I’ve spent four of the past ten weeks in the South Bay, just about 45 hour south of San Francisco in Northern California. Also known as Silicon Valley, the area is well known as being the home base for many (many) giant tech companies and startups alike. An estimated 2 million people live in South Bay and business is booming. The weather is perfect (of course, its the Bay Area) and, because people are coming from across the country/world to work in technology, it is incredibly diverse which in turn leads to diverse food choices—I was pretty impressed with all the food in South Bay.
The first time I was in the Bay Area was three summers ago, right after I graduated college. I got to see a lot of San Francisco, and so the two trips I took this year I didn’t feel like I had to spend all of my time in the city. I took a few day trips to San Francisco both times I was out there but also got to spend time more locally and realized that I really like South Bay. It definitely has a more relaxed vibe than San Fransisco but because there are so many people out there (and a lot of money…) the food is amazing and there is a lot to do. The gathering of smaller cities are all close to each other and easy to get to—I found it kept vacation exciting to go eat and explore different places that were as close as 3 miles from one another. The first time I was there I went for my job so I had nights and weekends to explore. My second trip, which I just came home from earlier this week, I went to visit Devlin who is living there (also for work) for the summer (more on my feelings on that to come in a later post…).
If you’re in Santa Clara Valley/South Bay/Silicon Valley area for an extended amount of time, it’s definitely nice to have the option to go to San Fransisco, drive an hour in the opposite direction to go to the beach in Santa Cruz, visit the Redwoods or the gorgeous views of the Pacific Coast Highway (gotta go to Big Sur!) but to eat you don’t have to go so far—here are some of my favorite places for food in South Bay.
City: Willow Glen, San Jose
Best For: A bougie/boozy brunch. The menu has great benedicts, french toasts, and an omelet of the day.
Don’t Miss: Bottomless mimosas on the weekend, monkey bread.
Outdoor Seating?: Yes!
City: Mountain View
Best For: Um, Ramen.
Don’t Miss: The Ramen. The Tonkatsu Deluxe Ramen (w/ pork belly!) is fcking incredible. If you’re getting beer, splurge for the Japanese Ale Sansho.
Outdoor Seating?: A few tables on the sidewalk.
City: Downtown San Jose
Best For: Happy Hour on a gorgeous day, a large selection of local beers on tap.
Don’t Miss: The sausages. We missed it, but they looked soo good (the internet agrees).
Outdoor Seating?: Yes, and plenty of it. They’ve got a large patio out back (just watch for falling pinecones).
City: Everywhere. Seriously.
Best For: Coffee…
Don’t Miss: Mint Mojito Iced Coffee
Outdoor Seating?: Most do!
City: Santana Row, San Jose
Best For: Thin-crust personal pizza.
Don’t Miss: The burrata appetizer. Also, although the pizza looked delicious, don’t look past the pasta.
Outdoor Seating?: Yes, a beautiful outdoor seating area right on Santana Row, an upscale shopping strip in San Jose.
Best For: Affordable and authentic tacos, burritos
Don’t Miss: The carne asada tacos are incredible. Don’t miss them.
Outdoor Seating?: It’s a taco truck in a gas station parking lot, but they’ve got a few stools to hangout. No indoor seating, unless you eat in your car.
City: Palo Alto
Best For: Delicious local beers from the Palo Alto Brewing Company in a fun bar environment. Seating includes a bar, private tables, and communicate indoor-picnic benches.
Don’t Miss: The daily flight—every day, the Tap Room offers a select flight of five beers.
Outdoor Seating?: Nope. But they’ve got pool and pinball which is a close second.
Best For: The poke bowl—which is basically deconstructed sushi in a bowl (rice, raw fish, scallion, sesame seeds, tobiko, etc…
Don’t Miss: Get a poke bowl. You can get the classic with rice, get it over some lettuce, or over yam noodles (my personal favorite). It’s set up ‘Chipotle-style’, so you can pick exactly what you want.
Outdoor Seating?: Sort of… Go Fish Poke Bar is in a strip mall, and the strip mall has outdoor seating across the parking lot you can sit at..
City: Mountain View
Best For: Well-done, classic Italian food. They also have gluten-free options.
Don’t Miss: They make a delicious affogato. Also, talk to the owners! They were the sweetest and (not to be cheesy) but this restaurant is seriously built on love.
Outdoor Seating?: Yes, right on the main street in Mountain View (Castro Street) but it’s sectioned for a good atmosphere.
Best For: Smoothies, juices, and açaí bowls.
Don’t Miss: The pink flamingo smoothie (pictured above). Pitaya gives it that gorgeous instagram-worthy color, and it is absolutely delicious.
Outdoor Seating?: Yes.
Ok, so this one is for Devlin. I thought Patxi’s was just okay, but I’m not into deep dish—I think it’s too much. Too much cheese, too much pizza. I’m from New York, it feels unnatural. But when Devlin and I first started dating, he spoke very favorably about Patxi’s and I’ve heard about it for like a year and a half before trying it. And it was the best deep dish pizza I’ve ever had so…
City: Campbell/Palo Alto/San Jose
Best For: Really amazing deep dish pizza.
Don’t Miss: Share a deep dish pizza with some friends, and don’t miss the honey on the table. The crust at Patxi’s is thick and flakey. Once you’ve finished with sauce and cheese, put some honey on that crust. Trust me. It’s the best part of this pizza.
Outdoor Seating?: San Jose has outdoor seating, Palo Alto & Campbell do not.
City: Mountain View
Best For: A good cafe to get work done, go on a date, have a business meeting.
Don’t Miss: The honey lavender latte (mine is with almond milk, but I’m sure it’s good no matter what).
Outdoor Seating?: Nope, but there are some public benches around Mountain View to enjoy your brew.
City: Santana Row, San Jose
Best For: When you want Mexican food and tequila but also want to sit outside in a beautiful garden but also want to be in a sports bar.
Don’t Miss: The cocktails! I got a roasted jalepeno margarita which was delicious. The nachos *looked* amazing too. Also don’t miss the live music.
Outdoor Seating?: El Jardin only offers outdoor seating. Nestled in the center of Santana Row, El Jardin is enclosed and it’s easy to forget you’re not in someone’s private garden. The bathroom is at a restaurant across the street, which is kind of weird.
Best For: Mediterranean cuisine at it’s best. Dishdash is a great environment for dinner.
Don’t Miss: In terms of food, you can’t go wrong but the lamb shank was the best piece of lamb I have ever eaten. It fell apart with just a fork and my entire table had order envy. Also the cucumber mint lemonade shouldn’t be missed either.
Outdoor Seating?: Yes, and expect a wait if you go to dinner. Very easily the busiest restaurant in on Murphy Street.
Have any favorite food in South Bay? Let me know in the comments below—I have a feeling I’ll be back and will need to keep exploring.