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Things to do this weekend in the Bay Area?
September 7, 2010 5:53 PM   Subscribe

I'll be giving a Tech Talk at Google in Mountain View, CA this Thursday. What should I do/see? I love surplus, weird food, and People From The Internet.

I'll be in town until Sunday afternoon. Saturday and Sunday I have no plans to speak of. I won't have a car. Here's my previous question on LA to give a little more context re: things I enjoy. Also, I did see this previous question on Bay Area surplus.

Thanks for any suggestions.
posted by fake to Travel & Transportation around Mountain View, CA (42 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
Mountain View and no car is a pain in the ass if you really want to enjoy the Bay Area. Google's campus is kinda in the middle of no where. If I didn't have my daughter with me this weekend I'm sure me and the Mrs would have been happy to take you around town. :(

But to your point I saw that you like "foreign foods from small, dirty restaurants" and there is a EXCELLENT Indian food restaurant in Hayward called Tandoor if you can make it over the Dumbarton bridge. That's about as much as I can offer...lived here all my life and I'm really a home body. Good luck!
posted by ThomasBrobber at 6:12 PM on September 7, 2010


I definitely don't mind taking a taxi or other transport to get somewhere with better transport.
posted by fake at 6:15 PM on September 7, 2010


I'm a person from the internet! Come hang out in SF - there's really nothing at all to do in Mountain View, and it's an easy Caltrain ride up to the city, and there's lots of art and weird food and random eccentric awesomeness.
posted by judith at 6:57 PM on September 7, 2010


La Costena for lunch, if you can manage it. It's a burrito shop in the back of a Mexican grocery store and quite popular locally. You go to the back and walk lock step with your burrito technician, pointing to the items you want in your burrito. It is fairly inexpensive and very delicious and the reason why I was responsible for 2/3 of the applications developed by Adobe to computer order burritos in 1993 (the final version was for the Mac and featured a virtual tortilla upon which you could drag items).

If you like Indian, see if Empress of India is still around. It's in Sunnyvale, IIRC. If it is and Jeanie is still the cook, it's like going to your grandmother's house - she just wants to feed you lots of delicious food. The best way to get fed there is to simply let her choose your menu.
posted by plinth at 7:00 PM on September 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Surplus electronics? Halted Specialties (aka HSC) in Sunnyvale is the best surviving store. It might be pretty close to Caltrain.
posted by lalas at 7:06 PM on September 7, 2010


Definitely check out Fry's. Lots of electronics there.

Honestly, the best place to try food is probably the Googleplex itself. Get your sponsor (you have a sponsor, right?) to invite you to lunch there on both Thursday and Friday, and ask them to take you to unusual places--they have a bunch of interesting eateries.

A friend took me to a place billing its burrito as "The best in Mountain View" (La Costena, mentioned above) and it wasn't bad. Definitely a weird location.

Another friend (a foodie from NYC) took me to a dosa place in Sunnyvale. I'm 99% certain it was the Udupi Palace, and it was good.

Other than that, speaking as someone who has visited Mountain View a few times, there isn't much else to do there. Also, if you're planning more than a couple cab trips, it's going to be expensive enough that it would actually be easier to rent a car. You would probably do better to take Caltrain to SF, Berkeley or Oakland on Saturday or Sunday.

Definitely also ask Googlers about stuff to do. The majority of them will be transplanted nerds who don't know more than you do about local stuff, but they should be able to point you to the locals who do know what's going on. You might be surprised.
posted by A dead Quaker at 7:13 PM on September 7, 2010


Alright, so I have HSC, La Costena, and Tandoor on my "schedule", and I understand I should travel to SF to have fun. I am down for meeting up in SF on Saturday, Sunday, or both, if people would actually like to get together.
posted by fake at 7:14 PM on September 7, 2010



Honestly, the best place to try food is probably the Googleplex itself.



I've refused to sign an NDA, so I won't be allowed entrance to the bulk of the complex, unfortunately.

You would probably do better to take Caltrain to SF, Berkeley or Oakland on Saturday or Sunday.


