The Potlatch 23 Restaurant Guide
Welcome to the numerous dining and noshing options available to you as a guest of downtown San Jose. Our hotel, the Sainte Claire, at Market and San Carlos is right in the middle of downtown. There’s literally well over a hundred restaurants within easy walking distance, and here they are.
This online version of the guide includes restaurants omitted for reasons of space from the printed program book, mostly downtown chain restaurants and a whole raft of places outside of easy walking distance but within easy driving distance.
Listings are arranged within four concentric circles: Closest, in the same block as the hotel or right across the street; Closer, within a block or so of the hotel; Close, also within walking distance (no farther than ¾ mile); and Nearby, outside of easy walking distance but within easy driving distance. Some of these in the last category are also accessible by a determined walker or by light rail.
Restaurants from the finest dining to quick-bite stands and the veriest fast-food joints are included. A couple of the larger markets are also included, but no mini-marts, none of which are really close to the hotel anyway. Night clubs, bars, etc., some of which also serve food, are noted where they tightly cluster, but are not individually described.
Exact hours are given for restaurants in the first two circles; for the others, extreme limitations in hours, or closings during weekend lunch or dinner hours, are noted, but we can’t guarantee completeness of this information.
Reviews and descriptions are by the undersigned when unmarked. Markings are: TWB = our fearless chair; LH = Lucy Huntzinger; CG = Chris Garcia.
The systematic survey to compile this restaurant guide was carried out in September and October. The list was updated in December and January. Restaurants open and close, and change their menus or hours, sometimes very quickly. (And after they close, sometimes the signs remain.) So we can’t guarantee complete accuracy or up-to-dateness. Your comments, corrections, and your own reviews and suggestions will be much appreciated.
- David Bratman
CLOSEST. Same block as the hotel or right across the street
Here’s just the ones actually on the same, not over-large, city block as the hotel and right across the street from that block.
Il Fornaio, 302 S. Market (at San Carlos)
Opens at 7 AM (8 on weekends), late nights to 11 PM (12 on weekends)
In the hotel. IN it. A good, basic, neo-Italian restaurant absolutely worth dining at if you’re in the area, so you’re in luck. The entrees are relatively light and not too large; the pasta is distinctly al dente, giving weight to the meal. Prices are moderately high for the breed, but commensurate with quality. The breakfast menu dishes are American, though with Italian names, particularly outstanding for their potatoes. Usually uncrowded.
Original Joe’s, 301 S. First (at San Carlos)
Also late nights to 1 AM
Italian steakhouse, so old-school that it makes other old-school places look new. Even the decor is straight out of the 1950s. The typical meal here is a huge hunk of meat, probably full o’ cholesterol, plainly and simply cooked without fancy seasonings or sauces. You know it’s an Italian restaurant because there’s a side of pasta. You have to like this kind of stuff, but it does what it does excellently: good pasta, amazing hamburgers, a classic Joe’s Special, and there are salads and veggies. And the service has sixty years of experience at being fast and efficient, even when the crowds are spilling out the doors.
Caffe Frascati, 315 S. First (btwn San Carlos & San Salvador)
Opens 7:30 AM, 8 on weekends, late nights on weekends to midnight
Here’s your neighborhood coffee vendor. Also serves light breakfasts (stuff on a bagel or muffin), and paninis and salads for lunch.
Pho 69, 321 S. First (btwn San Carlos & San Salvador)
Gourmet Vietnamese pho restaurant. Cool modern decor, semi-industrial instead of old lunch counter. Small menu, with only one size bowl (large, with a price to match). High-quality meats, nothing fatty, oddly sweet broth. This is pho for yuppies, not Vietnamese street food.
The Blue Chip, 325 S. First #190 (downstairs, btwn San Carlos & San Salvador)
408-971-2898, no functioning web site
Sports bar that, almost absent-mindedly, serves cheesesteak sandwiches (also burgers, chicken sandwiches, pizza, etc.) from a kitchen in the back. The cheesesteak is large enough, but dull tasting, which it never is in Philly, and the only cheese option is Cheez Whiz. Slow service.
Note: Just outside the entrance is a small place called AJ’s Hot Dogs. Whenever I come by here at lunchtime, the lights are on but nobody’s home.
Cafe Stritch, 374 S. First (btwn San Carlos & San Salvador)
Dinner only, closed Mon-Tues, late nights to 2 AM Wed-Sat
Jazz club with an extensive menu, pour-over filtered coffee and espresso drinks, and a full bar. It is a good place to go for drinks or a casual dinner. Order food at the counter and it is brought to your table. Live jazz every night. The menu is a mix of comfort food and soul food. Good options for vegetarians and vegans as well as seafood and meat eaters. (review by TWB)
Subway Sandwiches, 360 S. Market (btwen San Carlos and San Salvador)
Opens 7 AM
Arcadia, 100 W. San Carlos (in the Marriott, at Market)
Opens at 6:30 AM, closed Sunday dinner
Modern American steakhouse by celebrity chef Michael Mina. High-end restaurant specializing in classic dishes with a “contemporary twist.” Best known for the duck fat fries served complimentary at dinner. Chris Garcia is over in a corner yelling about how good they are.
Note: The Marriott also has a bar, the Tanq, and a counter serving coffee, pastries, and packaged snacks, the Corner Market Kitchen.
Near the corner of First and San Salvador are several lounges/bars/dance clubs/etc., mostly only open evenings, some of which also serve food, but you’ll have to check them out for yourself:
The Metropolitan, 349 S. First, www.themetsj.com
The Swinging Hookah, 386 S. First, 408-298-4824, www.theswinginghookah.com
Motif, 389 S. First, 408-279-1888, www.motiflounge.com
Agenda, 399 S. First, 408-287-3991, www.agendalounge.com
Single Barrel, 43 W. San Salvador, 408-792-7356, www.singlebarrelsj.com
Miami Beach Club, 417 S. First, 408-242-9621, www.yourmiamibeachclub.com
South First Billiards, 420 S. First, 408-294-7800, www.sofapool.com
CLOSER. Within a block or so of the hotel
2. Along San Carlos to the west (across Market, in and around the Convention Center)
Affinity Restaurant (Hilton) 300 S. Almaden Blvd. at San Carlos
Daily 6 am-midnight.
Café (pasta, crepes, etc.) and bar in the Hilton hotel, adjacent to the convention center.
Peet’s Coffee (McEnery Con. Ctr) 408 S. Almaden Blvd. btwn San Carlos & San Salvador
Located in the convention center on the Almaden Blvd. side, right behind the Hilton. Hours depend on scheduled events in the center.
Gallery (Hyatt Place) 282 S. Almaden Blvd. at Market
Daily 24 hours
The Hyatt Place hotel doesn’t really have a restaurant. It has a seating area with a small kitchen that makes salads, sandwiches, and flatbread pizzas; they also keep copies of the cold items in a deli case. You can, however, order even the hot food 24 hours a day, or so they tell me: I haven’t tried coming by at 2 AM to find out. Oddly, though, for such a service, there’s virtually no breakfast offerings.
3. Park Avenue – street extending west of Chavez Plaza
The Tech Café (Tech Museum) 201 S. Market at Park
Daily, 10 am-4 pm, lunchwithtony.com
Small café behind the gift shop but outside the paid area of The Tech museum, also with a separate outside entrance. It’s just changed management; the website listed is that of the new caterer. I stopped by one day recently when nothing was set up yet but the soups of the day; the chicken chowder was thick and delicious. Definitely a few rungs up on the old place.
