The Best of Silicon Valley 2014

Food & Drink | Editors' Picks

Brown Chicken Brown Cow BEST USE OF GOAT CHEESE: Brown Chicken Brown Cow Photograph by Alex Stover

Best Use of Goat Cheese

Brown Chicken Brown Cow

397 E. Campbell Ave, Campbell

Finally someone said to themselves, "You know what would make my life better? Goat cheese!" And then they put it on—Every. Single. Dish. The creamy deliciousness takes us back to those lazy days spent in Yemen, wistfully writing poetry while tending to a herd of friendly goats who would bestow wondrous milk and cheese, whether they were eating old Coke cans or leaves of grass. (JK)

Best Japanese Curry


244 State St, Los Altos

Don't be fooled by the Italian-influenced moniker; family-run Muracci's in downtown Los Altos is a go-to place for generous plates of steaming rice (your choice of white or brown) and thick, hearty Japanese curry. If the menu seems modest it's only because Muracci's focuses on what they do best—curries made from a soup stock that has simmered for 20 hours along with vegetables, enough spices to tingle the palate without overwhelming it (although the cooks are happy to add more heat), and your choice of protein, including beef, katsu and seafood (vegetarian option available). They also offer other traditional Japanese dishes, but we're convinced that the curry is the reason why the dining room is always packed with customers, many of whom are Japanese speakers. (MS)

Best Secret Sandwich

Chris Combo at Bertucelli's

La Villa

1319 Lincoln Ave, San Jose

You don't mess around with the perfection of the Chris Combo. You don't ask for "no mayo," or a Dutch crunch roll or extra mustard or—shut up. You just order a Chris Combo and step your ass to the side so the next person can order a sandwich that is nothing short of sublime. Take a number and shut up. (JK)

Best Gin Gimlet

First to Market

399 S. First St, San Jose

Normally we don't bestow honors on restaurants that have been in existence all of a month, but First to Market's clean and simple aesthetic can be no better conveyed than in its crisp, sweet-but-not-too-sweet gin gimlet, served up in a squat martini glass. The best drink we've had in months. (JK)

Best Hangover Cure

Mo's The Breakfast + Burger Joint

278 E. Campbell Ave, Campbell

Steak-and-eggs tacos, bacon pancakes, burgers under omelets and the "colossal" carrot cake waffle are all worthy options, but Mo's has a trump card few can match. Combining a little of all of the above, Lucky's Ultimate Bloody Mary is a mason jarred cocktail that starts with a stiff blend of tomato juice, spices and rice wine (think sake), but then explodes above the rim with a stalk of celery, olives, a slice of bacon and a thick onion ring tossed around the roughage. If that wasn't enough to chase off the tremors, it comes with a Stella back. (JK)

Best Out-of-the-Way Winery

Picchetti Brothers Winery

13100 Montebello Rd, Cupertino

One of the oldest wineries in California sits on an oak-tree-shrouded knoll in the western hills of Cupertino. A light stream trickles behind the tasting room while hens perch in trees and roam the grassy picnic glen at Picchetti family winery. There's a peacock here, too, though he's more elusive. Established in 1896, the grounds and old farmhouse remain aesthetically unchanged by the tech-driven civilization that sprung up around it. For $10, enjoy the tastings. For free, enjoy the nearby hiking trails. (JW)

Best Offal on a Stick


5152 Moorpark Ave, Suite 40, San Jose

Silicon Valley has no shortage of authentic ethnic dining options, thanks to its diverse denizens and ongoing waves of new immigration. Gaku, a Japanese yakitori grill tucked in a narrow nook of a San Jose strip mall, is a standout among them for its back-home authenticity. This year, Bizarre Foods host Andrew Zimmern named it one of the best off-the-beaten-path dining spots in the nation. The casual eatery offers a small plate menu that boasts sundry meats and animal parts, most of which are seared over smoke- and chemical-free charcoals imported straight from Japan. During a visit last year, Zimmern drooled over the perfectly crisped skewered pork intestines, the cold and crisp baby octopus salad, grilled chicken offal, raw meat plates, and generous range of beer and sake options. (JW)

