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Aug 13, 2007 11:52 PM

San Jose - best for local food and wine?

Hi, I will be visiting San Jose for business for a couple of days and am keen to sample the best of local food and wine (coming from abroad, so know very little about Californian food, except that it has a great reputation). Any suggestions for great non-chain restaurants with an emphasis on locally sourced produce and californian wine?

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  1. A couple questions: will you have a car? If not, where are you going to be located (downtown)? What price range are you thinking of? This will help narrow down the best choices...

    Not knowing specifics, I'll pick a few off the top of my head and assume you can drive there...

    Chez Panisse in Berkeley is considered to have originated California cuisine; I'd recommend a drive up there (1 hour from San Jose) as a good introduction. Formal downstairs restaurant has one fixed-price menu ($55-85) - check the website to make sure you like what they are serving. Or you can go to the cafe upstairs which is a la carte.

    Manresa in Los Gatos has 2 Michelin stars and features biodynamically grown local produce. Very, very good and quite expensive (4-course $88, tasting $125). Close to San Jose, maybe a 15 minute drive.

    Parcel 104 in Santa Clara does a good job with seasonal locally grown and ranched foods as well as a nice wine list. I really like their 3-course vegetarian menu ($39!), the regular tasting menu runs around $70. Not too far from San Jose, maybe 15 minutes.

    I would also recommend getting Mexican food while you are here!

    Manresa Restaurant
    320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA 95030

    Chez Panisse
    1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

    Parcel 104
    2700 Mission College Blvd, Santa Clara, CA 95054

    2 Replies
    1. re: alis

      Hi - thanks for the suggestions. Yes, I will have a car, which will make life a lot easier!

      1. re: arsyd

        Just as a note, getting up to Chez Panisse will probably be a pain on a weeknight due to traffic.

    2. If you can afford it, go to Manresa or Chez TJ in Mountain View. Both are pricey but are really the only worth trying around SJ/South Bay area. There really are no good mid-price california cuisine restaurant within san jose. Manresa is more spanish/basque influenced and chez TJ is more french influenced. Personally, I prefer Chez TJ. Parcel 104 is also excellent but I haven't been there in a long time. If you're looking for more affordable choices, you will need to drive to san francisco. San Jose is suburbia land and its specialties, culinary-wise, are vietnamese, indian or mexican. Bistro Elan and Village Pub in Palo Alto or Marche in Menlo Park are also good possibilities based on your criteria.

      3 Replies
      1. re: KathyM

        I agree that you'll probably have to head north, either to SF or to Oakland/Berkeley to eat any California cooking that's worth the bother unless you do something like Manresa (which I've yet to try, largely due to cost). And there's lots of it in those cities. After almost 30 years living in SF, I've been near San Jose for 2+ years and continue to be disappointed and even amazed at how deprived the south bay is when it comes to California/Mediterranean cooking.

        If you're curious enough to try it, you owe it to yourself to go where you can find it. It's worth the trouble and you'll never get a true sense of it in San Jose.

        As mentioned, San Jose and environs is better for things like Vietnamese and Indian food. I wish I could say that the Mexican food is noteworthy, but it's not, though maybe there are places I'm not aware of. It's quantity over quality.

        1. re: KathyM

          Chez TJ would be my pick, but Manresa would be fine too. These are indeed the best showcases for California cooking near San Jose, but they are pricey and emphasize multi-course menus. Bistro Elan is French food but locally sourced with good California and French wine selections. I find Parcel 104 much more middle of the road, but if you are staying at that hotel it's a real bonus. We could sure use a more mid-priced California place like Gabriella Cafe in Santa Cruz in this area.


          Chez TJ
          938 Villa Street, Mountain View, CA 94041

          Bistro Elan
          448 S California Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94306

          1. re: mdg

            Agreed on Gabriella. I wish we had one of those in the south bay, too.

        2. i haven't been to 71 st. peter yet, but i have always wanted to go.. i just looked on their website and they seem to have a good wine list. the restaurant atmosphere itself is nice... i've been trying to save this restaurant for a special dinner, but i keep forgetting whenever i'm in town...

          i liked 7 before as well, but i vaguely remember someone posted on here that they didn't think it was as good as it was before. i liked the food, considering it was sj....

          sj actually has a lot of places... so i'm sure you won't be disappointed =)

          1 Reply
          1. re: kinipela

            I was actually about to post a question wanting to know where Armand Tiano, one of the former co-owners of 71 Saint Peter's, has gone. 71 used to be my husband and I's absolutely favorite places - the tasting menu with wine pairings was one of the best values in S.J. But over the last year and a half it really went downhill and when we were last there in February the food was NOT good. The website says both the original owners have moved on, and their sister restaurant Stratta, which also used to be great, has closed, so I'd be interested to hear how it is now...