Specialty’s Café & Bakery 115 S. Market #100 in Cityview Plaza, behind Morton’s specialtys.com
Mon-Fri 6 AM-6 PM
This is a really satisfying place to have a simple soup/sandwich/salad type lunch. It’s open and friendly, and so are the staff. The salads are simple but large and tasty. Soups are also fresh and defiantly home-made. Located deep inside a plaza of office buildings, almost invisible from the street. From here, the quickest walk is to go onto Park Avenue and behind Morton’s. Alas, its hours are geared solely towards the office workers who are its main customers.
Morton’s, The Steakhouse 177 Park btwn Market & Almaden
Fri-Sat 5:30-11 pm, Sun 5-10 pm, Mon-Thurs 5:30-10 pm
Get a steak. Honestly, it doesn’t matter which one. They’re all magical. I love coming to Morton’s, and when I come on the weekends, I get myself the Double-cut Prime Rib. It’s pert-near perfect. (review by CG)
Peggy Sue’s 185 Park #183 (btwn Market & Almaden)
Fri-Sat 7 am-8 pm, Sun-Thurs 7 am-7 pm
Retro-50s diner. I suspect some deep and obscure feud between this Peggy Sue’s and the one on San Pedro (section 10), because the web site used to list both but now insists that the other is the only Peggy Sue’s. But I could find out nothing about it on a recent visit (“I just started here”). Breakfasts, burgers, sandwiches, shakes.
Scott’s Seafood 185 Park btwn Market & Almaden
Lunch Mon-Fri 11:30 am-1:30 pm; dinner Sun-Fri starting at 4:30 pm, Sat starting at 5 pm
Local upscale seafood restaurant, tonier than McCormick & Schmick’s. On the top floor of the building, with its own elevator up, so the views are impressive. I’ve had good meals here, but I haven’t been recently.
Mid GoGo 185 Park #189 btwn Market & Almaden
Mon-Fri 11 am-9 pm, Sat noon-8 pm
A little Levant Mediterranean food counter: kebabs and wraps. Has seating, but it’s more for takeout. I can testify to some meltingly tender rice dolmas.
4. Chavez Plaza, east side – north of the hotel, directly across San Carlos (in and around the Fairmont)
McCormick & Schmick’s 170 S. Market #170 at San Antonio (Fairmont, s. bldg)
Fri-Sat 11:30 am-11 pm, Sun-Thurs 11:30 am-10 pm
Seafood and steaks, less upscale in ambience than Morton’s or Scott’s, but still appropriate for a special meal out. I’ve found the food to be excellent. Located in the south building of the Fairmont, with an outside entrance.
Bijan Bakery & Café 170 S. Market #110 same (Fairmont, s. & main bldg)
Fri 6:30 am-11 pm, Sat 7:30 am-11 pm, Sun 8 am-9:30 pm, Mon-Thurs 6:30 am-9:30 pm
At first glance, you’d think it’s all pastries, but it serves salads, paninis, and extensive beverages too. Located in the south building of the Fairmont, on the Paseo de San Antonio side from McCormick & Schmick’s.
Note: Across the Paseo de San Antonio walkway, on the edge of the Fairmont’s main building, is the Bijan Espresso and Tea Bar (Fri-Sat 11 am-midnight, Sun 11 am-11 pm, Mon noon-11 pm, Tues-Thurs 11 am-11 pm).
The Grill on the Alley (Fairmont) 172 S. Market same (Fairmont, main bldg, at corner)
Fri 11:30 am-11 pm, Sat 5-11 pm, Sun 5-9 pm, Mon-Thurs 11:30 am-10 pm
Retro 1940s/50s dinner club style steakhouse. Located in the main building of the Fairmont, on the corner closest to here, with an outside entrance.
The Lobby Lounge 170 S. Market same (Fairmont, main bldg)
Breakfast daily 6-10 am, lunch/dinner daily 11 am-midnight
The bar in the Fairmont, with a big central lounge in the lobby. For food, it serves “on the run” breakfast items and, for later in the day, “bar bites with an Asian twist.” There’s also a sushi and sake bar open evenings except Sunday.
Fountain 170 S. Market same (Fairmont, main bldg, n side)
Mon-Fri 6:30 am-2 pm, Sat-Sun 7 am-2 pm
Inside the Fairmont: go in the front entrance and turn left. Has a breakfast buffet, a Sunday brunch (from 10 AM), and a small lunch menu and a slightly larger breakfast one. Not highly rated, at least by the standards expected of a Fairmont, not even by the so-often enthusiastic CG.
Note: The Pagoda and Bamboo Lounge (in the back of the Fairmont, by the First Street entrance) is no longer a restaurant.
Café Too (SJ Museum of Art) 110 S. Market at San Fernando
Tues-Fri 8 am-3:30 pm, Sat-Sun 8 am-3:30 pm
Tolerable museum café. In a colorful old building, but the inside is modern and dull, and the air is stuffy and hot. Food passable but not of notable quality.
Crema Coffee Roasting Co. 50 W. San Fernando #120 at First (around back of bldg)
Mon-Fri 7 am-3 pm
Coffee and sandwiches. Easiest pedestrian access is from the plaza between the Fairmont and the art museum. Coming from Chavez Plaza, it’s on the left in a building further in the plaza. For office workers’ hours only.
5. SoFA District (South First Area – First, Paseo de San Antonio, and Second between San Carlos and San Fernando)
Mosaic Restaurant & Lounge (Four Points) 211 S. First btwn San Antonio & San Carlos
Breakfast daily 6:30-10 am, lunch Mon-Fri noon-2 pm, dinner daily 4-10 pm
It dubs itself “Asian fusion,” but it’s basically Americanized upscale Chinese, like P.F. Chang’s, with a bar snacks menu on the side.
Blackbird Tavern 200 S. First at San Antonio
Thurs-Fri 11:30 am-10 pm, Sat 5-10 pm, Tues-Wed 11:30 am-9 pm
American café and bar food. Small menu, not inexpensive, reputed to be good.
Johnny Rockets Pavilion 150 S. First #115 at San Antonio
No hours posted
Burger and sandwich diner.
Eight Treasures 150 S. First #111 btwn San Antonio & San Fernando
Mon-Fri 11 am-8:30 pm, Sat-Sun 11:30 am-9 pm
It still said “Asian Gourmet Express” (the old name) on the receipt at the end of December. Extremely basic Chinese steam table, probably at its least inedible at the height of lunch hour. The chow mein noodles are like thick ropes.
Tandoori Oven 150 S. First #107/109 btwn San Antonio & San Fernando
Daily 11:30 am-9:30 pm
Quick Indian lunch place with table delivery. Watery curries, but with enough meat. Big fluffy naan. Perfectly OK for a quick lunch.
Baja Fresh 150 S. First #117 San Antonio btwn 1st & 2nd
No hours posted
Chain Mexican grill.
Thirst Tea 150 S. First #118 San Antonio btwn 1st & 2nd
Mon-Fri 11 am-11 pm, Sat-Sun noon-11 pm
Milk tea and bubble tea.
