Best of Silicon Valley 2005
Food & Sustenance
Arts & Culture/Music & Nightlife
Shopping & Services
Love & Romance
Editors' Short List
BEST TACO TRUCK UNDER AN OVERPASS NEXT TO TRAIN TRACKS
Martha's Taco Truck
MONTEREY BOULEVARD AT (AND UNDER) HIGHWAY 85 OVERPASS, SAN JOSE. 408.661.1467.
BEST MENU ITEM THAT COULD BE CONFUSED WITH TOXIC WASTE
Stinky Tofu at Shinbala 20956-A HOMESTEAD ROAD, CUPERTINO. 408.257.6868.
BEST RESTAURANT TO PONDER JUST HOW SMALL AND INSIGNIFICANT WE REALLY ARE, WITH A GLASS OF WINE IN HAND
Mt. Hamilton Grandview 94 MT. HAMILTON ROAD, SAN JOSE. 408.251.8909.
BEST OTHERWORDLY DINING EXPERIENCE
Manresa 320 VILLAGE LANE, LOS GATOS. 408.354.4330.
BEST OVER-THE-TOP KOBE-STYLE BEEF BURGER
Alexander's Steakhouse 10330 N. WOLFE ROAD, CUPERTINO. 498.446.2222.
BEST OBSESSIVELY MADE BOWL OF RAMEN
Ramen Halu 375-M S. SARATOGA AVE., SAN JOSE. 408.246.3933.
BEST OLD-SCHOOL RESTAURANT THAT TASTES NEW AND EXCITING
Le Papillon 410 SARATOGA AVE., SAN JOSE. 408.296.3730.
BEST CHINESE FOOD THAT TASTES UNLIKE ANY CHINESE FOOD YOU'VE PROBABLY EVER HAD
South Legend Sichuan Restaurant 1720 N. MILPITAS BLVD., MILPITAS. 408.934.3970.
BEST NEW ORLEANS DINING EXPERIENCE WITHOUT HAVING TO ENDURE STREET FLOODING AND LOOTING
Poor House Bistro 91 S. AUTUMN ST., SAN JOSE. 408.292.5837.
BEST RESTAURANT TO PRETEND YOU'RE IN A DEEP SOUTH JUKE JOINT WHILE SHOOTING POOL AND EATING REALLY GOOD BARBECUE
Uncle Frank's House of Barbecue 2135 OLD MIDDLEFIELD WAY, MOUNTAIN VIEW. 650.964.4476
BEST CAFE TO SAVOR THE FRUITS OF THE VENEZUELAN JUNGLE
Coupa Cafe 538 RAMONA ST., PALO ALTO. 650.322.6872
BEST MEXICAN RESTAURANT THAT GOES BEYOND BURRITOS AND ENCHILADAS
Estrellita 971 N. SAN ANTONIO ROAD, LOS ALTOS. 650.948.9865.
BEST RESTAURANT TO EAT LIKE A HONG KONG HIGH ROLLER IN A JOHN WOO MOVIE
Dynasty Seafood 10123 N. WOLFE ROAD, CUPERTINO. 408.996.1680.
BEST RESTAURANT TO ENJOY GRILLED KOREAN FOOD WHILE DINING UNDER A GIANT STYROFOAM SCULPTURE
1701 LUNDY ROAD #110, SAN JOSE. 408.392.8246.
BEST PLACE TO PRETEND YOU'RE LOST IN A HO CHI MINH CITY STREET MARKET
Grand Century Mall 1001 STORY ROAD, SAN JOSE. 408.298.5148.
BEST PERENNIAL 'BEST OF' FALAFEL WINNER
Falafel Drive-In 2301 STEVENS CREEK BLVD., SAN JOSE. 408.294.7886.
BEST INDIAN-STYLE FAST FOOD THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH HAMBURGERS
Lucky Dhaba 1036 E EL CAMINO REAL, SUNNYVALE. 408.617.0660.
