Motorcycle Classics

Destinations: Alice’s Restaurant, California

Alice’s Restaurant is situated at the crest of a hill, high above Silicon Valley, where state Routes 35 and 84 meet. Dedicated to motorcyclists, Alice’s menu features burgers like the Kawasaki (green chilies and jack cheese) and breakfast specials like the Ducati (French toast, eggs and bacon). But it is Alice’s deep motorcycle history and routine convergence of bikers that makes this restaurant so unique.

It was really just coincidence that brought me to Alice’s Restaurant. New to the Santa Cruz area, I noticed what looked like a perfect loop ride along Highway 1, through the rolling hills by Pescadero and up to Skyline Boulevard with a fine return on Route 9 through the redwoods. The map was right — this is a great scenic route without repeating a single mile, and is easily accessed from Routes 84, 35 or 92.

The day opened up to sunshine on rolling hills after cold fog along Highway 1, and was proving to be an incredible ride looking over my man’s shoulder on a classic BMW R90 airhead. What the map didn’t clue us in on was that at the peak, after a fine series of twisties, we would pull up beside Alice’s Restaurant, which had two parking lots packed with every kind of bike and rider imaginable. Harleys, Beemers and an eye-popping array of just about everything in between, along with a handful of amazing cars — think Lamborghini Gallardo Coupe, Tesla and Spyker.

By bike, the super-winding Old La Honda Road is a fine stretch of challenging roadway from either Woodside or the coast up to the summit at Skyline Boulevard. We came in from Highway 1, passing through Pescadero and Harley Farms Goat Dairy, winding through rolling hills and by Apple Jacks Inn in La Honda. Coming out at the intersection of Route 35 and 84, we felt a bit like cartoon characters, wanting to rub our eyes to make sure the scene was real. We had, by luck, happened upon the roadside classic of the region, Alice’s Restaurant where a burger is not just a sandwich, garlic fries are serious business, and food takes a sideline to the amazing array of bikes and cars out front. Just a few miles above Silicon Valley and an easy day ride from San Francisco, it’s no wonder these windy roads see more bikes than cars on the weekends.

Alice’s Restaurant (where, apparently, you really can get just about anything you want) was purchased in 2002 by locals James and Andy Kerr. Alice’s was built around 1900 as a general store and was converted to a restaurant in the 1940s. It became Alice’s Restaurant in 1961, named for owner Alice Taylor.

All the food on Alice’s menu is made from scratch and everyone sits family style, sharing tables to accommodate the steady flow of diners. It’s a fun place to rub shoulders with venture capitalists from nearby Silicon Valley and cross-country riders from just about anywhere. We met a group of guys riding from Alaska to the Moto GP races at Laguna Seca and an auto worker and his wife on tour from Virginia.

Kawasaki chose Alice’s Restaurant as the site for releasing its landmark Ninja in 1991. Yamaha has held three major motorcycle event releases at Alice’s, including its largest event for 2007, with some 5,000 attendees and simulcast to Central Park in New York City. Not to be left in the dust, Ducati has held test drive events and product releases from time to time at Alice’s. In 2008, the revolutionary Tesla electric car used Alice’s as a pre-release showroom, hosting test-drives with an on-site electric charging station.

This trip took us through some chilly wind and fog along the coast and into the warmer hillside — prepare accordingly for an enjoyable and challenging scenic ride.

The Skinny

What: Alice’s Restaurant, 17288 Skyline Blvd. in Woodside, Calif. Try the 95-mile loop along California’s Highway 1 from Santa Cruz, through the foothills above Silicon Valley along Route 35 and 84, then return via redwoods on Route 9.
Best Kept Secrets: Stop for fresh croissants and coffee on the way at Whale City Bakery, located at 490 Highway 1 in Davenport, Calif. You can also tour a goat farm and buy fresh goat cheese at the Harley Farms Goat Dairy in Pescadero, Calif.
Beware: Temperatures may vary greatly due to the seaside location of much of Highway 1.
Keep an Eye Out For: Chocolate croissants at Whale City Bakery in Davenport, Calif. Farms and fresh produce stands in Pescadero.
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  • Published on Dec 2, 2009
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