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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.)


      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?


                1. I agree with most of the recommendations. I also agree with the post that says stay away from Italian options. Boston does indeed do it better. I'd especially avoid Il Fornaio. I had dinner there Saturday night. It's a pleasant place and the food was OK, just OK, but the service was beyond awful.

                  For local/ethnic, I'd add Saigon 75 in downtown SJ, 7th and Santa Clara, and across the street, really local and downscale Vietnamese is City Bakery, open late, very lively, cheap and good. For Japanese, just about any little family place in Japantown, Jackson Street between 4th and 7th, very close to downtown. Gombei is the big draw, bring cash, they don't take credit cards. Their sister restaurant, Kubota, across the street is a little more white tablecloth. I also like Sushi Maru for the chirashi and Minato for the steamer boxes.

                  Chez Sovan, on Bascom, a little tricky to find, is a popular Cambodian restaurant. And you might want to check out Amber India. There are two, one in Santana Row and the original one which is on El Camino Real, I think it's Mountain View or maybe it's nominally Los Altos. I prefer the original one for both food and atmosphere, but Santana Row is a popular place to visit and it does offer lots of restaurants with outdoor seating (the weather has turned gorgeous) and the option of a pleasant stroll after dinner. If you do go to Santana Row, I'd avoid Thea's, but you might enjoy Consuelo's, upscale Mexican. The service is inconsistent, but the tortillas are housemade, and the menu is interesting.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Judith

                    Judith, I've seen you and Ken Hoffman recommend Saigon 75 on a few occasions. What dishes, in particular, do you like there and what's the general price range (I couldn't find a website for them)? Thanks!

                    1. re: Carb Lover

                      I like the various spring rolls (they have three different kinds), the lemon grass chicken, the long beans and there was a grilled shrimp dish that we enjoyed. I also like that you can get brown rice. I would call it an inexpensive restaurant. I think the high end dishes are in the $12-14 dollar range, and the servings are large. I think the last time we were there we were four people, drank beer, and the check was about $75.

                  2. *Mexican (esp. a good corn tortilla)
                    La Victoria in downtown San Pedro Square
                    Las Cazuelas on the Alameda and Race

                    *Japanese (sushi, the freshest)
                    Tomi Sushi on Saratoga or their sister Sushi Tomi in Mountain View

                    *Local foods and meats (probably not so hard to come across in CA)
                    Parcel 104

                    *"Authentic ethnic"
                    Zeni- Ehtiopian
                    Cafe Artemis- Mediterranean
                    Athena Grill- Greek
                    Krung Thai

                    *Fine wine, whisky, and beer
                    Paragon at the Montgomery Hotel
                    Vintage Wine Merchants in Santana Row

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: Margo

                      Go to Zeni. Best Ethiopian ever.

                      Ethiopian in San Jose - Zeni: Come Come for the Gored Gored, Stay Stay for the Firfir

                      1. re: katya


                        Thanks for posting this link. As a result of reading about Zeni from the link, my hubby and I had our first Ethiopian meal there on our recent visit to the area. We are well versed in many world cuisines but have never exposed ourselves to Ethiopian until now. We are thrilled at this wonderful cuisine that has been opened up to us!

                        1. re: luckygirl

                          I'm so happy to hear that, luckygirl!!! I didn't see your comment until now.

                          Some ethnic restaurants are good "gateway" restaurants to introduce someone to a cuisine. Zeni is good as a gateway restaurant and a restaurant to hardcore Ethiopian food junkies. :)

                    2. San Jose is considered to be the epicenter of authentic vietnamese cuisine in the US so I would highly recommend you try several places. A good place to see a good sampling of vietnamese cuisine is the Lion Plaza food court and New Century Mall in SJ. In downtown SJ, there are 2 great authentic places which have been much discussed on this board: Vung Tau and Nha Toi.

                      My current two favorite japanese restaurants right now are Nami Nami in Mountain View and Yume Ya in Sunnyvale. Neither specializes in sushi but what they do offer is of good quality. These 2 places specializes in izakaya (small plates) cuisine and both are quite good. Yume Ya is very authentic while Nami Nami is a little bit more fusiony. I don't think you can easily find the equivalent of either place in Boston. There are also a lot of great ramen places around SJ. Do a search.