BEST PLACE TO EAT WHEN YOU'VE GOT LESS THAN $2
Lee's Sandwiches MULTIPLE LOCATIONS
BEST PLACE TO FEED YOUR MIND WITH FINE ARTS WHILE YOU FEED YOUR STOMACH WITH THE CULINARY ARTS
Museum Cafe at the San Jose Museum of Art 110 S. MARKET ST., SAN JOSE, 408.993.9765
BEST UPSIDE-DOWN PIZZA (CHEESE ON TOP, TOPPINGS ON THE BOTTOM)
House of Pizza 527 ALMADEN BLVD., SAN JOSE. 408.292.6882.
Food & Sustenance
BEST NEW RESTAURANT
Alexander's SteakHouse See write-up
RUNNERS UP: Tandoori Oven MULTIPLE LOCATIONS; Fahrenheit Ultra Lounge 99 E. SAN FERNANDO ST., SAN JOSE
BEST PLACE TO BE SEEN
Santana Row See write-up
RUNNERS UP: Fahrenheit Ultra Lounge 99 E. SAN FERNANDO ST., SAN JOSE; VALLEY FAIR Valley Fair SAN JOSE
Jeffrey Stout See write-up
RUNNERS UP: David Kinch MANRESA, 320 VILLAGE LANE, LOS GATOS; Danny Chu FAHRENHEIT, 99 E. SAN FERNANDO ST., SAN JOSE
Hawgs Seafood 150 S. Second St., San Jose
RUNNERS UP: Scott's Seafood 185 PARK AVE. #6, SAN JOSE; Fish Market Restaurant 1007 BLOSSOM HILL ROAD, SAN JOSE
Scott's Seafood 185 Park Ave. #6, San Jose
RUNNERS UP: Los Altos Grill 233 THIRD ST., LOS ALTOS; Alexander's Steakhouse 10330 N. WOLFE ROAD, CUPERTINO
Chef Ming's Chinese Restaurant 61 Washington St., Santa Clara
RUNNERS UP: Chef Chu's 1067 N. SAN ANTONIO ROAD, LOS ALTOS Tao Tao 175 MURPHY AVE., SUNNYVALE
Blowfish Sushi See write-up
RUNNERS UP: Kyoto Palace 1875 S BASCOM AVE. #2500, CAMPBELL; Sushi Zen 1700 N. FIRST ST. #379, SAN JOSE
Green Papaya See write-up
RUNNERS UP: Citronelle 826 S. WINCHESTER BLVD., SAN JOSE; Vung Tau 535 E. SANTA CLARA ST., SAN JOSE
Korea House 2340 El Camino Real, Santa Clara
RUNNERS UP: Korean Palace 2297 STEVENS CREEK BLVD., SAN JOSE; Palace BBQ 1092 E. EL CAMINO REAL, SUNNYVALE
BEST DIM SUM
Mayflower Restaurant 222 Great Mall Drive, Milpitas
RUNNERS UP: Joy Luck Place 10911 N. WOLFE ROAD, CUPERTINO; Chef Ming's Chinese Restaurant 61 WASHINGTON ST., SANTA CLARA
La Victoria See write-up
RUNNERS UP: El Burro 1875 S. BASCOM AVE. #570, CAMPBELL La Paloma 2280 EL CAMINO REAL, SANTA CLARA
Amber India See write-up
RUNNERS UP: Tandoori Oven MULTIPLE LOCATIONS; Royal Taj 1350 CAMDEN AVE., CAMPBELL
Gojo 1261 W. San Carlos St., San Jose
RUNNERS UP: Red Sea 684 N. FIRST ST., SAN JOSE Shebele 422 E. CAMPBELL AVE., CAMPBELL
Le Papillon See write-up
RUNNERS UP: Left Bank 1100-1377 SANTANA ROW, SAN JOSE Sent Sovi 14583 BIG BASIN WAY, SARATOGA
Maggiano's 3055 Olin Ave., San Jose
RUNNERS UP: Buca di Beppo MULTIPLE LOCATIONS; Giorgio's 1445 FOXWORTHY AVE. #408, SAN JOSE
Yiassoo See write-up
RUNNERS UP: Athena Grill 1501 SPACE PARK DRIVE, SANTA CLARA; Evvia 420 EMERSON ST., PALO ALTO
BEST MIDDLE EASTERN
Falafel Drive-In See write-up
RUNNERS UP: Dish Dash 190 S. MURPHY AVE., SUNNYVALE; Kabul MULTIPLE LOCATIONS
Krung Thai 640 S. Winchester Blvd., San Jose
RUNNERS UP: Amarin 5236 PROSPECT ROAD, SAN JOSE; Blue Mango 4996 STEVENS CREEK BLVD., SAN JOSE
Pho Thang Long 402 Barber Lane, Milpitas
RUNNERS UP: Pho Vi Hoa 4536 EL CAMINO REAL, LOS ALTOS; Pho Long Thinh 1080 SARATOGA AVE., SAN JOSE