Starbucks 150 S. First #135 San Antonio & Second (not on First, despite the address)
Subway 150 S. First #181 on Second, btwn San Antonio & San Fernando (also not on First, despite the address)
Mon-Fri 7 am-10:30 pm, Sat 8 am-10:30 pm, Sun 8 am-9:30 pm
House of Siam 151 S. Second #151 btwn San Antonio & San Fernando
Lunch Mon-Fri 11:30 am-2:30 pm, Sat noon-3 pm; dinner Tues-Sun 5-10 pm, Mon 5-9:30 pm
Heavier dishes, darker sauces (even for the non-spicy dishes), and chewier meat than at Sa By Thai down the street. Still pretty good.
The Pita Pit 151 S. Second #185 btwn San Antonio & San Fernando
Fri 9:30 am-3 am, Sat 11 am-3 am, Sun 11 am-midnight, Mon-Thurs 9:30 am-midnight
Described as like Subway, except with pita bread.
Whispers 150 S. Second btwn San Antonio & San Fernando
Daily 8 am-10 pm
It’s got crepes, lots of crepes. Also omelets and other breakfast items, and a fair selection of sandwiches, burgers, salads, and a few basic dinner entrees for those who don’t like crepes, but in that case what are you doing here?
CLOSE. Also within walking distance of the hotel
6. Out on West San Carlos and left on Almaden Blvd., or south on Market and right on Balbach
488 Café 488 S. Almaden Blvd. at Balbach (in Oracle bldg lobby)
Café hidden inside the Oracle office building lobby (look to the right as you enter). Has daily hot specials. It’s worth seeking out this invisible-from-outside place, but only on weekdays.
Kukar’s House of Pizza 527 S. Almaden Blvd. at Balbach
Old line pizza and beer joint. Thinnish but soggy crust; lots of Velveeta-like cheese. Definitely only for people who like it that way.
7. West San Carlos – beyond Almaden Blvd.
Grace Deli & Café 303 S. Almaden Blvd. at San Carlos (in Ernst & Young bldg)
A small business café on the ground floor of the Ernst & Young office building, mostly sandwiches, not quite so hidden as the 488, with an outside entrance. Only keeps office workers’ hours.
Paolo’s 333 W. San Carlos #150 near Woz Way
Closed Saturday lunch and all day Sunday.
Quiet, elegant upscale Italian restaurant, hidden on the ground floor of an office building between the Center for the Performing Arts and a parking garage on Woz Way, considerably behind the street. This is where I’ve gone for special dinners.
8. West San Fernando (and beyond, up Almaden Ave. and San Pedro as far as Santa Clara St.)
Pizz’a Chicago 155 W. San Fernando at San Pedro
Deep-dish Chicago-style pizzas, mostly featuring California-style toppings. CG recommends the calzones.
Subway 165 W. San Fernando btwn San Pedro and Almaden
Taurinus Brazilian Steakhouse 167 W. San Fernando btwn San Pedro and Almaden
Still under construction at press time, this Brazilian steakhouse should be opening right … about … now. It’ll serve Brazilian barbecue; that’s all the website says so far. Note: Apparently not yet opened as of Friday 2/21.
Myth Taverna & Lounge 152 Post at San Pedro
Dinner only, Tues-Sat only
It’s a night club, but it actually has a Greek restaurant inside. Some entrees, but mostly tapas, pizzas, and pita sandwiches.
Dac Phuc 198 W. Santa Clara at Almaden Ave.
One of the few remaining Vietnamese places downtown – most of them are out on the east side or in Santa Clara – and it’s an old-style place with an ambience that makes you feel as if you’re eating in someone’s home kitchen. But it has really interesting pho soup.
Barista Café 10 S. Almaden Blvd. at Santa Clara, in office building.
Just a little stand to grab a cup at. Closed weekends.
9. West Santa Clara – west of San Pedro Square
Amici’s East Coast Pizzeria 225 W. Santa Clara at Almaden Ave.
Local pizza chain, thin crust of course. Offers a full line of gluten-free pizzas.
La Pastaia (Hotel De Anza) 223 W. Santa Clara at Almaden Blvd
Breakfast weekdays only; closed Sunday lunch
I love the hotel De Anza, which is where this Italian restaurant lives. The service is exceptional, though they do find themselves swamped once in a while and that can make waits slightly longer than you’d like. The carpaccio is delicious with lovely fried shallots as a marvelous counter-point. I’m not a big fan of their pizzas, but the pasta is exceptionally good. Of course, you should try their desserts. The chocolate crème brûlée is really nice take on a traditional brûlée and I’d take it over almost any other I’ve had! (review by CG)
Note: Also runs a small café stand, open only weekday lunchtimes, on the other side of the hotel, around the corner on Notre Dame.
Café New Laurel’s Delights 333 W. Santa Clara #300 at Almaden Blvd. (3rd floor)
The most hidden of all the hidden office-building cafes downtown, this one is on the third floor of the Comerica Bank building, behind the door leading from the elevator to the parking garage. The building is locked on weekends.
10. San Pedro Square and vicinity – San Pedro and Almaden Ave north of Santa Clara
Notes: Though this section is the farthest walk from the hotel in the “Close” circle (0.4 to 0.6 miles), it has the highest concentration of restaurants in downtown, and sections 10-12 have many of the best. There’s a farmer’s market selling fresh produce, and with stands selling lunch and other snacks, along this block of San Pedro every Friday from 10 am to 2 pm.
Los Cubanos 22 N. Almaden Ave. btwn Santa Clara & St. John
A Cuban sandwich is a sort of doublemeat special of roast pork and ham, with Swiss cheese and mustard. You can get one here. It’s pretty good. Also lots of heavy entrees with meat and plaintains.
San Pedro Square Bistro & Wine 20 N. Almaden Ave. btwn Santa Clara & St. John
Hefty and fairly extensive bistro menu with a lot of wine offerings. Highly rated, especially by folks who’ve had a lot of wine.
SP2 72 N. Almaden Ave. btwn Santa Clara & St. John
Closed Saturday lunch and all day Sunday.
Bar and restaurant bistro, set back and inconspicuous from the street. Rather elaborate and upscale weekend brunch menu in particular.
Britannia Arms 173 W. Santa Clara btwn San Pedro & Almaden Ave
There’s nothing fancy on the menu, the mushy peas are mushy, the fish and chips are decent, but mostly it’s a bar that draws sports fans and karaoke-types. (review by CG)
Los Gatos Brewing Co. 163 W. Santa Clara btwn San Pedro & Almaden Ave.
Solid bistro menu, with mains, burgers, pizza, salads, designed to complement its own microbrew beer, a small selection mostly in German style.
The Farmers Union 151 W. Santa Clara at San Pedro
This is what happens if you cross a sports bar with an attempt at a gourmet American-style restaurant. No lunch on weekends.
La Pinata 17 N. San Pedro btwn Santa Clara & St. John
Plain, basic, decent Mexican restaurant. I like the soft, crunchy chips and the really dark, interesting salsa, almost like a mole sauce.
Togo’s 18 N. San Pedro btwn Santa Clara & St. John
Locally widespread submarine-sandwich chain, like Subway except that locals will insist it’s better, because it started in San Jose. This one closes for the weekend at 3 pm on Saturday, so if you’re feeling peckish, there’s another one open all weekend closer to the hotel in section 15.
O’Flaherty’s Irish Pub 25 N. San Pedro btwn Santa Clara & St. John
No lunch on weekends
Irish enough that the menu insists on spelling it “whiskey” even if it’s Scotch, but apart from the large selection of that, the Irishness of the place is fairly superficial, even in the food, which is more American bar bites. Said to be a friendly place, though.
