It's time to take a trip to San Jose, if only to eat. The capital of Silicon Valley is full of stellar taquerias, family-run Greek spots, and even a Michelin star or two. In fact, The best restaurants in San Jose run the gamut from Mexican restaurants and Asian noodle houses to Portuguese and Austrian fine dining. Head to Downtown San Jose or the South of First (SoFa) district—the fastest growing neighborhoods for eateries, bars and breweries and also San Jose’s arts scene—to find some of the best eats and things to do in San Jose. All that walking is sure to make you hungry.
RECOMMENDED: The best things to do in San Jose
Best restaurants in San Jose
Adega boasts San Jose’s only Michelin star and is only the second Portuguese restaurant in the US to ever receive the honor. Powerhouse chefs David Costa and Jessica Carreira have both cooked in Lisbon, and often host Portuguese chefs from other Michelin-starred restaurants in Porto and Lisbon. Besides being the most ambitious, elegant Portuguese restaurant on the West Coast, Adega also boasts a wine cellar of Portuguese rarities that one almost never sees outside the Iberian Peninsula.
Housed in a charming creekside boarding house built in 1848, La Forêt is surrounded by a lush forest on the outskirts of San Jose. In late 2017, the classic restaurant reopened under new ownership. Its retained much of the same staff and old world elegance, with a la carte dishes, $95–$225 tasting menus and hearty dishes like poached lobster tail in lime beurre blanc or rack of lamb in garlic, rosemary and tarragon mustard.
A San Jose institution, Falafel Drive-In is an old school, fast food stand serving Middle Eastern fare through a take-out window. The city is hooked on their authetnic falafel, gyros, kabobs, hummus, foul (a fava bean dip with jalapeños, lemon juice, garlic and olive oil) and tabbouleh.
Back A Yard serves chef Robert Simpson’s authentic Jamaican comfort food. While downing Jamaican Ting (grapefruit soda), fill up on tender curried goat, jerk chicken and sides like plantains, coconut rice and beans and honey-sweet festivals (a Jamaican staple somewhere between a doughnut and cornbread). Daily specials feature Jamaican specialities like escoveitch (grilled whole fish) or saltfish and ackee, Jamaica’s national dish.
Naschmarkt offers upscale Austrian food from Austrian-born chef Matthias Froeschl. The menu features European classics like wiener schnitzel, Hungarian goulash and kraut rouladen (a cabbage roll filled with beef, pork and smoked bacon in mushroom demiglace). Save room for Salzburger Knockerl, a warm, souffle-like dessert doused in warm berry sauce.
With spongy injera “bread” as the base, scoop up yemisir wot (red lentils in berbere spice mix), kikil kitfo (finely chopped beef in herbed butter sauce and chili powder) or kik alitcha (yellow peas in turmeric, garlic and ginger) at this tasty Ethiopian restaurant. Sip Ethiopian coffee or honey wine, and for the full experience, go for the traditional floor cushion seating.
This is San Jose's fine-dining destination. Chef Scott Cooper worked his way up from dishwasher, holding nearly every position in the industry before eventually becoming executive chef. His international travels are reflected in modern Cal-French dishes like a ragout of Burgundy snails with fennel panna cotta, linguine and prawns in Cognac truffle cream, and braised duck breast with sour cherry, sage and black forbidden rice.
The focus at this French-American brasserie is on quality cocktails (like A Postcard from Japan, made with black sesame-washed Japanese whisky, oloroso sherry, Licor 43, black sesame bitters) and fare like the oxtail rillettes, Burgundy snails in Pernod parsley butter and pan-roasted duck breast, lentils and herb salad.
Located in neighboring Santa Clara, Orenchi Ramen is a South Bay favorite for freshly-made noodles. Set in a strip-mall, expect a long line for regional ramen styles like tonkotsu, soy-based shoyu ramen and tasty agedashi tofu or limited tsukemen ramen (dipping noodles).
Santana Row is known for its chain restaurants, but Nemea Greek Taverna is a local gem for Greek and Mediterranean food and even the occasional live band. Popular dishes include paidakia (mesquite-grilled lamb chops with braised greens and potatoes) and octapodi (sushi-grade octopus charcoal-broiled in citrus, oregano and olive oil).