La Victoria See write-up
RUNNERS UP: Super Taqueria MULTIPLE LOCATIONS; Consuelo 377 SANTANA ROW #1125, SAN JOSE
Forbes Mill Steakhouse See write-up
RUNNERS UP: Alexander's Steakhouse, 10330 N. WOLFE ROAD, CUPERTINO; Henry's World Famous Hi-Life, 301 W. ST. JOHN ST., SAN JOSE
BEST LATE-NIGHT EATS
Mini Gourmet See write-up
RUNNERS UP: Cardinal Lounge 3197 MERIDIAN AVE., SAN JOSE; La Victoria Taqueria 140 E. SAN CARLOS ST., SAN JOSE
Stacks 139 E. Campbell Ave., Campbell
RUNNERS UP: Flames Coffee Shop of San Jose 1812 HILLSDALE AVE., SAN JOSE; Bill of Fare 1005 SARATOGA AVE., SAN JOSE
Sam's Bar-B-Que See write-up
RUNNERS UP: JC's BBQ 1080 SARATOGA AVE., SAN JOSE; Henry's World Famous Hi-Life 301 W. ST. JOHN ST., SAN JOSE
BEST ASIAN VEGETARIAN
Citronelle 826 S. Winchester Blvd., San Jose
RUNNERS UP: Tofoo Com Chay 388 E. SANTA CLARA ST., SAN JOSE; Blue Mango 4996 STEVENS CREEK BLVD., SAN JOSE
BEST INDIAN VEGETARIAN
Royal Taj 1350 Camden Ave., Campbell
RUNNERS UP: Dasaprakash 2636 HOMESTEAD RD., SANTA CLARA; Sue's Indian Cuisine 895 WILLOW ST., SAN JOSE
BEST VEGETARIAN OVERALL
Tofoo Com Chay See write-up
RUNNERS UP: White Lotus 80 N. MARKET ST., SAN JOSE; Blue Mango 4996 STEVENS CREEK BLVD., SAN JOSE
BEST RESTAURANT PATIO
Paragon Restaurant & Bar See write-up
RUNNERS UP: Bella Saratoga 14503 BIG BASIN WAY, SARATOGA; Wine Cellar San Jose 50 UNIVERSITY AVE., LOS GATOS
Barefoot Coffee Roasters See write-up
RUNNERS UP: Los Gatos Coffee Roasting Co. 101 W. MAIN ST., LOS GATOS; Blue Rock Shoot 14523 BIG BASIN WAY, SARATOGA
Icing on the Cake 50 W. Main St., Los Gatos
RUNNERS UP: Dick's Bakery 1593 MERIDIAN AVE., SAN JOSE; Wilson's Jewel Bakery 1285 HOMESTEAD ROAD, SANTA CLARA
Icing on the Cake 50 W. Main St., Los Gatos
RUNNERS UP: La Fondue 14510 BIG BASIN WAY #3, SARATOGA; Flower Flour 896 WILLOW ST., SAN JOSE
Pizza Chicago 1576 Halford Ave., Santa Clara
RUNNERS UP: Pizza My Heart THREE LOCATIONS; Jake's Pizza THREE LOCATIONS
Kirk's Steakburgers See write-up
RUNNERS UP: Sliders Diner 1645 W. SAN CARLOS ST., SAN JOSE; Original Joe's 301 S. FIRST ST., SAN JOSE
BEST ICE CREAM
Sweet Retreat Ice Cream Parlor
6061 Cahalan Ave., San Jose
RUNNERS UP: Dolce Spazio 221 N. SANTA CRUZ AVE., LOS GATOS; Rick's Ice Cream 3946 MIDDLEFIELD ROAD, PALO ALTO
La Victoria See write-up
RUNNERS UP: Burrito Factory MULTIPLE LOCATIONS; Hi Tech Burrito 15960 LOS GATOS BLVD., LOS GATOS
Blowfish Sushi See write-up
RUNNERS UP: Miyake Restaurant 10650 S. DE ANZA BLVD., CUPERTINO; Sushi Boat Restaurant 1600 SARATOGA AVE. #119, SAN JOSE
Thea See write-up
RUNNERS UP: Dish Dash 190 S. MURPHY AVE., SUNNYVALE; Falafel Drive-In MULTIPLE LOCATIONS
La Fondue 14510 Big Basin Way, Saratoga
RUNNERS UP: Melting Pot 72 S. FIRST ST., SAN JOSE; Sonoma Chicken Coop, MULTIPLE LOCATIONS
BEST DELI/SANDWICH SHOP
Amato's Cheese Steaks 1162 Saratoga Ave., San Jose
RUNNERS UP: Zanotto's MULTIPLE LOCATIONS; Time Deli 349 S. BASCOM AVE., SAN JOSE
BEST ALL-YOU-CAN-EAT LUNCH BUFFET
