San Mateo's Hillsdale Shopping Center is now home to the fifth outpost of Paul Martin's American Grill, from restaurateur Paul Fleming (founder of P.F. Chang's and Fleming's Prime Steak House). This exclusively California-based concept focuses on American classics made with local, organic, and seasonal ingredients. Mesquite-grilled Castroville artichokes and various local cheese and charcuterie plates are among the starters; entrees include a cheeseburger made with Pt. Reyes blue and a Pittman Farms brick-roasted chicken. There's also a robust steak menu to complement the dark, wood-paneled steakhouse atmosphere. 31st Ave., Hillsdale Shopping Center, San Mateo; (650) 212-7400.
Further south at Stanford Shopping Center, the end of June brought the sad news of Babbo's closing after a 24-year run as one of the favorite stops for shoppers. Owners Laszlo and Paulette Fono decided "it was time to leave" and are stepping away from Babbo "with a heavy heart." At one point, the Fonos owned four restaurants in the shopping center, Babbo is the last of their empire. No word yet on any replacement.
Summer just got sweeter in Palo Alto, thanks to the city's new spot for a scoop of salted butterscotch ice cream, Tin Pot Creamery. Located in Town and Country Village, the growing restaurant scene there now has small-batch ice cream from Becky Sunseri, who was most recently a pastry chef at Facebook headquarters. The 18 flavors include s'more, Earl Grey tea, cinnamon snickerdoodle, Four Barrel coffee with cocoa nib toffee, and an epic brûléed banana split. Toppings, baked goods, and cones are all made in-house. 855 El Camino Real #121, Town & Country Village, Palo Alto; (650) 289-9803.
And bien sur, Sunday is Bastille Day, the holiday celebrating French independence. There is no better excuse to enjoy some of the great French classics. Left Bank in Menlo Park will offer special dishes with their regular menu, including bouillabaisse with basil rouille and a bacon, mushroom, and goat cheese quiche. Remember, as Julia Child preached, "in France, cooking is a serious art and a national sport." Bon appétit. 635 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park; (650)473-6543.