Things to do in San Jose

The Coolest Restaurants in San Jose

The Bay Area is bursting with tasty treats. These are San Jose's finest culinary establishments.

Sapid scents drift across the streets of San Jose to hungry locals' delight. The city's home in the Santa Clara Valley boasts a mild climate and fertile grounds between the mountains and the sea. A prime location like this can lead to only one thing: fantastic food.

Luckily, the city's chefs have the creative flair to make use of every delectable ingredient. A legion of culinary maestros at the ready means there's no shortage of eateries that ooze class. Of course, there are plenty of other things to do in San Jose, but the dining table calls. Here's where to eat and what to order.

Culinary Creativity and Entertainment

Imagination is in season at these lively establishments.

1. MINIBOSS

Pixelated and piped with neon, San Jose's MINIBOSS is a haven for adult geeks looking for a fun night out. Creatively, this spot takes the highest score. Old-school arcade machines line every wall, serving up entertainment and seamless conversation starters. When you're not testing your skills, the horseshoe bar awaits, fully stocked with spirited elixirs.

Pop-culture-inspired cocktails offer a zesty pick-me-up to keep you gaming well into the night. Mezcal and burnt cinnamon make a perfect pair in the Smoking Section, while the Smells Like Teen Spirit gives gummy candy a boozy upgrade. Come hungry for pizza and spicy wings, and stay for the sweet indulgence of your animated passions.

2. Haberdasher

Cloak yourself in 1920s intrigue with a tantalizing trip to a hidden bar. Tucked below ground, Haberdasher Bar is open only to those who know its secrets. Enter this domain to feel like you've been transported back in time. Lounging on velvet banquettes and shrouded by luxe privacy curtains, you'll feel an aura of mystery all around you.

Bartenders in era-appropriate garb mix up rare concoctions with notable flavors. Think dark rum and banana milk, whiskey and passionfruit, and pisco with pink peppercorns. On chilly days, an Irish coffee topped with cold cream is hard to beat.

While you're here, practice your Prohibition slang and free fall into this engrossing fantasy. It's delightfully strange and a tad shocking, and that's why we like it.

Photographer: Marta Serrano

Restaurants With Unique Themes

These spots serve their meals with a side of immaculate vibes.

3. The Table

Just off Lincoln Avenue sits a neighborhood gem whose door is always open. The Table eatery is a community champion, nobly dedicated to complete guest satisfaction.

As fellow creatives, we admire this spot's thoughtfulness. No detail is too small for consideration. From drinks to ambiance and leafy garnishes, every element here is intentional.

Links with local farmers make this menu a shifting one. As the seasons change, so do the offerings. Whether it's brown sugar-crusted pork or citrus-dressed Dungeness crab, you can bet it's superb. Unique cocktails and rich wines complete this match made in culinary heaven.

4. Mezcal

Driven by an intense longing for home cooking, restaurateur Adolfo Gomez resolved to bring true Oaxacan food to San Jose. Two decades later, his dream lives on. Mezcal Restaurant is as authentic as they come.

Through cuisine and atmosphere, this spot offers a taste of Oaxaca to hungry foodies looking for an escape. Family recipes have remained menu staples for generations after their conception. The sweet-smoky black mole and the tlayuda decked with pork cracklings are definite must-tries.

These meals are best enjoyed in the vibrant atmosphere. If the decor’s captivating portraits don’t transport you, the restaurant’s glittering, flowered tree sure will.

Family-Friendly Fun

Bring the whole crowd for a festive meal with bold flavors to match.

5. Willow Street Wood-Fired Pizza

All the exciting things to do in San Jose go great with pizza, especially the kind served at Willow Street. Brick walls and warm lights make this space invitingly snug. And if that doesn't pull you in, the smoky wood-burning oven scent is a guaranteed draw.

Shoulder-to-shoulder in a booth, taking in the bustling dining room, there's only one thing missing: a hot and cheesy, freshly baked slice. At Willow Street, there's no debating — these pies are in a league of their own. House-made, hand-tossed dough gives each bite optimum chew.

Speckled with seasonal toppings, these pizzas are aromatic and simply divine. Garlic cream sauce, fresh mozzarella, and caramelized onions are just some delights to be had. It's a challenge, but it's worth saving some room for a bite of cookie-crusted mud pie.