Royal Taj 1350 Camden Ave., Campbell
RUNNERS UP: Hometown Buffet THREE LOCATIONS; Sweet Tomatoes TWO LOCATIONS; BEST THAI/VIETNAMESE COFFEE Coffee Lovers 1855 Aborn Road, San Jose
BEST THAI/VIETNAMESE COFFEE
Coffee Lovers 1855 Aborn Road, San Jose
RUNNERS UP: Blue Mango 4996 STEVENS CREEK BLVD., SAN JOSE; Barefoot Coffee Roasters 5237 STEVENS CREEK BLVD., SANTA CLARA
BEST PLACE TO BLOW OFF YOUR LOW-CARB DIET
Original Joe's See write-up
RUNNERS UP: Max's Restaurant 1620 SARATOGA AVE. #309, SAN JOSE; Maggiano's Little Italy 3055 OLIN AVE., SAN JOSE
Lettuce Introduce You: Alexander's steaks a claim on the award for Best New Restaurant.
Best New Restaurant
On the one hand, naming Alexander's Steakhouse the best new restaurant seems an obvious choice2005 will not go down as one of the more thrilling years for new restaurant openings in Silicon Valley. But Alexander's didn't win by default. Even in a crowded field the restaurant would be a standout. Kobe-style beef and dry-aged steaks are the stars here, but so are the inventive and deliciously prepared seafood and the jewellike array of small plates. Add a high-style but welcoming ambience, professional service and a user-friendly wine list that's thicker than a small-town phone book and it becomes clear why Alexander's rocketed to the top. 10330 N. Wolfe Road, Cupertino. 408.446.2222.
Best Place to Be Seen
You're looking good and you know it. But you want other people to know it, too. Metro readers know what to do. Apply a little hair gel or perfume and head on down to Santana Row for a little human sightseeing. With its outdoor dining and shopping, happening nightlife and conspicuous consumption, Santana Row has brought a dose of Vegas to San Jose, minus the 109 degree heat. The commercial space/apartment complex has become a magnet for Silicon Valley's beautiful and semibeautiful people. You may be looking good and you'll notice that everyone else is, too. What better place to press the flesh? Santana Row, San Jose. 408.551.4611.
You Know You Make Me Want a Stout: Come on now! Stout! Yeah, yeah, yeah, Jeffrey Stout! Alexander's mastermind was voted Best Chef.
Metro readers named Alexander's Steakhouse the best new restaurant, so it makes sense that the restaurant's talented chef should walk away with best chef honors as well. In fact, it makes a lot of sense. Jeffrey Stout has enlivened the staid steakhouse concept with food that goes miles beyond meat and potatoes. Drawing upon his bicultural upbringing, Stout fuses classic French technique with an Asian sensibility and delicacy that breaks the steakhouse mold and charts new territory. His diverse and inventive menu offers several entry points, from the edible artistry of his small-plate offerings to the go-for-broke dry-aged steaks. Whatever you order, Stout's reverence for top quality ingredients, impeccable technique and stunning presentation are the thread that runs through everything that comes out of his kitchen. 10330 N. Wolfe Road, Cupertino. 408.446.2222.
