The Best of Silicon Valley 2015

Food & Drink | Editors' Picks

Manresa Bread Manresa Bread

Best New High-End Bakery

Manresa Bread

276 N. Santa Cruz Ave., Los Gatos

While most celebrity chefs focus on empire building, David Kinch has buckled down and turned his two-Michelin-starred Manresa restaurant into one of the world's most acclaimed eateries. But Kinch had enough faith in his head baker, Avery Ruzicka, that he teamed up with her to launch his first spinoff: Manresa Bread. The bakery offshoot celebrated the opening of its first storefront in downtown Los Gatos this year. This is no hipster cupcake joint. Manresa's bakery embodies the haute-cuisine spirit of its namesake, producing imaginative and labor-intensive baked goods. Orange-chocolate brioche. Marzipan-almond croissants. Sticky-sweet cinnamon monkey bread. Gruyere-onion tarts. Seasonal variations both savory and sweet, served with a side of Verve coffee. (JW)

Best Gourmet Ghetto

Downtown Mountain View

Castro Street, Mountain View

Sure, the original "Gourmet Ghetto" was in Berkeley, but the East Bay is so far. Where can you go in Silicon Valley for an abundance of eating options all in one place? If you don't have access to Google's world-class cafes, don't sweat it—just head to Castro Street in downtown Mountain View. Choose from excellent (and cheap) street food, like ramen at Shalala, pho at Pho To Chau, or fish tacos at Fiesta Del Mar; grab a great cup of joe at the neighborhood's two independent coffee houses, Red Rock or Dana Street Roasting Company; class things up at the Shell Shock oyster bar or with Mixx's fusion menu, and satisfy your decadent side with foie gras at Chez TJ. There is plenty of tasty beer, too: check out the craft brews at Bierhaus, Steins Beer Garden, or grab a sixer to go from Jane's Beer Store. (NV)

Good Karma Artisan Ales & CafeGood Karma Artisan Ales & Cafe

Best Beer Bar Posing
as a Vegan Restaurant

Good Karma Artisan Ales & Cafe

37 S .First St., San Jose

For the better part of a decade, Good Karma Vegan Cafe has been the go-to vegan spot in downtown San Jose—especially for the fixed-gear set. That's not going to change any time soon. However, the restaurant is keeping patrons in their seats longer since adding a bevy of craft beers to the menu and rebranding itself Good Karma Artisan Ales & Cafe. With a newly installed rustic wood bar and expanded seating—both indoor and outdoor—Good Karma is a colorful place to grab a quick bite or kill several hours while enjoying industrial strength beer. (NV)

Best Place to Kill Your Hangover

Agave Mexican Grill

17 S. Fourth St., San Jose

Dude it's Sunday and you've done it again. You went too big and now you're hurting the kind of hurt that only the hair of the dog can fix. Your buddies want you to hit up Flames with them, and while those bottomless mimosas are a great deal, you need salt—not sweet—and in the name of all things holy, you can't deal with a crowd right now. So follow your friends to South Fourth Street, and when no one is looking, limp away to Agave Mexican Grill on the other end of the block. While you're there you can grab some cheap tacos, menudo or just some good, old fashioned rice and beans. Enjoy the spoils of an extensive salsa bar and throw back a few savory micheladas. No one will find you and you won't have to look anyone in the eye. (NV)

A Slice of New YorkA Slice of New York

Best Wall of Shame

A Slice of New York

3443 Stevens Creek Blvd., San Jose

A Slice of New York—the hole-in-the-wall pizza joint in west San Jose—enjoys a devoted following and the four-and-a-half-star Yelp reviews to show for it. Amassing a near-perfect rating from more than 1,800 famously finicky Yelpers is an impressive feat for any eatery. Of course, most of those stars come from the fact that #ASONY (as the kids call it) serves some of the best thin-crust pizzas this side of the Big Apple. It also helps that engineer-turned-pizzeria proprietor Kirk Vartan makes a point of responding to every person who kvetches online about the food or service. But his brand of customer service isn't all bend-over-backwards friendliness—he will draw a line and resort to public shaming if the offense merits the punishment. Punctuating the San Jose storefront's New York City Subway decor is a Wall of Shame plastered with photos of one-time customers banished for good for unsavory behavior. Some standouts: urinating in a nearby alley (then Yelping about it), making off with a red pepper flakes-shaker, sucking on a bottle of hot sauce like a baby bottle and throwing a pizza box at the clerk. (JW)