Photographer: Leonardo Luz

6. Aqui Cal-Mex

Wild wonders make satisfying meals at this veggie-heavy Southwestern spot. Aqui Cal-Mex is a low-key, high-flavor eatery. Order at the counter, take your seats, and await your meal. The process may be casual, but the food that follows is anything but.

Each plate is a kaleidoscope of flavor. Vegetable-forward dishes create a rainbow reminiscent of our own works of art, and decidedly more edible. Try rice bowls topped with red cabbage and lemon chicken, or get your fill with salmon salads or falafel tacos. Sliced and heavily spiced, this is produce's finest hour.

Thirsty? Aqui's iconic spirit-friendly swirls are zero-proof, so even the youngest diners can sip twirly goodness.

Outdoor and Scenic Dining

Whether eaten under the sun or starry skies, these dishes are best served alfresco.

7. Scott's Seafood

As much as we love breaking boundaries, returning to tradition is a treat when done properly. With more than thirty years in the business, Scott's Seafood has perfected its performance. This chic space is deceptively easygoing.

The industrial dining room is dotted with whimsical artwork and romantic lighting. Classic American seafood fare graces the sweeping menu. Icy oysters on the half-shell and crisped, lemony calamari are crowd favorites.

Indulgence is expected in the face of rich clam chowder and creamy salmon fettucini. Surf meets turf when seared steaks and crusted lamb chops hit the table. For dessert, save room for molten chocolate cake, scrumptious bread pudding, and sweet cocktails.

Photographer: ShenXin

8. El Jardin Tequila Bar

El Jardin Tequila Bar brings beachy vibes to San Jose's busy streets. Here, you can almost smell the salt in the air and feel the sea breeze on your face. An open-air dining space means every meal is eaten under the sun. Add live music, lush greenery, and cozy lanterns for a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

But the food is what makes it a party. Just-pressed tortillas enfold decadent servings of carnitas, mahi-mahi, and birria, while cheesy, crunchy nachos satisfy deep cravings. An extensive wine and cocktail list offers a refreshing take on mixology classics. And with such attentive service, it feels like you're on vacation.

Innovative Cuisine

Pioneering chefs serve up inspired fare you won't find elsewhere.

9. Petiscos

Bordered by sand and sea, Portugal is a land of culinary wonders. Sample its heavenly crops without leaving San Jose, thanks to Petiscos by Adega. Lovingly dubbed Little Portugal, Petiscos is the sister restaurant to Michelin-starred darling Adega.

The chic setting is slightly more casual here, but that doesn’t mean the food is any less tasty. Like most Mediterranean menus, this one is seafood-forward. Roasted octopus and herb-draped clams bring the ocean to the table, and the tender rib-eye is not to be missed.

Authentic Portuguese broa is an ideal vessel for sopping up hearty soups. But pace yourself because dessert is mandatory here. Airy chocolate mousse and lush flan are trusty favorites. But for cream-filled Portuguese donuts, the adjoining Pastelaria is the place to be.

10. Orchard City Kitchen

Don't let its modest trappings fool you. Orchard City Kitchen is a full-blown epicurean experience. Laid-back vibes and cozy dining spaces mean easy comfort before your meal knocks you off your feet. At first glance, the menu may seem chaotic. But give it a few bites, and Chef Jeffrey Stout's fusion expertise will speak for itself.

Here, it's all fresh, and it's all local. Ahi tuna and Dungeness crab are still slick and briny from the sea when they're transformed into bright poke bowls and crisp tostadas. Single-bite offerings carry waves of flavor you'll relish long after they've left your plate.

Korean fried chicken and Maui Wowie burgers pack slow-burning heat with just a touch of sweetness to take the edge off. Paired with a zippy Kung Fu cocktail, this is a flavor trip you'll never want to end.

Global Culinary Adventures

Take a trip around the world fueled solely by flavor.

11. Falafel's Drive-In

Boldly spiced and wrapped in herbs, falafel is a delicacy beloved across the globe. And in San Jose, Falafel's Drive-In is the locals' go-to spot for this plant-based snack. This restaurant's cherry red covered terrace has become a city landmark. Warm spices waft across the lot where falafel is served up in a flash.

Keep it classic with a falafel sandwich doused with tahini sauce. A pita makes a tender wrapping for fresh toppings, such as tomatoes and crunchy cucumbers. Although falafel is the star, the slow-cooked gyro is another favorite dish among regulars.

