The Best of Silicon Valley 2016

Editors' Picks

Hay MarketK.Flay Photograph by Greg Ramar

Best Forgotten Category
(Rock Club)

Some journalists are perfectionists with numbers, surveys and polls. That's not us. If we were statisticians we'd be Nate Silver. While we may not really understand the electoral college, we know enough about Silicon Valley to realize we should have let readers vote on the best rock & roll club. There are plenty of great places to hear live music, but we're quite partial to The Ritz. Started by Blank Club founder Corey O'Brien, the year-old SoFA club has been killing it—most recently hosting some rad shows, including K.Flay, Drive Like Jehu, Melvins, DJ QBert and more. (NV)

Best Way to Troll Willow Glen

Ask somebody in Willow Glen what they think of the "road diet" and take cover. Lincoln Avenue's switch from four lanes to three—the center lane is for left turns—was designed to study traffic patterns and make the San Jose thoroughfare more walkable, but it's set off a Hatfield-McCoy dispute amongst neighbors and businesses, pitting friends and family against one another as they spar with anecdotal accounts of how things used to be. (JK)

Best Antique Shop Serving Caviar

It's a good time to be a maturing hipster in San Jose. The SoFA District is taking off, there are plenty of craft cocktail choices downtown and now there's Deluxe. This communal style "Eatery and Drinkery" serves a carefully curated menu of hangover-killers at fair prices. Even the decadent, Archer-inspired "Eggs Woodhouse," which features truffles, saffron and caviar, won't break the bank. And during the particularly busy Sunday brunch hour, patrons can pass the time with some window shopping—most of the vintage decor is on consignment from Thrift City. (NV)

Viva CalleSJViva CalleSJ Photograph by Sergio Ruiz

Best Streetwalkers

When San Jose blocked off six miles of roadways for the inaugural Viva CalleSJ last year, it was something of a social experiment. Could a city so sprawling and car-dependent get enough people to explore the streets by foot, bike or board? Apparently, yes. Some 35,000 people flocked to the peripatetic festival to cycle, skate, walk or hula-hoop their way from Little Saigon to St. James Park in downtown. Expect a redux this fall. (JW)

Best New Crosswalk

Yes, we're actually giving a crosswalk a Best Of—but it's a pretty sweet crosswalk. The South Bay's first rainbow-striped walkway intersects The Alameda in front of the Billy DeFrank LGBTQ Community Center in San Jose. City officials and DeFrank center staff coordinated on the project. What people may take for granted is the rainbow stripes are straight directionally correct on both sides to make sure neighborhood traffic flows with pride. (JK)

Best Artistic Power Couple

Young, artistically minded and incredibly ambitious, Chris Morrish and Erin Salazar are the kind of couple you'd expect to live in San Francisco. Fortunately, they prefer the speed of life in San Jose, and are doing their damndest to improve the community, one creative project at a time. They have worked to fund massive murals all over downtown through their non-profit, The Exhibition District. And they've teamed with Drew Clark, founder of The Commons, to produce unique events in underutilized common spaces—including an open-air "Sadie Hawkins Swing Social," with a big band and swing dancing lessons; and a Black Friday variety show, featuring a heavy metal operetta and live music by San Jose dark folk duo Oddly Even. (NV)

Best Clothing Boutique-Gallery Mashup

New digs, same attitude. Taking over the West San Carlos Street building that was formerly home to Black Cat Collective, clothing boutique Black & Brown has joined forces with Seeing Things Gallery to fill both floors with art and style and all things in between. 751 W San Carlos St, San Jose. (JK)

Steve SawaSteve Sawa

Best Sushi Despot

At Sawa Sushi, the chef decides what customers eat. Never try to order. Never ask for a California roll, a side of soup or extra rice. Go heavy-handed on the soy sauce and risk getting kicked out. There's no menu. Prices are not discussed but discovered. One would think that kind of intimidation would scare people off from a forgettable-looking neon-signed blip in a Sunnyvale strip mall. But no. Chef Steve Sawa's commanding style has earned him Michelin stars, international acclaim and legions of patrons moneyed enough to take the tongue lashing. 1042 El Camino Real, Sunnyvale. (JW)

Best $5 Feast

Sure, the two-item combos run for about $8, but Filipino fare is rich enough to fill up on a fiver. Valerio's City Bakery, a California chainlet with a shop in San Jose's Berryessa neighborhood, serves fresh-from-the-oven beef and chicken empanadas, banana-jackfruit eggrolls (turon), sweet-cream Spanish rolls, purple yam-filled pan de ube and its signature pan de sal. Pastries run for cents on the dollar. For something more substantial, spring another few bucks on an entree, which varies by the day but often includes sweet-salty adobo, blood-blackened diniguan and heaps of noodles. The shop is a point-and-eat joint—a turo-turo, Tagalog for "point-point"—so the menu's on display, ready to serve. 2518 Berryessa Rd, San Jose. (JW)

Best Honey Connect

Beekeeping is a labor of love—and loss. Keeping alive the little critters that make our ecosystem hum is hard work and an inexact science, but the Santa Clara Valley Beekeepers Guild is here to help. Hundreds of members meet the first Monday of every month at Dwell Christian Church in San Jose to share tips with everyone from experts to rookies building their first hive. Find out more at (JK)

Best Coffee for a Cause

At Kartma Street Cafe, the lattes come with a shot of good karma. The sidewalk java cart stationed at San Jose's Market and Santa Clara streets employs homeless baristas for $15-plus an hour. Patrons get custom blends from locally owned Chromatic Coffee, while the folks running the place get a hand up out of poverty. (JW)

Leather MastersLeather Masters

Best Shop on the Wild Side

David Caranza and his partner, the late Tony DaCosta, began making leather gear in their San Jose garage before moving the venture to a nook over a bar in the late '80s. They started small, shilling handmade C&B toys, wristbands, wallets and a single cow-hide harness out of the one-room shop. Yet from those humble beginnings came Leather Masters, the South Bay's preeminent purveyor of kink wear. Originally geared toward gay men, the store has since broadened its appeal to every shade of L-G-B-and-T as well as straights, vanillas, doms and slaves, steampunks, cosplayers and goths. 969 Park Ave, San Jose. (JW)

Best Comeback

Little Portugal had a rough go of it last year. Its landmark restaurant, Sousa's, closed after 33 years. The Valley Transportation Authority's botched construction on a new express bus line tore up Alum Rock Avenue, choking off traffic to mom-and-pop shops. But the neighborhood rallied. A grassroots effort pressured the VTA to get its act together and cough up cash to make up for lost customers. The same group of locals also launched a "Shop Alum Rock" campaign and formed a business association to promote the historic ethnic enclave as a destination. Meanwhile, Adega breathed new life into the Sousa's space with its modern take on Portuguese cuisine. (JW)

Best Locally-Reared Rap Weirdo

Antonio Williams, better known as Antwon, has been buzzed-about for years. Raised in the South Bay, the oddball emcee has been hailed by Pitchfork, Complex, SPIN and more. And yet, even as out-there rappers like Earl Sweatshirt have taken off, Antwon has remained in the shadows—always respected, but still lesser known. That may change with the release of Double Ecstasy. Now based in L.A., Antwon's debut EP for the tastemaking Anticon label finds the former hardcore punk musician hitting on all cylinders. Produced by Lars Stalfors (HEALTH, White Lung), the five-song set is sharp and focused, highlighting everything we love about Antwon: his Biggie-esque flow, his alternative

Editors' picks written by Jennifer Wadsworth, Josh Koehn and Nick Veronin.