Overlooking Redwood City

One of my readers forwarded a note that had been distributed to guests of Howie’s Artisan Pizza (on Jefferson, next to the post office). According to that note, the restaurant will be closing for a period of time starting Saturday, July 16. However, I was in the area on Friday, July 1, and saw this on the door:
Assuming that they do come back, it won’t be for at least a year or two. The note my reader passed on indicates that the future construction of the office/retail building next door, at 2075 Broadway (currently the location of Powerhouse Gym), would make it difficult to operate the restaurant, and implies that the restaurant won’t fully reopen until “the dust settles.” It did say that the restaurant may not be entirely closed for the duration: that they plan to schedule week-end special events, including cooking classes and barbecues. If you give them your email address or business card (either in person, or through their website) they’ll notify you when these special events are scheduled.

Apparently, Howie plans to remodel the restaurant and experiment with new recipes during the closure period. In case you are concerned for their well-being, the note does say “the developers of 2075 Broadway have been very generous in providing us with the support we need to pause operations,” so at least Howie’s shouldn’t be suffering too much.

If, like me, you are a fan of Howie’s, once they reopen I hope you’ll join me in patronizing them once again. But in the interim, note that they also have a location in Palo Alto, in the Town and Country Village at the corner of El Camino Real and Embarcadero Road.

In an effort to step up my game, exercise-wise, I’ve resolved to walk up into Emerald Hills at least once per week. The elevation change (almost exactly 500 feet) combined with the distance (anything between 5-10 miles, depending upon my route) easily puts my heart into my target range for well over the minimum suggested by health experts. And although the gain in altitude is considerable, there are level spots and even some downhill segments on the way to the top, giving my heart some occasional breaks.

On my last trip up I aimed for Handley Rock Park, something I want to highlight in today’s post. In planning the walk, though, I noticed something interesting: to get to Handley Trail (the street on which the park is located) it was pretty much a straight shot, meaning that at every intersection I encountered I could simply walk straight ahead. But even though I would never actually deviate from the road in front of me, the street names changed over and over again. Five times, in fact, although if I had started downtown this one route would have had a total of eight names.

Roads that change their names for no seemingly good reason have long bothered me. As far as I’m concerned, as long as you continue straight ahead at an intersection the street’s name should remain unchanged. I do recognize that different cities want to give different names to their streets, so when a street crosses a city border there is at least a reason to justify a name change (I still am not thrilled with the idea, however). But within a city, I find such name changes just plain confusing.

In Redwood City, for instance, Broadway is famous for doing this just east of the railroad tracks, at Arguello Avenue. If you are heading down El Camino Real and you turn east onto Broadway, once you cross Arguello you’ll suddenly find that you are on Marshall Street. And it isn’t as if Broadway just ended! No, if you had known to turn right at the Arguello intersection you would have remained on Broadway (turn left, and you are on Arguello—so this intersection is a “twofer”: not only does Broadway turn into Marshall, but Arguello turns into Broadway). And as it turns out, Broadway is part of the route that eventually leads you to Handley Rock Park.

Allow me to enumerate the name changes as I direct you to the park. Starting at the downtown intersection of Jefferson Avenue and Marshall Street, heading west:

  • You begin on Marshall Street.
  • At Arguello, the street becomes Broadway.
  • After a small loop—which you traverse simply by following the road, without turning right or left at any intersection—Broadway becomes Hopkins Avenue.
  • Hopkins Avenue becomes Oak Knoll Drive at the intersection where Upland Road comes in from the north (this is basically where you’ve left the city proper and entered unincorporated Redwood City).
  • When you get to Lower Emerald Lake (where you’ll find the Emerald Lake Country Club), continue straight ahead; you’ll find that you are now on Lake Boulevard (to remain on Oak Knoll Drive you would have had to turn left).
  • After you’ve completely passed the lake, proceed straight ahead at the next intersection. You’ll now find that you are on Park Road (turning left at this intersection would have kept you on Lake Boulevard).
  • At the next intersection, the street name changes yet again, to Woodland Place (here, turning left would have kept you on Park Road).
  • One more intersection brings one more name change: you are now on Lakeview Way.
  • Finally, you reach a “Y” intersection where you actually have to make a choice. Veer to the left, onto the street named Handley Trail. A short distance later you’ll come to a “T” intersection. Here you must turn left to remain on Handley Trail (the right-hand choice is a private road). Pass by a half-dozen or so houses on your right, and you’ll arrive at the park.