Peggy Sue’s 29 N. San Pedro #100 btwn Santa Clara & St. John
Retro 50s diner. Breakfasts, burgers and such. Really good milkshakes.
Satori Tea Co. 37 N. San Pedro in parking lot behind Peggy Sue’s
You won’t see this from the street. It’s in the parking lot behind Peggy Sue’s. Serves afternoon tea in the British fashion, with the finger sandwiches and scones and crumpets and clotted cream and all. And that’s all it serves, closing at 6 seven days a week.
Old Spaghetti Factory 51 N. San Pedro btwn Santa Clara & St. John
In a city with good Italian restaurants, there’s no reason on earth to come here unless you’re feeding a party of undiscriminating children and enjoy the publike atmosphere. The pasta is overcooked and the food just generally low-grade.
Firehouse No. 1 69 N. San Pedro btwn Santa Clara & St. John
No lunch on weekends
Calls itself a gastropub: yuppie-pub setting, food a ways above the bar-bites level, though small and a bit severely priced, but the service is very good. I’ve tried their Friday special of fried chicken. The crispy coating was thoroughly infused with honey, plus a tasty biscuit and cole slaw so good that even I rather liked it. CG says, “Of all the bars in San Jose, Firehouse may do some of the best bar food you’ll ever have.”
71 Saint Peter Mediterranean Grill 71 N. San Pedro btwn Santa Clara & St. John
Closed Saturday lunch and all day Sunday
What used to be called continental cuisine. More Italian than French in its menu, but comes particularly recommended for the more French-style dishes, especially the lamb and duck. Modestly fancy, modestly pricy. Good for a heavy-duty romantic meal out.
The Old Wagon 73 N. San Pedro btwn Santa Clara & St. John theoldwagonsaloon.com
This one’s a Western pub. They have barbecue and quesadillas, to be sure, but this is California so they also have a Portabello mushroom sandwich and a pineapple teriyaki burger. The ultimate fusion dish here must be the tri-tip panini.
San Pedro Square Market (El Dorado Bldg) 87 N. San Pedro at St. John sanpedrosquaremarket.com
Food court, first of two buildings, but featuring independent vendors with often rather healthful food. Stands in this building include: On a Roll (Vietnamese spring rolls), Vino Vino (wine bar with appropriate snacks), CrêParis (crepes), Robee’s Falafel, Little Chef Counter (poutine, and more duck fat fries), Loteria Taco Bar, Sama Zama (soups and salads), Pizza Bocca Lupo (designer pizzas, mostly vegetarian), CaliDog (designer hot dogs, if you can believe it), plus two bars and a coffee stand.
San Pedro Square Market (Market Hall) 100 N. Almaden Ave.at St. John
Back building of the market, reachable out of the front building’s back entrance or by going around the corner on St. John. Less intricately laid out than the front building, it includes: Blush Oyster Bar & Lounge, Chocatoo (dessert bar), Treatbot (ice cream truck), Phonomenal Noodle House (pho soup), Konjoe Burger Bar (Asian designer burgers), Bray Butcher Block & Bistro (bbq and deli sandwiches: not bad, actually), and the Market Beer Co. (a huge fridge of bottles of a variety of craft beers). A Venezuelan arepa stand was not yet open at press time. The stand-alone restroom building out back is actually not filthy.
Starbucks 145 W. Santa Clara at San Pedro
Nick the Greek 143 W. Santa Clara at San Pedro
The web site says only “coming soon” but it’s actually here and open. Gyros and souvlaki, more informal than Nemea.
La Victoria 131 W. Santa Clara btwn Market & San Pedro
Another branch of the campus-side taqueria listed under section 17.
11. North Market – between Santa Clara and St. John
Erik’s DeliCafe 2 N. Market at Santa Clara
Modestly-ubiquitous local chain with always-good soups, salads, and sandwiches. Closes at 7 pm.
China Wok 9 N. Market btwn Santa Clara & St. John
The dishes are small, light textured, and peculiar – the Mongolian beef is in a gentle broth unlike any other Mongolian I’ve ever had – and the prices not low. The service is kind of oblivious. The menu has one of my all-time favorite typos: “All dishes are served with steamed ice.” Closed Sunday
Louisiana Bistro 19 N. Market btwn Santa Clara & St. John
Markets itself as a taste of authentic New Orleans, but I’m not so sure about that. The crab cake appetizer has lots of real crab, and the most delicious aioli sauce ever, but the dish called jambalaya is no such thing. I got a basically unseasoned thick chicken gravy with lots of chicken, a few bland slices of light sausage, and less lightly cooked vegetables, with a dollop of rice in the middle and an excellent piece of cornbread on the side. It’s actually tasty, it’s just not jambalaya or anything like it. The décor, hardly more creole than the food, is spartan Yuppie, like a westernized Japanese restaurant, and the service is still a little self-conscious (it’s only been open about a month).
Da Kine Island Grill 23 N. Market btwn Santa Clara & St. John
Not yet reviewed or visited by me, this restaurant offers Hawaiian food that should be at least one or two cuts above the places that serve macaroni salad in a polystyrene foam box. Note: Apparently not yet opened as of Friday 2/21, although they told me they were.
Sonoma Chicken Coop 31 N. Market btwn Santa Clara & St. John
Popular small local chain that still serves its signature dish of robustly tender rotisserie chicken with either a light chipotle bbq sauce or the actually really good choices of red wine or vinaigrette poured over it. But they’ve vastly expanded the menu over the years: sandwiches, pasta plates, dinner salads, California-style pizza.
Backayard 80 N. Market btwn Santa Clara & St. John
Caribbean food with counter service, inexpensive. Specializes in jerk-style chicken wings, which I find magnificent. The jerk seasoning is not too strong or misjudged, just enough to flavor the thoroughly-cooked but not dry chicken. A thimble of wet sweet/spicy sauce on the side completes the offering. Kind of odd, sweet, collard greens, but reasonably tasty. Closed Sunday.
Amir Mediterranean Cuisine 86 N. Market btwn Santa Clara & St. John
Fairly new and completely unpretentious place with Greek/Levant cuisine. It’s tended to fall under the shadow of the other good restaurants in the area, which is unfortunate because it’s really good. The meat is tender, juicy, and carefully cooked, which makes for a good shawarma plate. The sides are good also, and the hummus comes with a dab on top of what looks and tastes a lot like La Victoria’s orange sauce (see section 17).
12. North end of South First – between San Fernando and Santa Clara, and around the corners on those and Post
Mezcal 25 W. San Fernando btwn Market & First
This is a Mexican restaurant, not Cal-Mex or Tex-Mex, which is what “Mexican” usually means up north, including elsewhere on this guide. These folks come from Oaxaca and they cook like it. The enchiladas, for instance, come with the fillings on the side, and they carefully distinguish between enchiladas proper and three other similar dishes with different sauces. If it doesn’t have enchilada sauce, it’s not an enchilada, but something else. If you want to try the sauces first, they come with the chips. No lunch on weekends.
