The Best of Silicon Valley 2010
Best Old-School Omelet House
Bill of Fare
1005 Saratoga Ave., San Jose; 408.446.4050. A throwback to 1960s roadside architecture, with a high red roof and checkered wallpaper, let's just say customers don't come here for inspired design. Bill of Fare's Midwestern charm is appealing, and the omelets are quite good, which keeps its salmon-colored Formica tables filled with breakfast lovers.
Best Way to Avoid a DMV Line
CMV & Associates
456 S. Second St., San Jose; 408.275.9549. Why wait in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles to renew your registration? These guys will wait in line for you and bring back the paperwork.
Best Electronic Wine List
The Plumed Horse
14555 Big Basin Way, Saratoga; 408.867.4711. Having the coolest see-through cracked-glass-floored wine room at a restaurant that garnered a Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence when its inventory clocked in with 1,800 labels just wasn't enough. Restaurateur Josh Weeks has taken transparency to a new level, presenting oenophiles with an iPad to page through his entire collection. Shortly, he promises, the winepad app will be downloadable for mobile users to browse in the privacy of their own cellars.
San Jose Taiko and the Bangerz
SoFA District, San Jose. The odd marriage of electronic hip-hop and traditional drumming on an outdoor stage could have gone wrong any number of ways. But the June 4 performance at the SubZERO festival was a masterful stroke of Silicon Valley innovation and the kind of ethnic boundary-hopping that defines authentic San Jose culture.
Best Place to Buy the Sunglasses the Movie Stars Wear
378 Santana Row, San Jose; 408.261.1010. Let's say you just have to have the lime-green tortoise-shell Chrome Hearts sunglasses that Paris Hilton was photographed in, or the rimless Oliver Peoples aviator that Angelina Jolie sports. Pretty much your best bet is Optical Illusions over at Santana Row, which has the added benefit of being a high tech optician as well.
Best Place to Buy Sporty Sunglasses
1266 W. San Carlos St., San Jose; 408.287.5994. For popular brands like Spy, Maui Jim, Oakley and Ray Ban, homegrown sporting goods retailer Mel Cotton's is our top choice.
Best Dressed DJ Party
Donovan's 'Silicon Valley Sophistication'
Donovansf.com. Dress codes have never been popular in Santa Clara Valley, an area where farmers and engineers commanded much of the disposable income. Even the members-only Capital Club enforces its no-jeans policy only in its main dining room. Donovan's "Sophistication" has raised the bar, fading the proud owners of $400 jeans to keep his champagne-sipping house music crowd properly attired.
Best Undressed DJ Party
1355 N. Fourth St., San Jose. Tattoos, high heels, bikinis, sunglasses and a beach ball define the look at San Jose's homegrown pool party at the Doubletree Hotel.
Best New Chocolatier
539 Bryant St., Palo Alto; 650.323.9669. In 2010 everything is sourced right up the food chain, and Monique's provides a pedigree to each of its elegantly decorated chocolate creations. Dark, earthy cocoa bean flavors from Madagascar and other exotic locations are what customers can expect here, including many single source and dairy-free varieties.
Best Hard Disk Recovery
The Data Rescue Center
307 Ray St., Pleasanton; 877.501.4949. Data recovery services are like mortuaries: places that profit from your misery. They range from expensive established firms to brokers with phone rooms who ship your treasured data to who-knows-where. Luckily, we found one place that does its own work, fast and competently, and doesn't gouge its customers in a time of crisis. In fact they successfully recovered files we needed for this issue, on deadline, for which we're grateful.
320 Village Lane, Los Gatos; 408.354.4330. It's a rare meal when the salad is the most memorable course, but then again David Kinch is no ordinary chef. A sumptuous mix of flowers and flavors from Manresa's captive vegetable hatchery, ornamented with a splash of "edible dirt" (actually burnt nuts and chicory pulverized to look like schmutz), Kinch produces a salad course that has East Coast food writers begging their editors for a plane ticket to California. Thankfully, it's bicycling distance from most parts of the valley.
Best Way to Get Fired
1775 Russell Ave., Santa Clara; 408.295.3352. Our eyes glaze over just thinking of the possibilities. Pretty much anything that can be done with ceramics can be sourced here. Make your own dinnerware, vases, house numbers, tiles, whatever... and we're not talking about some storefront social club for the craft crowd. Clay Planet carries a ridiculous variety of bulk-bagged clays, glazes, kilns, wheels and tools and offers authoritative advice on any related subject. Pretty much, for those serious about fired clay, Clay Planet is the only game in town.
Best Paint Store
South Bay Paints
1749 W. San Carlos St., San Jose; 408.286.3986. Since the demise of our prior favorite, we've gotten to know South Bay Paints. A much more serious operation than the boutique independents that have fallen victim to big box store paint departments, South Bay Paints doesn't coddle residential customers looking for the proper shade to paint the new baby's room while ladder-topped paint vans are fighting for parking spots. On a competence scale, its capabilities are unrivaled. Its knowledge, skill and inventory makes South Bay Paints the real deal.
Best Place to Resuscitate a Middle Eastern Rug
Martinous Professional Rug Cleaning
25 Union St., San Jose; 408.294.6644. That Pakistani rug in your living room is dirty. You overpaid for it years ago, and carpet shampooing machines are a risky proposition. Luckily there's a place just south of downtown San Jose that hand scrubs and sun-dries precious silk and wool handwoven treasures. The fancy rug showrooms offer the same service too, though they just ship their rugs to Martinous and mark up the price. For a Middle East price and excellent service, go direct.