Best of Silicon Valley 2004

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Best of Silicon Valley 2004
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Editor's Short List

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Places
Editors' Picks

Best Dead-end Street
Hope Street, Alviso

A slow dusty lane, Hope Street dead-ends right at the edge of humanity often referred to as the Alviso Marina & Slough. The loneliness of the Mallard and Slough Trails that snake their way through the wildlife refuge will do you in. Don't stray too far. You might not make it back. You'll have only the salt ponds and the bored seagulls to comfort you. So it's only fitting to call it, the End of Hope Street. "Where's the end of Hope?" Someone asks. I point out toward the salt flats, where the street dead-ends at the Marina's parking lot and I respond, "There's the end of Hope." (GS)

 

Best Place for Risk-Averse Suburban Taggers
The Oasis

Anyone who is itching to make his mark on the world but is reluctant to invest in spray paint and risk jail time can express himself with impunity at this venerable pizza emporium. Customers have been carving everything from initials to what might be logarithms gleaned from nearby Stanford University computer classes into the varnished wood tables at the Oasis for years. Booths and support beams are fair game, too. This peninsula-style tagging doesn't require much skill or risk, so it's perfect for suburbanites. 241 El Camino Real, Menlo Park. 650.326.8896. (GY)

 

Best Landing Pad for Extraterrestrial Life
Kaiser Cement Plant

At night, the mundane Kaiser Cement Plant transforms into an eerie, otherworldly configuration of lights—an "alien city" that's sure to convince nonbelievers. Since it's high in the hills, it's also a great spot from which to view the equally twinkly Santa Clara Valley below, making it a perfect place to top off a date that's going well. Truly a galactic nighttime experience. To get there, follow Stevens Creek Road to its western end. Stevens Creek Road at the Permanente Creek Quarry, Cupertino. (AB)

 

Best Place to Keep an Eye on What RDA Is Up To
Model San Jose

For a bird's-eye view of downtown San Jose, it's not necessary to charter a Cessna. Inside the lobby of the new Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Main Library sits the metropolis in miniature. Underneath a Plexiglas dome, about 9 feet by 12, a model of the city's urban core shows every building, park, parking lot and street planting. Even the streets and freeways are crowded (albeit not rush-hour crowded) with Lilliputian painted cars and trucks. The model, a planning tool commissioned by the Redevelopment Agency, is the work of master modeler Lisa Gemmiti of San Francisco and a team of collaborators. Gemmiti says that they've been working on the project "for 10 years now." Every now and again, when the RDA initiates some new projects, "we update a block with new buildings." As an example, Gemmiti cites the placement of the new City Hall. "It's important to show in simple form the massing of the City Hall so that people can relate to it." Sometimes, Gemmiti drops by to blow away some of the dust that accumulates on the model and fields questions by fascinated bystanders. "Models have that quality. They are very magnetic," she says. (MG)

 

Best Place to Hit the Brakes
11th Street, Almaden Expressway

Speak to most city Traffic Enforcement Unit officers, and they'll say that they don't hide, but they sure seem camouflaged to speeding motorists on 11th Street between Highway 280 and Hedding Street and along Almaden Expressway between Capitol Expressway and Blossom Hill Road. "A lot of people get tickets at these two spots because they're zooming down the road," says San Jose Police Sgt. Ruben Chavez, with the city's Traffic Enforcement Unit. Chavez says he's ticketed "pedal-to-the-metal" drivers going as fast as 90 miles per hour along Almaden Expressway and others going between 50 and 60 miles per hour on 11th Street, which is a 25-mile-per-hour zone when school is in session. The penalty is a $300 ticket. Because of Lidar, a laser radar technology, officers can detect speeding as far away as 2,000 feet away from their locations. "We're not hiding; we're just so far away that they can't see us until they're on top of us," Chavez says. (SS)

 

Best Alternate Cross-Town Rush Hour Route
During rush-hour traffic, freeways in San Jose can be so heinous that incidents of road rage have increased—making drivers' top priority to get off the dangerous giant parking lots also known as major arteries. To avoid the bustling downtown technology corridor, avoid Highways 280, 101, 87 and 880 altogether between 3:30 and 7pm, when traffic congestion tends to ease up a bit. Chances are you'll still get to work and home on time and have extra time for personal errands. Those wanting to travel east to west in the city can choose Almaden Expressway or Camden Avenue. Those wanting to travel north and south can use Monterey Road or Highway 82, which passes through the heart of downtown San Jose as First Street and travels all the way to Metcalf Road where it gives access to several affluent suburblike towns in Silicon Valley. There are numerous road junctions and traffic lights along the way but few turns are required, so the route is much faster than the congested freeways. Others wanting to cruise east to west can find relief using Capitol Expressway, which becomes Hillsdale Avenue. (SS)

 

Best Trip To Mexico Without Actually Going There
Tropicana Shopping Center

You may find yourself asking, "Habla ingles?" when visiting San Jose's Tropicana Shopping Center, located at the intersections of Story and King roads. Manuel Velazquez's Dulceria Mandolin, De La Rosa Latin American Imports, Frank Chavez's Chavez Jewelry Design store and Fernando Borja's El Pollo Supremo are found here as well as may other shops that cater to the Hispanic community. The strip mall, considered a culturally important Latino retail hub in the valley, has been threatened more than once by eminent domain. Center merchants are now politically organized and know how to fight the big brass at City Hall, recently winning a battle against a contentious $50 million redevelopment plan. Tropicana Shopping Center offers an interesting cultural experience without having the travel pains. (SS)

 