                      There are also a lot of great Indian restaurants in the South Bay, I would try Amber India in Mountain View.

                      As others have said, stay away from italian places in San Jose especially if you're coming from Boston. I would also stay away from any place in Santana Row since your post states that you're not interested in trendy crowds.

                      If you're looking for great California cuisine you will need to go to SF.

                      If you're looking for a meaty sort of place, go to Alexander's Steakhouse in Cupertino. I'm suggesting this place because it's a steak house with a Japanese-French twist which is fairly unique for steakhouses.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: KathyM

                        Yume-ya is a sweet spot. It deserves more mention on this board. Here's my report from last fall,

                        1. re: KathyM

                          From the OP's tone, I would disrecommend Amber. It's hardly underground, and while the spice mix there is good, I'd say the atmosphere's too nice. I never found a place in India that nice. You can find similar in boston, I had a favorite place in Providence that was every inch its equal.

                          Where SJ/Peninsula shines is "down home" indian, the kind of place with a wedding reception every saturday in the attached function room catering to the tech workers' families - I can't think of an excellent destination indian place. Southern Indian is especially strong (can you say ... Bangalore?) My personal favorite is Mayuri on El Camino, but I've yet to drag anyone - even my sister - there. Something about the Denny's style Formica tables. They have the local favorite "chicken 65", great dosas, and "chicken phaal", rumored one step hotter than vindaloo.

                        2. Don't forget Dakao on San Salvador. It looks like a dump and it is, but the banh mi are great. If you've never eaten Vietnamese sandwiches go for the bbq pork. They are cheap and yummy, a good choice for a quick lunch if you're in downtown SJ.

                          Nha Toi on the back side of SJSU for a good authentic Vietnamese meal. It's hard to describe so do a search, there have been several well written posts.

                          I don't like any of the Pho in the downtown and usually go down 10th Street all the way to Keyes (which is really Story Road) and visit Pho Tau Bay. It's currently my favorite Pho place and open until midnight. If you're want to be adventurous get the Chin Nam Gau Gan Sach, all kinds of good stuff including tendon and tripe. At some point in California you're going to want to try Goi Cuon which are shrimp spring rolls. The rice dishes are good too, but I usually just do Pho.

                          I'd also suggest La Vic's on San Carlos near SJSU. Get the regular tacos which are small and do not include cheese and stuff, just beans and meat. You can also get the gargantuan California style burritos, but I prefer tacos. Be adventurous and try Buche (stomach), Chorizo, Carnitas, or anything besides the normal chicken or beef asada. If you use some of the orange sauce, it'll turn good tacos into some spectacular good eats. La Vic's is open until 3am. If you're around really late in the downtown area.

                          Super Taqueria is back in business on 10th street after being closed for most of a year. It's an SJSU institution. They have good tacos as well.

                          Across the street and down a bit on 10th street is Chalateco which does very good pupusas and other Salvadoran specialties. Also, do a search for taco trucks, which are fun and can be surprisingly good.

                          Original Joe's is, I think, the only place open in the downtown after midnight that serves a full sit down meal. The food is just okay, but it's open late and the service is usually very good. Old school professional male waiters and there is usually a big door man who looks like he's waiting for a call from Tony Soprano.

                          You're screwed for Breakfast in downtown San Jose, so maybe you can try Lincoln Ave in Willow Glen which is just 10 minutes away. I think the place is called John's? It's down near the end on the left side of Lincoln Ave. Anyway, they do a pretty good breakfast.

                          If you're unsure, I'd say go to San Pedro Square in the downtown and find something you like.

                          Morton's just opened up, it's a chain but they do good steak.

