[Best of the Santa Clara Valley 1997]

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Best of San Jose's Neighborhoods

Moon Zoom
High-Tack Industry: Moon Zoom, one of the shops on San Carlos Street's antique row, tends toward the pop-culture end of the junk-store spectrum.

Best Shopping for Erstwhile Cyndi Laupers
One shopper adores the swanky $200 Art Deco armoire and inspects a slightly tarnished silver platter that's less than $10 and would look divine covered with an embroidered vintage napkin and warm cookies. Another tries on a funky '50s prom dress costing $20. Both ladies are shopping on the Antiques Row--a concentration of more than 20 antiques shops lining 15 blocks, loaded with everything from ornate Victorian furniture to 1970s pop-culture relics. The biggies on the strip are Antiques Colony (1915 W. San Carlos St., 293-9844) and Antiques Village (1225 W. San Carlos St., 292-2667), and both would impress even a veteran estate-sale shopper. In the vintage and barely old clothing department, Moon Zoom (1630 W. San Carlos St., 287-5876) and Crossroads Trading Company (1959 W. San Carlos St., 287-5876) cater to girls who just wanna have fun, as well as latter-day hippies, flannel-wearers and anyone else who wouldn't be caught dead in Donna Karan. At the bottom of the heap is Savers (222 Business Circle, corner of San Carlos and Bascom), a large thrift store that makes no pretensions about its "antiques."
W. San Carlos Street between Race Street and Bascom Avenue, San Jose

Best New Spin on
'Beautiful Downtown Burbank'
This is the pedestrian gateway to downtown San Jose, and many people miss what is known as the Burbank district entirely if they arrive in the city from the freeway. But a cruise down West San Carlos Street is a amazing trip through a rare part of suburban California that is not infested with look-a-like strip malls and big-box warehouse stores. This is city shopping before Wal-Mart and Blockbuster Video were even glints in their creators' eyes. Burbank is adamantly not upscale or trendy, absent of cookie-cutter architecture, reveling in its own oddness and mix-and-match style. West San Carlos is filled with fabulous antique shops and enough used-car lots to take the blue out of Bluebook. And down the row, practical home-appliance stores face fanciful costume shops and bridal stores. Nearby, the narrow residential streets are crammed with lovingly restored Victorians and California bungalows, yet these lovely homes are shielded from prying eyes by a body shop or a feed-and-seed outlet on the main drag. Burbank is all about the contrast of quiet, old-fashioned neighborhoods behind the busy shopping district. And it's a quick, freeway-free hop from downtown's action. Sshhh.
San Carlos Street from I-880 to downtown San Jose

Best Excuse to Play Dress-Up
In laid-back, wear-shorts-to-work Silicon Valley, dressing up is often considered a cruel and unusual punishment. But spending time putting together an outfit is really something everyone should try--and if not to emulate an adult, why not to please the inner child? Grade-school fantasies of being a fireman or a fairy princess are easy to appease at the costume rental department of Larry's Theatrical. It has a huge selection of historical costumes including biblical, Greco/Roman, Middle Eastern, Renaissance, 18th-century, Victorian and Edwardian, plus plenty of cartoon, science-fiction, fantasy and uncategorizable outfits for both men and women. The cost is about $55 for a whole weekend of fun. Don't wait for the Halloween rush.
1687 W. San Carlos St., San Jose (408/279-2668)

Best Neighborhood for Sharks Fans
Many local hockey fans have horror stories of spending the pre-game hours sitting in the gridlock of the Guadalupe Parkway or paying double-digit parking rates near the San Jose Arena. But not folks who live in the two to four blocks circling the Arena. This entire area is permit parking only, meaning just those who live in this little enclave of gently worn Victorians and ultra-new condos can park on the street. All others face a minimum $50 fine. Actually, it's not only a good place for hockey fans--admirers of Cirque du Soleil, the Ringling Brothers, Rudy Galindo and Sesame Street Live! all benefit from living in the big tin can's backyard. It's just surprising no one's started renting out their visitor's parking passes for profit.
North of Park Avenue and south of the San Jose Arena, between the Guadalupe River and Montgomery Street, San Jose

rose garden

Best Place to Stop and Smell the Roses
Like just about everything else around here, the Municipal Rose Garden was once an orchard--a prune orchard, to be exact. Now the local landmark is home to approximately 3,500 shrubs of 189 varieties of roses. The scent in the air when the garden is in full-blooming glory is ample reason for the surrounding neighborhood proudly taking its name from this mecca for rose-lovers. A recent warm summer day found not just floralphiles enjoying the garden, but couples, families with children--some of whom actually were stopping to smell the roses--and even two football fans, who seemed to prefer the "rosy" ambiance to the nearby stretch of grass for their game of catch.
Naglee and Dana avenues, San Jose (408/277-2757)

Best Spot to Hang Out With Mummies
In the midst of small houses and bungalows, authentic Egyptian buildings--some almost tomb-like, some with massive pillars--make the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum and Planetarium look almost otherworldly, but a walk along the reedy, curving paths in the park's gardens creates a sense of welcome. The museum's large collection of ancient Egyptian, Babylonian and Assyrian artifacts, including a number of mummies, has made this a natural field-trip destination for scores of schoolchildren. But even the scholars of ancient culture have found some surprising new insights here as well. About two years ago, an iron pin was discovered in the knee of Usermontu, one of the Rosicrucian "resident" mummies; scholars have speculated that the pin might represent an early form of knee surgery.
Park and Naglee avenues, San Jose (408/947-3600).

Best Use For a Bank
When San Jose native Amadeo P. Giannini founded the Bank of Italy at the beginning of this century, he probably didn't envision young locals of various sexual preferences sipping coffee in one of his bank branches. But the circa 1926 Hester branch of the Bank of Italy in its current incarnation has lent its austere marble, ornate decor, high ceilings and even its vault (now a storeroom) to a different kind of institution, arguably as essential to late 20th-century life as any bank: the coffeehouse. Students, patrons of the nearby Towne Theater and locals frequent this well-loved hangout to take in the unusual atmosphere and, of course, drink coffee. The popularity of Cafe Leviticus seems to further reinforce the fact that Giannini had a knack for success--his bank would go on to become Bank of America.
1445 The Alameda, San Jose (408/279-8877)

Best Monument to Twisting
Plowshares Into Swords
The stately Prodis Associates Architects house, presiding over the corner at a safe distance across its manicured lawn, may look like any other dwelling in a swank neighborhood, but an early, microcosmic version of the valley's technological revolution was taken on by its former resident. The house was once the abode of John D. Crummey, president of the Food Machinery Company, which produced agricultural equipment during the days when Santa Clara Valley was the "Valley of the Heart's Delight." With the advent of World War II, FMC turned its production efforts to arms, and almost 50 years later, manufactured tanks which were used during the Gulf War.
University and Park avenues, San Jose

Best Haven for Artistically Minded Teens
With its flat, windowed facade, the Spartan lines of Abraham Lincoln High School's main building give little indication of the creative endeavors inside. Combining education and the arts seems a sure recipe for getting cut out of government funding these days, but this public school continues to graduate budding artists. At the "academic, visual and performing arts magnet" high school of the San Jose Unified School District, artistically inclined students can pursue, in addition to regular academics, courses in the performing, visual and electronic arts. A former student sums up the school's atmosphere as both "very friendly and accepting." So much for the arts being "elitist."
555 Dana Ave., San Jose (408/535-6300)

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From the Sept. 18-24, 1997 issue of Metro.

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