Best Trip to Saigon Without Actually Going There
Little Saigon

San Jose is graced with one of the largest concentrations of Vietnamese-Americans in the country, with approximately 85,000 making their home in Silicon Valley. A big proportion can be found along Senter Road, between Tully Road and Capitol Expressway in south San Jose, a vibrant mix of commercial and residential dwellings often called "Little Saigon." A drive down Senter Street beginning at Capitol Expressway to about Tully Road will have you wondering whether you're in Saigon or actually on American soil. Women stroll down Senter Street with the typical Asian cone-shaped hats, and many avoid rush hour traffic by using a bicycle. Others gather outside many popular Vietnamese food restaurants or coffee shops. They have become one of San Jose's most visible Asian concentrations. (SS)

 

Best Historical Renovation
Hotel Montgomery

It's got bocce ball courts—how hip is that? Ninety-three years after its original opening, Hotel Montgomery's stylish rebirth feels like a small miracle to those who routinely walked past the walled-off shell of a ruin. The building was raised and moved 186 feet to the south in order to facilitate the Fairmont's expansion—a move costing in upward of $8 million. The San Jose Redevelopment Agency kicked in an additional $10 million to cover renovation and retrofitting costs. Now a boutique hotel with 86 rooms including six suites, the revamped Montgomery features high-speed Internet access, Egyptian cotton linens and Paragon, a stylish restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating—and bocce ball. 211 S. First St., San Jose. 408.282.8800; 866.823.0530. (AB)

 

Best Place to Book a Room for Your Rich Grandma
Hotel De Anza

Hotel De Anza still retains its 1931 ritziness. Once host to Eleanor Roosevelt and Jack Dempsey, its 100 luxurious rooms include upscale options such as three junior suites, five parlor suites and the singular penthouse suite. The De Anza is within comfortable walking distance of San Jose's attractions, but if Grams wants to dine in, the hotel's La Pastaia is a high-class Italian restaurant. Might Grams require a midnight snack? De Anza's "Raid Our Pantry" program allows guests to help themselves to free snacks all night long. For San Jose's best jazz, lounge at the hotel's Hedley Club. 233 W. Santa Clara St., San Jose. 800.843.3700; www.hoteldeanza.com. (AB)

 

Best Place to Relive South Bay Childhoods (Generation X & Y Version)
Cupertino's Memorial Park

One of the reasons Manhattan's Central Park is so revered is that it's an oasis of nature in a forest of concrete and metal. When living in cities and suburbs that have plenty of greenery, it's easy to forget about the extra boost well-designed parks can provide. Memorial Park was built in 1974 and served as the setting for birthday parties, end-of-the-season team gatherings and family holidays ever since. Sadly, the frontier Western town-themed playground set is gone. But in its place is an extended waterway with geese, two separate playgrounds, ample picnic benches, barbecue grills, a small amphitheater and, toward the back, a baseball field and six tennis courts. Steven's Creek Boulevard, Cupertino. (YK)

 

Best Place for Short Mountain Drives
Los Gatos Hills

You only have to segue for a few minutes off Blossom Hill Road or Los Gatos Boulevard and you'll be up the hills John Steinbeck described in several novels. Both Kennedy and Shannon roads give you a whopping view of the South Bay. Top of the Hill Road is—you guessed it—at the top of the hill, and you can gaze throughout the valley. Just don't stray past the warning signs that warn, "Keep Out. Private Property," or you may relive some other not-so-pastoral Steinbeckian scenes. (GS)

 

Best Place to See Fourth of July Fireworks
The Stanford Dish

Catch almost all of the Bay Area's fireworks shows from the Dish on the hills above Stanford. The Dish is an affectionate name for the complex apparatus at the top of the well-stomped nature trails west of Stanford. The Dish, which may remind you all too much of Contact (the Jodie Foster bomb, remember?) is actually a radio telescope that the U.S. government uses as an antenna to detect signals from space vehicles like NASA's Mars Polar Lander. But Independence Day revelers need not know all that. All they need to know is to bring a picnic, then recline and enjoy. On the Stanford foothills; http://dish.stanford.edu. (AB)

 

Best Excuse for a Make-out Spot
Lick Observatory

On 4,213-foot-high Mt. Hamilton's summit perches Lick Observatory, operated by the University of California since 1888. Bequethed by philanthropist James Lick (who is actually buried underneath the observatory!), many consider Lick's the world's greatest telescope. Amazing views from the 36-inch refractor and 40-inch reflector set the scene for romance. Then walk hand in hand to see Shane Dome's 120-inch reflector, which has discovered planets. If it's summer, see a classical concert also featuring an acclaimed astronomer's lecture. After exploring everything, stop at the gift shop to buy your sweetheart a space-themed sweatshirt, mug or poster. Open daily (except holidays) until 5pm. Be aware that the mountain road is narrow and curvy; visiting at night is not recommended. Admission is free but donations are appreciated. Atop Mount Hamilton; 831.459.2513; www.ucolick.org. (AB)

 


 

Love & Romance
Readers Poll

Best Dating Website: Match.com Runner-up: MySpace.com
Best Theater for Making Out: AMC Mercado Runner-up: Capitol Drive-In
Best Romantic Restaurant: La Fondue, Saratoga Runner-up: La Foret, Saratoga
Best Hotel: The Fairmont, S.J. Runner-up: Hotel De Anza, S.J.
Best Jewelry Store: Haute Jewelry, Willow Glen Runner-up: Joe Escobar Diamonds, Campbell
Best Wedding Registry: Macy's Runner-up: Target
Best Stationery Store: Papyrus, Santa Clara Runner-up: Mai Do, Santana Row, S.J.
Best Limousine Service: Le Grande Affair Runner-up: Wine and Roses
Best Place to Renew Your Vows: The Rose Garden Runner-up: Lake Tahoe



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From the September 22-28, 2004 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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