You can still eat at this Bay Area restaurant once frequented by Joan Baez

Off California Route 84, there are massive redwood trees around the curvy road that connects Woodside to the mountain community of Sky Londa. The region attracts a mix of horseback riders, hikers and bikers who stop at the intersection of La Honda Road and Skyline Boulevard for a quick bite to eat at Alice’s Restaurant.

Alice’s Restaurant is at the intersection of state routes 84 and 35, and for hungry visitors, it happens to be a beacon of light in the remote area amid lush greenery and bordering state parks. Since the 1960s, locals and tourists have stopped in for a bite while touring the areas many scenic roads and trails.

Customers (left) Ron Stenger and Lynda Johnson and (right) Jiji-wijdane H pose for a photograph outside Alice's Restaurant in Woodside, Calif. on Sept. 2, 2021.

Lance Yamamoto/Special to SFGATE

“This area is very cohesive for motorcycle riding and … it became known as a motorcycle stop,” said Andy Kerr, co-owner of Alice’s Restaurant. “People started showing up at the restaurant because of the roads. Even today, people come from all over the world, ride the roads, and stop at Alice's.”

Brothers Andy Kerr (left) and Jamie Kerr (right) are the owners of Alice's Restaurant, which is tucked away in a rural part of Woodside where thousands of Redwood trees surround the building. It's been a gathering spot for bikers and hikers (and later techies) since the 1960s.

Lance Yamamoto/Special to SFGATE

Andy and his brother Jamie Kerr, also co-owner, bought Alice’s Restaurant in 2002. They made some improvements to the business like a menu revamp and extended store hours to include dinner, but for the most part, Alice’s Restaurant has remained unchanged, including the name. Andy said that after he and his brother bought the place, they didn’t want to change the well-recognized name that Andy says has become famous, thanks in part to the song by the same title.     

“In 1967, Arlo Guthrie came out with the song ‘Alice's Restaurant,’ and everyone thought that this was the restaurant from the song, but it has nothing to do with the song at all,” Andy said.  

Customers look at the menu at Alice's Restaurant in Woodside, Calif. on Sept. 2, 2021. Alice's is tucked away in a rural part of Woodside where thousands of Redwood trees surround the building. It's been a gathering spot for bikers and hikers (and later techies) since the 1960s.

Lance Yamamoto/Special to SFGATE

Before the Kerrs bought the restaurant nearly 20 years ago, they were just regular customers who lived about a quarter-mile away. Andy says that his earliest memory of visiting the Sky Londa restaurant was about 1969, when the staff consisted mostly of hippies who lived nearby. He also remembers seeing the former owner and namesake, Alice Taylor, who often waited tables herself, worked the cash register or was in the kitchen cooking.  

The kitchen staff handle orders at Alice's Restaurant in Woodside, Calif. on Sept. 2, 2021. Alice's is tucked away in a rural part of Woodside where thousands of Redwood trees surround the building. It's been a gathering spot for bikers and hikers (and later techies) since the 1960s.

Lance Yamamoto/Special to SFGATE

“She was a very hands-on owner,” Andy said. “Alice was a character in her own right. On hot days, [she] would have pitchers of margaritas going and the waiters were allowed to have margaritas as long as they didn't drink too much. Some days when it was hot and Alice felt like she hadn't made enough business, she closed early, take the money from the day and [walk] the staff across the street to the bar and have cocktails and dinner.”

A metal owl hangs outside Alice's Restaurant in Woodside, Calif. on Sept. 2, 2021. The restaurant is tucked away in a rural part of Woodside where thousands of Redwood trees surround the building. It's been a gathering spot for bikers and hikers (and later techies) since the 1960s.

Lance Yamamoto/Special to SFGATE

When Alice and her husband Lee Taylor bought the building at 17288 Skyline Blvd. around 1960 from the previous cafe owners, Alice swiftly changed the name to Alice’s Restaurant. She oversaw the diner, while Lee operated the gas station and the auto repair shop next door.

The door to Alice's gift shop at the restaurant in Woodside, Calif. on Sept. 2, 2021. Alice's is tucked away in a rural part of Woodside where thousands of Redwood trees surround the building. It's been a gathering spot for bikers and hikers (and later techies) since the 1960s.

Lance Yamamoto/Special to SFGATE

The '60s brought along interesting characters who dined at Alice’s Restaurant, Andy says, including local novelist and countercultural figure Ken Kesey, who lived in nearby La Honda. Other patrons reportedly included journalist and author Hunter S. Thompson and singer-songwriter Joan Baez.

Some of the interior decor at Alice's Restaurant in Woodside, Calif. on Sept. 2, 2021. Alice's is tucked away in a rural part of Woodside where thousands of Redwood trees surround the building. It's been a gathering spot for bikers and hikers (and later techies) since the 1960s.

Lance Yamamoto/Special to SFGATE

“[They] were regular customers at the restaurant,” Andy said. “During the '60s and early '70s, there was the hippie movement, and at one point, there were about 10 communes on the hill up here. People were trying to get away from cities and get back into nature.” 

 Alice continued to run her restaurant through 1976, when she decided to sell it to a mother and son, who after 13 years, sold it to another family. It was a homecoming for the Kerrs, who eventually bought Alice’s Restaurant after a successful career in the printing industry. Andy said that during the dot-com boom, he and his brother sold the printing company and went into early retirement only to discover a numbing restlessness that would push them into a new career path. When Jamie discovered that their hometown diner was for sale, the two brothers negotiated a price with the owners and, as they say, the rest is history.

Throughout the week, Andy says Alice’s Restaurant serves anywhere from 300 to 600 customers, and on weekends, it can be more than 1,500 people a day. The menu is a mix of breakfast, lunch and dinner staples, but it’s the burgers that keep customers coming back. The menu items bring a sense of pride to Andy, who shared that Alice’s Restaurant focuses on fresh and healthy ingredients, even with house-made sodas made with real sugar.  

A Steak Salad is one of the specialities at Alice's Restaurant in Woodside, Calif. on Sept. 2, 2021. The restaurant is tucked away in a rural part of Woodside where thousands of Redwood trees surround the building. It's been a gathering spot for bikers and hikers (and later techies) since the 1960s.

Lance Yamamoto/Special to SFGATE

Things were challenging during the pandemic, Andy admits, when business dropped by 75% when the restaurant operated for takeout only. But more than a year later, sales are back up to about 95% of 2019 sales.

“The last 18 months have been the hardest thing I've ever done professionally, but we've been so fortunate with our wonderful clientele,” Andy said.

Jim Adams, a regular who has been coming here for more than 20 years to Alice's Restaurant, poses for a photo outside the restaurant in Woodside, Calif. on Sept. 2, 2021.

Lance Yamamoto/Special to SFGATE

Alice’s Restaurant continues to bring interesting folks from all walks of life. It isn’t unusual for techies — or billionaires for that matter — to show up with their luxury cars. But mostly, it’s a cluster of locals that happen to be Alice’s Restaurant’s core customer base. Every day is different, and that’s part of the fun of running the decades-old business.

“It's a cross-section of America,” Andy said.  

Alice’s Restaurant is at 17288 Skyline Blvd. in Woodside.