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Shop Talk: Bill's Cafe opens in Palo Alto

This week's retail news

After months of delays, Bill's Cafe has opened in Midtown Palo Alto, serving breakfast and lunch seven days a week.

MIDTOWN BILL'S CAFE OPENS ... A walk through Midtown Palo Alto's newest restaurant shows a remarkable transformation. Bill's Cafe, 3163 Middlefield Road, had its unannounced opening on Nov. 18 in the former site of Pommard Deli/Fandango Pizza. More than $500,000 was spent to modernize the 3,000-square-foot space. "We're thrilled to be open," said owner Nick Taptelis. "This is our seventh Bill's Cafe, and there are no more in the works." The family-owned restaurant started in the 1970s in San Jose. There are now five Bill's Cafes in San Jose and a sixth in Pleasanton. The Palo Alto restaurant is the last -- at least for now. "We want to focus on what we have," Taptelis said. Originally scheduled to open in June, the restaurant experienced several delays, but it was worth the wait, according to Taptelis: "Every single restaurant we build gets better and better." Bill's Cafe has a homey, old-fashioned feel, including a counter with swiveling chairs. "What we have concentrated on here is serving good, fresh food in a comfortable setting. And everything is cooked fresh daily," Taptelis said. Open seven days a week for breakfast and lunch, Bill's will have its grand opening this weekend. "There will be lots of balloons, lots of fun, lots of families and lots of orange juice and mimosas," he said. The mimosas, which cost $7, are served in giant 17.5-ounce bowls. If the popularity of the other six Bill's Cafes is any indication, an estimated 9 gallons of orange juice will be served daily at the Palo Alto restaurant during the week, and 30 gallons of juice will be served over the weekend. "We'll be going through five cases of oranges every weekend day," Taptelis said. The menu fare is fairly typical of a daytime restaurant, although the number of choices is surprising. For example, the restaurant offers 10 types of eggs Benedict, 17 different omelets, 13 pancake varieties and seven different kinds of French toast. Seating capacity has been expanded to hold more than 100 diners, including patio seating. Pets are welcome in the outdoor area, where the restaurant plans to have a bucket of dog biscuits available on the patio. Woof.

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34 people like this
Posted by andy
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 23, 2015 at 8:28 am

"Months of delays" sadly defines trying to start just about anything in Palo Alto. Bill's deserves our business just for sticking with it.

I plan to visit soon.

5 people like this
Posted by Charles
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Nov 23, 2015 at 8:53 am

Is in the Middlefield-Charleston area or Middlfiefd -Colorado Ave.????? Looking forward to it. Never go to downtown Palo Alto anymore.

16 people like this
Posted by Lost opportunity
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 23, 2015 at 9:21 am

I thought there was a move against chains in Palo Alto.

Lost opportunity for many, we were hoping for an evening eatery that would enable a glass of wine and walking home.

Mike's is no longer attractive since it reduced its menu and put in the tvs.

8 people like this
Posted by Gethin
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 23, 2015 at 11:23 am

Gethin is a registered user.

Its great to have a place like Bills added into the midtown area. They have a wide range of options on their menu and serving breakfast and lunch seems like a logical decision. We went there for lunch and the food was good. I hope the local community supports them and they are successful.

24 people like this
Posted by Kate
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Nov 23, 2015 at 11:27 am

We used to go to MIke's regularly. This was always a neighborly meeting place, lots of happy people.It was well patronized with families and seniors. The prices have gone up. And since TV's were added, it feels like a 'bar'. It has a 'bar". If there is anything I HATE in a restaurant it is TV's. The old warm atmosphere is gone. The lighting is harsh. Mike - you are there frequently. Surely you see this. Six dollars for soup????? $14.00 for pasta? Not in our senior budget

7 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 23, 2015 at 2:57 pm

Haven't been to Bill's yet, but will try it soon. I might wait for the Yelpers to chime in first tho.

I've tried many breakfast places in the area. Dinah's Poolside Cafe is very good (and quiet). Joanie's on California Ave is also very good but not so quiet. Hobee's is just so-so.

The other closest one to me until Bill's opened up is Palo Alto Breakfast House, in Midtown. I love that place even tho there is nothing attractive about it except for the menu and great food. That's all I need. It's just a big bare unadorned room full of tables and chairs, no fancy artworks or planters, etc. But the staff is wonderful and they have a big menu. I always sit so I can look into the kitchen to see those great cooks working away on my breakfast. I've tried several things on the menu...eggs benedicts are great with several ones to choose from. But my favorite is their corned beef hash, and 'no' it's not out of a's the real thing. A big plateful...more than I can eat in one I do the box deal and get a second meal out of it.