                          McCormick & Schmick is also a chain but they do a nice happy hour before 5 and after 10 or something like that. $1.95 for appetizers including a great cheeseburger, mussels, pizza, and nachos. They do have a 2 drink minimum and the drinks ain't cheap. Also, be careful and a bit pro-active because lots of times the waitresses forget about the apps and they sit under the heat lamp for a long time. Nothing like a crunchy, crusty cheeseburger and a really hot plate.

                          Across the courtyard from M&S is the Fairmont Grill which has a nice bar and some expensive restaurants. Nothing special there.

                          Up the walkway a bit and across 1st Street is Askew Grill which does salads and skewers. It's still a bit new and they have some major service issues, but the skewers are very tasty. I think the problem is that their system is not conducive to tips, so all the good servers work in other restaurants.

                          Japantown is a good choice, but I fear they don't have any great sushi places. Some guy just did a really great review of sushi places, so you can do a search but he doesn't venture south of Mountain View. Minato is awesome for lunch with cute waitresses and a very nice owner who usually checks with each table personally to see how their meal is going. Gombei is also very good. Kubota is the most upscale. Sushi Maru has one of the few female sushi chefs in the area, why is that? I had crappy service at the Hawaiian place, Hukilau, but the food was good.

                          You can travel to Santana Row. Lots of good stuff there. I like Pizza Antica, Blowfish, and Straits Cafe. I like the wine bar. I like going across the street to Flames and getting a coffee and a ridiculously large food service type dessert. And has anyone tried Tanglewood. It looks good. Though, be warned this is the Mecca of trendy, over priced places and yet there is good food to be had there. You can go to Maggiano's, shake your fist, curse the "man", and turn right and get a nice salad at Pluto's.

                          You can travel to Murphy Street in Sunnyvale, Dishdash and Sushi Maru, one of the few (only) good sushi boat places, plus lots of other restaurants.

                          You can travel to Castro Street in Mountain View. Chez TJ(around the corner), Cascal, Pasta?, and several good Thai places.

                          Great Dim Sum to be had if you like to wait, but none in the downtown area. The best is way up near SF at Koi Palace, but Joy Luck in Cupertino and Mayflower in Milpitas are very good. There are several Mayflower's, but the Milpitas one in the Ranch 99 complex near 237 and 880 is the best. And for that matter there are many authentic Asian choices in any Ranch 99 or Red Lion shopping complex if you are a bit adventurous and don't mind not getting water refills. (joke) The Dynasty Seafood's in Cupertino and San Jose are not so good in my opinion because they lack consistency. I've had good food and good service but rarely both on the same visit.

                          10 Replies
                          1. re: thirtyeyes

                            "You can travel to Castro Street in Mountain View. Chez TJ(around the corner), Cascal, Pasta?, and several good Thai places."

                            Yes, three; also 12 Chinese.* But if you tell them about downtown Mountain View, don't be shy: Cite the Downtown Mountain View Restaurant Index (below), an independent service by a local family that eatz out a lot. Updated often, no guidance but currently lists all ninety-two (yes, 92) restaurants, coffee, and tea shops in that compact downtown, incidentally (a) a historic high-water mark, up from count of 72 in 2005, and (b) the avowed inspiration for the smaller and younger, but worthy, Murphy restaurant block in downtown Sunnyvale.

                            "The Dynasty Seafood's in Cupertino and San Jose are not so good in my opinion ..." It may or may not be widely known that there's a long, very long, history of disappointing Bay Area restaurants named Dynasty; 30 or 40 years ago the pronunciation was (therefore) sometimes stretched to "die nasty." Let's hope these places manage to transcend this very unfortunate legacy.


                            is the downtown-MV index by name; alternative sortings on links to right side of page.

                            *Start with Cafe Yulong (unique; Shandong family long in US restaurant business) and New China Delight (Shanghai). Also (a) those two are first and second winners in the town newspaper's 2007 Best-Of poll, recently published (Yulong has won now for three or four years in a row); (b) unlike most people who recommend "best" restaurants out of a dozen, I actually have tried most if not all of them several times each; finally (c) this is too long for the story of a visiting relative from China terrorizing another of the 12 -- she is a Gringo but lives in China, speaks multiple dialects and nailed the server's accent down to a specific Kowloon neighborhood. They just couldn't handle it.

