Photo credit: © Laura Manske
Do you know the way to San Jose? In the heart of California’s high-tech Silicon Valley, vibrant San Jose and its close-knit neighbors deliver abundant diversions: enriching cultural scenes, verdant nature escapes and deliciously divergent cuisines, including Michelin-star restaurant bragging rights (more applause about that below). San Jose is a surprising, soothing and stimulating vacation destination. This cool, innovative haven has long been a hotspot of reinvention — first sprouting as an agricultural mecca, luxurious with farms, vineyards and orchards (thought to be California’s oldest settlement, founded in 1777) and now flourishing as the epicenter of dot-com expertise, with thousands of growing tech companies, anchored by the headquarters of Google, Apple, Facebook, eBay, Netflix, Yahoo, Intel, Hewlett Packard, Cisco and Tesla. Impactful industry credentials, indeed. San Jose is the third largest city in the state and tenth largest in the USA, home to a high-income, hyper-educated population that basks in the glow of year-round warmth and sunshine, 50 miles south of San Francisco and next door to Los Gatos, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Cupertino, Palo Alto, Santa Clara and Sunnyvale. Here are 10 best bets to buzz about:
1 FOODIE FUN
Photo credit: © Laura Manske
Brazilian, Korean, Indian, Vietnamese — San Jose’s restaurant roster spins from ’round the globe. Favorites are aplenty. Tucked into a historic boarding house, ooh-la-la La Foret wows with its Grand Marnier soufflé. Nemea Greek Taverna, owned by the Tsigaris Family, serves delectable dishes that would make Greece proud. Gracious owners Holly and John Smith please with pit-smoked barbecue and small batch bourbons at Dry Creek Grill, set in a historic Moose Lodge building. For almost four decades the Shah Family has brought the exotic taste of Morocco to Menara Moroccan Restaurant, dressing its dining spaces with colorful fabrics and booking belly dancers to entertain. Since 1977, French-inspired Le Papillon has garnered multi-accolades and its tasting/prix-fixe menus are sophisticated feasts. Sino, a cavernous and tad-nightclubby eatery on Santana Row excites with its commanding Chinese dedication to dim sum, which means “a little something from the heart.” For casual fare, head to San Jose’s San Pedro Square Market, a hip food hall with wide medley of morsels, such as Arepa & Mas (Columbian), Chocatoo (Australian dessert bar), Pizza Bocca Lupo and Treatbot (ice cream truck). The brick-walled, woodsy-decorated Farmers’ Union Restaurant & Bar rocks as an American tavern with more than 50 craft beers on tap and a notable Farmer’s Old Fashioned cocktail (Knob Creek Bourbon Whiskey aged for two months with muddled Luxardo cherries and orange pulp in white oak barrel). Other satisfying drinks to clink: Good Karma Artisan Ales and Cafe (an enthusiastic craft beer community supporter) and Paper Plane (concocting cocktails with names such as Oh My My, Pulp Fiction and Riff Raff as well as bites such as Tom Yum Boiled Peanuts, Brussels Sprouts Tacos and Mom’s Spaghetti). Adore farmers’ markets? There are assortments in San Jose for every taste, every day. Then scoot over to nearby Los Gatos: At The Catamount, in a historic Los Gatos building under a more-than-100-year-old tree, American fare (herbed macaroni ‘n’ cheese, roasted mussels, grilled swordfish with butter beans) exudes both a relaxing and polished vibe. Decidedly a laid-back hang-out yet tastefully gratifying, The Bywater is influenced by the food, drink and music of New Orleans, where chef-owner David Kinch grew up and trained under chef Paul Prudhomme at Commander’s Palace. The Bywater’s chef de cuisine David Morgan, who also accrued achievements in NOLA eateries, steadily steers the popular friendly menu. Go for the fried green tomatoes, po’ boys, fried chicken, oysters rock-a-fella, gumbo z’herbs and raw bar, washed down with fave fine-tuned cocktails, such as a Sazarec (rye whiskey, armagnac, Herbsaint, Peychaud’s bitters) and Devil Cat (gin, Batavia Arrack, Amaro, raspberry, cayenne, lime), snagging a table outdoors if you can. Kinch’s significant claim to fame is his first Los Gatos restaurant, Manresa — its culinary-pendulum-swung-in-the-opposite-direction of The Bywater. With chef de cuisine Mitch Lienhard and master sommelier Jim Rollston, this three Michelin-star gastronomic trailblazer gleams. Its tasting menus call for life-affirming celebrations.
Photo credit: © Laura Manske
Rapturous new culinary kudos hover over San Jose’s Little Portugal neighborhood, where ADEGA, an authentic Portuguese restaurant, owned by Carlos Carreira, sparkles a Michelin star (the only Michelin restaurant in San Jose). Chef David Costa, born in Portugal, and pastry chef Jessica Carreira, born in San Jose, create impeccable savories and sweets, presented in three-, five- and seven-course tasting menus, working their masterful talents on such homeland classics as Polvo à Lagareiro (roasted octopus), Caldo Verde (potato soup with greens), Pastel de Bacalhau (salt codfish), Ovos Conventuais (convent sweets made with egg yolks and sugar) and Amêndoa Amarga (almond tart with bittersweet chocolate). Dining here is a feel-good memory maker with a warm ambience. Some of the restaurant’s walls are prettily accented with azulejos, Portugal’s famous decorative blue tiles. An impressive wine list — certainly among the 100 best restaurant cellars in the USA and one of the preeminent Portuguese wine collections outside of Portugal — shines.
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