San Jose’s vibrant dining scene is one of the Bay Area’s best-kept secrets. In recent years, dozens of excellent restaurants, breweries, and wine bars have opened their doors in the so-called Capital of Silicon Valley.
San Jose serves up exceptionally elevated dining experiences. In 2018, Adega became the first restaurant in the city’s history to receive a Michelin star—one of only two Portuguese dining spots in the country to ever receive that honor. Three different prix fixe menus (splurge for the seven-course tasting menu) are offered daily at the family-owned establishment, which is the perfect spot to enjoy a meal before or after shows at the nearby San Jose Center for the Performing Arts.
Think of a global cuisine and you’re almost sure to find it in here. Enjoy a kaleidoscope of authentic international flavors, including traditional Ethiopian fare at Zeni Restaurant and contemporary French cuisine at another Michelin-starred favorite, Chez TJ. With more Vietnamese residents than any city outside of Vietnam, the city is a hot spot for pho, banh-mi, and banh xeo—all of which can be found at the counter-service purveyors at Grand Century Mall in Little Saigon. (For more of a sit-down dining experience, try Pho Kim Long or Bun Bo Hue An Nam.) If American-style meat and potatoes is what you’re after, head to Henry’s World-Famous Hi-Life, where a menu of steaks, dry-rubbed barbecue, and ribs—plus a variety of beers on tap and delicious sides—has been pulling diners in since the 1960s.
Downtown San Jose’s lively, open-late food hall, San Pedro Square Market, is a great place for a casual hang or a grab-and-go meal. How about a bowl of Nepali steamed dumplings from Urban Momo? Or upscale tacos at Loteria accompanied by a tequila or craft beer from Alma Tequileria or Market Beer Company? For dessert, check out Mochinut, serving up mochi doughnuts which are almost too beautiful to eat, as well as Korean rice-flour hotdogs (all naturally gluten-free), and bubble tea drinks. None of your senses goes unserved in the public market’s three halls: Keep your nose peeled for the aroma of roasted coffee beans and wood-fired pizza, while enjoying live entertainment and local artwork.
On sunny days (which are the norm here), take your food out to a table or bench in the adjacent plaza, bordered by the Peralta Adobe (the city’s oldest building; guided tours are offered throughout the year).
Alongside its outstanding eats, San Jose first began making a name for itself in the craft brew scene back in 1988 with the opening of the Gordon Biersch Brewing Company. Their German-style pours adhere to the German Beer Purity Law; try the unfiltered Full Pressure Pilsner, made with three ingredients: malt, hops, and water. If timing permits, aim to pay a visit during one of their Night Market events that happen on Thursdays from May through September, where you’ll find live music, food trucks, and more. Following a different tradition—the Silicon Valley creed of “iterate, iterate, iterate”—Clandestine Brewing brews more than a dozen beers with innovative flavor profiles such as witbier with agave and lime, a smoked porter, and a chili-pepper smoked ale. Strike Brewing Company marries a sports-bar feel (pretzels and ping pong) with upscale Belgian-style beers. At local favorite Good Karma Artisan Ales & Café, you can sip carefully crafted lagers alongside the best vegan food in the South Bay. Enjoy!