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Destination Guide


Drinking and Dining in San Jose

Downtown San Jose features an assortment of drinking and dining establishments. Some of the favorites include Fuel offering varied music and cool vibes and Agenda, which is well established and hosts some excellent acts. Polyesters is very crowded and tends to be a meat market for a young, mixed crowd. The Flying Pig Pub is strictly a bar, but a fun place to relax with an anything but snobby crowd. Toons is popular with the college gang, which explains why its crowded every night of the week and South First Billiards is a fantastic place to go have a beer and play pool in a huge pool room.

Dining in downtown San Jose is a challenge with so many places from which to choose. Downtown is home to the trendy, pricey establishments like AP Stumps and Paolos (Italian).

Il Fornaio is a beautiful restaurant with locations throughout California; one within the Hyatt St. Claire. This is a great place for a business lunch. The service is outstanding and the food is reliably good. A real star is Eulipia, although its been a revolving door for different chefs. Muchos offers awesome South of the border chicken burritos with over 500 hot sauces, and Vung Tau has great Vietnamese food. The E&O Trading Company is the new kid on the block offering Asian flair. And, for great Thai food, visit Thepthai Thai Cuisine or House of Siam.

Then theres Spiedo, a very ritzy, refined dining experience. Request a table along the windowed walls, they offer more intimate seating. Two other local favorites (especially good for business lunch or dinners in downtown) include Scotts Seafood and Emiles, voted "One of The Top 100 Restaurants in The U.S." by Conde Nast magazine in 1994.

As for more low-key, casual and less expensive dining options downtown, visit Armadillo Willys for fabulous barbecue (numerous locations), El Grullense (Mexican) or Florentines (quick and delicious Italian). Original Joes is a San Jose institution serving terrific Italian food. Go and see what we mean. There is a great German restaurant called Teskes Germania on North Second Street. They offer an outside patio and every German beer on tap that you can imagine. Here is the place where you can order a leg of lamb and actually receive an entire leg of lamb on your plate. And if you are in the mood for Greek cuisine, try The Castle Greek Cafe on North First.

Pagoda (in the Fairmont Hotel) offers a serene, dimly lit, intimate atmosphere in which to enjoy first-rate Chinese food. If you are a sushi lover (and to live here, you have to be), try Izakaya, Kazoo
or Niko. They are fabulous and you won't leave hungry. For the French in all of us, try Rue De Paris, in a word "yum!" Although you can be sure to find vegetarian options at almost any restaurant in San Jose, vegetarians swarm to the White Lotus. For carnivores, a great steak house is The Grill on the Alley located in the Fairmont Hotel).

In the Hotel DeAnza, find two wonderful spots to drink and dine. First, La Pastaia for Italian cuisine at its best, and second, the Hedley Club for some of the best martinis in town (among other libations from the full bar). The ambiance in both establishments are refined with art deco creating a luxurious and leisurely atmosphere. We promise you won't want to leave.

If you're looking for a good place to have breakfast and are not in the mood for a platter of bacon and eggs, try Akis Bakery on Meridian. Its one of San Joses favorites. If you don't want to leave your hotel room they are an assortment of delivery services, including the ever popular Tony and Albas Pizza (a local favorite). Even the most upscale restaurants will deliver with a minimum order.

Sport bar enthusiasts won't miss a game at the Britannia Arms Pub or CS Riffs Bar and Grill. And if you love country and western music, hit the enormous Saddle Rack for dancing, bull riding (electric), and partying till the cows come home. If you like truly great local (and national) rhythm and blues, JJs Lounge is where you want to be. Its a dive of sorts, but its the place to go when you're hankerin' for the blues.

Willow Glen (an older neighborhood of San Jose) is well known for the great restaurants on the main drag, Lincoln Avenue. A great California-meets-Mexico-style eatery is Aqui Cal Mex Grill. They have a very intimate patio with a fountain and a full tequila bar that locals love. The Willow Street Wood Fired Pizza is a great place for pizza, salads, and pasta. Another great hole-in-the-wall restaurant on Lincoln is China Palace. The ambiance is off beat, but the food is fantastic! They offer a big take-out service.

Two other notable eateries include Waves Smokehouse and Grill serving the first class Prime Rib every Friday, and if you do nothing else, you must stop at La Villa Delicatessen in Willow Glen and order the homemade raviolis. This cramped little family-owned and operated deli serves up delicious and authentic Italian foods to go. You can dine outside on a patio furnished with umbrellas and chairs. Its a great casual place for a quick bite. And finally, the Willow Glen Kosher Market has everything you'd expect from a memorable delicatessen.

Surrounding Areas:

San Jose is a sprawling place where the unofficial city boundaries are not always well defined. Because the towns and cities seem to melt into one another, we decided to include some great drinking and dining establishments just outside the official San Jose city limits.

Come to Los Gatos, a small town with a big sense of community and a lot of money floating around. Los Gatos borders San Jose to the west against the Santa Cruz foothills. Its offers a great downtown area with many places to drink and dine. A local favorite is the Los Gatos Brewing Company, just about everyone shows up after work every night of the week for a brew and great food. Another favorite is a small British-style pub called Carry Nations. For fine American fare, visit The California Cafe offering everything from ambiance to beautiful views to great food. Steamers is a big local spot for drinks or dining offering seafood and California cuisine. The Plumed Horse is a must for anyone visiting the area for the first time and Pigalle is a French restaurant that transports you to Paris the minute you step through its doors. And finally, Valerianos serves wonderful Italian creations in a beautiful environment.

For those of you who love to dance, if you have dinner in Los Gatos, simply stroll down Santa Cruz Avenue (the main drag downtown) and you will find one great dancing and live music joint after the other.

The neighboring town of Saratoga is quaint and refined. This is where all the big money lives. A drive through this suburb is a treat just to see the many monster homes that fill the hillsides. As might be expected, there are several very nice restaurants here including Viaggio, an fine Italian restaurant and bar. Le Mouton Noir is French and pricey and absolutely wonderful in every regard. La Fondue is the creme de la creme where you can spend an entire evening just having dinner. Reservations are required up to three months in advance, so plan this one ahead of time.

Campbell (wedged between San Jose and Los Gatos like a slice of pie) has a great mall called The Pruneyard. Within its walls you will find great shopping, great food (Rock Bottom Cafe, Left at Albuquerque) and great fun!

Santa Clara, offers some great eateries, too. You can find most of the chain restaurants here but one local highlight is Birks (near Paramounts Great America) serving California cuisine and hosting a fabulously busy bar scene.

Heather Shaw