Help me find some hidden gems in San Jose / Santa Clara area
April 3, 2019 1:51 PM   Subscribe

I'm coming up on a week-long trip to San Jose / Santa Clara area for work. I've done a few of these over the last year or so, and I could really use some suggestions for mixing it up for breakfast and dinner / drinks. What are your favorite local spots, both upmarket and down? What am I probably missing by just relying on Yelp?

No preferences or restrictions, tell me everything. I know it's not a culinary hot spot, but there's got to be life out there somewhere. Thanks!
posted by mmc to Travel & Transportation around San Jose, CA (18 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I am not too upmarket, but can give lots of casual recs!

Falafel's Drive In on Steven's Creek
Zeni Ethiopian on Saratoga & Payne in San Jose is the best Ethiopian food I've ever had in my life.
the new Manresa Cafe in downtown Campbell is great for breakfast and snacks. Created by the folks who run the Michelin-starred Manresa restaurant in Los Gatos, but a reasonable price point.
Paper Plane in downtown SJ for drinks
There's a new taproom in the Pruneyard in Campbell called Out Of The Barrel that has lots of good local beers and snacky things
posted by assenav at 1:58 PM on April 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

If you're in Santa Clara and don't feel like going to downtown SJ, The Halford has a really good beer selection, although they're on the west side of the city (away from say, Intel and NVidia campuses). For beers downtown there is Original Gravity (owned by the same guys who own paper plane), ISO beers (more of a bottle shop, but they have taps as well). San Padro market square downtown is a cool spot to check out; good mix of demographics, and another good little bottle shop in back to go with your dinner.
posted by MillMan at 2:36 PM on April 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

For Korean food, Restaurant Chungdam is fantastic! Great food and beautiful inside. It's a bit on the splurge side, but worth it.
posted by quince at 2:37 PM on April 3, 2019

I travel to Santa Clara frequently for work. I'm not a drinker nor am I much of a breakfast person, but here are the restaurants I try to hit when I'm there:
- Asadero - BBQ/Mexican fusion. They do have a lot of alcohol choices. I like their BBQ Mole sauce.
- Poke Poke Fish Bar
- Blurr Kitchen - I like their "meal plan" with Garlic noodles and green beans.

A bit farther away is The Kickin' Crab on the other side of SJC.
Lunchtime only is Adamson's French Dip. It is a very small place with limited seating, so I would recommend getting there early and/or ordering online.
posted by elmay at 2:53 PM on April 3, 2019 [1 favorite]

Satkar in Sunnyvale is a tiny hole in the wall Indian place, best Indian food in the SF Bay Area.
Service is slow because they cook from scratch, and it's pretty cramped inside. I use it for takeout, I call in the order and they tell me when to pickup, e.g. in 45 minutes.
1253 W El Camino Real not far from highway 85. Same strip mall as the BevMo.

Sushi Tomi (635 W Dana St, Mtn View) is very good, as is sister restaurant Tomi Sushi (4336 Moorpark Ave, San Jose, but near Santa Clara). They don't take reservations.
posted by w0mbat at 2:55 PM on April 3, 2019

Vung Tau II Restaurant in Milpitas has cant-miss eggrolls.
posted by Dr. Twist at 3:23 PM on April 3, 2019

The Triton Museum of Art (1505 Warburton Ave, Santa Clara, CA 95050) is nice if you like modern-ish art. The Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum (1660 Park Ave, San Jose, CA 95191) is good, cheesy fun. Both have pleasant gardens. A bit farther north, the Cantor Arts Center (328 Lomita Dr, Stanford, CA 94305, on campus so parking is hard) has a lovely little collection of Asian art. (Whoops, I read the title but not your actual OP... will come back with foodie places)
posted by The Devil's Grandmother at 4:00 PM on April 3, 2019

The best brunch place, which is quite upmarket, is probably The Table. I always really liked Single Barrel (now known as Haberdasher) for drinks. A favorite for students is Aqui's which features "Industrial Strength Swirls" and some pretty good cali-mex food.

My favorite downmarket places would probably be Pho Kim Long for noodles, To Bang for KBBQ, The Halford for beers, and the Duke of Edinburgh for beers and some decent finger food.
posted by ALightofKnowledge at 4:05 PM on April 3, 2019 [2 favorites]

SoFa Market in downtown San Jose is a must-see. I highly recommend Habana Cuba.
posted by invisible ink at 7:07 PM on April 3, 2019

Seconding Zeni's. Satkar's is also good, but not sure it's worth the trip from Santa Clara/San Jose, especially if it means dealing with weekend traffic.

