San Jose's status as a melting pot of ethnicity can be sampled in its wide variety of distinctive restaurants. From old-school Italian to upscale American, traditional Vietnamese to mouthwatering Mexican, there's something tempting for every taste in the California city.
One of the most popular eating establishments in town for more than a half-century is Paolo’s, an intimate Italian place overlooking the Guadalupe River. A San Jose institution since 1958, this second-generation family restaurant has earned national acclaim.
Few Bay Area chefs have received more recognition in recent years than Michael Mina, who has opened more than a dozen upscale restaurants in California and beyond. His popular downtown San Jose offering is the Arcadia Modern American Steakhouse, whose menu has been known to include such interesting items as lobster corn dogs, a whole fried chicken prepared for two and pumpkin cheesecake.
Vietnamese and Pacific-Asian
San Jose has one of the largest Vietnamese populations in the U.S., and Khanh’s near Santana Row has been serving traditional Vietnamese dishes such as barbecue beef rolls for three decades. A number of other Vietnamese restaurants can be found along Tully and Story Roads. The Pacific-Asian influence is heavy throughout the city, with a variety of places specializing in Japanese, Chinese and Hawaiian food.
Mexican, Spanish, Latin
Authentic Mexican, Spanish and Latin dishes abound in San Jose. A favorite among San Jose State University students is La Victoria Taqueria, a small, informal Mexican restaurant that is open late and often crowded. The specialty of the house is the addictive orange sauce, which regulars pour over anything and everything on the menu.
Only in San Jose
Part of the fun of the San Jose food scene is the odd places found nowhere else. Buck’s of Woodside, for example, promotes itself as the home of “flapjacks and tomfoolery.” This neighborhood joint is so popular among locals that The San Jose Business Journal named it one of the top five restaurants in town, alongside such upscale eateries as the Fairmont Hotel Grill and Il Fornaio. Other quirky favorites include the Falafel Drive-In, which has been around since 1966, and Lou’s Do-Nut Shop, whose cake donuts are nothing like the standard Krispy Kreme.