San Jose, Half Moon Bay and Sausalito
Short trip to San Francisco area. Need suggestions for late lunch in Half Moon Bay area, dinner in Suasalito and open suggestions for San Jose. Staying in Santanna Row area of San Jose. Don't want to break the bank. Currently live in OH but have traveled and lived abroad so we like a wide variety of food. Would like to eat Japanese at least once during our stay since we miss that in Ohio.
Half moon bay - barbara's fish trap, chez shea, sam's chowder house
japanese - kaita or gombei in san jose japantown. although japanese isnt so great in the south bay relative to other areas in the bay area. Here's a recent post on japanese/sushi in san jose
Note that Barbara's is cash only and actually at Pillar Point Harbor (technically, El Granada) and not in the downtown Half Moon Bay area that most people think of. If you are actually *in* downtown Half Moon Bay, I would recommend Pasta Moon. There is a Sushi on Main in HMB, and their $10.95 bento box isn't bad.
I'm surprised you would have that opinion of Japanese food in the South Bay. On average, I find the quality higher than the rest of the Bay Area. Gochi in Cupertino, Izakaya in San Jose, Orenchi in Santa Clara, Gaku in San Jose, Sushi Tomi in San Jose, Clover Bakery in San Jose, Dan Izakaya in San Jose, Ramen Halu in San Jose ...
Amber India right in Santana Row has solid standard N Indian fare. A little pricey due to location.
Santouka ramen in the Mitsuwa Japanese grocery store. It's cafeteria style and can get packed but you should be OK if you go at a slightly off time and the line moves quickly.
Pretty good falafel at Falafel Drive In on Stvns Crk on the other side of 880.
Recently discovered how tasty the burger is at local chain Super Duper located inside Westfield mall. Their milkshakes are good too.
I looked through all your posts to see what you've liked in other cities, and I've got nothing. With the kind of short "what's good" requests and few posts about likes and dislikes, it's hard to make a good targeted suggestion - otherwise, one recycles the "standard recommendations".
One of my favorite spots right now in San Jose is Blackbird Tavern. It's right downtown thus easy to get to (the city parking lots are $5 all night, and there's one within 100 yards). It has live music, solid cocktails, farm-to-table food, and an inventive chef --- but can be a little loud. But I don't know if you like that kind of thing.
First to Market is a place that I've got my eye on, and there's Nemea, both of which have more typical restaurant-like experiences, and quieter. But I haven't been to either.
Classic places in SJ would also include Vung Tao.
Within a short drive of San Jose there's some great indian and Chinese, as there are technology worker expats from those countries. For Indian, I like Anjappar Chettinad. Don't be put off by the Yelp reviews - those are generally by unadventurous eaters. The place is very Indian, which gets you indian-style service, and indian-style spices.
You might peruse Eater's article for some further ideas. The list is pretty fair. You can also look at the map a year early, most of those places are still around and doing well.
Sushi Ran in Sausalito is very highly recommended. I ate their once, thought it was very high quality, but couldn't quite separate it from the pack on one visit.
I would not spend my one meal in HMB at Sam's. Moss Beach Distillery has a good rep among people I trust. For Fish on the Water, I would hit Barbara's, or even Princeton Seafood, either indoors or the window patio. You have to walk down the docks to see which fish are in, then walk to the restaurant and order similar. Crab season starts in Ernest in November (for Thanksgiving Crab!), so I don't know what's really fresh right now. For downtown HMB, Pasta Moon is very good, I also have a soft spot for the big, old hotel, whatever it calls itself. There's an excellent old bar, and they always serve some kind of food which is always pretty good. Great atmosphere.
A very stable place in greater san jose is Parcel 104. It's in a hotel, but it's big (no res needed), and the food is typical of the California style. You can do better with a bit more driving and research, but if you're pressed, you'll have a decent meal.
Unlike Santana Row itself, where you'll find generally mediocre food.
just some simple suggestions on the san jose side... Tomi Sushi is perfectly fine local sushi. It's not a high-end, amazing place, but for a neighborhoody joint, it is pretty darn good.
Gokaku is a japanese tapas place. not super expensive but can get a bit pricey. I really enjoy this place.
Ramen - if you're willing to wait, try orenchi ramen. again, a cheap meal (tho expensive by ramen standars), but for most it is the gold standard for Ramen in the south bay.