This works for me as I'm set up with a place to stay and stuff to do on Thursday and Friday, but that's not the case for Saturday and Sunday.
posted by fake at 7:16 PM on September 7, 2010


Oops: Udupi Palace.
posted by A dead Quaker at 7:16 PM on September 7, 2010


A head's up on La Costena -- it was not obvious that there's an actual burrito place there. You have to go through an unmarked door at the back of the store to order your food.
posted by spiderskull at 7:22 PM on September 7, 2010


Good to know -- I'm not timid, but I'm not a mind reader or cat burglar.
posted by fake at 7:24 PM on September 7, 2010


Check pop-up restaurants to see if they'll be open. Example: Tikka Benedict, some Saturdays and Sundays.

Would the Ghirardelli Chocolate Festival be too mainstream in terms of taste? It's Saturday and Sunday afternoon, and features some indie dessert makers in addition to big corporate ones.
posted by tantivy at 7:25 PM on September 7, 2010


Not too mainstream, just potentially too sweet. :) Sounds like a blast, and just the kind of "happening this weekend in this place at this time" sort of information I was hoping for. Thanks!
posted by fake at 7:26 PM on September 7, 2010


Fake, it turns out that there's a no-NDA option that you can use when you get to Google. It's at the badge machine for visitors, and you can just select "don't agree", and you get a different badge.

I'm not 100% sure, but I think that option is good enough to get you into some of the cafeterias they have.
posted by jasonhong at 7:45 PM on September 7, 2010


Thanks, jasonhong, I am certain that's the route I'll be taking.
posted by fake at 7:54 PM on September 7, 2010


I've refused to sign an NDA, so I won't be allowed entrance to the bulk of the complex, unfortunately.

Non-employees cannot enter the bulk of the campus, full stop. I do not know what you've been asked to sign but lots of non-employees eat in the Google cafeterias every day (accompanied by an employee) without signing away anything. If you have time, avail on your host to eat at No Name instead of Charlie's.

Are you staying in Mountain View? Much of the Computer History Museum is closed for construction unfortunately but parts of it are open Sat & Sun including the Babbage Engine which is worth seeing for a few minutes. It's just around the corner from Google. Mountain View itself is sleepy but there are a couple of good bookstores and I like Ramen House Ryowa just off Castro St.

Other than that, Caltrain to San Francisco is easy if only hourly on the weekend and takes you to that big city where stuff happens.
posted by GuyZero at 8:39 PM on September 7, 2010


Hi fake, you might like the Computer History Museum. It's in Mountain View, very close to the Google campus, and admission is free. The museum is undergoing some construction so looks like it's only open for limited hours on the weekends for the time being. Of the available exhibits, the Babbage exhibit looks pretty cool, for one. (I wanted to visit but missed the chance when I was in the area.) (On preview...what GuyZero said.)

I also came in to mention Halted/HSC, which has already been noted -- looks like it's in Santa Clara, based on their site (or is that outdated, lalas? In case, might want to double-check). Also, your visit coincides with the Electronics Flea Market (the second-to-last one for this year is this Saturday) at De Anza College in Cupertino from 5pm to noon. Haven't been to either place myself but have heard they're both interesting resources for surplus.
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 8:43 PM on September 7, 2010


Are you staying in Mountain View?

For the first two nights, yes, after that, no. I would like to see that Babbage Engine, I have a friend who's building an alternate version.
posted by fake at 8:44 PM on September 7, 2010


Also, your visit coincides with the Electronics Flea Market (the second-to-last one for this year is this Saturday) at De Anza College in Cupertino from 5pm to noon. Haven't been to either place myself but have heard they're both interesting resources for surplus.

OMG, does anyone want to go to this? Sounds *awesome*.
posted by fake at 8:45 PM on September 7, 2010


Oops...no doubt you've figured this out, but to clarify, the Electronics Flea Market is 5am to noon. Sorry for the typo. Hope you get to go!
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 9:06 PM on September 7, 2010


Castro street, which is downtown Mountain View, is filled with 'foriegn food' restaurants.

As for cultural activities, the thing about Silicon Valley in general and Mountain View in particular, is that it is really a giant suburb with a not very exciting city on the south end (sorry San Jose!). So, unless some special event is occurring in San Jose, I would also recommend heading up into the City (and by City, I mean San Francisco) for cultural activities.

