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Aug 4, 2013 10:18 AM

Sad state of San jose dining.

Several new places have opened lately in downtown San Jose, including Farmer's Union and Blackbird Tavern both of which are high profile and major investments. They are also both pretty bad. I have lived in San Jose for 25 year and the state of dining has never seemed so bleak. Of course there are lots of of ethnic spots, Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese and great Mexican spots. these however tend to be mom and pop kinda places. But to get a decent burger and plate of pasta, or a well grilled piece of fish with a wine list and a cocktail program? Why should we have to go to Campbell, or Los Gatos or Mtn View to have a decent meal?

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  1. Thanks for the report, albeit a bleak one, budnball.

    I've been making forays to SJ for 20-some years, especially downtown, and have good memories, though alas they are mainly just memories. Thus AP Stump's when it first opened in that converted Almaden (?) wine facility and aimed for very creative versatile kitchen before it scaled back after the dot-com bust. And some of the nearby restaurants in the San Pedro Square cluster -- how is that doing today? Eulipia (used for some fine big dinners), but it seemed to keep changing owners and concepts. There was an excellent big authentic Italian place downtown where I experienced both a tedious business lunch and a memorable short-rib braise (with tomatoes, olives, fennel seed, served over papparadele) but gosh dang it,* that place too closed. Speaking of hamburgers, a few years ago Holbrook wrote up a place around The Alameda near SCU called Seven, I think -- creative upscale hamburger joint with twin brother chefs -- have you tried it?

    * (That's what they put in English subtitles for Italian classic films, when the mustached jilted lover is spitting out vicious insults to his rival before a fight; translation seems loose.)

    1. Thanks for taking one for the team. Neither of those places looked promising from the web site, so I wasn't about to make the excursion to San Jose.

      Have you tried Orchestria Palm Court? The menu there looks a bit more promising to me. That place may get me there on its own for the combination of the food and music.


      1. -Of the newer places that have opened Nemea and SP2 have the best food. Also, the market has pretty good options for informal dining.

        -Some of the existing places have changed/improved their menu's like Firehouse No. 1.

        -For pasta: Have you been to Paesanos?

        Outside of downtown: Have you tried The Table or Dry Creek Grill?

        4 Replies
        1. re: robertee

          Nemea pretty good for Downtown, tho I wonder how it would do 20 miles north. I tried Paesano when they first opened and felt I could do as well. The Table is better but smaller and has the most uncomfortable chairs. Food is good tho. My impression of Smokehouse was that is BBQ and mostly take out, tho I may be wrong. The San Pedro Market is interesting and fun but it is like grazing at stationary foodtrucks. Downtown Campbell seems to be the hotspot for new Southbay eateries, with Liquid Bread and Ciano's modern Latin.

          1. re: budnball

            Re: Why restaurants choose to open in Campbell, Los Gatos, Palo Alto etc. vs. San Jose (or why good ones tend to flop).

            1- Negative perception of San Jose (only chains and ethnic food) and DTSJ (unsafe)
            2. Constant comparisons to other cities like SF (i.e "this is good, for San Jose")
            3- San Jose residents tend to not support local efforts (high turnover), directly tied to #2
            4. High barriers of entry (permits, etc.)

            1. re: budnball

              I hope Liquid Bread is doing well - I had two very nice meals there and it's clear the place could easily swing further upward.

              How is Single Barrel these days? I've thought of getting a cocktail there then getting dinner.

              Thanks for the overall report. I have no surprises to add.

              1. re: bbulkow

                Single Barrel is OK if you get there early. but the affectation can be a bit much, the overly intrusive crowd mangement, the hush hush atmosphere, the gloomy lighting. The interview process for drinks is gone and they have a printed drink menu which speeds up the process. drinks are $12-13, but they are strong and I have gotten a serious buzz on with 2 drinks. I however usually drop in at opening at 5 pm. before the line forms.