Random Sampling of Apple Centric San Jose / Cupertino Area Eateries

A rather random Twitter conversation (WO ObjC is only real WO, No it isn’t, Ruby on Rails, Not Really, Pulled Pork, MMM… Food, Where to eat in SJ?) led to the question of “Anyone have suggestions on places to eat in Cupertino/SJ area?

Well, I do. Herein lies a list of random eateries that I — and many people I know — enjoy. It is centric to Cupertino and West San Jose simply because that is where I work [Apple] and live. Thus, you won’t find much from Mountain View (even though there are some awesome spots there).

In no particular order and of no particular focus (and very likely with obvious omissions). And, yeah, I have a thing about pizza. It has a thin crust. It should be crispy. It should not be a fracking cake. I love Chicago-style meat-and-sauce cakes, but they ain’t pizza. There are three kinds of pizza in North America; NYC style, Chicago style, and Shakespeare’s. Deal with it.

Sushi: Furu-Sato
Sit at the bar. Say hello to Young, Kevin or Brian for me. Consistently some of the best quality fish I have been served in a very friendly and well designed atmosphere. Straight forward sashimi, sushi, and rolls, though they also have an interesting menu, too. I live by Omakase here. Recently, they have often had excellent quality fresh mango which goes tremendously well with tuna or hamachi.
Ethiopian: Zeni Ethiopian Restaurant
As long as you don’t mind eating with your hands and can take a rather relaxed approach to dinner (a couple of hours, typically), Zeni offers one awesome dining opportunity. Zeni serves ethiopian food, beer, and a delicious ethiopian honey wine. The best bet is to get a vegetarian sampler platter and order a couple of meat dishes to go with it. The whole thing will be served on a gigantic platter covered in injera. Don’t forget an order of spiced home made cheese to go with your meal. Delicious.
Japanese Tapas: Tanto Japanese Restaurant
The chef and staff of Tanto has served the best Japanese meals I have ever had. Like Furu-Sato, Omakase works very very well at Tanto. Tanto’s menu is extensive, filled with many small dishes and you cannot go wrong ordering off of it. They also have an excellent Soju menu.

Seriously. I have had, now, three meals here that were better than Nobu in New York City.

Note: Tanto is now called Dan. Mostly the same staff and same chefs. Every bit as awesome, maybe even better, than ever.

Mexican: Los Dos Compadres II
Total hole in the wall mexican spot that serves extremely tasty food cheap. Has real Coca-Cola — made with actual sugar and not corn syrup. Awesome seafood this and that. When they say “spicy”, believe it. I usually eat tacos because they are as close to the ones I had on the streets of Arandas, Jalisco, Mexico.
Pizza: A Slice of New York
Having lived in New York city, I was utterly and completely dismayed by what passed for “pizza” on the West Coast. Thin crust that was thick and chewy? Fail. While there are a couple of good pizza shops around the bay area (see below), nothing compared to a really good slice of NYC style “walking pizza”.

Fortunately, an ex-NYC’er who had moved out to join Cisco felt the same, gave up his high tech job, and opened a classic NYC pizza joint.

The key is to get slices. Why? Because truly good, thin, crisp, crust, can only be had by cooking twice. It is just the way it is. In NYC, we would often order whole pies of reheated slices.