                            1. re: eatzalot

                              Yulong's dumplings, its strength, have taken a dive in recent reports here. Has it improved again?

                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                Hi Melanie -- Which of the dumplings, and what kind of a dive (and what degree of experience with it so far)? Maybe I need to research the threads but in periodically visiting that place since it opened October (?) 2002 I noticed no recent decline in the popular small fish-leek or shrimp-leek water dumplings at Yulong, the ones I know best there.

                                These things go in batches of course. (Just as all restaurants vary a little from day to day.)

                                Also I'd characterize Yulong with other strengths beyond dumplings. The fresh noodle dishes (the green spinach noodles tossed with garlic and small mushrooms are a popular main or side dish for instance). The emphasis on fresh ingredients and simple seasonings which is strong even for the region.

                                1. re: eatzalot

                                  Yes, the wrappers on the water dumplings (shui jiao) had declined, whereas they'd once been the gold standard in the area. I've not been a fan of the noodles here, as I find the actually strands of noodle lacking the compactness to give them true Q. Our theory is that there was some change in the kitchen, as dumplings and noodle making are often assigned to one station.

                                  I'd be very happy to hear that the shui jiao are back on form.

                                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                                    I'l check (still curious how many visits noticed this and when). I'd first guess a temporary glitch since kitchen is under close family control. Chef James Pei is an old veteran, cooked at a popular SF place before running his own successful restaurant in Chicago. They moved back to be near their children. (NB: Those small dumplings reheat to a second life, if you pan-fry and brown them.)

                                    Before investing much more time in threads or theories why not call the restaurant, 650 960 1677, ask for Miya or James. They are approachable,would probably value the feedback and if necessary correct any issue. (I'd have done it already but they are busy with lunch.) Problem solved!

                                    (Have you tried the specific green-noodle dish I cited? The garlic is used very tastefully.)

                                    1. re: eatzalot

                                      Well, if the restaurant staff won't take care of a problem when you point it out on site, I don't expect any remedies months later based on a phone call. Complaining on the spot is the fair way to handle these things, to give the management a chance to make things right when they can inspect the problem directly.

                                      I'm not able to locate my old reports on Yulong. I know I've posted specifics on meals there at least twice. So, I can't say for sure if I've had the spinach noodles or not. I have had a similar dish at Kirin in Berkeley. My problem with the noodles is that the texture of the base material is off. So, I suspect that you and I differ on the importance of Q-factor. One's not better than the other, just different tastes.

                                      As I said above, I would love for Yulong to be back on form, dumpling-wise. Let's hear some new reports on it.

                                      1. re: eatzalot

                                        Here's your answer (I got this before seeing any follow-up here). I asked Miya if something changed recently in making the dumplings. She chuckled warmly and said "Recently? It changes every day." No one but my husband makes them, we don't let anyone else, she said. But the thing about fresh noodle dough, it's always different. Sometimes you use a little more water, sometimes less. Sometimes the dough ends up thicker to the touch, sometimes thinner.

                                        I thanked them both for the kind information.

                                        1. re: eatzalot

                                          Thank you, yes, a handmade product does change every day. Then it's an individual quality control issue. The mark of a good chef is knowing when something is outside acceptable tolerances and having the discipline to throw it away and start over. And, especially when a customer points out a problem with a dish.

                                          Google popped up my first report there, when I was ga-ga over the dumplings,
                                          Still can't find the subsequent ones.

                                          But I'll try it again. Though with Everyday Beijing much closer to me these days, it's not quite the same siren call.

                                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                                            Ok, here's the low-down on Cafe Yulong's noodles. Melanie, you're right that they're not the right Q-ness. Because by default, they cook a bunch of noodles up ahead of time before ordering, and then reheat them as the orders come. This is to speed up the time it takes for the noodle to arrive at your table. So this will cause it to get softer than normal and not up to the Shandong style handmade noodle's consistency.

