When I first moved to Silicon — in the early, pre-Web 1990′s — I quickly found a friend who took great pleasure in introducing newbies to local hotpots. Henry’s (gone) was a great watering hole for working stiffs on University Avenue (many professionals back then actually clocked out at 5). The Saddle Rack in San Jose (gone) was a country bar-and-dance scene (with electric bull, and all) that provided an amazing peek backward on the Valley’s rural roots. Then there was Buck’s, my friend explained, a Woodside diner that doubled as the crossroads of the world — a new Times Square — for VCs and their supplicants.
The time may have already come. Was not long ago that I began to sense to shift in VC+entrepreneur traffic from woodsy Woodside to urban Palo Alto, and one of the prime beneficiaries was a little place called Coupa Cafe. Today, Coupa is still going strong, and is also branching out. With a newish location at the Stanford Golf Course, they may have in fact created the next big meeting place.
There are a few reasons this might happen. First, though it’s subtle, Coupa has a distinctive multi-cultural feel, which feels right for the new Silicon Valley. Owners Nancy and Jean Paul Coupal opened their first shop in Caracas some 30 years then added Palo Alto and Beverly Hills in 2004 and 2006. The fare is good, and the Latino touches are part of the appeal. But if you have been to a Coupa, you likely have felt an international vibe, not just Latino.
But the Coupa scene in downtown Palo Alto is going so strong that it’s often hard to find a table. Which is one reason why I like to go to the one at the Stanford Golf Course. Not vulnerable to foot traffic, it’s less of a crazy scene. And that’s a great thing if what you want is a quiet place to actually speak with someone — a funder, an entrepreneur, or some other partner in crime. At a recent visit, I glanced around and saw people I might have seen in earlier days at Buck’s. That place is too busy, too, for my tastes. And the new Coupa, perched high in the Stanford hills, may attract others who, like me, need to escape the madding crowd.
The big dish
Let’s hope not too many others. Though I realize I’m not helping my cause with this article. But one way that Coupa at the golf course might start to grow is with a different kind of foot traffic. It’s just a short drive from the Stanford Dish, which in its own right has become a meeting place. It’s an 80-90 minute hike, and you might work up an appetite. Or maybe you just want to place to chill, before you get back to work, wherever that might be. I’m doing it more and more. And I suspect you will be, too.