Beyond a kick-ass pizza, A Slice of New York also makes an incredible meatball parmesan and they import all the parts to put together a genuine Long Island cannoli.
Halal Middle Eastern: Gulzaar Halaal Restaurant & Bakery
This little — and I do mean little — restaurant serves some of the best non-falafel oriented middle eastern food I have had in the bay area. Cheap. Fast. And utterly delicious. The beef kebab and vegetable samosas are delicious, served with a wonderful array of sauces. Everything is fresh and the focus is on the food, not presentation or atmosphere. They have two kinds of fresh baklava– pistachio and almond — both quite delicious. Very nice staff, too. This is likely to become a regular lunch spot.
Pizza: Pizza My Heart
A west coast pizzeria that actually does it right without just being a copy of an NYC joint. Quality pies with some delicious toppings. Good as slices and good delivered (ask for well done). Better yet, Chuck — the owner of Pizza My Heart and an iPhone — mentioned that a new location will be opening at De Anza & Stevens Creek with delivery to Apple! Never again will Dev Tech have a five hour brainstorming meeting with mediocre to awful pizza!
Pizza: Amici’s
Best NYC rip-off pizza in the bay area. Thin, crispy crust, with tasty toppings. Nice salads and sides, too. Small, but excellent, draft beer selection.
Gourmet: Sent Sovi
Our favorite gourmet meal kind of place. I wrote up a chef’s tasting experience a while ago. It was simply awesome. Unlike some “cutting edge” dining establishments, Sent Sovi maintains an awesome balance between culinary gastronomy and comfort food. A sort of culinary adventure with your world-class-chef mom, if you will… Has many special events throughout the year, centered around a particular local wine maker’s products or a specific theme ingredient. We have attended the King of Mushrooms and King of Duck dinners and they were, flat out, some of the most amazing meals we have had. Sign up for the mailing list, if interested. Meals not to be missed!
Gourmet: Manresa
Cutting edge high cuisine that challenges your palette. Christine and I had a phenomenal dinner at Manresa, but it was far from comforting. It was truly a culinary adventure and one that I’ll always remember fondly. Delicious and amazing creations often involving as much hardcore science as kitchen wizardry.
Location is everything: BJ’s Restaurant
I likely never would have visited BJ’s a second time if it weren’t for the fact that it is in the parking lot of Apple’s main campus. As a result, I eat lunch at BJ’s once a week and often have a beer or appetizer after work. They have some good beer (oatmeal stout, nutty, blonde, red, seasonals) and some bad (stout, porter, and occasionally bad kegs of anything else). Food is Pub Food. But there are some gems on the menu; sliders, appetizer pizzas (not the deep dish atrocities), and some of the sandwiches. You have to sort of zen with the service staff to enjoy the place; all things in good time. Even location cannot overcome such consistently crappy service and general food quality that leaves you feeling bloated and nasty after every meal. The healthy sub-menu has a handful of items that are pretty tasty, but the mis-management of this restaurant is to the point where it is no longer even comical. As well, their guest taps have stagnated and their beer service maintenance is lacking such that they’ve managed to serve skunked pitchers occasionally. BJ’s is also the only “bar” I’ve been to that has managed to screw up a gin and soda multiple times.
Cafeteria: Caffé Macs
The main Apple employee lunch cafeteria. It has undergone a major upgradte in the past year [2008]. From being one of the best company cafeteria’s around, Caffé Macs is now a gourmand’s paradise. Beyond an awesome salad bar, wood fired pizza, sandwiches, and the like, Caffé Macs features daily and weekly specials that are out of this world. Every day is an adventure. I have had duck confit, roast quail, Peruvian and Brazilian national dishes, quail & bacon risotto, stone fruit composed salads, herb seared scallops, and much much more. All reasonably price — cheap, really.
Mexican: Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant
Yeah, like such a list as this would not include Tommy’s. Excellent yucatan style mexican food and the world’s best tequila bar (no, really). I generally stick with the specials, if available; molé, whole fried snapper, anything pork, anything beef. Awesome tamales. And, of course, great margaritas. Say hello to Julio for me.
Sammich: Amato’s Cheeseteaks & Hoagies
Awesomely delicious cheesesteak and chicken sandwiches. HUGE. Plan on 2 people being full after splitting a small. Good fries, too. This place pretty much does nothing but hoagie style sandwiches and they have been doing ’em for a long time. Nice folks, too. Be kind, they’ll serve you well. Be an ass, they’ll throw you out. As it should be.

I’ll add more as I remember ’em. Sadly, I’m at a complete loss to recommend a good dim sum spot in the area. Any recommendations?



26 Responses to “Random Sampling of Apple Centric San Jose / Cupertino Area Eateries”

  1. Chris P says:

    BBum:

    You left Amato’s off your list. Best cheesesteaks outside of Philly.

  2. psu says:

    I have had pretty good dim sum at this Cantonese seafood place near the Target near the Apple campus. But I can’t remember tha name.

    For the real deal, go to Yank Sing in the City.

  3. bbum says:

    That place is gone, unfortunately.

    I have heard great things about Yank Sing. And I need to add the Cantonese Seafood Delights place to the list; always good. Both in the city, though.

  4. Jason Marr says:

    Haven’t tried it yet myself, but I’ve been told has pretty good dim sum.

  5. Chris Hanson says:

    For pizza, Patxi’s in Palo Alto. Its Chicago-style deep dish gets the Chris Seal of Authenticity. If you don’t like deep dish, you won’t like it, but if you do like deep dish, you will – which isn’t something that can be said for BJ’s or “Pizza Chicago” by El Camino and Lawrence. And since it’s in downtown Palo Alto it’s practically in the San Jose city limits compared to Zachary’s in Berkeley…

  6. bbum says:

    You put “pizza” and “deep dish” awfully close together there, Chris, but I’ll give you a pass for ending a sentence in between and that I don’t have a “Chicago Cake” category yet. I’ll give it a try.

