Jury is out, folks. Umami Burger’s new Peninsula baby on University Avenue in Palo Alto is…a winner. I hesitate with an ellipsis only for a few reasons:
1. The place is decked out in Stanford library-themed decor. Tall bookshelves with fake books serve as dividers between tables. It’s a bit much. I literally feel like I’m eating in a college library or dining hall. Except for the fact that I’m paying a lot, which leads me to number two.
2. A bit overpriced. Burgers are great, but small, and don’t come with any sides. Beers are nine bucks. If you’re looking for cheap burgers and brew, this is not your spot.
3. Nothing is five-star, best-burger-you’ve-ever-had good.
However, let’s get back to my original thought. Umami is a winner. I’ve been to two L.A. locations, which were awesome, and was nervous that Palo Alto wouldn’t measure up. I actually like that their burgers are smaller, so you don’t feel like dying after you eat one. And they have lots of non-burger options (one turkey, one veggie, one ahi tuna). I tried the Earth Burger (mushroom/edamame patty, truffled ricotta, cipollini onions, butter lettuce, roasted tomato & white soy aioli for $12) and Ahi Tuna Burger (seared ahi tuna, sprouts, crushed avocado, gingered carrots, wasabi flake, wasabi tartar for $15) and loved them both. Sweet potato fries are extra sweet (do I taste cinnamon?), soft and delicious. The ketchup has truffle oil in it, and we all know truffle oil makes everything better. They also offer a surprisingly eclectic beer selection – I tried an Allagash White from Portland, MI and loved it.
Anyway, if you can get past the bookshelves and prices, it’s well worth a trip. Especially in Palo Alto, where in my opinion, the food scene really continues to struggle. But Umami helps, so I’m glad it’s there.