The Best of Silicon Valley 2010

Shopping & Services | Staff Picks

Metro's Best of Silicon Valley 2010 There's no better place to minister to jangled nerves than Satori Tea Company in San Jose.

Best Place for a Destroyed Nervous System

Satori Tea Company
37 N. San Pedro St., San Jose; 408.772.4500. Situated right behind the Theater on San Pedro Square, this new establishment features a wall of different teas. Choose your fave: white, black, green, oolong or more. For example, this is perhaps the only place in San Jose offering Vata tea. Vata is one of the three Ayurvedic doshas and usually the one that goes out of whack first. This tea is intended to relieve restlessness, quiet the hyperactive mind and help one achieve some sort of balance. The owner of Satori became interested in tea at a very early age and we thank her for opening this new place in San Jose.

Best Farmers Market - West Valley

Campbell Farmers Market
Campbell and Central avenues, Campbell. Sundays, 9am-1pm. It's mobbed every week, and no wonder: the Campbell Farmers Market has much more than just fresh-that-day fruits and vegetables. It has bakers, cheesemakers, charcuterie and egg vendors, not to mention an array of other items and services. Need a knife sharpened? Check. Running low on handmade soaps? Step right up. It's a whole new way to shop.

Best Farmers Market

San Pedro Square Farmers Market
San Pedro and Santa Clara streets, San Jose. Fridays, 10am-2pm, We base this judgment on a two factors: good weather (which gives it supremacy over the Berkeley market, loaded with gourmet food and $2 peaches); and the most voluptuous heirloom tomatoes this side of Sacramento. Cozy at just a block long and lined with restaurants and nearby historic buildings, this market is a Friday crossroads that shows off the downtown at its best.

Best Place to Buy Used Science Fiction

Book Buyers
317 Castro St., Mountain View; 650.968.7323. At Book Buyers, it's a very long walk from the Isaac Asimov paperbacks to the Roger Zelazny hardcovers. The bookcases are tall enough that you'll need a stepladder to browse the top shelves. There are lots of novels, short-story anthologies and science-fiction magazines. It's pretty much guaranteed that you'll end up spending more time there than you planned on, and buying more books than you can read in a month.

Best Boutique-Gallery Crossover

The Usuals
1020 The Alameda. San Jose; 408.294.4500. What better way to liven up a half-empty stretch of The Alameda than a brand new spunky alternative clothing shop that also doubles as an art gallery? If you've seen the I heart SJ shirts with a shark motif, this is where people are getting them. Aside from selling affordable clothing by several designers, the owners of this totally urban outlet throw monthly art receptions to a lively crowd. Local artists are almost always featured.

Best Place to Meet Makers

120 Independence Dr., Menlo Park; 650.521.9027. TechShop is a membership-based workshop and essentially the only place in Silicon Valley where artists and engineers can show up and use an Epilog Helix 60-Watt Laser Cutter, a ShopBot 4-by-8-foot CNC Wood Router System, plus a sheet metal benders, molding systems, lathes, a silkscreen apparatus and all sorts of assorted machine shop tools and equipment. The main facility rests in Menlo Park, but the TechShop folks close to opening a full-blown shop in downtown San Jose.

Best Wine Shop for Bargain Hunting and Splurging

1540 El Camino Real, Menlo Park; 650.325.2806 Beltramo's has been in the wine game long enough to get it dialed, and that results in good deals at any price point. When it comes to wine, knowledge is money. Everyone knows that a 2009 Beringer Founders Estate chard at $7.99 is a good deal, but the folks at Beltramo's can explain why the 2005 "Torre Muga" Rioja, a Spanish red made from the noble Tempranillo grape, is an even better deal at $79.99.