There's something inherently sexy about Japanese food, and Best Japanese food winner Blowfish Sushi has got it in spades. Just don't come expecting to quietly sip tea as you contemplate the beauty of rice, fish and seaweed on a plate. The atmosphere combines Vegas opulence and L.A. exclusivity with a dressed-to-the-nines crowd and deafening sound system. A Zen garden it ain't. The action at the sake bar is as hot as at the sushi bar. But as for the food, chef Ritsuo Tsuchida creates exciting East-meets-West sushi rolls using unlikely ingredients like ostrich, flash fried salmon and duck. For traditionalists, try the luscious chotoro, a fat-streaked hunk of tuna belly. 335 Santana Row, San Jose. 408.345.3848.
For more than 25 years, Silicon Valley has been a hot spot for Vietnamese dining. Traditional pho joints and bahn mi shops abound, and now a new generation of smart, contemporary Vietnamese restaurants that fuse classic techniques and ingredients with a New World sensibility have appeared on the scene and Metro readers put Los Gatos' Green Papaya at the top of the heap. The Santa Cruz Avenue restaurant combines an elegant interior, an exciting menu and a red-hot location. More than a touch of Indochine ambience wafts through the inviting pages of Green Papaya's menu, long on inventive updates of clay pot and five-spice authentica, noodle specialties and inspired seafood entrees. Call it California cuisine meets Southeast Asia by way of Paris. 137 N. Santa Cruz Ave., Los Gatos. 408.395.9115.
La Victoria Taqueria
The secret is in the sauce. Generations of San Jose State students and other downtown denizens have been nourished by the tacos, burritos, nachos and great breakfasts made at mighty La Vic. Expect to find a line out the door at lunchtime. The food is all good but it's that creamy, spicy, pale orange sauce that ties it all together. Metro readers not only named La Victoria their favorite Mexican restaurant, but also their favorite source for burritos and tacos. And in case you didn't know, the sauce is available for sale by the bottle. 140 E. San Carlos St., San Jose. 408.298.5335.
Though the original Amber India is a Mountain View fixture, a whole new legion of Silicon Valley eaters got acquainted via the more recent opening of the location on Santana Row. Is there anything on this menu that doesn't make you feel as though you've stumbled upon true culinary enlightenment? No, no, there is not. An attempt to make it through the buffet without heeding the siren song of every single offeringfrom the ludicrously tender chicken to the kalaunji bengan (an eggplant dish with a zest that borders on the revolutionary) right on down to the market fresh vegetableswill prove that. And yet. And yet, friends. And yet one dish rises even above this gold-standard of excellence to define the very notion of "signature dish." It is called Amber India butter chicken, and you simply won't find a better version of this dish. So stop looking already! Clearly, most Metro readers have. Multiple locations.
Papillon Don't Take No Mess: Scott Cooper, executive chef of Le Papillon, has kept the San Jose fixture at the top of its game.
Le Papillon executive chef Scott Cooper began his career at the restaurant as a dishwasher 24 years ago. From there he rose through the ranks to become a highly skilled culinary craftsman. So steeped is he in the ways of French cuisine that it wouldn't be a surprise to learn that as a baby his bottles were spiked with beurre blanc. Cooper's ever-changing menu of exciting, visually stunning contemporary French food is as sharp and fresh as ever. With Cooper at the helm, and the restaurant's impeccable service and quiet elegance, Le Papillon is at the top of its game even after opening its doors in its quiet-in-the-storm location on Saratoga Avenue nearly 30 years ago. 410 Saratoga Ave., San Jose. 408.296.3730.
The décor of this cheap and authentic Greek eaterymostly plastic and Formica with cheap checked tableclothsis nothing to write home about, but the food more than makes up for it. Technically, Yiassoo is a fast food place, as you order at the counter, but the staff does indeed bring the food to your table. The gyros and souvlaki sandwiches are as authentic as you would get in Greece and nothing on the menu is over $8. A bottle of retsina, the classic Greek pine tar resin wine, is $10 and there are several rotating specialties, including marinated pork, calamari plates and more. Every single item on the menu, including the pita bread, is made fresh. A perfect place to spend a slow afternoonas you would in Greecewhile discussing the issues of the day over drinks and authentic food. 2180 S. Bascom Ave., Campbell. 408.559.0312.