6 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 23, 2015 at 4:01 pm

Nayeli is a registered user.

Great news!

Does anyone know when Ike's will open in Palo Alto? I haven't heard any date yet.

9 people like this
Posted by dennis
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Nov 23, 2015 at 6:47 pm

Mike's used to be the place to go but it has been going downhill for over five years at least, which is a shame because at one time if was a great family place with good food. So on that note I welcome anything new in Midtown that will actually serve good fresh food at a reasonable price, if that is at all possible now in Palo Alto. Good luck!

7 people like this
Posted by Permit
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 23, 2015 at 8:30 pm

@andy: The delay was the result of Bill's starting to remodel without a permit.
That's a no-no in most jurisdictions.

3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 24, 2015 at 8:09 am

How is this affecting parking in that intersection?

12 people like this
Posted by marc665
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 24, 2015 at 8:55 am

marc665 is a registered user.

@Kate, if $16.00 for an entree is too much for your budget, where do you eat? What do you consider affordable?


4 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 24, 2015 at 9:38 am

The only mailbox for blocks around is right in front of Bill's. It is scheduled for imminent removal. Apparently nobody mails letters here anymore.

While Philz had a line of 8 people out the door, Bill's looked pretty empty this morning. Yeah, take-out coffee is a different market from sit-down breakfast.

3 people like this
Posted by andy
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 25, 2015 at 12:25 am

@Permit - Bill's delays may have been for the reason you state, but there is an overabundance of lengthy delays here; maybe PA just attracts permit violators. PA has a reputation for its permitting and inspection process among contractors, architects and business/home owners looking to start a project I've spoken to, so perhaps getting caught is a risk business owners feel is worth taking. I don't remember that from other cities I've lived in.

Anyway, I went to Bill's for lunch today, and it was OK. I just had a club sandwich - neither bad nor exceptional; just a club. The guy next to me at the counter had one of the several eggs benedict dishes on the menu - it looked good, and that enormous dish disappeared pretty quickly. If consumption speed correlates to taste...

I went at 12.30 or so. Parking was achievable (one spot in the little lot on the north side of the building). The line wasn't out the door, but it was full - one couple ahead of me waiting for a table to open; I took an open seat at the counter.

While the server was johnny-on-the-spot with my drink refills, it seems there's some gel-time needed with the staff remembering orders. At least 3 errors in my area alone - wrong dishes delivered; wrong sides... These are fairly minor/easily corrected, and the place/staff is new; I'll go back to try one of the benedicts.

Finally - several comments about Mike's here. Mike's was one of the first places I ate after moving to PA 7 years ago. I liked it at first, but quit going after a couple years as the food became just a little less desirable with each visit.

4 people like this
Posted by Plane Speaker
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 25, 2015 at 1:05 am

I'm looking forward to checking this place out. The places in the area
are all good in their own way, but I don't end up going there too often
for various reasons.

I looked at the generic online menu for Bill's and I was surprised to
see so many drink-drinks. is this place a cafe or a bar? I guess there
are enough coffee places now, and we have to migrate back to
alcohol, and then what we do have to look forward to when pot is

How are their BLT's? Currently my goto BLT place is Joanies who
makes a mean BLT, but though they will make it and it is fabulous,
they don't have it on the menu anymore I think. The one time this
almost vegan will resort to eating bacon! mmmmmmm!

3 people like this
Posted by Plane Speaker
a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 25, 2015 at 1:15 am

Since everyone is reviewing other places at the same time as commenting
on Bill's, the reason I want to see something new in this area is that over
time I've noticed that places rise and fall. They get better and worse and
sometimes better again, and even worse again over time.

My goto place for a long time was Palo Alto Breakfast Cafe, when they
opened, and then for about a year after that. Then the most awesome
energetic server quit and left and the place started sliding. It is still
good, but they get sloppy when they are busy and have never done
anything about the hard bare walls so it has a roar of noise in it that
is unbearable, and no internet. The last time I was there they just about
kicked me when I came in near closing time and asked them if I had time
to eat and they said yes. So that place is on hiatus for me.

