Because this year’s Potlatch is a one-day con taking place on a Saturday, the hours given are for Saturday. Note that some places are open only for dinner, not lunch, on Saturday. If a restaurant is closed for the whole day, why, then it’s just not listed.
This listing is also much more geographically limited than those for previous Potlatches: just the places within a 3 or 4 block walk, or the equivalent, from our site, the Martin Luther King Library. Plus, at the end, a few particularly recommended places, also downtown but a bit further away. – David Bratman
- On campus
On Fourth: A Novel Café
9 am-5 pm
Small snack café attached to, but not actually inside, the Martin Luther King Library. Sandwich offerings named for novels, pretty tasty and convenient, and some other quick offerings including breakfast snacks. High prices for what you get, though. Do not take your food inside the library.
9 am-2 pm
Food court in the Student Union, halfway across campus, east of the library. Stations open Saturday are Le Boulanger bakery (9 am-2 pm) and Bricks Pizza (10 am-2 pm).
Note: also on campus, but considerably further away, near the SE corner, are the Dining Commons (multiple stations, single-price) and the Village Market (convenience store), both open from 9 am.
- East San Fernando – east of First (and just off it), directly west of the library
Flames 88 S. Fourth #150 at San Fernando
Across San Fernando from the library. 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.
Power Bowl 132 E. San Fernando btwn Third and Fourth
9 am-7 pm
As of Feb. 1, still closed with a sign saying it’ll reopen in January, so who knows. When it was open, it was a specialty quick café serving fruit salads, with granola and optional nuts on top. Also smoothies and oatmeal.
Amor Café and Tea 110 E. San Fernando btwn Third and Fourth
3 pm-10 pm
Milk tea, coffee, desserts.
Chacho’s 87 E. San Fernando btwn Second and Third
8 am-2 am
Pretty basic taqueria in a bar. The lunch special is reasonably worthwhile and half the rather high price of everything else. Service extremely variable.
Deluxe 71 E. San Fernando btwn Second and Third
7 am-3 pm, 5 pm-9 pm
Also serves lunch and dinner, but it specializes in breakfast, the traditional hearty American sort.
The Market by Safeway 100 S. Second at San Fernando (entrance on south side of the building, away from San Fernando)
6 am-11 pm
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.
M Asian Fusion Restaurant 98 S. Second @ San Fernando
It looks like a lounge, but it serves food ranging from Chinese to Indian. Some of the chicken dishes are remarkably tender, and the vegetables here are outstanding.
Loft Bar & Bistro 90 S. Second n. of San Fernando
11 am-1:30 am
Italian-American dinner menu; sandwiches and wraps for lunch. Also turns into a night club on weekends.
Tres Gringos 83 S. Second n. of San Fernando
7 pm-2 am (kitchen to 12:30 am)
Night club. Tacos, burritos, and lots of margaritas.
San Jose Bar & Grill 85 S. Second n. of San Fernando
5 pm-2 am
Night club. Burgers, pizza, small bites, and lots of beer.
Gordon Biersch 33 E. San Fernando btwn First and Second
11:30 am-11:30 pm
Daddy of the gastropubs. You do want some food with your beer, right? Burgers and fries are hearty here. The beer, by all reports, is excellent.
Hanuman Thai 1 E. San Fernando btwn First and Second
5 pm-10:30 pm
Thai restaurant that runs towards the spicy, with light sauce well cooked in. Rather small quantities, high prices. 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.
Nemea Greek Taverna 96 S. First at San Fernando
5 pm-11 pm
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. It’s also possible to make a meal out of a couple appetizer plates, which are not small.
- Student Row north – Paseo de San Antonio between Fourth and Second
Togo’s 125 San Antonio at Fourth
10 am-7 pm
Locally widespread submarine-sandwich chain, like Subway except that locals will insist it’s better, because it started in San Jose.
Quickly 140 San Antonio at Fourth
10:30 am-11 pm
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.
