Eat Like a Stanford Student

Palo Alto is in the heart of Silicon Valley—a place known for its startups, technology-related developments, and expensive living costs. And unfortunately, for us Stanford students, it’s guaranteed that by eating out at restaurants, we will be putting a large dent in our wallets, even if it’s a measly once-a-week ritual. Since college dining hall food can become too repetitive and predictable (side note: no matter how descriptively they try, French fries will be fries; and not artfully julienned potato slices browned to a perfect crisp in freshly pressed vegetable oil and delicately sprinkled with sea salt), here are a few affordable places we go to eat off campus. 

Credit: Instagram @stanford

Lunch & Dinner

Fleming’s Steakhouse

Fleming’s is an extremely upscale restaurant that no college student should even think about entering without their parents, under normal circumstances. However, I’m here to let you in on the most prized local secret: Happy Hour. Now, this isn’t your typical happy hour where drinks and appetizers are just two dollars off. The star of the Happy Hour menu, in fact, is the $10 Prime Burger—a full sized, juicy, amazing quality burger complete with slices of peppered bacon. From 5-7pm everyday, Fleming’s offers this along with other choices like ravioli, calamari, and flatbreads that range from $6-10. I have to say that this is easily the best deal in town if you’re craving a succulent, classic American burger.

Left: The burgers at Fleming’s Steakhouse are delicious—if you aren’t there for the $10 Prime Burger, try this California Burger with fresh avocado and bacon (Credit: Instagram @flemingssteakhouse). Right: For a great starter or side dish to share, the calamari and sweet chili sauce will make your mouth water! (Credit: Instagram @flemingssteakhouse)

The Oasis

When you have the post-dinner desire for something savory, Oasis is where you need to be. It’s where you get the biggest bang for your buck as they serve very affordable American comfort food, until 12:30 am. I recommend skipping all of the salad choices and going straight for the spicy chicken wings that are fried to order, which maximizes crunchiness, and the ooey-gooey Philly cheese-steak. There’s no surprise that this late-night joint has been around since 1958. It’s no fancy Fleming’s, but the worn-down wooden booths and blaring televisions all add to the exciting environment and homey taste of the food.

Left: Another great option at Fleming’s are their relatively inexpensive flatbreads like this one with pork belly and arugula! (Credit: Instagram @flemingssteakhouse). Right: The Oasis offers your classic American food with all of the fries, burgers, and wings you could want (Credit: Instagram @letsgototheo).


Steam is a convenient place for Chinese food on University Avenue, the main street of downtown Palo Alto. Mostly innovative twists on classic Chinese dishes, the restaurant’s chef favorites include Sticky Jasmine Beef Fried Rice, Taiwan Stir Fried Noodles, and Thousand Island Tofu with Seafood. They also have a collection of steamed dumplings to choose from that serve as the perfect appetizers. If you’re craving Asian cuisine, Steam is the way to go. As if the food wasn’t interesting enough, the atmosphere of the restaurant elevates all of your senses to the next level. Designed as a modern day, wooden tea house, the environment itself is enough to re-energize you for the rest of your day. 

Left: Steam’s innovative Chinese dishes are all delicious—try these Lemongrass Peppercorn Chicken Wings for a little bit of spice and citrus (Credit: Instagram @steampaloalto). Right: You can’t go wrong with noodles, especially when there are plenty of options catered to your liking! (Credit: Instagram @steampaloalto)

Oren’s Hummus

The problem most of us students have with dining hall food is the lack of flavor or spice. It’s always the same pieces of chicken or tofu covered in various sauces that would benefit from healthy shake of salt and pepper. But thankfully, we can always rely on Oren’s healthy and mouth-watering selection of Israeli cuisine. From beef skewers to their specialty hummus to pita sandwiches, who knew that hummus could come in so many different forms? With reasonable and quite generous portions, I’ve found that this is the perfect place to share with your friends or family. Also, don’t shy away from asking for more pita bread because your server will certainly provide more at no extra cost. I love to order a couple of the sample dishes: a small hummus, a Baba Ganoush eggplant, and an Israeli salad to share. The best part about this place in particular is that the hummus keeps you feeling full and happy long after your meal (Fun fact: It’s scientifically proven that hummus will up your mood as it is loaded with tryptophan.)

Mediterreanean Wraps 

If you don’t think a variety of hummus will suffice as your Middle Eastern food fix, Mediterranean Wraps offers an equally as delicious choice. The establishment is extremely well run, the staff is friendly, and the restaurant also caters to customers who need a grab-and-go dinner. In simple terms, this restaurant is like a high-end Chipotle for falafels and shawarma. The food itself does have a bit more character than Oren’s Hummus, so if you do enjoy swirls of bold spices on your palette, this is the place for you. I love the shawarma plate, which is a heaping portion of lamb and beef slices accompanied with a citric salad and hot pita bread. It’s the perfect comfort food when you’re in a hurry, and don’t be surprised if the owner hands you falafels (fresh out of the fryer!) as you wait in line to pay. 

Middle eastern food galore! Left: Hummus and pita is the perfect snack or appetizer. Oren’s will leave you satisfied and wanting to come back! (Credit: Instagram @orenshummus) Middle: A great lunch while exploring Palo Alto is a wrap from Mediterranean Wraps. Try the chicken shawarma with an avocado wrap for a taste of Mediterranean spices (Credit: Instagram @chi17agirl). Right: A salad is also always a good option for a lighter meal—this one with fresh lettuce and all the fixings will refresh and satisfy you (with hummus on the side, of course!) (Credit: Instagram @orenshummus).