Best Middle Eastern
Come to the Falafel Drive-In at lunch and expect a long but fast-moving line. Your only responsibility is to keep the line of students, suits and punks moving and be ready to state your order when your turn comes. And if you know what's good for you, you'll order a falafel. Served fresh and hot out of the fryer and loaded with lettuce, tomatoes and oozing tahini sauce from a warm pita, the Falafel Drive-In's namesake sandwich is a South Bay classic. Burgers, gyros and others items are available too, but stick with the falafel. Wash it all down with a banana milkshake and consider your lunch hour well spent. 2301 Stevens Creek Blvd., San Jose. 408.294.7886.
Best Late-Night Eats
One of the few places in the valley open 24 hours, Mini Gourmet is as American as it gets and the place has been around forever. The corner of Bascom and Moorpark just wouldn't be the same without it. Try an omelette or a milkshake. The menu is absolutely huge and Mini Gourmet is the quintessential spot to hit after the bars close. Or, if you like, waltz in on a Sunday morning and order mimosas. When you do, come in with a party of four and instead of ordering separate drinks, order a bottle of champagne and a bottle of orange juice. Exchange overheard after doing exactly that: Waitress: Are you OK to drive? Patrons: Sure, we're not even warmed up yet. Waitress: I'd hate to see you when you're warmed up. Patrons: It's an ugly sight. 599 S. Bascom Ave., San Jose. 408. 275.8973.
We'll tell you one thing: hotcakes are particularly hot right now. The Stacks in Campbell is hoppin' absolutely every weekend; people pour out onto the street, where the staff have mercifully erected a fountain from which the free coffee freely flows. Inside, Stacks has brilliantly combined old-fashioned American diner chic with New American breakfast flavors: frittatas, chicken apple sausage and even crepes. But with a name like this, you know special attention has to go to the griddle, and it does; there's always some freaky nuevo flavor of pancake to explore, or have a traditional Belgian waffle. Just get there early, for the love of God. Multiple locations.
Forbes Mill Steakhouse
Forty-four bucks is lot of money for a New York steak, but when Metro readers crave red meat, they want to be treated right. Forbes Mill Steakhouse in Los Gatos is a flesh eater's paradise. Dry-aged steaks are cooked with precision in a 1,500 degree broiler. The protein-mad days of Atkins mania may have passed but a well-cooked steak and a good bottle of cabernet sauvignon served in a handsome dining room never goes out of style. Meanwhile, the upscale bar, decorated in clubby stained wood near the glow of a fireplace is big with the after-work crowd. Well-dressed, thirtysomethings drink pricey cocktails and chat each other up while watching the rest of the world zoom by on Santa Cruz Avenue. 206 N. Santa Cruz Ave., Los Gatos 408.395.6434.
Like rap stars glorifying their hometowns, most barbecue restaurants tout the superiority of their particular brand of 'cue, be it from Texas, Kansas City, North Carolina or wherever. Sam's Bar-B-Que is different. The San Jose restaurant, founded by the Carlino family 55 years ago, serves smoked meats in a number of styles. There are Kansas City–style baby back ribs, Texas brisket and Southwestern-style chicken. Sandwiches such as the Italian sausage with pepper and onions and the pepper steak with 24-hour marinated rib-eye get high praise as well. The saloon-theme dining room and wood paneled walls give the place a way-out-West feel. Wednesday nights live blue grass makes the barbecue taste even better. 1110 S. Bascom Ave., San Jose. 408.297.9151.
Best Vegetarian Overall
Tofoo Com Chay
Tofu is the chameleon of foodstuffs and Tofoo Com Chay turns the stuff and other vegetable products into any number of dishes. There are the "chicken" drumsticks, teriyaki tofu and pineapple "tuna." The downtown Vietnamese restaurant has just a few tables and attracts vegetarians and carnivores alike. It's mainly a takeout place but friendly owner Ben Banj will make you feel comfortable if you find an empty table. While much of the food imitates meat, you won't miss it, especially at these prices. Banj, a vegetarian himself, may convert you with his menu of "I can't believe it's not animal flesh" creations. 388 E Santa Clara St., San Jose. 408.286.6335.
