6.9 out of 10

Downtown Menlo Park

Ranked 3rd best neighborhood in Menlo Park
37.4495047634079 -122.184809615446
Great for
  • Schools
  • Clean & Green
  • Shopping Options
  • Safe & Sound
  • Medical Facilities
Not great for
  • Cost of Living
  • Childcare
  • Resale or Rental Value
  •  
  •  
Who lives here?
  • Professionals
  • Retirees
  • Families with kids
  • Gay & Lesbian
  • Students

Reviews

3/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 2/5
  • Safe & Sound 3/5
  • Clean & Green 3/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Shopping Options 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 2/5
2yrs+

"Quaint, busy downtown hub"

Downtown Menlo Park is a quaint, but small downtown area nestled in the heart of the city’s affluent quarters. Its commercial real estate is what you’d expect of a upper middle-class city’s compact shopping hub, while the district’s residential space is designated towards the border. The neighborhood as a whole encompasses about 0.5 square miles and made up of about 4,000 residents. And as you might expect, its downtown quarters are relatively dense, with a predominately white community (over 80%).

While a bit small, Downtown Menlo Park is the center of attention. First, the neighborhood is very walkable, with an eclectic mix of shops and restaurants. Most window shoppers usually congregate towards Santa Cruz Avenue, which hosts everything from ground floor small electronic stores, to hardware shops, from banks to a couple bars and/or cocktail lounges. Most have the well-groomed commercial fronts and sufficient shopping options that should meet your every whimsical need.

Downtown Menlo Park’s residential terrain is usually reserved for those working within the community. The area is saturated with somewhat appealing apartment buildings, gated condominiums and apartment homes. Many of them are old, but still look pretty modern and are usually hidden beneath the leafy, tree-line and shrubbery. There are also plenty of small, one-story homes packed along the edges of the community. But most are of the garden variety and a small step down from the city’s normal residence. Likewise, the typical resident rakes in about $80,000/year, much less than the average Menlo Park resident. For renters, the bulk of apartment price tags range from $1,200 to $1,600/month.

For young families, the district is situated next to Sacred Heart Preparatory and Menlo School, both well-praised educational institutions within the community. Traffic can be a bit of an issue during commute hours, but the Menlo Park Caltrain skirts the northern border. The rail provides quick and convenient access up and down the San Francisco peninsula.
Pros
  • Good restaurants
  • Sufficient shopping
  • Well-maintained
  • Very Walkable
Cons
  • Average nightlife
  • Lack of culture
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Singles
  • Retirees
  • Students
  • Trendy & Stylish
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 5/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 5/5
  • Pest Free 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 5/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 4/5
  • Gym & Fitness 3/5
  • Internet Access 5/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 2/5
  • Resale or Rental Value 5/5
  • Public Transport 5/5
  • Medical Facilities 5/5
  • Schools 5/5
  • Childcare 3/5
2yrs+

"A Good Bar or Two Away from Greatness"

Downtown Menlo Park is one of those dowtowns that has a really cozy, walkable feel to it. It still feels a bit like a small town around here, especially on Santa Cruz which has a tree-lined center meridian and 45 degree parking so that the narrowness makes traffic really slow down.

The bf and I love coming down here on the weekends.

This is definitely where you go for restaurants in Menlo Park. Here are some of our favorites:

--Iberia: This is the place to go for Tapas or if you want to go on a date or for an anniversary, which is what brought the bf and I here. It is definitely pricy, so I would stick to special occasions for this place, but it is definitely worth it once in a while.

--Mataro: My favorite Italian place in Menlo Park. Classic white table cloth Italian restaurant interior; amazing pasta; great salads—and the secret isn’t out about it yet, so prices are still relatively reasonable and you can get a table. Enjoy it while it lasts, because I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before this secret gets out.

--Sultana: If you are into healthy food, you can’t beat Mediterranean cuisine and Sultana is definitely the place to get a good taste of it. I love this place, especially when the weather is hot. I am looking forward to making some trips here during the summer, which I hear is pretty bad around here.