For events occurring in San Jose, the local free paper Metro is worth a look.
posted by eye of newt at 9:14 PM on September 7, 2010


I mean the part of Castro St on the South West side of Central Expressway, which is a couple miles away from the Google campus.
posted by eye of newt at 9:24 PM on September 7, 2010


Not exactly weird, but Mountain View is home to my absolute favorite ramen joint: Maru Ichi. Get the Kuro ramen and you won't regret it.
posted by wuzandfuzz at 9:25 PM on September 7, 2010


I was actually planning on going to the electronics flea market! I'll MeMail you. Anyone else want to go?

As for the rest of the weekend, maybe post to IRL -- I bet a lot of people would be happy to meet up with you and maybe even host you.
posted by zsazsa at 10:26 PM on September 7, 2010


The Babbage engine is awesome to see in operation. Call 'em to ask what time they'll have it cranked up on Saturday.

Google is near Shoreline park, which has some nice walking trails and plenty of birds. There's a cafe on the pond, and they have paddle boat rental.

There's a used bookstore downtown that possibly has the second largest selection of used technical books on the West Coast (Powell's in Portland being #1).
posted by dws at 10:31 PM on September 7, 2010


I was actually planning on going to the electronics flea market! I'll MeMail you. Anyone else want to go?

You're on! I've memailed in return. Can't wait.

There's a used bookstore downtown that possibly has the second largest selection of used technical books on the West Coast (Powell's in Portland being #1).

What is the name of this bookstore?
posted by fake at 10:40 PM on September 7, 2010


If you hadn't already said you're spending Friday night in Mountain View, I'd try to convince you to visit Off The Grid in SF.

The rest of that site, FuncheapSF, is also excellent -- I browse it because it's eclectic, and the affordability is a perk. For a weirder festival, for example, you could go to the Power to the Peaceful Festival in Golden Gate Park.

Check the weather forecast before you head into SF. Even when the surrounding bay area is sunny, SF will occasionally spend an entire weekend shrouded in fog, so that the temperature is below 60 and you have to turn on your windshield wipers in some parts of the city.
posted by tantivy at 10:46 PM on September 7, 2010


Probably Green Apple Books? (Driving there is an epic pain on weekend afternoons, so take Muni or a taxi if you can.)
posted by tantivy at 10:47 PM on September 7, 2010


The used bookstore in Mountain View is "BookBuyers". But I'm not sure if I've ever seen a sign for it. If you walk down Castro St it's impossible to miss though. It's beside the other bookstore, Books Inc. Here they are.
posted by GuyZero at 10:47 PM on September 7, 2010


The Babbage Engine at the Computer History Museum (near Google), was occasionally put into action. Give them a call to find out if they still do that and when.
posted by eye of newt at 10:54 PM on September 7, 2010


I always enjoyed stopping by Weird Stuff when I was in the MtV/Sunnyvale area.

LOTS of surplus computers, software, accessories, cables, etc.
posted by Fiat124 at 12:57 AM on September 8, 2010


La Costena sucks. La Bamba, two doors down, is the motherfucking business. Best burritos anywhere. Get a carnitas super-burrito. Sooo good.

If you like indian, Sunnyvale and Mtn View are jam packed with indian places to eat. When I check Netflix it always says "other people in Sunnyvale watched" and then it's like a gazillion Hindi movies, because this is where all the Indian engineers live. They've gotta eat. For example we've got all these chaat places along El Camino that you don't generally see.

Great afghan place on El Camino, called "Kabul". I like the Japanese food at Rokko.
There is good pho all over. Good asian food of all kinds in fact.

The googleplex has a lot of good cafes, if you can get googlers to escort you to lunch & dinner beyond the one free lunch you are bound to get. If you like healthy food then Nourish in 1950 is really good. Crave in GWC1 has great sandwiches. Charlie's in B40 has all kinds of good stuff - that's the original cafeteria on main campus and still the most impressive. There are loads more though. I don't know what kind of food you like.

It's easiest if you rent a car. Everybody drives everywhere in the south bay. Plus you'll want to visit San Francisco because it's fun, and Caltrain is slow and inconveniently scheduled and located.