Philz Coffee 118 San Antonio btwn Third and Fourth
7 am-9 pm
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.
La Lune Sucrée 116 San Antonio btwn Third and Fourth
8 am-6 pm
The idea here is to reproduce a Parisian street café with a pan-European menu. Sandwiches, crepes, quiche, pastries, coffee, tea, beer, wine, and all.
Vyne Bistro 110 San Antonio btwn Third and Fourth
5 pm-11:30 pm
Wine bar with a few dinner entrees, plus cheese, salads, shellfish, paninis, and desserts.
Tengu Sushi 111 San Antonio at Third
Not highly rated sushi.
Whispers 150 S. Second btwn San Antonio & San Fernando
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?
- SoFA District (South First Area – First, Paseo de San Antonio, and Second between San Carlos and San Fernando), west of section 3
My Milkshake 151 S. Second #199 btwn San Antonio & San Fernando
11 am-1 am
Yes, it’s a milkshake bar. Has lactose-free options too.
The Pita Pit 151 S. Second #185 btwn San Antonio & San Fernando
11 am-2 am
Described as like Subway, except with pita bread.
Subway 150 S. First #181 on Second, btwn San Antonio & San Fernando (not on First, despite the address)
8 am-2 am
Starbucks 150 S. First #135 San Antonio & Second (also not on First, despite the address)
6:30 am-10 pm
Thirst Tea 150 S. First #118 San Antonio btwn 1st & 2nd
11 am-11 pm
Milk tea and bubble tea.
Baja Fresh 150 S. First #117 San Antonio btwn 1st & 2nd
11 am-7 pm
Chain Mexican grill.
Johnny Rockets Pavilion 150 S. First #115 at San Antonio
11 am-10 pm
Burger and sandwich diner.
Dalian Kitchen 150 S. First #111 btwn San Antonio & San Fernando
11:30 am-3 pm, 5 pm-8:30 pm
Chinese fast-food. As of Feb. 1, the steam table was still nonfunctional after quite a while, so it only serves dishes cooked to order. Like much greasy-spoon food, it’s pretty good when still piping hot from the wok.
Tandoori Oven 150 S. First #107/109 btwn San Antonio & San Fernando
10 am-10 pm
Quick Indian lunch place with table delivery. Curries and big fluffy naan. Perfectly OK for a quick lunch.
- Student Row south – East San Carlos between Fourth and Second (and just off it), west of mid-campus, south of the library
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.
Dosa & Curry Café 345 S. Fourth s. of San Carlos
10 am-1:45 am
If you just want to get filled up with decent-quality Indian food, this is a good place to do it. Advertises itself as halal.
Grande Pizzeria 150 E. San Carlos at Fourth
Thin-crust but chewy pizza, by reports highly variable in quality.
Jack in the Box 148 E. San Carlos btwn Third and Fourth
La Victoria Taqueria 140 E. San Carlos btwn Third and Fourth
7 am-3 am
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 for 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.
Yogurtland 125 E. San Carlos at Fourth
11 am-11 pm
The world-cuisine flavor selection of frozen yogurt.
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.
Ben & Jerry’s 115 E. San Carlos at Third
You know their ice cream. Here it is by the scoop.
Hoagie Steak Out 304 S. Third at San Carlos
11 am-3 am
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 that taste like cheesesteak fillings.
Boba Bar 310 S. Third s. of San Carlos
11 am-9 pm
Mostly a teahouse (tea, milk tea, lemonade) with a small food menu, mostly rice bowls and appetizers, but the food quality is one of the best in this section. There’s a feral cat that often hangs out on the front patio.
CoCo Café & Tea 312 S. Third s. of San Carlos
10 am-2 am
Pan-Asian café: Pho, Asian salads, spring rolls, fruit juice, Thai tea. Pretty basic, functional food.
Iguanas 330 S. Third s. of San Carlos
11 am-3 am
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.
