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San Jose: Underground Eats

We're coming out from Boston and will be spending a week in San Jose for a conference. We're looking for some good restaurant suggestions from locals or California's gastronomically informed. Do you live in San Jose and love to eat, cook, and think about food? Do you hate the tourist industry and the crappy, overpriced, trendy restaurants they tend to promote? Please help us out! We don't want to have to rely on Zagat's if we don't have to!

All types of restaurant suggestions are welcome. Price isn't a determining factor, but as you know, when the food is good, it's easy to enjoy a $30 dinner as much as a $150. We're also willing to drive around the city to find the best food. Some of the things we think we'd like to consume while in San Jose include:

*Mexican (esp. a good corn tortilla)
*Japanese (sushi, the freshest)
*Local foods and meats (probably not so hard to come across in CA)
*"Authentic ethnic"
*Fine wine, whisky, and beer

Any suggestions? Thanks!

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    1. 1. The great strengths of the region are good unique (often Asian) "ethnic" family-run restaurants. The notable immigrant group is from Vietnam: SJ area has one of the larger Vietnamese-immigrant populations worldwide.

      2. Downtown SJ decent "business" restaurants:

      A. P. Stump’s, downtown San José (408 292 9928) -- Opened 1999 very high-end, in remodeled Masson pre-Prohibition sparkling-wine building. Repositioned to chop-house theme, post-dotcom-boom.

      Il Fornaio, downtown San José location _only_ (Hyatt Saint Claire, 408 271 3366) -- Italian brasserie; noisy, lively. Robust northern-Italian specialties.

      71 Saint Peter, downtown San José (408 971 8523) -- One of the San Pedro Square cluster (like AP Stumps and Spiedo)

      La Pastaia, De Anza Hotel, downtown San José (408 286 8686)

      (San Pedro Square is one downtown-SJ commercial block. Its Web Site listed 18 restaurants there at one check.)

      http://www.sanpedrosquare.com/neigh.html

      If you have any city or country club connection with reciprocity (or know local members), the Silicon Valley Capital Club (downtown SJ, 50 W San Fernando, top floor) has excellent accommodating kitchen, but operates as a private club rather than restaurant.

      3. Random local favorites, some further away, some unique:

      ABC Seafood, 768 Barber Lane (in Ufferts Center, frontage road off 880), Milpitas, just north of SJ. Quality bustling dim sum daily, with unusual menu items; there are couple other ABCs scattered around

      Afghani House, El Camino in Sunnyvale near Santa Clara (408 248 5088) -- Grilled marinated meats on skewers with pilaf; interesting appetizers and stirfries, vegetarian specialties; thin grilled lamb chops "dupiaza." Outstanding Afghani entry (two cousins operate competitors up peninsula).

      Chelokababi, Sunnyvale (408 737 1222) -- Persian, long-time, well regarded

      Chez T. J., downtown Mountain View (650 964 7466) -- Local high-end favorite; one Michelin star (October 2006) earned by chef Chris Kostow from SF who does sous-vide and other international techniques

      China Stix, Santa Clara on El Camino (408 244 1684) -- Fresh hand-pulled noodles, hugely popular locally, haven't visited recently

      Fatima, on Saratoga-Sunnyvale (Hwy 9) near Hwy 85. Classy example of the local Muslim Chinese restaurants. High standards, thick green-onion breads with sesame seeds, deep-fried "shrimp rolls" with savory mushrooms (worth a trip for those alone IMO); soups w/paper-thin lamb and cilantro

      Habana-Cuba, Race St., San José (408 988 2822) -- unique, hearty; arroz con camarones with fried plantains, etc.

      Kabul, Sunnyvale (408 245 4350) -- Cousin of Afghani house, both good. (Afghani is generally better and has classier layout.

      )

      Le Petit Bistro, Mountain View (El Camino/Shoreline) (650 964 3321) -- real French modest bistro, 2nd-gen. French family owners, hearty, tasteful, the Real Thing, not a chain.

      Tamarine, downtown Palo Alto -- unusual elegant Vietnamese, eclectic wines

      Village Pub, Woodside -- unusual, elegant combination of very high-end and casual (burgers, sausages, etc.)

      3 Replies
      1. re: eatzalot

        Habana makes very traditional Cuban food. Not great but might be the best in the area by default.

          1. re: eatzalot

            Assuming that you are staying downtown, within walking distance will be the many Vietnamese restaurants mentioned above. If you want authentic, hole-in-the-wall Mexican, go down 1st or 2nd street, away from downtown. It'll all be better than Boston Mexican.