                                            The key here is to explicitly ask the waitstaff when you order the Zha Jiang Mian and other noodles that you want "freshly cooked noodles". It takes a little longer but it will taste very different and much better. I've done this several times and now they know that when I order, to give me the "fresh cooked" noodle only.

                                            I haven't tired the dumplings recently so can't tell, but will order it next time to see what's up with them. One other nice item they do very well is the Gan Pong Shrimp. It is very good, just the right spiceness level and not overly sweet and oh so fresh and tender shrimp.


                                            1. re: tanspace

                                              Gosh, haven't run across that with plain boiled noodles before at a Chinese restaurant. I'm up for trying them freshly cooked now.

                            2. Check out Henry's Hi Life for more of an "underground" vibe. They are a great bbq smokehouse within a few blocks of the HP Pavillion. Henry's is an SJ institution and well worth a visit.


                              4 Replies
                              1. re: sgwood415

                                Really? I agree on the great vibe, but I have been there three times and I haven't had good service or good food.

                                1. re: thirtyeyes

                                  Exact opposite for me. I thought the food was classic smokehouse fare. The service is not what this place is about, but the staff there is always friendly and easy going. It might depend on your expectations, this is definitely a roadside smokehouse, so don't go in expecting anything else. I put it on par with the great bbq joints in Houston, Memphis and Chicago. But the OP is looking for underground finds in San Jose, and I can't think of a better one than Henry's.

                                  1. re: sgwood415

                                    I can think of dozens. I can't recommend Henry's Hi Life.

                                    1. re: thirtyeyes

                                      Right, I saw your post above. You have a lot of recommendations that are not in San Jose though.

                              2. If you want to try a really local spot, try Los Tapatios taco truck:


                                I'm surprised no one has mentioned Ramen Halu yet. Yum!


                                9 Replies
                                1. re: Karen_Schaffer


                                  We flew into San Jose last night. We're staying next to the convention center. After checking in and shrugging off some of the grouchiness from a long, boring flight, we decided that we needed dinner. Bad. We didn't have a chance to hook up to the internet, and it was midnight our time, so we asked the guy at the front desk for a "hole in the wall mexican place to get takeout burritos," so we could bring 'em back to the room. OF COURSE he sent us to the Blue Monkey something or other, which was a bar with a line and a giant bouncer outside. So, I asked the giant bouncer for the best "hole in the wall mexican place..." and he sent us to La Victoria! It took us a while to find it, but it turns out it's five minutes down the road from the Marriot, and the burritos were divine! We will definitely return there for lunch or something, although being there at 10pm was fun because of all of the people watching and drunk college kids. Thank you all so much for your suggestions; we will toast you and your most excellent chowhoundiness at least once this week!

                                  1. re: ecdopfel

                                    The Blue Monkey has good tacos but it's more of a bar/lounge place than actual restaurant.

                                    La Victoria is great, as I mentioned before. Did you get some orange sauce? The sauce makes the food there in my opinion.
                                    My fav food is the carne asada super quesadilla with lots of orange sauce. So good!

                                    1. re: Margo

                                      We didn't go to the La Victoria in San Pedros Sq, but one down on First street next to a Jack in the Box and McDonalds. I didn't get the orange sauce the first night, when we had a pollo super burrito and carnitas super quesadillas. But today I went to the San Pedros Sq one for a taco and they were nice enough to toss it [the orange sauce] into the paper take-out bag without my knowing it. So, of course, I tossed the paper take-out bag into my handbag and, what wouldja know--a mess ensues! I deserved it. No one else tosses hot tacos into handbags but me. Regardless, I actually think the food we got at the LV down on First Street was superior, but my preference may be due to a number of different factors, including the orange sauce spilled all over my book!

                                      Thanks for the suggestions, Margo!