Billy Berk’s 99 S. First at San Fernando
No lunch on Sunday
I don’t think of it as much of a restaurant, but that’s my problem. I think of it as a bar that happens to have great food. The best value you’ll find in all of downtown is the Mac ‘n Cheese appetizer. It’s awesome, just the right size, and delicious! The dessert menu is good too, especially if you’ve come for drinks, which are the real highlight of the joint. (review by CG)
Nemea Greek Taverna 96 S. First at San Fernando
Fairly hopping Greek restaurant with food ranging from OK (salads, vegetables) to intensely tasty (soup, lamb). Modestly upscale in service and industrial/warehouse in decor (and hence very noisy), but not expensive for the kind: many meals around $20. It’s also possible to make a meal out of a couple appetizer plates, which are not small, again for about $20. No lunch on weekends.
Ozu Sushi & Grill 86 S. Firs n. of San Fernando
Newly opened. Reviews so far have not been good. Closed Sunday.
K.zzang 78 S. First n. of San Fernando
Tiny Korean lunch place with a tiny menu and metal chopsticks. There’s a few specials, but the emphasis on the menu is a choice of entrée, plus the usual vast mix of Korean side dishes, either separately in a bento box or all together in a bowl. With the separates, the meat is on a bed of cabbage, and everything’s good, even the cold fried tofu strips, though it sounds awful. Very fast service. Closed Sunday.
Zanotto’s Express 80 S. First n. of San Fernando
Weekday lunch-only deli that serves as the downtown outpost of a local family-owned supermarket. Vast variety of sandwiches and other fixings.
Original Gravity Pub 66 S. First s. of Post
This place should really be shunted over to the bars and clubs list, since what it’s for is fanatical craft-beer tasters. Come back every day and they’ll have different brands you’ve probably never had before. But they do serve food, too: an interesting menu combo of sausages and grilled cheese sandwiches. They too have duck fat fries, which seem to be popular around here.
Bella Mia 58 S. First s. of Post
Old local favorite Italian restaurant, the one that’s not quite as old-school as Original Joe’s. No lunch on weekends.
CREAM 49 S. First at Post
The name is an acronym: Cookies Rule Everything Around Me. What they seem to rule around here is ice cream sandwiches. The cookies are warm, so there’s a baked-Alaska effect. Reports on this brand-new place so far have been favorable.
Nomikai 48 S. First at Post
Also more of a bar that offers some food. Has a few designer pizzas and even more determinedly designer appetizers, with a degree of Japanese and pan-Asian influence. Dinner only; closed Sunday.
Don Pedro’s 43 Post w. of First
Tiny little Mexican place with a large bar and an even larger tv set. Impressively well-kempt for a shady area of downtown. The food is adequate but uninspiring, rather bland. My water glass tasted of soap. The chips and salsa are by far the best thing about it.
Peking House 45 Post w. of First
A little hole-in-the-wall greasy spoon joint that’s probably the best Chinese food downtown. Not that the competition is very heated, but for a drab little old-style place with a limited menu full of old familiars, the food is impressively solid and tasty. Also unusually spicy for a basic Americanized joint: watch out for the hot and sour soup in particular.
Subway 43 S. First at Post
Good Karma Vegan Café 37 S. First n. of Post
Combo plates and burritos, colorful and rather spicy. Many of the dishes are Asian-inspired, but by no means all. Some have fake meat, which in a good dish can be harder to tell from the real thing than you might think.
Pizza #1 33 S. First n. of Post
Convenience store and locksmith that also sells pizza by the slice. Heinlein did say that specialization is for insects.
Carl’s Jr/Green Burrito 15 S. First s. of Santa Clara
Chain hamburger/burrito joint.
City Bagels 52 W. Santa Clara btwn Market & First
Not your typical ethnic bagel shop, but, despite some of the odd varieties, it is a real bagel, and not those “bread in the shape of a doughnut” things that Noah’s et al sell. If there are better ones downtown, I don’t know of them. Like many bagel places, it closes for the day in mid-afternoon.
Fuji Sushi 56 W. Santa Clara btwn Market & First
This is said by sushi-lovers to be a top sushi place. No lunch on weekends.
Picasso’s Tapas 62 W. Santa Clara btwn Market & First
I love the tapas, and it’s a decent place to take a date, as long as you both don’t mind a strong hit of garlic. (review by CG)
Peet’s Coffee & Tea 66 W. Santa Clara btwn Market & First
Note: Apart from the cluster a block south of the hotel (described above), this section is the club/lounge heart of the city. Places in and around this section and not also listed under restaurants include:
Caravan Lounge [Section 8] 98 S. Almaden Ave. at San Fernando
The Blank Club [Section 8] 44 S. Almaden Ave. at Post
Hedley Club Lounge [Section 9] 223 W. Santa Clara at Almaden Blvd.
Shisha [Section 11] 84 N. Market btwn Santa Clara & St. John
Fifty Five South 55 S. First at Post
Mac’s Club 39 Post w. of First
Sherman Cellars (wine tasting) 40 Post w. of First
Splash Video Dance Bar 65 Post w. of First
Temple Bar & Lounge 52 S. First at Post
Lido Night Club 30 S. First n. of Post
Studio 8 8 S. First at Santa Clara
Tangerine Hookah Bar [Section 13] 30 E. Santa Clara #150 at Second; behind on Fountain Alley
Johnny V’s & Paddy’s Pub [Sec 13] 31 E. Santa Clara btwn First & Second
Dive Bar [Section 13] 78 E. Santa Clara btwn Second & Third
Freddie J’s [Section 13] 97 E. Santa Clara at Third
Tres Gringos [Section 14] 83 S. Second n. of San Fernando
San Jose Bar & Grill [Section 14] 85 S. Second n. of San Fernando
Cinebar [Section 14] 69 E. San Fernando btwn.Second and Third
Sparta Sports Bar [Section 14] 81 E. San Fernando btwn Second and Third
13. East Santa Clara – east of First (and just off it)
The City Fish 30 E. Santa Clara #140 btwn First & Second
Hole-in-the-wall fish & chips place. The fish is extremely light-textured, and the batter dark but it doesn’t overpower the fish. More of a snack than a meal.
Curry Pundits 30 E. Santa Clara #130 btwn First & Second
Indian burritos and curry bowls, basically. Mix-and-match between base, filling, and curry sauce.
Angelou’s Taqueria 21 N. Second n. of Santa Clara
It’s a Mexican-entrees restaurant and a burrito taqueria and a breakfast place and an American hamburger grill, all in one. Generally recommended. Closed Saturday lunch and all day Sunday.
Ike’s 75 E. Santa Clara at Second
Sandwiches, mostly cold meat (plenty of vegan options too). Very big on striking combinations of ingredients, nearly fifty sandwich offerings.
Muchos Taqueria 72 E. Santa Clara btwn Second & Third
Your friendly neighborhood taqueria. And I do mean friendly: the cheerfulness and desire to be helpful of the staff is the best thing about it. Specializes in roasted chicken. A little underseasoned, a little dry, it’s OK. The rice with it is good, the beans watery. Also serves Mexican breakfasts.
Cheese Steak Shop 76 E. Santa Clara btwn Second & Third
Better than the Blue Chip, though it also doesn’t resemble what you get in Philadelphia. Advantages: the meat is juicy and tasty, they offer provolone cheese and don’t use too much of it (maybe too little, in fact). Disadvantages: the bun is too large and too dry; if you order peppers they’re stuck in, cold, sideways, after the sandwich is already made and the cheese has sealed the top to the bottom, as a result of which the peppers taste odd and mostly fall out before you can take a bite anyways.