Best Tibetan-Contempo Retailer

Dolma Handicrafts
278 University Ave., Palo Alto; 650.326.1545. This is not your mother's rough-hewn hippie-dippy Himalayan-Tibetan clothing-and-accessory store. This is a stylish, fashionable hippie-dippy Himalayan-Tibetan clothing-and-accessory store. From smart, bright felted handbags to asymmetrical woven-cotton jackets to colorful clunky Lucite bracelets to contemporary-design beaded necklaces, the stuff at Dolma is clearly a new version of a look that is still cool. And the prices are like 1972.

Best Eco Fun Shop

158 University Ave., Palo Alto; 650.331.0700. Recycling is still such a good idea. And the folks at Livegreen make it a little more interesting. Lunch pails made from plastic bottles. Clocks made from old bicycle ring gears. A dog woven out of torn and braided newspaper pages. Purchasing platters that once were street signs won't really do much to save the world, but it's one less street sign in the dump, and makes an entertaining statement.

Best New-Used-Rare Book Selection

317 Castro St., Mountain View; 650.968.7323. There is no online equivalent to wandering through a good bookstore and stumbling on some great find. And, thank goodness, we live in an area where there are still some independent bookstores surviving a tumultuous market. Bookbuyers, which has been buying and selling books and other media in Mountain View for 20 years, has a unique mix of new, out-of-print hard- and paperbacks, and used books in every subject, as well as old magazines, CDs and even LP records.

Best Place to Buy a Monocle

Historical Emporium The locally owned and operated is the best website to get top-notch reproduction Old Western, Victorian and Edwardian garments and accessories. While one might think replica parasols, waistcoats and top hats would be a difficult niche market to corner, is in fact a fast-growing company. Who knew, right? According to Inc. Magazine, they've increased their business over 200 percent in the last three years.

Best Eco-Friendly Termite Service

Planet Orange Termite Services
2842 Bascom Ave., San Jose; 408.963.6868. The instinct following the discovery of termites is to call a pest control company to tent and fumigate with toxic chemicals. But San Jose's Planet Orange offers a green alternative to this nuclear option. Manufactured from distilled citrus peels, orange oil is an increasingly popular green pesticide—and it's Planet Orange's specialty. With the company's hard-core commitment to customer service, it's the best way to banish the bugs.

Best Avian Vet

For the Birds Clinic
1136 S. De Anza Blvd. #B, San Jose; 408.255.1739. One of the many challenges of exotic pet ownership is finding the right health-care professional for one's feathered, scaled or furry friend. Most vets are accustomed to treating dogs and cats—but not the complex ailments of exotic patients like macaws and cockatoos. That's why Dr. Fern Van Zandt and Dr. Laura Bellinghausen started For the Birds Clinic in San Jose, where they specialize in treating avians. They're also an official veterinarian of the nationally recognized Mickaboo Companion Bird Rescue group.

Best Ironic Urban Wear

Breezy Excursion
San Jose; Breezy Excursion is one of the biggest street-wear brands to come out of San Jose. They make screen-printed urban wear that hits on nostalgia elements without being cheesy. Their collection of hoodies, sweatshirts, T-shirts and hats aims to be an in-joke for their 18-to-25-year-old customer base. Co-owners Ryan Mante and Flip Lilleland use themes from early-'90s pop culture in their designs. (The Fresh Prince of Bel Air is featured prominently.) They're clothing is sold at urban-wear boutiques including Aristocrats on Jackson Street in San Jose and Workmens/Balance at the Eastridge Mall.

Best Place to Say Hello to My Little Friend

Pet People
514 N. Santa Cruz Ave., Los Gatos; 408.354.8888. No one has to tell Pet People about the threat that box stores pose to "the little guy"—there's a freakin' Petco one block away from where they've been doing business for more than two decades. Unlike many independent businesses, Pet People has beaten the odds, and to regular customers that's really no surprise. It's so completely not corporate in every way—instead of wide, blandly organized aisles, there are tight corridors overflowing with good stuff. Walk in with your pet and it's like you've both died and went to Human-Pet Relationship Heaven. The people who run Pet People care about their customers, biped and quadriped alike. It's the best place for pets in the South Bay, bar none.