Turn Bar and Grill
295 Main Street, Los Altos, CA
Price Range: $$$
Upon entering through the dark wood double doors of Turn Bar and Grill, guests are greeted by servers bustling past, dressed in all black, arms filled with a hot, fresh entree presented on a stark white dish. Conversations overlap one another and fade into a hum of white noise as guests make their way to a table beneath a photo of the Golden Gate Bridge.
A recent addition to downtown Los Altos, Turn opened on June 15 and added patio dining in early August. The restaurant is located on the corner of Main and Second Streets, where Jamba Juice and AG Ferrari used to be. Jim and Julie Otis, the owners of Turn Bar and Grill, can be seen from time to time at the restaurant, greeting diners and surveying the restaurant in action.
Turn serves classic, high quality American cuisine, and, according to their website, aims for an “upscale, but laid back” atmosphere. However, though Turn fulfills its promise of an upscale atmosphere, laid back is not what comes to mind when Turn is mentioned; classy and chic would be more fitting terms. The restaurant’s high ceilings, modern designs and rich earth tones are quietly illuminated with simple, low hanging lights. The main room holds a three-sided bar, surrounded by TVs on all sides and buzzing softly with conversation. To the left and right, there are two sub-rooms providing a more private dining option with dark wood tables and booths.
The presentation of Turn’s cuisine also demonstrates the high class element that Turn embodies, with french fries drizzled in truffle oil and seasoned with chives and parmesan. The fries earn points for being satisfyingly crunchy, but the heavy seasoning can become overwhelming very quickly. Ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise are served with the fries on a white platter in separate, sleek white dishes, further exemplifying Turn’s upscale attitude.
Another particularly memorable dish of Turn’s is the Jamon Iberico pizza. The pizza is topped with mozzarella cheese and arugula, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with a few plum tomatoes throughout. The pizza is very salty, but the plum tomatoes provide a contrasting flavor and somewhat of a relief from the combination of more savory ingredients in the pizza.
Included on the menu of main courses is the Niman Ranch Beef Burger, which is served with a green heirloom tomato, butter lettuce, red onion and a toasted brioche bun. Niman Ranch, located in Bolinas, is known for their high quality beef, lamb and pork. Turn’s burger stands true to the reputation of Niman Ranch with an excellent beef patty that is properly complemented by the toppings it is paired with. Served on the side are homestyle potato chips and very lightly vinegared slices of cucumber, which are relatively unusual — burgers typically come with french fries and occasionally a pickle. However, when paired with the green heirloom tomato, the unique sides serve to transform a typical burger to a high-class version that is unique to Turn.
For dessert, Turn features classics like New York style cheesecake, peach-berry cobbler with French vanilla gelato, and sorbet. All desserts are nine dollars, and a real stand out on the menu is the peach-berry cobbler. It is the perfect close to a meal at Turn, with a distinctive contrast of the hot, just-baked cobbler to the cold and creamy gelato. The peaches taste fresh, the crust is buttery and flakey and the dessert’s overall tangy flavor works very well with the vanilla gelato.
However, with the deluxe and delicious dishes served at Turn, like the peach-berry cobbler, come deluxe prices. The Truffled Shoestring Fries mentioned above are priced at a hefty 11 dollars, but are capable of serving three to four people. Despite that, the quickly overwhelming flavor makes the fries worth about three dollars less than what they go for. The Niman Ranch burger, which was 15 dollars, is well worth its price because of the outstanding quality of the beef and its overall flavor. As for the Jamón Iberica pizza, 18 dollars, and the peach-berry cobbler, nine dollars, both are well worth each and every penny spent on them. They both are stand-outs on the menu for their classic flavor combinations and appealing presentation.
For the most part, Turn serves a multitude of mouth-watering dishes that cater to the classic American appetite. Because of this, customer service is very important — keeping hungry customers waiting is typically not a wise move on the part of any restaurant. At Turn, customer service is very friendly, timely and attentive without being too overbearing. Servers uphold a professional air that would be expected of any high class restaurant like Turn. Food can be expected to arrive within 10 to 15 minutes after ordering, which is a rather quick turnaround considering the exceptional quality of the food that Turn serves.
The Otis’ accomplished their dream of an upscale bar and grill with excellent pizza and burgers, but it didn’t quite fulfill the goal of simultaneously being “laid-back” — from the gourmet ingredients to the pricing, Turn shouts high-class. Nonetheless, Turn Bar and Grill’s stylish and sophisticated ambience, timely service and well-made classic dishes still make it a worthy visit for an evening out on the town.