Refuge restaurant opens in Menlo Park


Editor's note: The restaurant opened June 11.

By Jane Knoerle

Almanac Lifestyles Editor

It's all about pastrami and Belgian beer at "The Refuge" restaurant in San Carlos. Owner and chef Matt Levin is now bringing his popular concept to Menlo Park, opening a second Refuge at 1143 Crane St. "hopefully in June," he says.

A native of Akron, Ohio, Mr. Levin worked in Michelin-starred kitchens in Paris and served as a chef at Viognier, the upscale restaurant in San Mateo, before opening The Refuge in San Carlos five years ago. It is named after an old wine bistro in Paris.

Although Paris might be the inspiration, the menu at The Refuge seems related to the famed delicatessens of New York or Los Angeles. According to Yelp and other websites, the most popular item on the restaurant's menu is the Reuben sandwich (pastrami, sauerkraut, melted Swiss, and Russian dressing on toasted rye). Another hit is goofy fries (garlic fries topped with chopped pastrami and cheddar cheese sauce). The extensive menu also lists such offerings as ribeye cheesesteaks, burgers, and even a pastrami chopped salad.

Just so you don't leave hungry, there are house-made ice creams, bread pudding, and a root beer float on the dessert menu.

Eighteen Belgian ales are on tap and the bar features 100 selections of artisan ales. The Refuge also offers "old world" wines.

The Refuge's new location is the former site of Siam Restaurant and, later, Marq's of Menlo.


Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of Portola Valley: Ladera
on Jun 11, 2013 at 9:44 am

This is great news! I doubt many folks down here know about the Refuge, but the pastrami they serve is on a par or better than the best that NY delis have to offer - it is completely amazing. And the Belgian beers are terrific too. It's a gourmet deli/bar disguised as a plain neighborhood hangout. I predict and hope they will be successful here.

Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 11, 2013 at 12:40 pm

Right on, can't wait to have Goofy Fries and great beers close to home!!!

Like this comment
Posted by Hungry already
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Jun 11, 2013 at 12:45 pm

Great pastrami sandwiches and beer in walking distance - I can't wait! Will need to start exercising in preparation.

Like this comment
Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 11, 2013 at 4:03 pm

Yippee! I love the Refuge. I've been a regular in SC for about 4 years. Best pastrami, ever!

Like this comment
Posted by SCB
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Jun 11, 2013 at 4:16 pm

Too bad no one ever wants to open a restaurant in Menlo Park that serves "healthy" food. This restaurant that is opening sounds like it should be named something like "Heart Attack Bistro."

Like this comment
Posted by Nate McKitterick
a resident of Portola Valley: Woodside Highlands
on Jun 12, 2013 at 11:22 am

I'm not a big fan of pastrami, but a local place that serves Belgian and Belgian-style beers? Oh, yes, please! For home consumption, Beltramos has an excellent selection of these beers as well.

Like this comment
Posted by Fan of Cohen's, Katz's, the Carnegie and the now closed Stage
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Jun 13, 2013 at 1:45 pm

I haven't tried the Refuge yet but I love a good Noo Yawk pastrami sandwich on rye with just plain brown deli mustard, a half sour dill pickle, a potato knish, some chopped liver, and an egg cream with a side of omeprazole.

Places that offer swiss cheese on the pastrami are not authentic Jewish delis. But the Carnegie isn't either and it is one of my favorites.

Max's at the Stanford Sho[ping Center makes a decent pastrami but it is not New York. Katz's Cohen's and the Carnegie have set the gold standard for Roumanian hot pastrami. We will see if the Refuge matches up. I hope it offers a plain authentic New York hot pastrami on rye with brown deli mustard along with its non-New York versions of the pastrami sandwich.

Now if it can only import some Junior's cheesecake.

BTW, Amici's serves the best cheesecake west of the Hudson River.

Like this comment
Posted by yeah
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 13, 2013 at 6:19 pm

I am a fish eater that likes the scallops at Refuge, just hope for more veggie and fish options!!

Always happy for new restaurants in town. Also for existing places to mix up the menu one in a while!! Fox example, love Shiok, but the fish dishes haven't changed in years. Please??

Like this comment
Posted by NYer
a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Jun 13, 2013 at 9:33 pm

Best to NOT assume that it will match Katz's. happens too often around here and east coasters wind up disappointed. Ahhhh, New England Lobster shack? Better to expect less and be surprised. Downtown is awful for restaurants, especially casual so let's help make it a success and get more good options to consider MP

Like this comment
Posted by MenloFolks
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 16, 2013 at 6:16 am

Went yesterday and the place is a winner. we are hardly big pastrami eaters but the menu has other options and clearly they know what they are doing. Note to Refuge: More non meat options will do well down here......

Expect this to get a good buzz and that it will become a staple of downtown eating. Welcome to Menlo Park.

Let's hope that this is a signal to others to consider our town and a message to other restaurants to up their game! Same for shops/boutiques -- so little to choose from here but perhaps competition will change the landscape and the offerings we have downtown.

Go Refuge

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Burger chain Shake Shack to open in Palo Alto
By Elena Kadvany | 16 comments | 4,681 views

The Cost of Service
By Aldis Petriceks | 1 comment | 1,116 views

Couples: When Wrong Admit It; When Right; Shut Up
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 575 views

One-on-one time
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 478 views