Creamery and grandson of the founder, shares the secret to the longevity of his family’s business.

We’ve been around for 100 years [because of our] good food [and] good prices.”

— James Santana, current owner of the Creamery and grandson of the founder

Located on High Street and Channing Avenue, Peninsula Creamery Dairy Store and Grill is the quintessential American diner with its signature deli sandwiches, such as its “Nifty” with turkey, bacon, avocado and jack cheese on sourdough toast and its classic buttermilk pancakes.

The Creamery has been an essential part of the Palo Alto community with many ads in The Campanile, The Stanford Daily and Madrono that date back to the 1940s. Even after reaching a huge milestone of 100 years, the Palo Alto community still appreciates this charming restaurant.

Palo Alto High School sophomore Ria Mirchandani said she has been going to the Creamery her whole life.

“I’ve been going there since I was a little kid,” Mirchandani said. “I’d be really sad if it [Peninsula Creamery] somehow became a Starbucks or another big company.”

Mirchandani says that the 50s diner vibe of the Peninsula Creamery is one of the distinct things that makes it stand out.

My favorite thing about it [Peninsula Creamery] is probably the ambiance. It feels like a good environment to spend time in versus other ice cream places that have good food but they don’t have that small-town charm or appeal.”

— Ria Mirchandani, sophomore

Santana said that Palo Alto residents should continue to support Peninsula Creamery and other family-owned businesses.

“It’s simple: you want to support local businesses,” Santana said. “If you don’t, they’ll no longer be here.”