Bakery Mexico 87 E. Santa Clara btwn Second & Third
This place is a little gem. The Torta Cubana is the highlight. It’s a semi-traditional Cuban sandwich, but it’s also amazingly awesome sauce. I mean really, it’s great. I’ve enjoyed it several times and it plays wonderfully on the palate. The Tortas are big and tasty, and the bread is exceptional. Plus, they’re open late for the nighthawks among us. It’s wheelchair accessible, but can be difficult to navigate tables. (review by CG)
Grub Shack 93 E. Santa Clara btwn Second & Third
Calls itself Hawaiian/Asian fusion. Rice plates, burgers, chicken wings. Servings tend to be large and fatty. Closed Sunday and Monday.
Smoke Eaters 29 S. Third s. of Santa Clara
Sports bar that serves chicken wings. The pieces are big; the problem is the sauces. They’re all thick, heavy, goopy, and unpleasantly intense, and they overwhelm the chicken to the extent that it doesn’t matter how good the meat is. With one exception: the “Thai Zing” is a sweet/spicy red-pepper sauce that’s light and thin and brightens up the meat while allowing the crispness of the skin to come through.
Liquid Restaurant & Lounge 32 S. Third s. of Santa Clara
Unlike most of the lounges, this one is a real restaurant as well, offering mostly pan-Asian fusion cuisine. Open seven days for dinner and Tues-Fri for lunch.
Starbucks 101 E. Santa Clara at Third
Subway 103 E. Santa Clara btwn Third & Fourth
Seven Seas Sushi 130 E. Santa Clara btwn Third & Fourth
Sushi place that’s been through several different names and remodelings. The new incarnation is getting mixed reviews so far. Closed Sunday lunch.
4th St. Pizza Co. 150 E. Santa Clara at Fourth
About ¼ pizza parlor and ¾ sports bar. The pizza is thick crusted, rather doughy, but not Chicago-style; the toppings, in fact, are piled high and tend to fall off, if you can believe it.
Agave Mexican Grill 17 S. Fourth s. of Santa Clara
Despite being called a grill, it’s really just a tiny little taqueria counter, though it does offer a few entrees. The main business is tacos and burritos, which feature sizzling meat and fresh hot tortillas. Salsa, onions, cilantro et al are in an add-it-yourself bar.
14. East San Fernando – east of First (and just off it)
Hanuman Thai 1 E. San Fernando btwn First and Second
Thai restaurant that runs towards the spicy, with light sauce well cooked in. Rather small quantities, high prices. A little confusing to enter, since the main seating area is upstairs and the kitchen is downstairs by the bar, where there are also a few seats, which I guess is where anybody with mobility issues will have to stay. I’m still not entirely sure where you’re supposed to wait or if you just sit down. Closed Saturday lunch and all day Sunday.
Gordon Biersch 33 E. San Fernando btwn First and Second
Daddy of the gastropubs. You do want some food with your beer, right? Burgers and fries are hearty here. (LH adds: The beer is excellent.)
Loft Bar & Bistro 90 S. Second n. of San Fernando
Italian-American dinner menu; sandwiches and wraps for lunch. Also turns into a night club on weekends.
The Market by Safeway 100 S. Second at San Fernando
Not a full supermarket by any means, but far vaster than a typical urban corner grocery. For ready-to-eat food, it has a hot deli counter and a sushi bar.
Azúcar Latin Bistro 71 E. San Fernando btwn Second and Third
A Latin entertainment venue, but also a genuine upscale Mexican restaurant, featuring chicken, fish, and fajita entrees. Dinner only; closed Sunday.
Loves Cupcakes 85 E. San Fernando btwn Second and Third
The latest gourmet dessert craze is cupcakes, and here’s a specialty cupcake baker in San Jose. Expensive but supposed to be good. Closed Sunday and Monday.
Chacho’s 87 E. San Fernando btwn Second and Third
Pretty basic taqueria in a bar. The food is reasonably worthwhile if you get the lunch special, which is half the rather high price of everything else. Once recently I got something resembling steak fajitas, which tasted of refried beans even though it wasn’t supposed to have any beans in it. Service extremely variable.
Fahrenheit Restaurant & Lounge 99 E. San Fernando at Third
Dinner only, closed Sunday
Fahrenheit is kinda swanky; I mean it’s also a Ultralounge! The food here is delightful. The Grilled Skirt Steak has wonderful flavor and they certainly understand the concept of Medium Rare. The drinks are also spectacular. (review by CG)
Amor Café and Tea 110 E. San Fernando btwn Third and Fourth
Milk tea, coffee, desserts.
Power Bowl 132 E. San Fernando btwn Third and Fourth
Here’s a specialty quick café for you: it serves fruit salads, with granola and optional nuts on top. Also smoothies and outmeal.
Flames 88 S. Fourth #150 at San Fernando
This was my mother-in-law’s favorite restaurant, and that about sums it up: a place your mother-in-law would like. American menu (lots of burgers and skillet plates, and lots and lots of breakfasts) with some Italian influence, and a big drink menu too.
On Fourth: A Novel Café (Library) 150 E. San Fernando at Fourth
Closes at 5 pm Friday-Sunday
Small snack café attached to, but not inside, the Martin Luther King Library, which is the joint library of San Jose State University and the main branch of the city’s public library. Sandwich offerings named for novels, pretty tasty and convenient, and some other quick offerings including breakfast snacks. Do not take your food inside the library.
Note: There’s an even quicker snack bar across the corridor inside the building, but it’s closed on weekends.
15. Student Row north – Paseo de San Antonio between Third and Fourth
Vyne Bistro 110 San Antonio btwn Third and Fourth
Wine bar with a few dinner entrees, plus cheese, salads, shellfish, paninis, and desserts. Dinner only except that there’s a Sunday brunch of designer breakfast food.
Tengu Sushi 111 San Antonio at Third
Not highly rated sushi. Closes at 7 pm, 5 pm on Saturday; closed on Sunday.
La Lune Sucrée 116 San Antonio btwn Third and Fourth
The idea here is to reproduce a Parisian street café with a pan-European menu. Others will have to say how well it succeeds. Sandwiches, crepes, quiche, pastries, coffee, tea, beer, wine, and all. Closes at 5 pm on Sunday, otherwise open until 8.
Philz Coffee 118 San Antonio btwn Third and Fourth
Philz is a Bay Area local coffee chain. It’s the official, or at least an official, vendor of coffee at Facebook HQ, so I hope you’re impressed.
Togo’s 125 San Antonio at Fourth
Submarine sandwiches. See description in section 10.
Quickly 140 San Antonio at Fourth
Asian fusion café. For food, bento, ramen and udon, bánh mì, Hong Kong egg puffs, a few burgers, and fried everything. To drink, coffee, milk tea, rose tea, slushes, and little tapioca balls to go in it. For dessert, frozen yogurt Japanese-style and gelato.
16. Student Row south – directly east, on East San Carlos between Second and Fourth (and just off it)
Note: The row of student joints around the SE corner of San Carlos and Third is where to come if you want a quick meal really late. Some of these places are open until 3 am on weekends. School is on, so the area will be full of college students all evening.
Psycho Donuts 288 S. Second at San Carlos
Designer donut shop, inside the Camera 3 cinema building, with strange flavor combinations, striking appearances, and silly names. Very expensive for a small donut, circa $2 each, but you’re paying for the art more than the food. I find them tasty, though others disagree.