                                    2. re: ecdopfel

                                      Out of this insane list I'm only going to add a few more suggestions, although I second many of the recs, I will highlight Dakao and Ramen Halu

                                      I wish to add:

                                      Grill on the alley - Chophouse @ the fairmont
                                      Kaygetsu - it's in menlo park, but it's worth the trip. call ahead and rsvp for the set menu.
                                      Rose International Market - go to the one in mountain view, although it's not up to par with the culiverts the experience is unforgettable. you'll enjoy it if you're open minded. however if you want GOOD persian kabobs chelokabbabi is the place to go.
                                      Yiassoo's - san jose or cupertino : get a gyro or two

                                      Since you're out here you might as well head up to the city and grab some dim sum, or swing by Mayflower in Milpitas or HK Seafood Harbor in Sunnyvale (AVOID ABC Seafood in Milpitas)

                                      enjoy your stay.

                                      1. re: wchane

                                        wchane: "(AVOID ABC Seafood in Milpitas)" Can you give any more detail, wchane? I haven't been there for a while, but recommended it above after about 10 mostly weekday-lunch visits with co-workers and friends, all very happy with it, and we've encountered a few things there not common on the more basic dim-sum menus.

                                        1. re: eatzalot

                                          foodwise it's fine, it's the service. i mean i've gotten sub par and bad service, they just took it to a new low. probably the only restaurant where i did not leave a tip last year.

                                          long story short we were given a dish we didn't order, the waitress dropped it on our table *yap yap yap stamp yap* and left before we could protest. fine...we'll take it we suppose but it's been out and was luke warm and stale. we told her we'll take it but at least cook us up a fresh batch of clams, she ended up microwaving it and dropping it off on our table rolling her eyes. totally uncalled for.

                                          There's just as good if not better dim sum joints around w/o the shovey attitude.

                                          1. re: wchane

                                            Sounds like that waitress was having a particularly bad day. Was the service consistently bad over several visits or was it an isolated incident? With ABC being such a large place, hopefully people won't run into the same rude waitress...


                                            1. re: tanspace

                                              service has never been good here, just enough to overlook. she was the straw that broke the donkey's back. i don't think the food there is exceptional either, therefore i'd rather spend my money and time someplace else.

                                          2. re: eatzalot

                                            I've been to ABC at least 10 times now, actually just went this afternoon, and honestly I love this place despite all the bashings it's gotten on this board. I've never had bad service there, in fact they have been very attentive and kind. I may not be the best dim sum connosieur but I do enjoy the xiao long bao, char siu bao, and the minced beef congee is just the best (very tasty, creamy and served with complimentary chinese donut slices).

                                    3. Luckily for you, San Jose is chock full of mom and pop eateries. As a San Jose native and a professional Chef, I've eaten at alot of places in San Jose, some good, some bad. Here are my suggestions:

                                      *Mexican: Honest to God, I swear by this place as I have been going there since junior high and it is as authentic as it gets, despite the name: The Burrito Factory on Almaden Expressway. Their telephone number is: 408.448-7180. Do NOT confuse them with the Burrito Factory on Blossom Hill Rd. which has the same name, polar opposite food.

                                      *Japanese: Try Kazoo in Japantown. Their number is: 408.288.9611. They are located on Jackson St. There is also a Japanese grocery store across the street in case you wanna pick up some snacks or a bottle of Sake. Stay away from Todai though! There is nothing authentic about it, its located in a mall, and in a way its like a huge, Japanese style Panda Express, but with cartoon pufferfish and cute to go cups.

                                      *Local foods and meats (probably not so hard to come across in CA): Three Words: Sonoma Chicken Coop. They are located downtown on Market St. Their telephone number is:408.287.4098.

                                      *"Authentic ethnic": Hmmm, well, that could be anything! My fave: Zeni Ethiopian Restaurant on Saratoga Ave. The portions are large, cheap and freakin' amazing! Their number is: 408.615.8282. For Thai, try Blue Mango on Stevens Creek Blvd. I dig the Pad Thai myself. Their number is: 408.248.7191

                                      *Fine wine, whisky, and beer: My all time fave downtown "Americana" hot spot is the Tied House. Good food, house brewed beer, cool ambiance, and a pleasant staff. Their number is: 408.295.2739

                                      I hope this helps! Enjoy your stay in San Jose and dont drink and drive in Downtown on Friday and Saturday night, the cops will get ya'!

                                      Bon Apetit