The city of Santa Clara originally found success as an agricultural hub. Fruits were grown, dried, and canned in the region up until the mid-1900s when the electronics industry took off. Orchard land was traded in for the buildings and business of Silicon Valley and the city became a progressive force in the modern world. Although many of its orchards are now gone, Santa Clara still has a monopoly on great food. Try one of these top nine restaurants for a local taste of Silicon Valley.
Restaurant, Italian, $$$
A local staple since 1992, Mio Vicino serves premium Italian dishes in the midst of Santa Clara’s old town. Traditional Italian recipes are spiced up with inspiration from the California food scene. The trained Italian chefs use high-quality ingredients to create unforgettable meals, and the friendly service is a testament to Mio Vicino’s local ownership. Try one of the specialty pastas like the linguine and clams tossed with garlic, tomatoes, and leeks in a white wine sauce, or the portabella fusilli, which brings together portabella and crimini mushrooms, spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, and sweet corn all tossed in a roasted garlic-marsala sauce.
This successful small chain has six locations in California, each featuring a bar and lounge area, a full-service oyster bar with counter seating, and a retail seafood market. The vintage, home-styled decor creates a warm and familiar atmosphere in which to look over the lengthy list of seafood dishes. Choose from meals of fresh fish cooked over signature mesquite wood broilers, shellfish, chowders, seafood cocktails, and more, and be sure to try the signature house-made au gratin potatoes and cheesy garlic bread. The menus are updated every day to provide the freshest seasonal seafood possible. Arrive early if you want to grab a seat at the oyster bar.
Chef Sara cooks up her signature breakfast recipes from this local spot near the university campus. Have your morning eggs in one of Sara’s many scrambles, Benedicts, or omelets, or try the syrup-sweet goodness of homemade pancakes, French toast, or Belgian waffles. Service is quick and friendly in this small and unassuming restaurant, but don’t sleep in too late — the dedicated breakfast and brunch spot is only open until 3 p.m.
Athena Grill’s tasty authentic Greek food is no-frills delicious. Portions are generous, so come hungry. The restaurant is nearly always rushed with people, but service is quick and the food is worth the wait. The crispy fries tossed with Greek spices put plain fries to shame, and the kebabs are grilled to perfection. Try some of the hummus and pita bread for an appetizer, or order a crisp and delicious Greek salad served with plenty of Mediterranean vegetables and topped with gyro meat. Try to save room for one of the traditional desserts like baklava, layered fillo with walnuts, cinnamon, cloves, and lemon zesty syrup.
Named after the location’s original lot number, Parcel 104 sits on land that was once an old pear orchard in the 1800s. Now, Chef Bradley Ogden runs the farm-to-table American dining of Parcel 104 in the Santa Clara Convention Center hotel. Ogden’s award-winning, specialty dishes are made of the freshest ingredients sourced from local farmers and ranchers. Enjoy an elegant meal in the upscale ambiance of Parcel 104’s indoor or outdoor dining areas. Come in on a Friday to enjoy a live music performance.
Mongolian barbecue is all about customization. Instead of choosing from items on a menu, customers fill up a bowl with the meats, vegetables, noodles or tofu, and sauces of their choice before passing it over to the chefs. The food is then grilled together on a round barbecue grill for the customers to see. Health nuts should note that meals at El Camino Mongolian BBQ are naturally nutritional when prepared to the suggested 2:1 vegetable and meat ratio. The thinly sliced meats contribute a healthy amount of protein and nutrients are preserved in the quickly stir-fried veggies. The eco-friendly restaurant also practices recycling and composting.
This local Italian restaurant is a great spot for a casual dinner and one of the best Italian restaurants for miles. The menu is full of classic Italian dishes like decadent house-made pastas and a long list of fritti de mare.Some favorites from Fiorillo’s include the ravioli Toscana, portobello mushroom-stuffed ravioli sauteed with prosciutto ham, mushrooms, and peas in a white cream sauce. The extensive menu also includes meat dishes, pizzas, salads and more.
Some of the best sushi in Santa Clara can be found at the humble strip-mall restaurant Sushi O Sushi. Swathes of customers fight for tables at peak business hours, so try dining in early or calling ahead. Fresh sushi and sashimi are prepared at the sushi bar, and whether you’re dining alone or with a friend, you can always take a place at the bar to watch the chefs work. Although the atmosphere is minimal, the excellent food will make up for it. Order a few rolls with a refreshing sake and tuck into a satisfying and filling dinner.
Enjoy a traditionally prepared Thai meal made with fresh and seasonal ingredients at Jasmine Fine Thai. At lunchtime, try one of the restaurant’s many curries for a beautiful blend of spices and vegetables served with a side salad and rice. Dinner customers have an extensive menu of consistently good meals including plenty of vegetarian, seafood, and meat dishes. If you’re feeling indulgent, save room for a dessert of mango and sticky rice or fried banana with ice cream.