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Freebirds Palo Alto shutters, Pieology to move in

Uploaded: Mar 27, 2015
The Palo Alto outpost of Santa Barbara burrito favorite Freebirds has closed, and a fast-casual custom pizza joint is taking its place.

"The Palo Alto location just wasn't a good fit for Freebirds," Vice President of Communications Jessi Blakley wrote in an email.

Freebirds, a Southern California-based chain founded in 1987 in Santa Barbara (still one of the most popular late-night options for many local college students), opened at 2305 El Camino Real, near California Avenue, in January 2013.

The casual burrito chain's closure came on the heels of its next-door neighbor, Cheese Steak Shop, a franchised chain that opened in Palo Alto in 2011. The owner of the Palo Alto Cheese Steak Shop, who also runs an outpost in Sunnyvale, declined to comment, but a piece of paper posted in the restaurant's window said it closed "due to the high cost in the area."

Cheese Steak and Freebirds occupied spaces at the same address, a property owned by Los Gatos-based Pepper Lane Properties. Mark Carlquist, a Los Gatos attorney representing Pepper Lane, said Friday that Cheese Steak Shop, more than six months behind on rent, moved out "literally overnight" with no notice to the owner.

"They just frankly, were there one day and gone the next," Carlquist said. "We were very surprised to find out that they just left."

He said their rent had remained the same since the lease was signed in 2011. Carlquist did not know what had happened with Freebirds, but thought the restaurant's lease ran its course.

Blakley of Freebirds said there was no dispute with the landlord nor any connection to the Cheese Steak closure.

Pepper Lane President Myra Reinhard said Friday that Pieology, a large, franchised make-your-own pizza chain (much like Pizza Studio around the corner on California Avenue) will be taking over the Freebirds space.

Most of Pieology's numerous locations are in northern and southern California but also in Arizona, Colorado, Oregon, Minnesota and elsewhere. This will be the first on the Peninsula.

For $7.95, you get a 11.5-inch pie to dress with your choice of crust (housemade, whole-wheat or gluten-free), sauce, cheese, meats and unlimited toppings. There's also a menu with set creations at the same price.

Reinhard said there is no targeted opening date yet for Pieology, so stay tuned. In the meantime, she's searching for a "good fit" for the former Cheese Steak space.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by andrew rich, a resident of Woodland Ave. area (East Palo Alto),
on Mar 27, 2015 at 2:21 pm

andrew rich is a registered user.

Bummer. I enjoyed that place.

Posted by UC Davis Grad, a resident of Cuernavaca,
on Mar 27, 2015 at 5:02 pm

That particular location seems to have had more than its share of restaurants that have come and gone -- still remember Wahoo's Fish Tacos located there (and then, it was gone!).

Any bets as to how long Pieology will be there?

Posted by CPanon, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Mar 27, 2015 at 6:35 pm

Isn't make-your-own pizza a concept of Cosmo Kramer?

Posted by Mike Keenly, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park,
on Mar 27, 2015 at 9:57 pm

Chipotle is just down the street. They serve an excellent product at a reasonable price. Although I'm not a vegetarian, their veggie burrito rocks.

Speaking of rock, whenever I think of Freebirds, I imagine being at a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert holding up a lighter. :)

Posted by Mike Keenly, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park,
on Mar 27, 2015 at 10:02 pm

Kramer: "We give you the dough. You smash it. You pound it. You fling it up in the air. And then you get to put your sauce. And you get to sprinkle your cheese. And then, you slide it into the oven."

Posted by Huh, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Mar 28, 2015 at 12:13 am

Is Palo Alto going to slowly fill up with pizza joints? If so, Kramer is definitely needed.

Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown,
on Mar 28, 2015 at 2:59 pm

Aww. I loved Freebirds! I guess that I will never be able to get my free Rewards Club burrito now. :-(

Posted by UCSB Student, a resident of Midtown,
on Mar 30, 2015 at 12:51 pm

As a former Paly student, and a current UCSB student, I can personally say the freebirds in Palo Alto was nothing like it is in Isla Vista (UCSB college town). Having had freebirds in the original location and in PA, it is incredibly different. The food tastes different, and the atmosphere is just off. In typical fashion, the brand expanded and expanded poorly because they decided to cater to the more upscale PA fashion rather than rely on what worked for them here.

Posted by Elena Kadvany, a resident of another community,
on Mar 30, 2015 at 12:56 pm

UCSB student: I totally agree. I went to USC and visited UCSB numerous times during college, always craving Freebirds. I was incredibly excited when they opened an outpost near where I lived in LA, but in the end was disappointed by the quality. Similar experience here in Palo Alto.

Posted by pizza, a resident of Downtown North,
on Mar 30, 2015 at 2:48 pm

Went to Pieology last month during a trip to Sacramento. It was surprisingly decent. The salads were small, overpriced, and not the best tasting... but the pizza itself was hot and a pretty good deal. Think Chipotle for Pizza.

Posted by ice cream, a resident of College Terrace,
on Mar 30, 2015 at 6:46 pm

It would be great to have an ice cream shop at that corner.

Posted by Ron MV, a resident of Waverly Park,
on Mar 30, 2015 at 9:04 pm

Ron MV is a registered user.

Never even knew it was here. Place is very popular in Austin, TX.

Posted by Mike Keenly, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park,
on Mar 31, 2015 at 10:33 am


I'm glad to read your comments about the PA Freebirds vs. the UCSB Freebirds. I'd like to read more of your opinion on the food quality and dining experience at some of the places you write about in your blog.

I've been fascinated by one of the restaurant openings you had highlighted ~9 months ago and have been following their reviews on Yelp. Our experience at this establishment was the worst I have ever had at any restaurant, ever, ever, ever (did I mention ever?!). Honestly, I'm surprised they are still in business given some of the recent Yelp reviews which, in effect, indicate they have not improved.

Posted by Johnny Taco, a resident of Stanford,
on Mar 31, 2015 at 4:43 pm

I noticed that the Freebirds in Cupertino also closed up recently. It seemed to get stalled for many months before it opened and then closed suddenly. For some reason they didn't take off here in the Bay Area. They probably expected all the Apple and Facebook employees to rush over.

Posted by No burritos for you!, a resident of Menlo Park: Suburban Park/Lorelei Manor/Flood Park Triangle,
on Apr 1, 2015 at 4:56 pm

Looks like a trend: Freebirds also closed their Foster City location very abruptly 10 days ago.

Posted by chris, a resident of University South,
on Apr 2, 2015 at 2:01 pm

In Northern California, all they have left are 2 in the East Bay and a bunch in the Sacramento and Central Valley areas.

Posted by chris, a resident of University South,
on Apr 2, 2015 at 2:16 pm

Checking online, I found that the UCSB store is the original and all of the others are/were part of a separate Texas corporation started by one of the founders of the original site.

So no wonder the Palo Alto experience did not match the one at UCSB.

Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Apr 2, 2015 at 6:51 pm

"ooh, That Smell...."

Posted by templescroll, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jul 8, 2015 at 11:48 am

The FREEBIRDS in FOSTER CITY, CA ( on the Peninsula) and VENTURA, CA also closed and PIEOLOGY opening...what a pretentious name. I'll miss FREEBIRDS, I don't like Chipotle as much.

Posted by Pizza Lova, a resident of Barron Park School,
on Aug 13, 2015 at 3:26 pm

Oooh . . i live pie! . . . aren't other PA pizza joints (i.e. Howie's, The Table, Papa John's, etc) worried there's a new boss in town?! . . lol

Posted by Pizza Lova, a resident of Barron Park School,
on Aug 13, 2015 at 3:27 pm

***I love pie!

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