Mike's I've always thought was expensive, average and crowded, but the
last two times I've been there (instead of going to the Palo Alto Breakfast
Cafe) they were great and the price seemed reasonable, and the service was
good. Yea! Mikes. Mikes is doing something right.

So. the addition of a new place I really hope will be a reminder to all of
these places that they have to think about the customer if they want us
to spend out money there. Think about the customer experience or we
will go across the street.

3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 27, 2015 at 1:46 pm

A few more comments.

Their outside patio dining is not under the vines but on tables in a fenced area near the main door. Looks very pleasant.

The menu is varied, particularly for breakfast, with some sandwiches for lunchtime. For those on a budget, there is a mini breakfast section for M - F 7 - 11. I expect seniors will enjoy doing this and probably can stretch their time chatting until the lunchtime crowd. There is also a classic sandwich section which is also very affordable. The prices for other items are more expensive, but probably not outrageously so.

There are also signs outside Philz for 10 minute parking. I wonder how long it takes to stand in the line at Philz to get a coffee?

19 people like this
Posted by Be Careful
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 27, 2015 at 1:53 pm

The customers of Philz long ago claimed that outdoor dining area ( originally belonging to Deli Pommard) as their own. It rightfully belongs to Bill's now, but just try to claim a table as a Bill's customer! Philz has led their own customers to believe that area belonged to Philz, to make up for the lack of indoor seating.

I see a turf war in the future.....

Like this comment
Posted by Bergster
a resident of Midtown
on Nov 29, 2015 at 5:44 am

Did Mikes get a new chef ? Have not been there in a while but I see a lot of concerns regarding price and atmosphere. The food has always been great there and the location is nice since it is set back off Middlefield. Enjoy the patio on a nice day. Will try Bills and like the counter attraction. Do they serve spirits ?

2 people like this
Posted by Plane Speaker
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 2, 2015 at 11:10 pm

We tried out Bill's for lunch today.

Pleasant surroundings, nicest of the local spots on Middlefield.
I am reticient to rate this place on a scale of 1 to 5 because
when I do things will change, but if I had to I'd give them a
4+/5. The test will come over time.

Nice booths, and not loud or glaring light or noise ... a very
pleasant atmosphere, and it was not crowded together like
many places where you feel you are jammed up against
other people. It felt relaxed.

The food was fresh, well made, no mistakes. I think the service
was still getting into a routine, but we got adequate attention
and service. I will go there again. I recommend giving it a try.

Prices ... reasonable for Palo Alto.

Like this comment
Posted by Plane Speaker
a resident of Crescent Park
on Dec 2, 2015 at 11:15 pm

Oh, and we did try those mimosas ... watch out, they are strong.

( yes, they serve drinks ) As it says up there which we did not know
at the time ... 17 ounces, with fresh orange juice. I'd say unless you
want to get tipsy, they ought to put a bit more orange juice and a
bit less champagne. That's just me a lightweight drinker though.

6 people like this
Posted by OneFlaw
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Dec 3, 2015 at 9:08 am

Bills needs wifi

9 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Dec 3, 2015 at 10:09 am

Nothing like Wifi to make a place more sociable ...

2 people like this
Posted by lindaloo
a resident of Mountain View
on Dec 3, 2015 at 11:12 am

You had me at booths . . . I love booths! Oh, and strong mimosas? Yes please!

Looking forward to giving Bill's a try soon.

8 people like this
Posted by PaloAlto
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 5, 2016 at 7:41 pm

We tried Bill's Cafe today, margarine is what they use on their toast. Yak. Hash browns are mooshy boiled potatoes smashed and fried on each side. Yak. Fresh OJ is poured out of Sysco plastic gallon bottle. We sat at the bar and yet could not get attention from a server. Not coming back.

8 people like this
Posted by WhoMakesGoodHashBrowns
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 5, 2016 at 8:33 pm

Posted by PaloAlto a resident of Midtown
>> Hash browns are mooshy boiled potatoes smashed and fried on each side.

Who makes good hash browns consistently? I have been all over the area.
Every time I get hash browns I request that they be cooked crispy, yet very
rarely are they cooked well, and when I go get the occasional hash browns
crispy and cooked right, the next time I might return they are not cooked
well even if I ask again and again for the cook to make them well-done.

Who around the area actually does make consistent really good hash brown potatos?

