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“Unhappy return to The Refuge in Menlo Park” 3 of 5 stars
Review of The Refuge

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The Refuge
Crane Street., Menlo Park, CA
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Ranked #40 of 117 restaurants in Menlo Park
Cuisines: Belgian
Restaurant details
Menlo Park, California
Contributor
16 reviews 16 reviews
8 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 11 cities Reviews in 11 cities
25 helpful votes 25 helpful votes
“Unhappy return to The Refuge in Menlo Park”
3 of 5 stars Reviewed January 30, 2014

Just a few weeks back I submitted a review of The Refuge in Menlo Park that was borderline giddy. Loved the atmosphere, the food was awesome, service was attentive and knowledgable. What could have been better? On the strength of that earlier visit, I bullied a biggish group of friends (10) to go there for dinner last week. Suffice it to say I am no longer giddy. With a party that large, we called in advance for a reservation. The answer we got: "We don't accept reservations-even for a big party." I asked about the likely wait and heard "30 to 40 minutes, probably." I should have paid attention to that "probably" word.

So, you can guess how things went. Party after party, all groups of 3 and 4 and 2. kept going in and we kept waiting. We discussed breaking up the group and the waiter's response: "You can do whatever you want." I knew that already. We waited outside on the curb for over an hour. When we finally got in, the food moved our way pretty quickly but the orders were confused and people settled for items they hadn't ordered. Anything to get dinner at this point. If The Refuge were my restaurant, I would actually require large parties to obtain a reservation--and I'd take a credit card number in advance to make sure they showed. This isn't rocket science--people have been doing this for decades.

The final blow came with the bill. We put in 4 credit cards and asked for an equal division--standard practice literally everywhere in restaurant land. "Oh, we can only accept three cards," the waiter informed us. But they didn't have any trouble adding a handsome automatic tip for large parties. So here's the deal with the Refuge. You can't make a res for your large party, you can't split the bill up for a large party, but since we were a large party we were more or less guaranteed to pay more through the "service included" arrangement--only for large parties. Suffice it to say I was embarrassed to have recommended this restaurant, a mistake I won't make again.

  • Visited January 2014
    • 2 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 2 of 5 stars Service
    • 4 of 5 stars Food
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8 reviews from our community

62% Recommend
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Rating summary
    Food
    Service
    Value
    Atmosphere
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • Any
English first
Menlo Park, California
Contributor
16 reviews 16 reviews
8 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 11 cities Reviews in 11 cities
25 helpful votes 25 helpful votes
“Finally, a "Manly Man" restaurant in Menlo Park”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed November 27, 2013

For reasons long forgotten, I showed up the other day at Menlo Park's Refuge restaurant having had exactly two pieces of toast all day. So you should probably consider my 9-out-of-10 hunger level as you read this brief review. Put simply, this is one of the best limited menu spots on the San Francisco Peninsula. I know many people like to go to steak restaurants and order fish or fish restaurants and demand chicken--why DO they do that? I was in a joint that specializes in pastrami and I got, well, pastrami--on rye. It was awesome. I think as good as the Stage Deli in NYC, and almost as big as the ridiculous monster sandwiches they serve there. Seriously, seriously, beautifully good. Please don't go here if you want Vegan. Even if they have it, and I doubt they do, it would be way out of their comfort zone and capability. If I had to choose between The Refuge and the nearby LB Steak House in Menlo Park, I'd go to Refuge every time and save a bundle in the process.

Yes, it's expensive. I took my adult son there for dinner--he had two beers that cost about $10-12 each. He and the waiter rhapsodized about the berries, the smoke, whatever the hell was in there. I had root beer--the best I've ever had--for about $4. I had two. Total for two sandwiches, pickled vegetables, shared fries (PLENTY for two), beers, etc. was about $70 including a good tip. Hey, they guy really knew his beers. Yeah, that's too much for an everyday meal, so leave off the veggies, have cheaper drinks and it's probably down to $50. A great experience, a diversion from the health food diet the whole damn state seems to be on, but what a treat. We waddled out of there happy as clams. Did I mention it's also a sports bar?

And on that LB Steak house a block or two away--yes, I did order steak when I went there (the only person in our party who did so). Our waiter directed me to the New York cut. It was fine, a little gristly, but nothing I couldn't have cooked at home. And that little beauty was about $40 all by itself. Go to Refuge--get the pastrami. Relax and enjoy.

  • Visited November 2013
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
    • 5 of 5 stars Food
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Menlo Park, California
Senior Reviewer
10 reviews 10 reviews
8 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 7 cities Reviews in 7 cities
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
“A bit over-rated”
3 of 5 stars Reviewed September 19, 2013

I saw the Refuge on "Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives" on the Food Channel and it perked my interest because I love cheese steaks and pastrami sandwiches, but $16 for a sandwich is a bit over the top. I opted for a $12 cheese steak that came w/ a small portion of fries. It was good but it didn't blow my mind. My son had a children's size burger which was essentially one slider. Lots of beers were offered but none I recognized so I went w/ a sampler. I wouldn't order any of the 3 again.

Our hostess had a deer in the head lights look. She definitely isn't a multi-tasker.

If you are looking for something new, give it a try. I doubt I'll be a regular but will likely go back when I grow tired of everything else in the area.

  • Visited September 2013
    • 2 of 5 stars Value
    • 3 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
    • 3 of 5 stars Food
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San Francisco, CA
Top Contributor
51 reviews 51 reviews
26 restaurant reviews
Reviews in 26 cities Reviews in 26 cities
17 helpful votes 17 helpful votes
“A bit overpriced, still working out kinks, but glad to have in Menlo.”
3 of 5 stars Reviewed June 17, 2013

This place just opened, so maybe they are still working out their kinks (although they do have a successful operation in San Carlos). But, I ordered the Mediterranean Salad, and it was missing two of the key ingredients (heirloom tomatoes, pine nuts). As well, it was barely larger than the side salad that came with the sandwich that someone else ordered. I assumed it would be larger than the $4 side salad, given that it was $11. Also, the person who ordered the sandwich noticed that it wasn't on the roll (as described on the menu); rather just on sliced bread. They have a wide selection of Belgian beers, but nothing that was really out the ordinary, which is a missed opportunity (in my opinion). Many of their beers are widely available in the Bay Area (and for less money). While they don't specialize in American Craft beer, I thought that rather than having IPAs from the East Coast, they could have IPAs from the Bay Area (e.g., Russian River, Drake's) or at least the West Coast (e.g., Green Flash, Port). Also, they might consider some beers from Almanac, which is Bay Area and brews beer that is more of the style of some of their beers. Bottom line: I'm going to try this again in a couple of weeks and see if they have worked out the kinks in the food menu. They deserve another shot and I am very happy to have this place in Menlo Park. I hope, in the end, they won't miss some great opportunities (like getting obscure Belgian beers, and getting local American Craft beers).

  • Visited June 2013
    • 2 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Atmosphere
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
    • 3 of 5 stars Food
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