It's a Wednesday evening at 5pm and where to go in Portola Valley / Woodside for a happy hour drink in the sun? There are only two places, the first being the Alpine Inn on Alpine Road and Arastradero. Where's the second? Extra-extra points if you can name the third place (recently closed).
Have you been to the Alpine Inn? I still call it Rossotti's, though it's been called all kinds of things over its 162- year lifespan. Read the whole history in a 2002 Mercury News article that hangs on the wall in the bar/restaurant. No matter what name you use however, the history rings rich and raunchy.
The trouble started in 1852 when the bar opened. I like trouble. In 1908, it got so bad that the president of Stanford wrote to the San Mateo County Supervisors. "The Wunder" (it's name at the time), "is vile and a disgrace to San Mateo County." In 1909, a California law passed prohibiting the sale of alcohol within 1.5 miles of Stanford (not lifted till 1970). Just beyond that reach, Wunder lived on again, unscathed. During Prohibition (1920 - 1933) Wunder went underground, just like my great-grandparents bar-turned-Blind Pig in Detroit. Then owner Charles Schenkel changed the name to Schenkel's Picnic Park, advertizing non-alcoholic drinks and family fun on the sunny backyard patio, but it's rumored that those in the know had other libations coming out a side door. After Prohibition, Enrico Rossotti took over the lease and the name, until 1948 when it was renamed Alpine Inn. To this day however, many patrons fondly refer to the historic watering hole (dubbed a 1969 California State Landmark) as Zotts (short for Rossotti's). How has this stuck for so long?
Zotts' backyard is filled with picnic tables, hippy beer flags, and "the most eclectic customers you'll ever meet." This particular Wednesday is no different. Son of Hemmingway reads passionately to my left, while to my right, J.D. Rockefeller talks loudly on cell about his "big pipe lines." There's a lady in a moo moo across from me, and Fit in Flip Flops keeps walking back inside for another beer. You must come visit. It's the perfect place to write your memoire, or find inspiration for your upcoming nonfiction release. Character study is endless at Zotts.
The menu….well…. nowhere near as exciting or diverse as the people. You got the burger ($5.50) fries ($2.75 ) veggie burger ($5.50) side grilled onions (.35) and hard boiled egg (.50) thing goin'. Also Polish, LA Hot, and Portuguese sausages ($5.25) (anyone know the difference?) I love classic roadhouse fare, but would jump at the chance to updo the menu…just a touch.
So until the current owners call me maybe, here's a Food Partier's take on the tuna sandwich ($5.00)
Too eco-crunchy for Zotts?
Nah call it eclectic.
1 can dolphin-safe tuna
4 ounces smoked sardines or anchovies (bump up those omega 3 fatty acids)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 carrot, grated
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 cup dark leafy green, chopped (spinach, kale)
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
1 green onion, chopped
1 tablespoon capers or pickled peppercorns
1 tablespoon mayonnaise (preferably made from olive or canola oil)
Worcestershire sauce, smoked salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Mash the sardines or anchovies. Mix with all the other ingredients. Put between 2 slices of Portola Valley Bread and serve with lettuce, homegrown tomato (the patio is perfect for this) and a homemade pickle.
A selection of free reading material on an outdoor table
Note to Vinod Khosla, AKA Martin's Beach Meanie: I hear you own the property across the riverbank from Zotts and are thinking of doing some "things" back there too. Do no harm Khosla!