9 people like this
Posted by PaloiAlto
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 5, 2016 at 9:05 pm

Jason's Cafe
Address: 1246 El Camino Real, Menlo Park, CA 94025
Phone:(650) 321-3300

Always excellent crispy hash browns. Inexpensive ($2.50 as a side or included with meal)) no frills place. Bill's Cafe flattens and fries boiled potatoes, probably using margarine that they use on toast.

10 people like this
Posted by Marc
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 6, 2016 at 7:12 am

My wife and I had breakfast at BIll's for the first time a week ago. Never going back. Blah buckwheat pancakes, grey sausage, no flavor potatoes. No redeeming features.

Joanies's I will not forsake you again.


8 people like this
Posted by Yuck
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 6, 2016 at 9:19 am

Absolutely rotten service, mediocre food.

Won't return.

This place will not last much longer in Palo Alto.

So disappointed-- had high hopes for this place.

5 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 6, 2016 at 9:35 am

I have been there several times and have not been disappointed. I am not a connoisseur of hashbrowns so can't comment. Their service is dependent on the number of people present. If all the tables are full the wait staff are run off their feet. When it is quieter, service is better. I get the impression they are finding it hard to keep the right number of staff as I heard a couple of times that staff are new.

As for their food, the portions are huge. The eggs have always been cooked perfectly. The skillet selection is what I go for and have never found fault with what I order. The number of different options is huge and takes a first timer quite a while to read the menu. I suggest if you are asked to wait to ask for a menu so that you can read then and have your decisions ready by the time you are seated.

It is a shame that they do not do evening dinners as that would make a nice alternative to the dining options locally.

7 people like this
Posted by Plane Speaker
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 6, 2016 at 1:32 pm

I agree with Resident, when I have been there Bill's has been
above average. I really do not get the animus directed at
Bill's in a few of the last posts. One thing might be that they are
taking away business from nearby restaurants, particularly one
nearby that started out very nice and has declined in food and
service recently. Maybe some are trying to badmouth the place.

Bill's is above average based on just the site and interior, how
comfortable and generally quiet it is. When I have been there
the food, while not perfect has been reasonably priced and
above average. I eat a lot of salads and Bill's salads are kind
of simple, without a lot of ingredients. That is about the only
thing I think they do do better with, but they are still good.

The bottom line for me is that Bill's, every time I have been
there, has given every local restaurant in the area some real
competition, and in my mind comes out near or at the top
of most comparisons.

4 people like this
Posted by PaloAlto
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 6, 2016 at 9:20 pm

Bill's Cafe is less than average compared to other PA, MP, LA breakfast places - mashed potatoes fried and called hash browns is deceiving and lazy, margarine on toast is cheap, and the service is poor. Only The Original Pancake House in LA has worse service. Very disappointing.

6 people like this
Posted by Diner
a resident of another community
on Mar 7, 2016 at 1:54 pm

"Palo Alto," you are repeating yourself here. (That does not make the message more persuasive.)

2 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 7, 2016 at 4:41 pm

@Marc, Joanie's is number one for me too. Prices went up recently, I believe due more to their food costs than their service costs. Gotta get there early on Sundays to beat the farmers market rush.

Bill's is much closer for me and I tried them twice soon after they opened. Nothing wrong I could put my finger on, but somehow I just haven't been back. Went out of my way to try Baji's around that time, sort of comparison shopping, and I wasn't impressed, though I know Baji's has diehard fans. Hobee's on ECR near Arastradero was a long time favorite of mine, but traffic on El Camino has worsened, and the view out the window has changed from trees and the low slung Rickey's Hyatt to a solid wall of townhouses blotting out the sky.

4 people like this
Posted by Plane Speaker
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 8, 2016 at 4:16 am

>> Hobee's on ECR near Arastradero was a long time favorite of mine, but traffic on El Camino has worsened,

Ain't it the truth? Hobee's used to be my goto local place for fresh food. Sadly the Town & Country Hobee's closed, and little by little the quality and service at Palo Alto ECR or Rengstorff in Mtn. View have been going downhill. Who can guess why this is, but I no longer go to either location any longer.

BUT ... if you care to drive to Mathilda in Sunnyvale over by where Lockheed used to be, that Hobees is the best of all of the ones in the area I have been to. Once about a year ago I went there just to see if there was a difference, and it blew my mind. Same menu, much better execution. The view may not be any better, but for me it is worth it.

Truthfully, I'd rather go there for a big salad than Bill's because Bill's salad are kind of ho-hum. Good, but not as good or with as much ingredients as Hobee's in Sunnyvale.

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