So. One street, essentially, with eight names. Since the street crosses the boundary between city and county at least one name change is justifiable, but seven? That seems a bit ridiculous. It’s no wonder that people get lost up in Emerald Hills; this straight-ahead route has five names up in the hills alone.

Regardless of the odd name changes, the destination makes the trip worthwhile—whether on foot or by bicycle or car. Handley Rock Park is a small (0.5 acre) privately owned park that is open to the public. Owned and managed by the Handley Rock Association, since 1992 the public has been allowed to enjoy the park during daylight hours (8 a.m. to dusk on weekdays, 9 a.m. to dusk on weekends). The overwhelming feature of the park is the 50-foot Handley Rock, which is a magnet for kids and rock climbers alike:

It may not look like much in the above picture (the tree is hiding a lot of the rock, and it’s hard to get a sense of scale in a photo like this) but this is one big rock. Head around back, and you’ll discover that what you see from the street is just the tip of the iceberg. Here the hill falls away on the back side, exposing a lot more of this sandstone monster:

There is little to the park other than the rock itself: a picnic bench or two, a split-rail fence to delineate the space, and a parking area with room for a handful of cars. But it is well worth checking out, if for no other reason than there are some great views of the city from up there:

The purpose of this particular trip for me was twofold: both to document the park, which I had visited a handful of times before but never fully photographed, and to get some good birds-eye images of our growing city. I’m particularly pleased with the above picture: it shows the entirety of our downtown area plus the Blu Harbor development at the left and a bit of the Stanford in Redwood City property at the right. Look carefully (tap the above image to get a full-sized version that you can zoom and pan) and you can see pretty much all of our major development projects. From this vantage point I’m fascinated by how much bigger the Box buildings (the brown ones at the center of the image) look when compared with the Indigo project, the latter of which is both taller and, I believe, larger in terms of square footage (Indigo is the blue-and-white development you see to the left of the Box buildings; the tan Maguire Correctional Facility—aka, the county jail—sits in front of it in this photo, appearing to divide Indigo in two).

The day I visited the park was a hot one; I had opted to take my walk in the morning in order to avoid the worst of the day’s heat. Heading back down I decided to take advantage it being lunchtime and drop in on Hilltop Restaurant, our newest in Redwood City. Hilltop can be found in the new Bonfare Market center (formerly the Emerald Market center), at the corner of Oak Knoll Drive and Canyon Road. This center also houses our Sancho’s Taqueria, if you know where that is, and is kitty-corner from Canyon Inn. Hilltop opened pretty much simultaneously with its next-door neighbor, Kaigan Sushi. My wife and I aren’t really Sushi lovers, so for lunch she and I—she joined me for lunch, but not the walk—headed to Hilltop Restaurant.

Hilltop Restaurant is a relatively small (42 people maximum, according to the Fire Marshall’s notice) casual restaurant that serves a typical American menu of breakfast (Friday through Sunday only), lunch, and dinner. Omelets, pancakes, waffles, french toast, and oatmeal are on offer in the morning along with eggs cooked to your liking. For lunch you’ll find sandwiches, salads, and burgers, plus a few more substantial entrees. The dinner menu boasts those same burgers, plus pastas, steaks, chicken, and fish, and a “quiche of the day”. Certainly enough variety to satisfy almost everyone! They have applied for a liquor license but as of our visit had yet to receive it. Thus, don’t expect (yet) to enjoy a glass of wine with your spaghetti and meatballs.

After we sat we were brought a helping of house-made chips and salsa, which my wife and I found very addicting: we had to resist the temptation to ask for more. I ordered a BLT with regular fries, and an iced tea. My wife had a burger with sweet potato fries. We found the food to be perfectly cooked, and seemingly made with high-quality ingredients. But note that this was based on a single visit; I plan to go back and give the place a more thorough workout.