Aghas Gyros Express San Carlos btwn. Second and Third
11:30 am-6 pm
Food truck semi-permanently parked in a lot halfway down the block, with a couple tables in front. Serves chicken and lamb gyros sandwiches and meat-and-rice plates. Meat is cooked to order. Worthwhile for a quick lunch.
- East Santa Clara to the west – between Fourth and Second (and just off it), one block north of the library
Agave Mexican Grill 17 S. Fourth s. of Santa Clara
10 am-9 pm
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.
4th St. Pizza Co. 150 E. Santa Clara at Fourth
11 am-10 pm
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.
Seven Seas Sushi 130 E. Santa Clara btwn Third & Fourth
11:30 am-4 pm, 5 pm-10 pm
Gets rather better reviews than Tengu Sushi, but sushi-eaters can be demanding. Some prefer Fuji Sushi at 56 W. Santa Clara, 3 blocks further away.
Subway 103 E. Santa Clara btwn Third & Fourth
8 am-8 pm
Starbucks 101 E. Santa Clara at Third
7 am-7 pm
Liquid Restaurant & Lounge 32 S. Third s. of Santa Clara
5 pm-2 am
More of a real restaurant than most of the local night clubs, offering mostly pan-Asian fusion cuisine.
Smoke Eaters 29 S. Third s. of Santa Clara
Sports bar that serves chicken wings. The pieces are big, but I find the sauces thick, heavy, goopy, and unpleasantly intense, except for the “Thai Zing,” 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.
Bakery Mexico 87 E. Santa Clara btwn Second & Third
6 am-2 am
Chris Garcia recommends the big and tasty tortas (sandwiches) here, especially the Torta Cubana for its awesome sauce.
HOM Korean Kitchen 76 E. Santa Clara btwn Second & Third
11 am-2:30 am
Korean comfort food, it says. What comforts Koreans is rice bowls, with meat or tofu on top on one side, and your choice of cold but cooked Korean side veggies on the other. The food is put together instantly at a counter while you order. Far more Western-friendly than most of the local Korean places.
Muchos Taqueria 72 E. Santa Clara btwn Second & Third
9 am-3 am
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, which is pretty OK. Also serves Mexican breakfasts.
Ike’s 75 E. Santa Clara at Second
10:30 am-8 pm
Sandwiches, mostly cold meat (plenty of vegan options too). Very big on striking combinations of ingredients, with nearly fifty sandwich offerings.
- East Santa Clara to the east – between Fifth and Tenth, one block north of the library
Taqueria San Jose 241 E. Santa Clara (at Sixth)
8:30 am- 9 pm
Another inexpensive taqueria. Pretty basic food, decent quality, lots of different ways of making a burrito.
Lee’s Sandwiches 260 E. Santa Clara (at Sixth in shopping center)
8 am-9 pm
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)
8 am- 9 pm
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. Very inexpensive, almost insanely fast service.
Grocery Outlet 272 E. Santa Clara (at Seventh in shopping center)
7 am- 10 pm
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.
- Selected recommended restaurants elsewhere in downtown
Note: The first five places listed in this section are only a block or two further out, and can be considered within easy walking distance, and the sixth (Backayard) is not much further than that. The other two are on the far side of downtown and are a long hike or a short drive.
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.
Café Stritch, 374 S. First (btwn San Carlos & San Salvador)
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)
Original Joe’s, 301 S. First (at San Carlos)
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.
McCormick & Schmick’s 170 S. Market #170 at San Antonio (Fairmont, s. bldg)
11:30 am-11 pm
Seafood and steaks, not highly upscale in ambience, 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.
Mezcal 25 W. San Fernando (btwn Market & First)
4 pm-10:30 pm
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.
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.
Poor House Bistro 91 S. Autumn (at San Fernando)
11 am-10 pm
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.
Paesano 350 W. Julian #1 (at N Almaden Blvd)
5 pm-10 pm
Excellent Italian restaurant in a converted house. Actually worth the hike from downtown. (review by TWB)