[Best of the Santa Clara Valley 1997]

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Best of Milpitas

Best Show of Pan-Asian Unity
From dim sum to Vietnamese noodles to Muslim-Chinese food, Milpitas Square shopping center houses restaurants from Asia's very varied cultures. The center's 160,000 square feet make it the largest Asian-themed mall in Northern California. More than 60 retailers and restaurants have gathered under this Pan-Asian umbrella. Even Charles Schwab saw the mall's potential, opening the first Chinese/English bilingual store on its turf. This mass assembly is no accident: Manager Carol Wu says that variety was the developer's vision. "We wanted a lot of diversity to meet the different needs of the community," Wu explains. Thus, no two places offer the same types of foods or services, which both establishes a diverse mall and minimizes competition.
Bellview and Barber streets, Milpitas

Best Way to Walk Till You Drop
Shopping is a workout, some say. More so than ever with the Walk Abouts, a group of health-conscious South Bay residents who have gathered weekly for two years at the Great Mall of Milpitas to take a few laps around the West Coast's largest shopping complex. The group meets every Monday and Wednesday at the Great Eats food court at 8:30am, and then it's off to the Great Ships court for stretches. The mall serves as the Walk Abouts' 0.7-mile track, and between two to five laps are made each session for a total of about 3.5 miles. But it's walk at your own pace, organizers say, which is why an incentive program was established. Every increment of 100 miles that a Walk Abouter achieves earns a prize--a T-shirt or tote bag. Walk Abouters can even go to the mall with the exclusive intention of shopping and still count it toward their mileage. But coordinator Lynette Wilson warns that shopping might not be the best way to get heart rates up: "Shopping is more like a stroll, not like a walking workout."
341 E. Capitol Ave., Milpitas (408/942-2493)

Best Bird's-Eye Views
When Pat Denevan was a kid, he'd construct massive 20-foot kites out of the traditional diamond-shaped ones he bought for 50 cents at a local convenience store. As he watched his huge creations flapping in the wind, he began to wonder what it would be like to be up on that kite, soaring amid the clouds. So Denevan--who is afraid of heights--dived at the chance to start hang gliding once he realized that the sport could be done at low altitudes. Denevan became so enamored with the sport that he opened a hang gliding school, Mission Soaring Center, 24 years ago so he could teach others about the bliss of flying. MSC moved to Milpitas in 1985 to use Ed Levin County Park, an ideal flying site, as its training grounds. The center currently has about 300 students--many are engineers with an interest in the physics behind the sport. But no matter what the profession of those who come for lessons, Denevan says that all his students are "fun-loving people with imagination--it takes imagination to see yourself flying."
1116 Wrigley Way, Milpitas (408/262-1055)

Best Noodle Shop at
Which to Be a Regular
Forget the McDonald's across the way--Tung Kee Noodle House gives fast food new speed and quality standards. With its cheap eats (nothing on the menu exceeds $5), the restaurant attracts business people on their half-hour power lunches, families with small impatient children and teens with small allowances. The Vietnamese noodle shop serves nearly 30 different kinds of noodles. During lunch time, the Milpitas store--one of six Bay Area locations--fills its 112-person capacity. But despite the avalanche of customers, the wait for a table still lasts just about five minutes; food arrives in less than 10. For regulars, the service is even quicker. Milpitans Bob and Michelle Keely walk into the noodle shop, plop themselves in a booth and give the waitress a nod. She summons the cook's attention, and in no time two steaming combination plates of veggies, seafood and pork over crispy pan-fried noodles (No. 23 on the menu) are brought to the table. The Keelys leave a dollar on the table and toss one in the tip jar at the register. "Cash makes no enemies," Bob confides.
1792 N. Milpitas Road, Milpitas (408/935-9888)

Best Hidden Cafe That Shouldn't Be
The Box cafe is tucked into the sleepy Serra Shopping Center, sandwiched between a MacFrugals and a locksmith. From the road, there's no sign of caffeine anywhere, except for an old movie theater marquee that reads "The Box: Coffee With an Edge." But even with an obscure location, the place has garnered some heavy word-of-mouth recognition. And no wonder. People get buzzed on and buzz about the Box's outstanding mochas and fill their bellies with gourmet burritos, wraps and sandwiches. And the cafe's artsy/gothic decor provides curious yet comforting ambiance for caffeine consumption. A mini-waterfall adorned with plants and a gargoyle statue gurgles quietly in the far corner while a mannequin and a mural attract eyes to the other side of the cafe. Owner/manager Kelly Riggs paints those murals himself, and says the cafe expresses who he is. A note to teen scenesters: As of Sept. 12, the Box hosts teen nights with live music, board games and raffles.
200 Serra Way #32, Milpitas (408/263-5282)

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

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