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Mar 22, 2008 12:42 PM

Can I eat well on my 30th without breaking the bank? (South Bay)

My family will be in town a week before my 30th birthday and they want to take me out to dinner to celebrate. The problem: where to go? My wife and I have lived in San Jose for about six months and are not terribly familiar with the dining scene. From what I have gleaned so far from Chowhound, reviews, actual eating, and other research, there don't seem to be a lot of restaurants in the South Bay that aren't either super expensive (Manresa), hole-in-the-wall taco or pho joint (potentially delicious, but not what I had in mind for my birthday soiree), or mediocre.

Don't get me wrong, I'd love to go to Manresa, but there will be 6 of us and I don't want my father to have to cash in his 401k to pay for dinner. He is on the picky side, kind of a high-end meat-and-potatoes guy. I think he'd like Arcadia (which I've been to), but it is still a little higher-priced than I'm looking for. Personally, I'd really like some kind of local, seasonal, simple, Zuni Cafe-ish place. But I don't want to make them trek up to the city -- would probably like to stay Palo Alto or south.

We used to live in Boston, and since I was a native and my wife was a chef, we really knew our way around the dining scene. We had certain places we liked to go that featured seasonal, thoughtful, well-executed food for under $30 a plate. Am I dreaming, or can this be found in the South Bay?

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  1. Stomach-

    I like Chez Sovan's, a Cambodian food restaurant in Campbell.

    Good luck,


    Chez Sovan
    2425 S Bascom Ave, Campbell, CA 95008

    1. How about checking out 71 St Peter? It has a good tasting menu at about $35 for 3 courses of well plated and executed food. Also Olio in Campbell. Great Salmon with pearl couscous! Neither of these will break the bank and both have small but good wine lists

      71 Saint Peter
      71 N San Pedro St, San Jose, CA 95110

      384 E. Campbell Ave, Campbell, CA 95008

      1 Reply
      1. re: budnball

        Yes, I was thinking of 71 Saint Peter as well. I haven't been but the 4-course tasting menu at $32 sounds like a great value.

        Check out Alice's positive report:


        Another place that I'd like to try one day is Paolo's also in downtown SJ:

        Have a great birthday and please report back!

      2. Meat and potatoes -- Alexander's in Cupertino; Forbes Mill in Los Gatos(?)... not sure of price levels.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Sarah

          I have previously suggested Alexander's and have just checked the menu at Forbes Mill and think they might be more expensive than the OP had in mind but he can check here.

          Here's an addition thread offered to another Bostonian.

          1. re: wolfe

            Forbes Mill (at least the one in Danville) is very expensive. The last time I was there, the experience did not warrant the expense.

          2. re: Sarah

            The only things at Alexander's under $30 are apps and desserts; entrees will break your limit, and I had a lousy $160 meal for 2 the last time I was there. I second 71 St. Peter and Evvia. If you like Vietnamese, the new Xahn on Castro in Mt. View is very stylish and moderately priced.

          3. My husband & I used to go to The Basin in downtown Saratoga and always enjoyed our meals there. Just haven't made it down there in a while. Based on their online menu, looks like they've added "small plates". The front room (unless they've remodeled) has a bunch of tables with a separated bar with T.V. They also have a back room which is probably quieter. Nice place without being stuffy or too casual. Another suggestion would be Evvia, a Greek restaurant in downtown Palo Alto. Love their lamb chops! Evvia is a highly recommended on CH for Peninsula dining. I've included online menus so you can decide about pricing. Palo Alto is always nice to walk around after dinner. Saratoga is nice too but pretty quiet in the evenings.

            Budnball's rec of Olio looks promising. Never heard of it before but online menu looks good!


            2 Replies
            1. re: ceekskat

              If you go to the Basin, make sure one of you orders the pasta and mushroom dish. It's memorable!

              1. re: ceekskat

                Thanks all! I have done a fair amount of research but hadn't heard of some of these places -- I'll take a look at some of the menus and let you know what I decide.