New Krungthai is some of the best thai food. Everyone I've taken, including those who know Thai food well, has loved it. yelp link
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 8:01 PM on April 3, 2019

Not exactly hidden, but Smoking Pig BBQ on 4th Street in San Jose is worth a visit.

Hobee's serves good breakfast omelettes all day long. Their blueberry coffee cake is a local favorite.
posted by dws at 10:34 PM on April 3, 2019

Good Karma, opposite OG and Paper Plane: fine beer and vegan food that I, an avid meat eater, find delicious.

Be warned, San Pedro market bar (the one referred to) closes quite early on weekdays, but there's more bars in the market that don't, and O'Flaherty's down the road usually has 40 beers on tap.

I am pleased to note Pho Kim Long in the previous recommendations. Note it's hectic and doesn't take cards. Naan n Masala is good for downmarket Indian but getting further off the beaten track.

Off topic on two fronts, but: should weekend entertainment be a consideration, go for a wine tasting at Big Dog vineyards (up the foothills in Milpitas) during the day, which has a nice relaxing setting and also a big dog (note: no food); and there are quite a lot of tasting rooms in both Livermore and the Santa Cruz mountains. All require a car.

Also car oriented - and note I've never been, so while it scores on location I can't vouch for the food - the Grandview restaurant is four twisty miles out of town in the foothills, and has a grand view. Upmarket evening eating and I think reservations are generally recommended.
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 12:16 AM on April 4, 2019

HiroNori Craft Ramen is good (so is Ramen Nagi). Ike's has excellent sandwiches. Restaurant Silla has good Korean. Indian food in general is very good...there's a place across from the Santa Clara Public Library in a strip mall that has good South Indian food. Burma Bistro is good. The Whole Foods in Cupertino has one of the best salad bars of theirs that I've seen in the country.
posted by pinochiette at 6:18 AM on April 4, 2019

+1 Zeni Ethiopian (go early and expect that your dinner will last 1.5 hours regardless of how full/empty the restaurant is). Ramen Nagi is also great and very busy, if the Palo Alto location is anything to go by... in general, be aware that people are willing to stand in line for an hour at popular restaurants around the Bay Area.

For a true hidden gem: grab a drink at Rabbit's Foot Meadery in Sunnyvale. They make mead, as the name suggests, as well as several interesting ciders under the Red Branch brand name.
posted by serelliya at 10:29 AM on April 4, 2019

Seconding Rabbit's Foot - that's my go-to after-LARPing drinking establishment. If you're there on a Saturday afternoon and see a bunch of people dressed like Vikings, say "hi".

Down the street from Rabbit's Foot is St John's Grill, home of some truly amazing hamburgers.

If you can get in, the Breakfast Club in San Jose has, well, amazing breakfasts. If you can't get in there, Tom's Depot, a tiny little hole-in-the-wall diner in Los Altos also has amazing breakfasts, with much less ambiance.
posted by hanov3r at 11:50 AM on April 4, 2019

Get on Page Mill Road, go over the hill through the redwoods toward the coast at San Gregorio Beach. That is the direction, right? Stop in the town of Pescadero one mile inland, go to Duart's Tavern for seafood, and cream of artichoke soup. The drive over is wonderful. Going north on the street in front of Duart's is a row od calla lilies, and the start of the Old Stage Road. As a drive it is one of the best ever, hills with black birds, blackberries and artichoke fields, the most amazing collonade of eucalyptus trees ever, Viet Nam War era metal statuary, fields, and horses an amazing drive, up onto La Honda with views toward the ocean across the coastal range. It is old Cali at its best.
posted by Oyéah at 1:04 PM on April 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, there's a lot to sort through here. I knew I'd get some good suggestions!

Since no one has mentioned it yet, I have one to share - a new branch of a small chain I loved from Socal, Puesto in Santa Clara is great Mexican street-food style tacos…
posted by mmc at 1:42 PM on April 4, 2019

Bascom Corridor--San Jose/Campbell: Burger Lounge and Tin Pot Creamery in the Pruneyard. Kirk's Steakburgers. Sam's BBQ.

South San Jose--Blossom Hill:
Sweet Retreat Ice Cream
featuring locally made Treat ice cream. Tugboat Fish and Chips. Juicy Burger. Burrito Factory.

Stevens Creek Boulevard--The employee-owned collective Slice of New York (best taken to go--just a few stools to sit).

Downtown Palo Alto--Palo Alto Creamery for old-school diner food. Pairs well with a classic movie at the Stanford Theatre (currently showing Hitchcock movies)
posted by JDC8 at 7:26 PM on April 4, 2019

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