--Bona: On the opposite end of things is Bona, a Polish restaurant. Now Borscht doesn’t sound great, but on a cold day with some stuffed cabbage it really hits the spot. Unfortunately we haven’t had much of a winter this year, so we didn’t get too much of a chance to indulge in this comfort food.

--Ann’s Coffee Shop: Definitely the place to go for breakfast. Pancakes, eggs the whole deal, with a bit of a greasy spoon feel to it. What breakfast should be.

And after you are done eating, you can check out the bookstores. There are two worthy of mention in Downtown Menlo Park:

--Keplers: Dead Heads should know about Keplers. It is where the band (I think when they were still the Warlocks) performed an early concert and also where one of the band’s wives worked way back when. It is still a great place to see authors give talks.

--Feldmans: I am partial to Feldman’s. It’s got that dark, bookstore feel that I so love.

The only thing that Downtown Menlo Park is really missing is a good bar—the kind of place you can go with friends and really get reacquainted. The best bar in Menlo Park is the British Bankers Club but that is farther down El Camino. Here, the best place is probably the Menlo Grill and Bar, but that is really more grill than bar. I guess most people just figure they can go into Palo Alto for that sort of thing, but still, I would think a good bar right in the Downtown, especially a slightly classy one, would make a killing.
Pros
  • Good Bookstores
  • Very Walkable
  • Good restaurants
  • Sufficient shopping
  • Well-maintained
Cons
  • Lacks a Good Bar
  • Average nightlife
  • El Camino Real noise and traffic
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Retirees
  • Tourists
  • Gay & Lesbian
4/5 rating details
  • Neighborly Spirit 4/5
  • Safe & Sound 4/5
  • Clean & Green 4/5
  • Peace & Quiet 3/5
  • Eating Out 4/5
  • Nightlife 3/5
  • Parks & Recreation 4/5
  • Shopping Options 4/5
  • Gym & Fitness 4/5
  • Lack of Traffic 3/5
  • Parking 3/5
  • Cost of Living 1/5
  • Public Transport 4/5
  • Schools 5/5
2yrs+

""This is one of the nicer downtowns...""

The above is a phrase that was recently overheard by a middle-aged woman walking with her friend on a warm spring night on Santa Cruz Avenue, and this statement is definitely reality. But it is her reality. For affluent, middle-aged women, it doesn't get much better than downtown Menlo Park. There are sufficient nice restaurants of various ethnic backgrounds to stay well-fed for weeks, the shopping covers all of one's basic needs, and the streets are well-maintained and well-manicured. Benches are aplenty, and the area is small enough to navigate with ease in about a half hours' time.

But for the young, hip, tech-savvy mavens of Silicon Valley, the area leaves something to be desired. This area lacks the country charm of Woodside, the vibrant art scene of Los Gatos, and the ethnic smorgasbord of Mountain View. Neighboring Palo Alto holds the nightlife trump card, and Saratoga has a trendy, rustic charm that is not seen here.

True, perfection is in the eye of the beholder, and for the majority of those who reside in Menlo Park, this area does just the trick.
Pros
  • Good restaurants
  • Well-maintained
  • Sufficient shopping
Cons
  • Average nightlife
  • Lack of culture
  • El Camino Real noise and traffic
Recommended for
  • Professionals
  • Families with kids
  • Retirees

Best Streets in Downtown Menlo Park

1

Menlo Ave

3/5
"Nice, Short Downtown Street"
37.4507607422287 -122.183584398606

Unranked Streets in Downtown Menlo Park

Kenwood Dr

3.5/5
"Central but residential"
37.4495820326158 -122.179143996993

Unanswered Questions in Menlo Park

Best Neighborhoods to Live In

Best Cities to Live In

Tell everyone what you love about your neighborhood!

Leave a Review

Have a question?

How are schools? Is the area safe? What about public transit options?" Why not ask our community of locals!

Ask Now

Selling or Renting Your Home?

Maximize the selling price of your home by sharing what you love about your suburb to increase its appeal...

Leave a Review

Corporate Relocation Manager?

Enable your employees to share local knowledge in a private, trusted environment with those relocating... while building community.

Learn More