For geek shopping, yes Weird Stuff and Frys are good. I never actually buy anything at Weird Stuff but it's fun to look around.
posted by w0mbat at 1:40 AM on September 8, 2010


Weird stuff wharehouse Is the canonical weird used computer/electronics house. They have just... weird stuff. It's a bit of a museum in its own right.

Mountain View has an embarrassing vein of ethnic food on Castro. You can easily find Indian, Chinese (Cafe Yu Long is excellent), Japanese, Mexican, and Thai. If you look hard, you can also find Greek, Italian, and Spanish. My favoriate Indian (as of this week) is Shiva's at Castro and California. If you need liquid refreshment, the Tide House is one block off Castro.

Burritos are a special topic. Yeah, we're crazy for 'em. La Costeña is great, a bit of a legend, and even figures into computer history in weird ways. They were my favorite for years but Los Charros kicked them off the number one spot.

If you've got extra time, head to the Red Rock for coffee. Grab your beverage and head upstairs. They have a large seating area which is a hang out for start-up hackers. If you listen closely, you can hear their dreams pouring through their laptop keyboards and may hear a pitch or two.

For things to do and see: yeah, we got nothing. The Computer History Museum is in town and there's Shoreline Park. I don't consider either worth going out of your way to see. But since the CHM is right near Google's campus and you are clearly a fellow nerd, it is worth visiting. The Babbage Engine is cool but for me the zany thing is the 3 foot diameter, single platter hard drives with attached vacuum devices.

You can easily take CalTrain to the city, or to Milbrae and transfer to BART which goes deeper into the city. The problem with this is Caltrain is slow and doesn't run very often on the weekend. It's still doable but you'll need to plan a bit. If nothing else, SFMOMA and The Cartoon Art Museum are a short walk from the Caltrain station. If you can swing Golden Gate Park, that would be my choice.
posted by chairface at 6:53 AM on September 8, 2010


and you are clearly a fellow nerd

There's no question. I'm a serious nerd!

I got a MeMail suggesting I go see Alcatraz. Whammo.
posted by fake at 7:49 AM on September 8, 2010


Hope you have a fun visit. Just an FYI: Mountain View's Art and Wine Festival, which runs the length of (and closes to vehicular traffic) Castro from Central to El Camino, is this weekend. There will be crowds, parking difficulties and street closures all weekend long in the downtown area.
posted by not.so.hip at 9:34 AM on September 8, 2010


The Hacker Dojo is a neat place (ok, it's kind of a gigantic loading-dock/former stained glass production facility) in Mountain View that I stopped by a few weeks ago. Just a bunch of nerds working on stuff, which was pretty awesome.
posted by polexa at 9:47 AM on September 8, 2010


There's also the on-campus things you should see (the spaceship, the dinosaur, the 360° google earth thing, etc). Make sure your host shows you the good stuff.
posted by w0mbat at 12:24 PM on September 8, 2010


Do throw something up on IRL if you want to meet Bay Area Mefites. We tend to do meetups at the drop of a hat and we are all (well, most of us) People from the Internet.
posted by gingerbeer at 1:54 PM on September 8, 2010


gingerbeer, I've posted an IRL proposal, cause yeah, I'd love to get together.
posted by fake at 4:19 PM on September 8, 2010


At the end of Castro street in Mt. View is Rose's Market, a Persian hole-in-the wall with great kebabs and saffron rice.

Another good Southern Indian place nearby is Saravana Bhavan.
posted by benzenedream at 10:58 PM on September 8, 2010


If you do Alcatraz, get your tickets in advance and wear some layers. It can get chilly. Even though it is a touristy SF thing, it is still a pretty extraordinary place and worth a visit.
posted by chairface at 1:44 PM on September 9, 2010


Well, I had a great weekend. I got to see the swapmeet with zsazsa and aubilenon (HSC was there!). I had incredible cuban and portuguese food. I had a meetup with over 10 metafilter members. I spent much of Friday and Sunday with people from the EFF. San Diego was fantastic, and you people were instrumental. Thanks.
posted by fake at 5:50 PM on September 12, 2010


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