Best Restaurant Patio
Paragon Restaurant & Bar
Housed in the Montgomery Hotel downtown, Paragon says it's not a hotel restaurant. It's a bar with a hotel upstairs. Most of their clientele comes from the street, not the hotel guests. And if you're a vodka aficionado, put Paragon on your agenda, as they stock over 100 kindsall chilled. But the patio is the most impressive aspect of this restaurant. You've got bocce ball, contemporary couches and a laid-back ambience that's hard to match. You can have a business meeting, smoke cigars and get plowed on vodka from Jamaica, Norway, Chile or the good old USA. If vodka ain't your style, don't worry. It's a great patio to tip a few scotches and discuss the issues of the day. You don't even really feel like you're in downtown San Jose at all, that is, until the light rail comes shrieking around the corner. 211 S. First St., San Jose. 408.282.8888.
Barefoot Coffee Roasters
Starbucks aside, the coffeehouse category is an especially competitive one in Silicon Valley. Barefoot wins not only for its inspired cups of joe and talented baristas but its sense of social responsibility as well. After oil, coffee is the most heavily traded commodity in the world and the java growing regions of the world, i.e., the Third World, would be in much better environmental and economic shape if more coffeehouses followed in Barefoot's steps. Most of the cafe's coffee is certified fair trade, organic and shade grown. All of which makes that double cappuccino give you an extra lift. Cool beans! 5237 Stevens Creek Blvd., Santa Clara. 248.4500.
A burger is such a simple thing. Ground beef, lettuce, tomato, bun. Not much to it. But in the wrong hands a burger can go very wrong. Metro readers know they're in good hands with Kirk's Steakburgers, a Silicon Valley tradition for more than 50 years. Kirk's grills its burgers to orderno precooked, griddle-fried patties here. Things get better from there as your burger is assembled with the perfect bun and toppings of your choice. While the burgers are king here, the shakes, thick and rich and made with milk and soft serve ice cream, come in a close second. Multiple locations.
Thea Winner Is: Thea chef Alex Padilla has brought the tastes of Greece to Santana Row, and readers have thanked him with a Best of Silicon Valley win.
Thea Mediterranean Cuisine
True, one side of Thea backs up to a big American looking parking lot, but this restaurant transports Silicon Valley to the blue-green waters of the Mediterranean, where cool evening breezes wash over white-washed homes clinging to arid hillsides as the sun goes down. Or something like that. What we know for sure is that Santana Row's Thea restaurant serves top-notch Mediterranean food rooted in the sun-drenched food of Greece and Turkey. Executive chef Alex Padilla traveled to these exotic lands and returned with a handful of recipes that he's incorporated into the new Santana Row restaurant. The food can be quite good and the airy dining room and soaring ceilings help take diners away to a distant land, if only until the check arrives and they have to walk back to the parking lot and drive home. 3090 Olsen Dr., San Jose. 408.260.1444.
Hey Joe!: Silicon Valley hasn't forgotten the Original. And now that that low-carb craze appears to be dying out, we can all get back to some real eating.
Best Place to Blow Off Your Low-Carb Diet
O.J.'s will turn 50 next year, quite an accomplishment in a town that's always changing. The place is a San Jose institution and it resembles the old East Coast–style Italian restaurants where the tuxedo-sporting waiters are in your face and constantly belting out wisecracks left and right. The cooks and waiters are yelling at each other across the restaurant and the place is as loud as all bloody hell. The portions here are gargantuan, so huge that many customers walk out with doggie bags. The menu can be somewhat pricey if you're on a budget, but nevertheless, it's a great place to people watch. This is true Americana, folksa great menu of cholesterol-filled, heart-stopper specials in true gastronomical fashion. The decor is straight out of 1962, but it's a great place to dine with the family or to gorge away a hangover on a Sunday morning. In the back there's an old-school cocktail lounge where amateur drinkers are laughed out of the establishment. 301 S. First St., San Jose. 408.292.7030.
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