  7. Alderete says:

    Rochelle can give you a longer list (and details of the Great North Bay vs South Bay Dim Sum Battle), but we highly recommend the Hong Kong Flower Lounge, in Milbrae, at the corner of El Camino and Milbrae Ave (or whatever the freeway exit is). And, they are near SFO, so they make a great meal before a flight; they will even hurry things if you tell them you need to catch a plane.

    Yank Sing is very good, but not cheap, and somewhat California-ized. And as folks here note, you gotta drive all the way to SF…

  8. John C. Randolph says:

    Chicago is the source of All True Pizza, also known as the Only Pizza Worth Flying Into A Blizzard For.

    NYC’s forte is the Calzone.

    -jcr

  9. John C. Randolph says:

    Oh, and if you visit the Washington DC area, the best east-coast pizza in the world is a Generous George’s Positive Pizza Place, in Alexandria. It’s Pizza the way New Yorkers wish</I? they could make it. A very close runner-up to just about every place in Chicago.

    -jcr

  10. psu says:

    I think Cantonese Seafood Delight is the place I am thinking of. Maybe I have the location wrong. There were a few places in that area.

    Also in SF is a place called Tong Kiang that is excellent. It’s in the Richmond/Sunset area.

  11. bbum says:

    John — you fail. I did not say that Chicago “meat and sauce cakes” were inferior. I simply said they weren’t pizza. This is fact and this is my weblog. This particular reality distortion field’s integrity is absolute. Such stupidity will be met with punishment if continued. Simply looking at Generous George’s site reveals that they probably make some very very fine food. But proper pizza, they do not make. Sort of a single layer cake, as far as I can tell. I’ll send my sister there to test the food quality.

  12. Rochelle says:

    Bill,
    A while back a group of friends and I spent an entire year on a North v. South Dim Sum War. It started after a friendly argument about the best dim sum in the Bay Area. We broke into teams and spent about 6 months eating at all the dim sum places in our “territory”. After we found the best of the best, we hosted big dinners with both teams (& guests). Anyway, I was on the North Team (SFO airport to GGBridge) and I can’t even begin to guess how much dim sum I ate – scouring Chinatown in hopes of finding a contender was brutal! I was actually even featured in a local magazine in a “Food Freak” article – haha.

    Anyway, here’s my recommendations:

    San Francisco: S & T Hong Kong Seafood Restaurant on Noriega is my newest favorite; Yank Sing for expensive account California-ized but very tasty dim sum; Dol Ho in Chinatown for cheap, homestyle dim sum with Chinese Seniors; Kan’s on Grant for a “classic Chinatown” experience.

    Mid-Peninsula: Koi Palace in Daly City excellent but not for the novice (hard-core chaotic Hong Kong-style service); Hong Kong Flower Lounge in Millbrae one of my favorite with nice, accomodating service (I tend to order in a specific fashion, as opposed to the western “looks good, I’ll take it” method); Joy Luck in San Mateo, they have been irregular in the past but they are quite good these days.

    New Contenders: There are three new places in Millbrae that I just haven’t gotten to but I’ve heard really good things about them from my Dim Sum Geek friends — Zen Peninsula, The Kitchen & Asian Pearl.

    Lower Peninsula: Honest, I have no idea. The furthest south I’ve eaten dim sum lately is Su Hong in Palo Alto which was pretty good. I’ve heard Hujiang in Cupertino Village has great XLB dumplings.

    PS: If you want to meet up for dim sum sometime, let me know.

  13. Rochelle says:

    PS: There are two places that are on my shit list: Canton House & Ton Kiang.

    Canton House is in a really convenient location – in SF right by my office and just off the freeway with decent street parking – if it was at all good, it would be such an easy place to recommend. But alas while their Chinese food is edible, their dim sum is not.

    Ton Kiang is also in a good SF location, just two blocks from Tommy’s. Can you imagine a better way to spend a Sunday – a yummy dim sum brunch followed by a tequila or five at Tommy’s? Alas, much of TK’s dim sum is very ordinary. And the last three times I’ve gone, the shrimp was overcooked and had an old stale freezer-burn taste to it. And since dim sum tends to be shrimp laden, that means that most of their dim sum was full-on bad. I say “Three Strikes, You’re Out” to TK.

  14. Chuck says:

    Pizza My Heart will be opening in Cupertino in December at Stevens Creek and DeAnza with delivery to Apple

  15. Dad says:

    Dear Unknowing “Pizza Gourmets”.