McDonald’s 90 E. San Carlos near Second
Hoagie Steakout 304 S. Third at San Carlos
One of the cheap fast places on student row. This one serves cheesesteaks – mostly elaborate things with weird add-ons – plus a few items of Korean food. I didn’t claim to understand the connection until I tried an order of bulgogi, Korean bbq. Unlike anything I’ve had at an actual Korean place, it tasted like the meat & mushrooms & onions part of the filling of a cheesesteak.
Hydration 310 S. Third s. of San Carlos
Quick lunch: bento boxes, rice bowls, and a whole lot of tea. Best ratings for their crispy chicken. I tried a braised pork rice bowl. Interesting stuff (he said, chewing slowly): fatty meat, carrots, hunks of garlic, and a hard-boiled egg that had gone purple, all over a big bed of rice.
Pauly’s Famous Franks N Fries 312 S. Third s. of San Carlos
What makes the hot dogs here interesting is that you can get a vast choice of the most unusual world-cuisine toppings on them.
Iguanas 330 S. Third s. of San Carlos
Southernmost of the joints on student row. Serves burritos, nachos, and the like. By most accounts, the more elaborate and greasier the add-ons you get, the better the food tastes, but I like just a plain burrito. By which standards, if you’re just looking for solid belly-timber, it’s quite OK.
Ben & Jerry’s 115 E. San Carlos at Third
You know their ice cream. Here it is by the scoop.
Pizza My Heart 117 E. San Carlos btwn Third and Fourth
Local chain highly-rated for its thin-crust pizza. Full but crispy, even the reheated by-the-slice offerings.
Yogurtland 125 E. San Carlos at Fourth
This one is the world-cuisine flavor selection of frozen yogurt.
La Victoria Taqueria 140 E. San Carlos btwn Third and Fourth
This was my go-to taqueria when I was working at San Jose State. Fast, inexpensive, and good service. The offerings aren’t as elaborate as Iguana around the corner, but if you just want a plain burrito, I find this place better and more flavorful. It’s more flavorful still if you try just a little of the orange sauce (named for its color, not its flavor), a seriously spicy mayo doled out in squeeze bottles which the staff watch over as if they were valuable library books being loaned out.
Jack in the Box 148 E. San Carlos btwn Third and Fourth
Grande Pizzeria 150 E. San Carlos at Fourth
Thin-crust but chewy pizza, by reports highly variable in quality.
Dosa & Curry Café 345 S. Fourth s. of San Carlos
If you just want to get filled up with decent-quality Indian food, this is a good place to do it.
17. San Salvador (one block south of the hotel and to the east)
Bo Town 409 S. Second at San Salvador
Cheap, pretty quick Chinese restaurant with some Vietnamese dishes on the menu. Inexpensive lunch specials, rather bland, under-spiced and mostly more veggies than meat. The strange-looking building was originally a Denny’s, way back in its Jetsons ultra-modern period
Sa By Thai 404 S. Second #A at San Salvador
Connoisseurs of Thai restaurants insist that this is the best Thai food anywhere in San Jose. I find it an excellent little place: a clean, neat restaurant serving clean, neat Sinicized Thai food. The meat is hefty and lean, the vegetables crisp and strong, and the sauce flavorful without being strongly spicy. Open until midnight.
Dai Thanh Supermarket 418 S. Second s. of San Salvador
Small independent Vietnamese grocer with lots of unusual imported foods.
Polar Ice Yogurt 96 E. San Salvador btwn Second and Third
Frozen yogurt and gelato; variable reviews.
Dakao 98 E. San Salvador at Third
Inexpensive neighborhood Vietnamese restaurant specializing in bánh mì sandwiches and rice plates.
China Chen 400 S. Third at San Salvador
Noodle soup is the specialty of China Chen. Stick to the noodle soup. The Fried Egg Flour Cake has been praised by many, but I don’t see it. The place has spotty service and it’s pretty much a Hole-in-the-Wall, but you cannot go wrong with the Noodle Soup. (review by CG)
18. Further south – William and beyond
Orchestria Palm Court 27 E. William btwn First and Second
The dinner menu is very small – the “signature dish” is shrimp puttanesca – but it boasts of the organically-sourced ingredients. The soda fountain and dessert menu is no smaller. You don’t come here for the food, but for the music: the place is full of player pianos and mechanical organs and other early 20th-century gadgets playing tuneful songs of the period (defining “the period” pretty widely). Open Friday through Sunday for dinner only.
Emile’s 545 S. Second btwn William & Reed
Emile’s has a good reputation in San Jose, for good reason. They do good French food. I’ve always enjoyed the Three-Course Prix Fixe meals they offer, complete with a glass of wine. It’s always good and affordable for the quality you’re getting. The duck a l’orange has gotten rave reviews for ages and draws converts every night. It’s open until 11 on the weekends, so head over for some late night eating. It’s dressy and you might want to think about making reservations. [Dinner only; closed Sunday and Monday] (review by CG)
La Peñita 601 S. First at Reed
Neighborhood Mexican restaurant in a neighborhood without many restaurants. Most noted for its cocido (Mexican beef soup).
NEARBY. Beyond easy walking distance, but still close [selective]
19. Light rail along First – take the rail going to the right in front of the hotel
St. James station
Teske’s Germania 255 N. First (at Devine)
Old-fashioned German restaurant, in a beautiful old-fashioned building, with waitresses who speak German. Good German beer. Closed Saturday lunch and all day Sunday-Monday. (review by TWB)
Trials Pub 265 N. First (btwn Devine & Julian)
Insists that it’s a British pub, and, indeed, the dinner entrees are determinedly British (by now, curry is British). Moderate selection of British beers and both Scotch and Irish whisk(e)y, and, yes, they have Strongbow cider. Dinner only.
Kubota 593 N. Fifth (at Jackson)
There are many good Japanese restaurants in Japantown, most of them along Jackson between Fourth and Sixth. This is the nicest, and where I would take someone for a special meal. Lots of choices on the menu. The niku soba is awesome. No lunch on weekends. (review by TWB)
IHOP 644 N. First (at George)
Civic Center station
The Bold Knight Bistro 840 N. First (btwn Mission & Hedding)
American steakhouse. Claims it specializes in fondue, but reviewers are not so sure that melted cheese alone a fondue makes. Closed Sunday dinner.
Spice Hut 1086 N. First (btwn Younger & Burton)
Fast food Indian. Closed Sunday.
Pho Viet 1092 N. First (btwn Younger & Burton)
Vietnamese, specializing in but not limited to pho soup. Closed Sunday.
FantAzia 1100 N. First #C (btwn Younger & Burton)
Thai. The Appetizer Combo was remarkable the last time I got it to go. The Corn Cakes are a gift. The Prawns in Tapioca Wrappers manage to make me forget my troubles, while the Green Curry is tasty, and the Garlic Chicken makes me happy. All in all, it’s the kind of place that’ll make you glad you took the time. (review by CG)
Sushi Kan 1305 N. First (at Rosemary)
I really can’t review this place as I still haven’t managed to read the entire roll menu. I mean, it’s huge. Spider Fantasy Roll? Does anyone really have fantasies about spiders? Ecstasy Roll? Does it come with glow stick and throbbing techno beats? Everything I’ve heard about this place says that the rolls are fantastic. and the rolls that I’ve had have been great. You could eat five different rolls every day and not have gone through the whole menu in a year! [Closed Saturday lunch and all day Sunday] (review by CG)
Genji 1335 N. First (btwn Rosemary & Gish)
Japanese steakhouse, the kind where the chef cooks the food at the table. No lunch on weekends.
