Or, Your Guide To How To Waste Time In The Land Of The Future While The Vandy Boys Are Doing Something Other Than Tanning Some Cardinal Ass.
Honest confession time: I have been an inside sleeper agent since the last time the Dores came this far west. I have actually been employed by Stanford University and as such have been able to thoroughly salt the ground for our returning forces. (I am not worried about Stanford fans seeing this, because there are no such things as Stanford fans.)
So for those of you who are making the trip to the Valley of Heart's Delight (which is what it was called when there were only orchards as far as the eye can see), some advice on the local area, especially if you're not going all the way to the city or to Napa:
1) IN N OUT. No, seriously, if you've never had California's gift to the hamburger world, you owe it to yourself to check it out. The nearest one to Stanford is south on 101 in Mountain View (aka Googleburg) - take the Rengstorff Ave exit, go through the light and make a right, and it's there on your right across from Costco. I guarantee you Austyn Carta-Samuels wishes he could stop in for one (he played his high school ball at Bellarmine just down the road in San Jose).
2) SCRATCH. 401 Castro St in Mountain View, this is your best bet for local foodie dining - classic American comfort food put together with premium ingredients and generous portions. The pork chop is freakin' massive. They also have the finest bar selection between SF and San Jose; the whiskey offerings alone will make your eyes pop (Buffalo Trace is the well whiskey). Everything behind the bar is American production except for a tequila or two, but the local offerings - like Blade or 209 gin or St George single-malt whisky - are well worth your investment.
3) TAQUERIA ACTION. Skip Chipotle. You want La Bamba or La Costeña, both at the corner of Rengstorff and Old Middlefield Way in Mountain View. They will serve you the classic Mission-style San Francisco burrito, the size of a small infant and stuffed to bursting with brand and rice and fresh guac and carnitas or carne asada or whatever you like.
4) AMBER INDIA. It looks like a strip-mall hole in the wall on El Camino Real in Mountain View, but it's acclaimed far and wide as the best Indian food in the Bay Area, and it earns its reputation.
5) MEXICAN COKE. Still made with sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup, this is still available in old-style glass bottles at almost every establishment that has bottled drinks. Tastes like you remember Coke should.
6) APPLE. If you're on Team iPhone or just bleed six colors from way back when, take a trip down I-280 and exit at DeAnza Road to see the monster campus of the world's largest company (this week, anyway). The campus is locked down like the Pentagon...except for the gift shop, which has Apple swag you can't get anywhere else. (And if you stop in BJ's Brewhouse across the parking lot, you can get a few drinks and see if you spot Apple Security spying on employees who might or might not be leaking to Gizmodo.)
Meanwhile, on Stanford's campus itself:
7) IKE'S. Located on the Engineering quad in the lobby of Huang Engineering Center, this is the local outpost of the famous San Francisco sandwich shop. Over a hundred combinations of every sort of meat or non-meat topping you can imagine. Want a hot pastrami and swiss with mozzarella sticks ON THE SANDWICH? They can accommodate you.
8) MEMCHU. Short for Stanford Memorial Church, built before the 1906 quake. People sign up years in advance to get married here, and for good reason; its cathedral scale and Byzantine gold on the ceiling make it a truly impressive edifice and the one thing on campus that's well worth the walk. At the far end of Palm Drive, smack-dab in the middle of campus.
9) MARGUERITE. The free Stanford shuttle bus (and I do mean bus - it's running full-sized buses) goes all over campus, including the next three attractions on the list. No ID or anything required - just step on and go.
10) STANFORD SHOPPING CENTER. It's exactly what you'd expect: Nordstrom, Bloomingdale's, Neiman-Marcus, two Macy's, plus Tiffany, Cartier, a huge Ralph Lauren store and more places that can empty your checkbook faster than you can say "Vandy lifestyle." Try the Melt, which will do a nice gluten-free fontina/provolone grilled cheese with soup if the weather's cold.
11) DOWNTOWN PALO ALTO. Shops and dining. The Old Pro is a huge sports bar, the Stanford Theater is a fully restored old-time movie palace complete with Wurlitzer (showing this weekend: the 1953 Julius Caesar with Marlon Brando, James Mason and Sir John Gielgud), and the Apple Store is like a nerd-world club scene in the evening (Steve Jobs used to bring his stuff here for Genius Bar work, so they have the best in the business). If you just want a slice of pizza, step into Pizza My Heart for the Big Sur and a drink from the 125-flavor Coke Freestyle machine. If we beat Ole Miss, you'll probably see me eating the traditional victory lunch there on Friday.
12) TOWN AND COUNTRY. Another tony strip mall, albeit even pricier and more boutique-oriented than SSC. I mention it because it's right across El Camino Real from the stadium complex, so might be the closest place to run to for a quick meal or tailgating supplies. CVS and Trader Joe's are there, along with Kara's Cupcakes (OM NOM NOM).
And for game day itself, one very critical piece of advice: LAYERS. Not as crazy as the city, the weather here has reverted to normal winter: overcast, temps between 45 and 65, and a good chance of rain. You'll be much better off with a rain shell and a sweatshirt than a heavy coat. The temperature drops right off once the sun goes down, and it doesn't look to be going up very far in the first place this week. We've been short of rain all winter, but it would be just my luck for the weather to turn this weekend.
So that's it. If you're making the trip, be sure to sign up for the tailgate on Sunday and come knock a few back with us. The road to Omaha starts this weekend!