    There ain’t but one place in the whole world for “REAL” pizza and bbum knows.
    He lived in Chi town and ate that stuff and he gurgled. Then the boy was enlightened by his wonderful mother-in-law and father-in-law. He was given a slice of heaven from John’s Pizza of Bleeker Street. They have another pizza store off 8th Avenue & 44th Street. Not as good as Bleeker. I think because the ovens are not as old.
    But the absolute besy pizza is in the Bronx, on Arthur Avenue in Mario’s Reastaurant. The ovens are over 100 years old and they make real Neopolitan pizza. That is, thin, crispy pizza that you fold and devour.
    True pizza is made only in the Big Apple and I don’t mean the Cupertino Apple.
    The worst pizza in NYC is better than the “best” pizza that 2nd City has to offer. And, yes, I sampled the pizza from the so-called good pizza establishments.

  16. Dad says:

    By the way the best “pizza” that I can find here in St. Augustine is Sbarros.
    Think about that!!!!

  17. thomashan says:

    hi bbum,

    Dynasty has pretty good dim sum close to work at Vallco (oops, grew up in Cupertino, so can never get that name out of my head) or the newly named Cupertino Square.

  18. Carol says:

    We have similar tastes! May I suggest the omakase at Kitsho — heavenly! Sit at the bar in front of Howard, the owner, for omakase! Their special chirashi is amazing too — rather than throwing a piece of uni along with some boring fish, and calling it “special,” Kitsho’s special chirashi is like omakase in a chirashi! For pizza, I recommend trying La Pizzeria in Campbell for some great traditional Italian-style pizza.

  19. bbum says:

    Carol — you are the third person to mention Kitsho in response to this post (the others didn’t comment). It is on the short list of places to go. Thanks!

  20. Mel says:

    Cooking twice? That’s the *#&$%*#$ secret? Nobody could have told me this before? I’ve been to New York twice, for Pete’s sake!

  21. Jason says:

    For more middle eastern treats I’d strongly recommend the Rose Market on Castro in MV. They make terrific grilled meats in the back, and they have a great selection of baklava and numerous types of feta cheese (french, greek, etc). Definitely worth checking out.
    JR

  22. Peter says:

    Here’s some of my staples near Apple that you left off your list:

    Chinese: Jade Tree at Wolf & Steven’s Creek. Best Hot & Sour Soup ever.

    Kabobs: House of Falafel right across the street from Jade Tree. Awesome kabobs.

    Sandwiches: Lee’s, Northeast corner strip mall at Steven’s Creek & DeAnza

  23. Paul Suh says:

    A suggestion: Gourmet and great wine list – Cafe Torre, 20343 Stevens Creek Blvd.

  24. lisa says:

    Probably too far away from you guys but Jersey Joe’s in San Carlos (http://www.jerseyjoes.com/) is way better in my humble opinion than Amatos.

  25. ABC says:

    I’m sorry, but as a native New Yorker who goes back and forth a lot, all the named pizza joints just barely make it into the acceptable range and if I had a slice of theirs in NYC I’d never return. I think there is a fundamental humidity problem or something, because the crusts never hit the right crispy-chewy consistency. Possibly also the traditional NY gas ovens get hotter (a good pizza oven is ~800 degrees). West coast sauce seems both too bland and too sweet. Failure on the top notch mozzarella (though plenty of NY pizza falls down here too). Lastly, you gotta get the right pepperoni and dried Italian sausage (these guys seem to pick up their ingredients at the local P and W market. Fail). But the real test should be a plain slice. Mimi’s on 85th and Lex in NY has a plain slice so good you don’t want toppings – absolutely sublime. Every “NY Style” west coast pizza I have ever had has had such uninspired plain slices that one is forced to retreat into “maybe if I cover it with stuff with flavor this will be good” mode. Fuggeddaboutit!

  26. Amy Mello says:

    A Slice of New York is decent, but I’d recommend Fat Slice in Berkeley..soo much better. You can’t beat the price, they’ve recently started accepting credit cards, and they have the best veggie slice. period. Also, as far as the dim sum dilemma goes, It’s been my experience that Chinatown is the only place to go. That said, the dim sum places are very hit or miss..we started to go into one [no idea what it was called, most of the signs aren’t in english] and walked right back out after noticing it was a sitdown place. Dim Sum with carts is fine, but we weren’t in the mood for it. We ended up at You’s, and each person got about 10 items from the lady at the counter for about $3. Everything was fantastic.

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