I heard a lot of great things about this place, so I decided to visit one warm Sunday. It’s fairly well hidden in a strip mall just north of the intersection of Santa Cruz Avenue and Highway 9. They serve wine by the bottle or glass, small cheese and meat plates (you can build your own from a dozen or so cheeses and over half dozen meat choices, or order larger ones they have devised), some sandwiches, and they sell wine at retail.
I found it to be a typically overrated Los Gatos place. In forty years of living in The South Bay, I have always been amazed at how Los Gatans will rate a slightly above average restaurant as exceptional (See all the other reviews below.). Is it something in the Los Gatos air or water? Dio Deka, Manresa, Cafe Marcella when Nick Difu was chef, and Nick's new place, Nick's Next Door, are the obvious exceptions.
ELS has the oddest wine pricing policy ever. Most places charge 25% of their bottle price as a by the glass price. ELS charges 40% of the bottle price as a by the glass price; e.g. a bottle that sells for $40.00 costs you $16.00 for a glass! What a gouge! But they only charge you $15.00 over their retail price for the first full bottle they serve you (they call it corkage though they’re serving you wine off their list), and straight retail price for every bottle thereafter. And their bottle prices are mostly on the low end for the area. Go figure. Lesson: buy a bottle if there are two or more of you.
The food portions are small, but so are the prices. The staff is very friendly and efficient. Seating is either outside, at the long bar which faces the food prep area, or at high cocktail-type tables. The crowd is upbeat. The place has a good vibe.
But all in all, I don't get the hype, especially the way they gouge you for wine by the glass. I guess the mantra in Los Gatos must be: it’s not very good, but at least it’s expensive.
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