The restaurant’s interior is simple and clean. A bit too simple, actually: there were no pictures on the walls or decorations of any kind. And until the liquor license is granted the empty bar is going to look a bit unfinished. There is one television in the place, so you won’t miss those Giants games. If you aren’t so into sports, though, there is only the one TV, and the sound was down low—so we didn’t find it to be much of a distraction.

Since they’ve been open business has been pretty slow, but then again they’ve done little that I can see to advertise their presence. Beyond the fabric sign on the building proclaiming the grand opening of the two restaurants, there is nothing to lure the casual passerby in. No sidewalk signs, no waving inflatable stick-men, nothing. They don’t even seem to have a web site. And while I did watch a handful of people perusing the menu taped to the front window, the staff made no effort to speak with them and encourage them to come inside. So it’s left to people like me, I suppose, to help spread the word.

Do drop by and give them a try! While you are there, check out Kaigan Sushi next door, and, if they’re open, take a peek into the Bonfare Market as well. Together these three new businesses are a great addition to the Emerald Lake Hills area. Now we just need to patronize them, so that they succeed and stay in business! No more long-empty storefronts in this residential shopping center, please…

Emerald Lake Hills is an interesting place to visit. Although I’d be much happier if they had sidewalks (being outside our city limits means they aren’t required to have them), as long as you are careful it is a nice place to walk. There are wonderful homes to see, wonderful vistas to enjoy, and even a neat park or two. And now there are some new merchants to enjoy as well. You may prefer to get your cardiovascular workout on a machine in a gym; for me, I’ll take to the hills.

This Monday is the Fourth of July. You are likely well aware of the many celebratory events within Redwood City, but if for some reason you don’t know about our ultra-family-friendly parade, festival, and fireworks show, do check out the Fourth of July Events page on the city’s website. I’d like to highlight one particular booth at the festival: my friends and fellow bloggers over at The Front Porch are manning a photo booth where you can have your photo taken. They are also accepting donations that will go entirely to RCEF (the Redwood City Education Foundation), which works to “advance and enrich education opportunities for all students in the Redwood City School District.” You’ll find them at the corner of Broadway and Middlefield from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on July Fourth. Do stop by and tell them I sent you!

8 thoughts on “Overlooking Redwood City

  1. I’m probably repeating myself, but your description of walking up to Emerald Hills on a summer day brings back my wonderful memories from the 1960s. It’s a sunny Redwood City-style July day here in Bellingham, Washington. Sunny, warm, dry, breezy. I’m still taking walks up and down hills after all these years. At the top of the hill in my neighborhood, we can see the Canadian Rockies and the San Juan Islands. The view to the west (Bellingham Bay) is reminiscent of the view to the East from Emerald Hills. There are even a few Sequoia trees in my neighborhood. Otherwise, it’s a different world. I love both places now.

    As a little girl, I used to take our dog on a leash and walk from our house near Roy Cloud School (on the edge of the Emerald Hills) up Jefferson, across where 280 is now and up to Huddart Park — a wonderful 6-mile (?) round-trip walk. There must still be a way to do that walk. A school friend and I used to walk from the same starting point to the junction of Canada Road and Highway 84 — another 6-mile round-trip.

    I thoroughly enjoy reading about walking in Redwood City. Thank you again!

  2. You need to check out the upcoming Redwood Grill in Woodside Plaza. They are close to opening I think.

  3. A very timely post! Last week I visited a friend up past Emerald Lake and had quite a time navigating it! Previously I had followed her in her car but this time Google maps was having quite a time directing me on most of the streets you named. I’m returning this weekend knowing my way a bit better but I will definitely add Handley Rock Park to the visit. Thanks for introducing us to something new yet again!
    BTW when I first moved to the Peninsula I found the street numbers on El Camino to be SO confusing. As you cross town borders the numbers seem to jump back and forth with no rhyme or reason. This was before smart phones and GPS so I spent a lot of time very perplexed and searching blindly.

    • Indeed. How did we ever live without GPS? I had a Thomas Guide in my car for many, many years. I kind of miss it, actually — I love looking at maps, and the small screen just isn’t quite the same.

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