Best of Silicon Valley 2006:
Intro | The Short List | Campbell | Cupertino | Gilroy and Morgan Hill | Los Gatos | Milpitas | Mountain View | Palo Alto and Menlo Park | San Jose | Santa Clara | Saratoga | Sunnyvale | Willow Glen | Readers' Choice—Food & Sustenance | Readers' Choice—Love & Romance | Readers' Choice—Arts & Culture | Readers' Choice—Shopping & Services
Best of Silicon Valley 2006: The Short List
Some Personal Favorites from Two Decades of Traversing the Valley for Cool Finds
By Dan Pulcrano
Shoe Palace. Stores at White and Aborn; Capitol and McKee; Bascom and Stevens Creek; Valley Fair; Oakridge; Eastridge. This is the Escalade of running shoe stores, the hyphyest, XXXL-sized foot fashion temple where rappers wrap their moving parts. You can actually go snow-blind from staring at the 1,200-plus styles on display.
Siam Square. 1040 Willow St., San Jose. When an owner-chef who has worked at some of the valley's favorite dining spots gets back to his roots, the results smoke the other Thai restaurants, in an intimate setting.
Bicycle Express. 131 E. William St., San Jose. In 1996, before Metro writer Andrew X. Pham wrote "Catfish and Mandala," his book about bicycling across Vietnam, Pham selected Bicycle Express as the best place to rejuvenate an old bicycle. Ten years later, this downtown institution still has no peer.
Platinum Tuna at Blowfish Sushi to Die For. 335 Santana Row, San Jose. After tasting this rare premium tuna, we now really know the meaning of "to die for." It's the tastiest sashimi we've found in the valley, ever.
Maido. 33 Town and Country Village, Palo Alto. 378 Santana Row, San Jose. Cool notebooks and pens will actually improve your writing, it's a fact, and Maido has the perfect pulp product and writing instrument for anything from Japanese calligraphy or haiku to term papers and business notes.
McDonald's. 434 Almaden Road, San Jose. This relic from the era of big cars and roller skating carhops stands proudly as an icon of roadside architecture and the grand eloquence of the golden arches, before healthy salads, low-fat fruit cups and ethnic fusion menus intruded.
Alexander's Steakhouse. 10330 N. Wolfe Road, Cupertino. The quartered cow cadavers that greet guests at the entrance to Alexander's Steakhouse deliver shock therapy to tofu braisers, but once their seratonin recovers, they'll find a selection of vegetarian entrees prepared with the same meticulous attention as the mammal-based entrees.
The orange sauce at La Victoria. 140 E. San Carlos St., San Jose. 131 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose. Can a hot sauce launch a religious cult? If so, La Vic's orange sauce would make converts of us. This homemade creamy bright tangerine-hued mix inspires fanatical devotion.
Perfume Gallery. Valley Fair Mall, Santa Clara. For 17 years, this small owner-operated store has helped the valley smell better. With minature bottles and rarities not found in department stores or duty-free shops, the selection is unbeatable at 1,200 products. "If that's not enough, look for a bigger place for us," the owner says.
Jade Galore. 316 Barber Court, Milpitas. 10821 N. Wolfe Road, Cupertino. A locally owned jeweler that offers personal service and excellent prices on top luxury marks like Baume et Mercier, Bulgari, Cartier, Hublot, Jaeger Le Coultre and Piaget.
Izzy's Brooklyn Bagels. 477 S. California Ave., Palo Alto. As with pizza, everyone in the bagel biz tries to claim East Coast authenticity. Izzy's succeeds, with properly boiled chewy bread rings. And it's still kosher, unlike Noah's.
AJ Auto Detailing. Coleman and Taylor, San Jose. The presence of exotics indicates that drivers for whom money is no object know where to wash their wheels. Luckily for the rest of us, a shiny auto is affordable, with wash, wax and mini detail for $55. And they don't insist on spraying your interior with fruity smells.
Frank's. 38 N. Main St., Milpitas. A pool table, darts, a jukebox and a bar. What more does one need?
Willow Glen Books. 1330 Lincoln Ave., San Jose. The last president to actually read books once shopped here. A neighborhood bookstore that values local authors and regional lore more than table-top books and bestsellers is truly a treasure.
Diamond Laundry. 398 W. San Carlos St., San Jose. It's been around since 1931, under family ownership, with Miss Careful overlooking the parking lot beneath the HIghway 87 overpass.
Monsieur Beans of Willow Glen. 1383 Lincoln Ave., San Jose. Nice to know that an independent has outlasted Peet's and Starbucks on the Avenue. The former Willow Glen Coffee Roasting Company is looking better than ever under the new ownership of Yukimi Kim, with colorful walls, local art exhibits, reading material and jazz performances—exactly the kinds of amenities that a coffeehouse should have.
Cabana Beach Club at Boomerang Bay. Paramount's Great America, Santa Clara. This fantasy event, with minimally clothed bodies and top-flight DJ music, is the best way to fantasize that you are in some exotic beach resort while actually remaining in the heart of industrial Silicon Valley.
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