Late afternoon sunlight filters through towering redwood trees, creating dappled shadows on the asphalt of the snaking highway CA 84 as it ascends the Woodside mountains. Gaps in the trees reveal miles of greenery intermingled with houses set against a backdrop of bright blue sky. The forest eventually opens at the intersection of Skyline and 84 to reveal a wood cabin, guarded by an iron owl and an American flag. A welcoming front porch beckons behind an asphalt parking lot overflowing with motorcycles and teeming with life. Picnic tables line the porch, crammed with the patrons of Alice’s Restaurant. On the far side of the porch, through a set of doors, lies the main inside area of Alice’s, and a building in the back houses an additional bar.
The restaurant, renowned for its unique location and ambience, serves classic American comfort food. Alice Taylor opened the restaurant in the 1960s, naming it after herself and after an Arlo Guthrie anti-war song of the same name, but the restaurant has since changed hands and is now owned by a different family. According to their website, the building was a general store catering to local loggers in the early 1900s before being converted into a restaurant in the 1950s.
People from all walks of life visit Alice’s, from biker gangs in leather jackets embroidered with their gang names to families winding down after a long day’s hike. Alice’s is a notorious biker hangout, and conversation is often punctuated by the revving of motorcycle engines. The patrons at Alice’s are friendly, smiling and making conversation with a genial American hospitality. Alice’s is the type of place where waitresses call customers “honey” and smile as they take orders.
One of the more subtle pleasures of the restaurant is the drive there. The roads wind up through the Santa Cruz mountains, and you can choose between the peaceful redwood forests of Kings Mountain or Old La Honda roads, the spectacular views of Page Mill Rd., or the more direct yet slightly less scenic route 84. It takes approximately half an hour to get from downtown Palo Alto to the restaurant, so Alice’s is definitely a place that should be reserved for leisurely weekends.
Alice’s boasts a truly unique ambiance. Customers seat themselves at one of the picnic tables on the restaurant’s deck, often sharing a table with at least one other party. The tables are set up in a communal, open-seating arrangement. The porch, warmed by numerous heat lamps during cold weather, feels cozy despite its open-air format. The restaurant’s indoor seating area is similar to the outside, though it has upholstered booths and single-party tables. In the back is a bar with a smaller porch, which looks out on a backyard lawn, where children often play while they wait for their families to finish eating. The location in the redwoods makes for a refreshing, natural atmosphere impossible in an urban setting.
Alice’s is an excellent place to escape to with friends after a long, hard week. It is a refuge: a cabin among the trees where one can seek a good meal and get away from the mind-numbing grind of day-to-day life, if just for a little while.