Tempting sides, such as tabbouleh and fried pita chips, turn a quick lunch stop into a memorable meal. Order the banana milkshake, and thank us later.

12. Kazoo Restaurant

Low lighting and quaint tranquillity reign supreme in this unassuming eatery in San Jose's Japantown. Kazoo Restaurant makes the most of the city's proximity to the sea. Sushi is on the menu here, but not as you've seen it before. These rolls are stuffed and stacked with flavor combinations worth savoring.

If a peek at the menu leaves you shocked, give your taste buds a chance to weigh in. House specialties include a roll stuffed with gyoza dumplings or teriyaki chicken.

Massive boat-shaped platters make veritable feasts. Add this spot to your list of San Jose date ideas, and sail off into a sushi sunset.

Photographer: Travelmoments

Eco-Friendly and Sustainable Options

Going green has never been so delicious.

13. Veggie Grill

A perfectly seared burger decked with cheese and crispy vegetables is one of life's great pleasures. This heavy entrée gets a lighter makeover at Veggie Grill in Santana Row. Here, your backyard favorites are proudly vegan for a produce-forward take on classic American fare.

Clean lines and quaint wooden tables make this restaurant feel as fresh as its food. Veg-heads rejoice at the lengthy list of vegan sandwiches on the menu. If burgers and wraps aren't your style, the bowls and salads pack a considerable flavor punch.

Impeccably crisped sweet potato fries make a side worth slathering in house-made aioli. When the food is this good, health benefits are just a bonus.

14. Good Karma

Naturally, a cozy hole-in-the-wall is one of the best spots in San Jose to grab an ice-cold beer. Good Karma wears its uniqueness on its sleeve. In the dining room, an antler chandelier casts a dusky glow on eclectic decor and ethereal murals. Patrons flock here for craft beers and just-pressed organic juices.

But it wouldn't be such a beloved restaurant in downtown San Jose without something to savor. The extensive menu features vegan dishes, each one laden with irresistible heat. A vegetarian take on jerk chicken remains a stalwart favorite. Whether stuffed in a burrito or laid over rice, it's a must-try.

Evening diners enjoy their spirits with a side of jazz music played by local bands.

Hip and Trendy Spots

Find out what's hot in the culinary cosmos.

15. San Pedro Square Market

If our glitzy, show-stopping performances are any indication, sometimes we believe more is more. For indulgent foodies, no place gives more than the San Pedro Square Market. This spot pays homage to San Jose's roots while serving up the funky fare of the future.

Aiming to create a space where a patchwork group of gourmets could thrive, San Pedro Square Market is at the forefront of the food scene. Whatever dish you're looking for, you'll find it here.

Anchors Fish & Chips and Seafood Grill makes a mean lobster roll, while Urban Momo's dumplings are unmatched. Some of the top San Jose bars can be found here, including the whiskey-slinging Three Sisters. Live music six nights a week turns every trip into a memorable experience.

16. Luna Mexican Kitchen

What's old is new at this Mexican restaurant, which has a penchant for ancestral techniques. Here, it's all about the process. Handed-down recipes and millennia-old methods set this spot apart from its modern companions. Combined with carefully grown ingredients, the result is an award-winning restaurant and a difference you can taste.

Hand-pressed tortillas are pillowy carriers of tender steak and house-made chorizo. Ingredients pulled from nearby farms collide to build flawlessly spiced bowls and burritos.

Luna Mexican Kitchen is a gem around the clock, but its breakfast service deserves a special mention. Think fruity blended smoothies served with a heaping helping of horchata French toast.

Photographer: ROMAN ODINTSOV

Embark on a Culinary Journey Through San Jose's Most Unique Dining Destinations

When the plates are cleared, what's next? Meals like these are best served with a show. Properly stuffed with dinner and dessert, turn your attention to a different sort of affair — one just as enticing as a freshly spiced and sizzled feast.

Our performances turn ordinary nights into lifelong memories. Above all else, we're storytellers who can craft a tale that courts your senses into complete bliss. Our emotional fables are studded with high-flying thrills and visual triumphs.

Journey along with our characters as their plights become your own, and their wonder strikes a chord in your soul. In a city where taste buds are kings, this is food for the spirit. Get a taste of our shows in San Jose today.

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