Jade Cathay 1339 N. First (btwn Rosemary & Gish)
It’s Chinese, it’s simple, and it’s one-note, but it’s food and it’s available. Sometimes, you only need food, and this is certainly matter which can be processed by your human digestive system. (review by CG)
Menara 41 E. Gish (east of First)
You’re in the mood for dinner and a show. You yearn for something exotic. Menara Moroccan Restaurant might be the place for you. The food is decent, the place looks exotic, and the bellydancers are blast. The drinks are strong, the food is pretty good, especially the Honey Lamb, the atmosphere is exceptional, but most of all, it’s a lot of fun. It’s a great place for a group of friends to hang out, but call ahead and make sure you have a designated driver! [Dinner only] (review by CG)
20. East Santa Clara beyond central downtown – between Fifth and Tenth (long walk or short drive)
Da Noodle Bistro 225B E. Santa Clara (btwn Fifth and Sixth)
Not quite as extensive a menu as its predecessor at this site, Pho Lan, but still an interesting and user-friendly Vietnamese restaurant with noodle bowl offerings beyond the ubiquitous pho soup.
Sweet Express 231 E. Santa Clara (btwn Fifth and Sixth)
Ice cream and frozen yogurt. Toppings are ground into the yogurt by the staff, not dumped on top by the customer.
Taqueria San Jose 241 E. Santa Clara (at Sixth)
Another inexpensive taqueria, popular with students, perhaps because it’s close to campus.
Lee’s Sandwiches 260 E. Santa Clara (at Sixth)
Vietnamese bánh mì sandwiches, most of them pork. If you want a “Euro” sandwich, it’ll be turkey and/or ham with or without cheese on a croissant or baguette.
New Tung Kee Noodle House 262 E. Santa Clara (at Sixth in shopping center)
Mostly noodle soups, fried ramen in the bottom of the bowl and whatever you ordered on top. Kind of pan-Asian: the ramen is Japanese, the meatballs are Vietnamese, the won ton are Taiwanese. Pretty good quality, very inexpensive, almost insanely fast service.
Grocery Outlet 272 E. Santa Clara (at Seventh in shopping center)
You know of remainder book stores; this is a remainder grocery store. The offerings it has today may be completely different in a month, so shopping here can be an adventure, but it’s always inexpensive. Full supermarket range of general categories, including perishables, except that there’s nothing ready-to-eat.
City Restaurant 301 E. Santa Clara (at Seventh)
Vietnamese and Mexican, it says. Towards the gritty end of things.
A & K Noodle House 304 E. Santa Clara at (Seventh)
Chinese noodle soup.
Hawaiian Drive Inn 304B E. Santa Clara (at Seventh around the corner)
Despite the name, this is a storefront along a solid block of buildings. CG recommends the Loco Moco, BBQ Mix Plate, and BBQ Pork Saimin, but probably not all at once. Closed Sunday.
Punjab Café 322 E. Santa Clara (between Seventh & Eighth)
Indian take-out, large menu, moderate price.
Com Ga Nam An 348 E. Santa Clara (at Eighth)
Vietnamese, with only chicken, no beef. Closed Wednesday.
Nick’s 354A E. Santa Clara (at Eighth)
Nick’s is a tasty Italian joint where you can get a really good pizza and some decent pasta at a price that’s not too bad. I love the Chicken Parm in a way that might be unhealthy. [Dinner only; closed Sunday] (review by CG)
Hoi An Bistro 374 E. Santa Clara (between Eighth & Ninth)
Calls itself gourmet Vietnamese, but this is not an upscale joint. No dinner on Tuesday.
Tofoo Com Chay 388 E. Santa Clara (between Eighth & Ninth)
A fully vegetarian Vietnamese restaurant, Tofoo Com Chay isn’t perfect, but even without meat to make it great, it’s still a decent place to stop for some fine food. The taste of their tofu is pretty darn good, and the tofu drumsticks are wonderful. I appreciate the service more than anything. [Closed Sunday] (review by CG)
Vegetarian House 520 E. Santa Clara (at Twelfth)
Asian fusion cusine, more vegan than simply vegetarian. Big with the hefty vegetable dishes, rather than emphasizing fake meat as many vegetarian restaurants do.
Vung Tau 535 E. Santa Clara at (Twelfth)
Vung Tau is the kind of Vietnamese place that I tend to frequent and no one understands why. It’s got a lovely little space, the food is delicious and I can pack a book along, read a dozen or so pages while enjoying the Beef-wrapped onions plate. It’s got good service and the prices, while high for a Pho place, aren’t bad overall. (review by CG)
21. To the west and northwest (long walk or short drive)
Mudai 503 W. San Carlos (at Josefa)
Ethiopian food is delightful, and it’s half about the process of eating. The food at Mudai is layered and powerful. The Gored Gored is good good. The Kitfo is the Ethiopian Steak Tartar and it can be done raw, rare or well-done. The entire menu packs a wallop and the spice is what you walk away from Mudai with. It gets a bit crowded, so come either before 6 or after 9. Not a place for vegetarians. (review by CG)
Poor House Bistro 91 S. Autumn (at San Fernando)
A house converted to a New Orleans restaurant. Serves a Sunday brunch. Customers argue over the authenticity of the po boy sandwiches, but this is the only restaurant elsewhere I’ve ever found that serves baked jambalaya resembling the sublime stuff I’ve had in New Orleans.
Henry’s Hi-Life 301 W. St. John (at N Almaden Blvd)
I’ve eaten there once. I thought the barbecue was okay, not fantastic, but acceptable. But it is worth recommending as a place of great character. Dinner seven days; lunch only Tues-Fri. (review by TWB)
Paesano 350 W. Julian #1 (at N Almaden Blvd)
Excellent Italian restaurant in a converted house. Actually worth the hike from downtown. No lunch on weekends. (review by TWB)
Sweet Tomatoes 625 Coleman
Salad, soup, and pasta bar, all you can eat for a low fixed price, one of a widespread California (now west-coast-and-growing) chain also called Souplantation. Despite the corporate growth, it remains outstandingly good and a real bargain, especially the soups, which change regularly. They always have chicken noodle with huge meat chunks and big fat noodles; this week they’re also scheduled to have minestrone, French onion, potato leek, and chicken pot pie soups, and probably others. The deli salads are also especially good.
22. Further to the west (driving distance)
Willow Street Pizza 1072 Willow
Both Californian and Italian-style wood-fired pizzas, distinguishable as much by the choice of toppings as the dough. Better at the pizza than at pasta dishes, but this is some of the better pizza in San Jose.
Taiwan 1306 Lincoln
This is my personal candidate for the best Chinese restaurant in San Jose. Lunch plates are not the high point here – if I’m in the neighborhood for lunch, I’m as likely to eat at Edna Ray across the street. What really shines at Taiwan are some of the chef’s dinner specials, especially the ones with fruit in the dish, like Aromatic Chicken With Apples, or Mango Prawns.
Habana Cuba 238 Race St.
Excellent. I can highly recommend the citrus marinated pork sandwich. The Cuban style black beans are very tasty. Good variety of South American soft drinks, for those who like that sort of thing. No lunch on weekends. (review by TWB)