            Another walking distance choice is Paolo's, an old-time Italian restaurant. In it's former location, it was reportedly the SJ dining spot of choice for Frank Sinatra and Joe Dimaggio. I lived in Italy and it's the closest I've ever come in the US to real Italian food. However, I haven't been since they moved so take that with a grain of salt. They're in an office building about half a block from the Center for Performing Arts.

            If you want a big splurge and have a car, go for Manresa in Los Gatos for high end California cuisine, La Foret in Almaden Valley for French, or Koi Palace in Daly City for high end dim sum.

            If you want to travel for your Mexican, La Bamba and La Costena are in Mountain View on Old MIddlefield Road. Great burritos.

          2. Here are a couple of places I really loved when I use to live down there.

            Mexican - La Taqueria in Downtown San Jose. It is opened for only Lunch and yes it is that good. They have the best quesadillas ever and a pretty mean taco (with corn tortilla)

            Vietnamese - Definitely try Vung Tao in downtown San Jose. It is a pretty authentic place and they recently remodeled. I would recommend their Tamarine crab even tho Dungeness Crab season is over.

            Japanese - Try Kitsho but make sure to sit in front of the sushi chef.

            Greek - Try Dio Deka in Los Gatos. I have heard great things about that place. Opened by the family who have 2 other very successful Greek restaurants in the Bay Area (Eevia and Kokkari).

            If you are here over the weekend try to make it to any of the farmers markets to pick up some good fruits and maybe some snacks. i like the Mountain View FM the best but I think they have one in San Jose on Fridays.

            For fine dining though I would definitely have to recommend Manresa in Los Gatos. Is is fantastic but at $125 a head. I think it is well worth it though.

            The recommendations for business restaurants are pretty good. I would second A.P. Stumps and 71 St. Peter's.

            Good luck and good eating!

            1. hmmm if ur gonna go to los gatos, they have forbes mill steakhouse... they recently opened one in danville (the one i visited), but if the danville location is anything like the los gatos location (which is the first), then it must be really very very good. the servers were friendly, the wine list superb, and the steaks tender... i'm not a fan of ap stump's... maybe it's because i didn't know what to order. i think i ordered some form of steak there and in all honesty, it has been a while. i think my impression was that i was almost expecting more for the price. i'm not averse to going back there, just haven't tried it since then... =) others have had better experiences though =)

              i enjoy 7, which is a little by the shark tank. the chef doesn't like to make substitutions on his dishes that last time i was there (within the past year) and may be a put off to some. but i ordered something with brussel sprouts, and didn't think i would like it.. but it was absolutely wonderful. good wine list too. they had a nice german riesling...

              i've never been to 71 st. peter, but have always wanted to go. the atmopshere looks so charming. in downtown i would avoid loft... the appetizers are okay... but i dunno, not too impressive for the price.

              if you want chinese, i agree and go to milpitas, they have great chinese there... i don't know if i've been to the one that's mentioned above, since i tend to just go where all the crowds are... so that's really good =)

              oh and there's a place in santa clara called neto's sausages... on tuesdays and fridays they offer bbq sausage sandwiches from 11:30 until 2:00 pm... they are soooo delicious!!! i especially like their linguisa...

              if you like hawaiian food, they have hukilau in san jose and palo alto.. but i hear some place called da kitchen is better....

              they also have this spot called cascal in mountain view for tapas-style... i went there once on a date... hahaha the restaurant was good, i dunno about the date... hahaha

              i can't say i have any recs for vietnamese, indian, mexican, japanese... but that's mostly because there are too many and i can't even think of the names.... =) i've never been to boston, so i don't know what the food choices are there.... but the one thing i LOVE about california, is that you can pretty much decide what type of cuisine you want to eat, and have a myriad of choices =)

              have fun at your conference!!!! =)

              1. As mentioned before, there are lots of great Mexican and Vietnamese choices available. Indian is another great specialty (try Hyderabad House in Palo Alto, Amber in Mountain View - you don't sound like folks who would like Santana Row - or any of a ton of great vegetarian places in Sunnyvale and Mountain View.)

                But stay far away from the Italian recommendations! Italian food in the San Jose area is far inferior to to what you can easily find in Boston. You would have to head up to San Francisco or Oakland or other points north to get something really good, and why bother when you have so many other great choices closer by?

                Michael