Best Incognito Lunch


131 E. Jackson, San Jose

In our post-privacy world, it seems impossible to do anything without getting caught. The bigger the risks, the more likely the chance of a huge public shaming complete with Facebook dogpile and trial-by-hashtag. But this landmark 89-year-old Chinese restaurant provides more than just inexpensive MSG-free food: it has private booths in which you can buzz for a discreet waiter. And (within reason, for pity's sake) what goes on in those booths stays sub-rosa: co-worker conspiracy against an evil boss; a discreet lunch between a couple of friends who are closer than their mutual spouses would like; maybe a city official singing like a canary to some eager reporter. Even just being alone is tough these days; Wing's is quiet in a world of industrial-chic restaurants that resound like bus-barns. (RvB)

Best Scotch Egg

The Table

1110 Willow St, San Jose

Larger than a softball, this delicious ball of brunch combines the home-cookin' goodness of deep fried sausage with a runny egg core, along with tasty romesco sauce and arugula salad. (JK)

Best Cocktails with Provenance

Lexington House

40 N. Santa Cruz Ave, Los Gatos

Stephen Shelton and Jimmy Marino have long been local fixtures behind the bar, so it was with great anticipation that their inventive gastropub, Lexington House, opened in Los Gatos last September. Despite the restaurant's early success, customers can expect to find one or both of the co-owners tending the bar on a typical night, serving up their original, spirit-driven concoctions or adaptations of drinks they've had elsewhere. The menu reads like a recipe anthology, crediting the mixologist behind each drink and listing its components. In keeping with the theme of the restaurant, they don't skimp on ingredients: think house-made syrups and rare, barrel-aged bourbons. (MS)

Best Unusual Bar Snack

Fried grasshoppers at Mezcal

25 W. San Fernando St, San Jose

Anyone looking for gringo go-to's like liquid cheese-drenched nachos and grease-bombed chimichangas might not appreciate Mezcal. The downtown restaurant known for its distinct dining room with exposed brick walls and richly carved, dark wood furnishings specializes in the kind of authentic Oaxacan fare the general public doesn't associate with Mexican cuisine, like sesame-crusted salmon, breaded chicken and crispy fried grasshoppers. The garlic-and-lime-spiced insects pair well with the place's namesake—mezcal, a type of agave liquor that's smokier and more full-bodied than its blue agave variant, tequila. Try an order of the protein-packed hoppers with a side of tortilla chips, crema and green tomatillo salsa. (JW)

Best Veggie Omelet

Sara's Kitchen

1595 Franklin St, Santa Clara

A diner breakfast is often a carnivorous affair: bacon, sausage, ham, chorizo, maybe even a steak for the daring. A nap is usually in order afterward. But through a combination of sporadic vegetarianism and a firm belief that breakfast should be less a specific time of day and more a never-ending journey, we've sampled a wide range of veggie omelets across our wide sprawl. And Sara's Kitchen kills it every time. It's the seemingly simple combo of the #8 garden omelet: sauteed spinach and tomato wrapped in egg and topped with feta cheese and avocado. But the juicy/sweet tomato contrasted with the creamy/tangy feta plus the just-right sauteed spinach and subtle nutty avocado make this omelet complex—and delicious. (SL)

Best Animatronic Shark

Blue Water Seafood & Crab

860 Willow St, San Jose

So inspired by the moving dinosaurs he saw while visiting the Smithsonian Museum, Blue Water owner Craig Guynes hired the same people to build him the 15-foot, 800-pound animatronic shark that hangs inside the doorstep of his crab shack and bar, which opened in late 2012. The sea monster might frighten some, but an expert from the Monterey Bay Aquarium made a visit and confirmed the shark's movements and design actually indicate it's a lady. "We just call it Sharky," Guynes said. (JK)