Quadrus Conference Center and Catering

“Palo Alto Weekly” Review

Restaurant Review: A capital enterprise for lunch.

There are lots of enticing goings-on up on Sand Hill Road, the heart of the area’s venture capital enterprise. But even if you don’t know a start-up from a stalemate, there’s no reason why you can’t at least eat like a venture capitalist. Quadrus Cafe and Conference Center is located at ground zero of this industry, nestled behind a compound of shiny, modern office buildings and beautifully landscaped property. Discreet signs point the way, so pay attention or you might find yourself making a full circle right back out of the industrial park and back into the public domain. The cafe is small — just 20 or so tables — but an adjacent tiered patio virtually doubles its size. High-set windows line the sides of the high-ceiling room, and plate-glass doors open out onto the patio, creating a sense of airy spaciousness. Framed black-and-white photographs show famous faces and quiet naturescapes for an additional visual appeal.

White linens cover the tables, and little vases of fresh flowers make for a slightly formal feel, although the cafe has no pretensions toward being anything other than a lunch spot for the denizens of the nearby office buildings.

The menu includes an interesting selection of salads ($8-$9.15), pizzas ($8) and sandwiches ($6.50-$7.85), along with weekly pizza, entree and sandwich specials. We tried the chicken salad ($8.95), a generous mound of moist chicken atop a bed of crispy-fresh mixed greens, pecans, apple slices and currants. Our margherita pizza ($8.15) was somewhat less successful, made with a too-heavy hand with the basil and a too-parsimonious hand with the mozzarella cheese.

The chicken and vegetable stir-fry ($9.50), a menu staple, was a great hit. Big chunks of chicken were sauteed with carrots, squash, peppers, kim chee (Korean-style fermented vegetables) and other vegetables over a bed of fluffy, long-grain rice. We also sampled one of the week’s specials.

The salmon salad sandwich ($7.95) was made up of chunky pieces of fish with lots of red onions and tomatoes in an oversized onion roll and served with fresh melon, pineapple and grapes. There are no alcoholic beverages served (after all, this is a corporate lunch spot), but the selection of libations ranges from sodas to specialty iced teas to fresh orange juice ($1.35-$2.75).

Desserts are all made in-house and definitely deserve a mention. The cafe cookies ($2) were soft, moist and delightfully oversized. The lemon angel pie ($4.50) was terrific: airy, lemony chiffon served in a crust made of meringue. We decided we would return just for this dessert and the cafe’s fine house blend coffee.

Table service is pleasant and accommodating, and our waitress gave no hint of the pressure inherent in serving 150 customers who all arrive within a three-hour lunch period. The clientele is by and large from the immediate corporate vicinity, and the place was filled with serious, suit-and-tie professionals, many of whom were going over paperwork during their lunches. (This is not a place to bring the kids.)

People hear about the Quadrus cafe mostly by word of mouth, and its brisk, businesslike tone is certainly set in large part by its clientele. I wouldn’t suggest you drive across town for a visit, but for those who work in the vicinity, the cafe provides a quiet, pleasant spot for a bite in a setting several notches above the usual lunch spot.

Atmosphere: Definitely geared for the nearby business community, with an open, “let’s-do-lunch” setting put together with extra polish.

Highlights: Crisp salad concoctions with interesting ingredients; piping-hot sandwiches; sophisticated weekly pasta and sandwich specials.