Best Chili-Spiced Dessert in a Cup

Mangonada

United Paleteria y Neveria, 410 S. King Road, San Jose

Ramen burgers. Cronuts. Donut burgers. Quesadilla-wrapped burritos. Social media has spawned an entire genre of culinary mash-ups, inspiring chefs to whip up improbable concoctions in the hopes of creating the next "buzzfood" for people to gloat about on Instagram. For many of these creations, novelty trumps taste. Not so with the mangonada, the South Bay's summertime obsession as evidenced by the deluge of IG photos of the icy treat every time the weather warms. The mangonada is a fiery orange-and-red Mexican dessert that's at once salty, sweet, spicy, bitter and sour—a traditional dessert enjoying its moment as a buzzfood because of its striking mix of flavors and, maybe, because it's so photogenic. Essentially, a parfait of mango sorbet topped with fresh cut mangoes, chili powder, lime, salt, a drizzle of fermented fruit chamoy sauce and speared with a tamarind candy-coated straw. Come any sunny day, and, without fail, an out-the-door line forms at United Paleteria y Neveria, a Mexican ice cream parlor on King Road. (JW)

Nam VangNam Vang

Best Cambodian Noodles

Nam Vang

2477 Alvin Ave., San Jose

With the days warming up into 80-degree heat, soup season is just about coming to a close. Time to switch from belly-warming pho to dry noodles with a small side of pork bone broth to spoon over the main dish for maximum slurpability. At Nam Vang—a cash-only Cambodian-Vietnamese-Chinese fusion noodle spot in a dingy south San Jose strip mall—the Special No. 1 has endured as a perennial favorite. It comes with a mix of rice noodles and/or egg noodles, parsley, ground pork, squid, shrimp, green onions, bean sprouts and a sticky sauce. Order it with a Chinese long donut to dip in the broth. (JW)

Best Secret Coffee Spot

I Java Cafe

387 Delmas Ave., San Jose

Denizens of Delmas Park, a neighborhood bounded on one side by a roaring freeway and populated by auto body shops, forgotten modernism and slumping Victorians, worried at first that the corner lot would end up occupied by a pot collective or a tattoo parlor. Instead, much to their delight, they got I Java Cafe. Tucked away in its quirky, oddly zoned pocket, I Java lies in the heart of the city but still manages to feel off the beaten path. While some nights draw lively crowds for live music or art shows, an afternoon at the corner cafe is usually quiet, inviting for anyone who needs a peaceful place to meet over a cup of coffee or work alone to the proprietor's preferred soundtrack of Spanish guitar. (JW)

Jack Rose Libation HouseJack Rose Libation House

Best Literary Themed Bar

Jack Rose Libation House

18840 Los Gatos-Saratoga Road, Los Gatos

When Russ Stanley reinvented the Hacienda Inn a couple years ago, he drew inspiration from the neighborhood's literary history. John Steinbeck penned The Grapes of Wrath and Of Mice and Men at his home on nearby Greenwood Lane in the late '30s. Stanley renamed the place Jack Rose Libation House, named after the novelist's favorite cocktail of apple brandy, lemon and grenadine. The cocktail-centric bar translates its writerly theme to the decor, too. Walls are scrawled with quotes and recipes, book-lined shelves separate intimate alcoves, and birds made from book pages hang from the ceiling. The drink menu pays homage to other writers, as well, with cocktails such as The Beautiful and Damned and This Side of Paradise. (JW)