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photo courtesy Vitos Trattoria
photo courtesy Vitos Trattoria
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The 10 Best Restaurants In Downtown San Jose, California

Picture of Alana Jajko
Updated: 12 July 2017
San Jose is the largest city within the Bay Area and in Northern California, known as a global city for its thriving economy and affluence. With so much to offer, we have narrowed in on the Downtown San Jose area to explore what kind of cuisine is popular for dinner. Here are 10 of the best restaurants to try.

Le Papillon

Le Papillon is an upscale French restaurant and steakhouse perfect for special occasions. With more than 500 wines and three to four course dining options, Le Papillon offers an elegant spread of cuisine. The extensive menu changes seasonally, allowing chefs to showcase the finest and freshest ingredients, focusing on local, organic, and sustainable fare. For a private anniversary dinner or a dinner party of up to fifty guests, Le Papillon offers a wonderful venue and attentive staff, happy to wait on any fine dining experience.

Address and telephone number: 410 Saratoga Avenue, San Jose, CA, USA + 1 408 296 3730

photo courtesy La Foret
photo courtesy La Foret

La Forêt

La Forêt is an exquisite French restaurant named for its surrounding scenery of lush forest. Situated in a historical building that dates back to the California Gold Rush, the repurposed boarding house is now home to elegant dishes like cold water Australian lobster tail with lime beurre blan or tournedos of beef tarragon with cabernet and cognac sauce. Though La Forêt is located in the countryside just south of Downtown San Jose, the 30-minute drive is well worth it for the quality of food, quaint atmosphere and attentive service you will receive upon arrival. La Forêt is another venue perfect for special occasions and also has dining options for banquets and weddings. Called the ‘gem of Amalden Valley’ by reviewers, the beautiful wooded area and the historic building itself sets the mood for a romantic evening at a fine restaurant in the country.

Address and telephone number: 21747 Bertram Road, San Jose, CA, USA + 1 408 997 3458

Falafel Drive-In

On the other end of the spectrum, Falafel Drive-In is a roadside setup that features authentic Middle Eastern fare through a take-out window. Since 1966, this unsuspecting stand has been gathering a following and has become a San Jose staple for quick and tasty food. There is nearly always a line during their opening hours, but it is well worth the wait. The falafel, of course, is a favorite among customers, but Falafel Drive-In also serves a selection of freshly made milkshakes, other traditional foods like chicken pita, tabbouleh, and gyros, alongside innovative takes on your regular hamburgers, hot dogs and French fries. Outdoor seating is available with murals of the area on the surrounding walls. The falafels are light and crispy and full of flavor, and the ingredients are always fresh. Falafel Drive-In will offer you a quick and quality meal, flooded with the flavor and unique spices of Mediterranean cooking.

Address and telephone number: 2301 Stevens Creek Blvd, San Jose, CA, USA + 1 408 294 7886

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Arcadia

Arcadia is a modern American steakhouse known for its prime cuts of beef, fresh fish and poultry, and is the brainchild of celebrity chef Michael Mina. With recipes put together by Mina himself and a chic stylish décor, Arcadia presents a little taste of fine dining located within the opulent San Jose Marriott. A few of Mina’s classics on the menu include lobster corn dogs, ahi tuna tartare, truffled mac and cheese Maine lobster pot pie, and the whole fried chicken for two. Some other favorites include any one of the specialty steaks like the 28 ounce porterhouse served with truffled mac and cheese, roasted mushrooms, and a sauce trio. Even the desserts carry an air of decadence, with items like the peaches and cream served with mascarpone panna cotta, hibiscus-poached peaches, and blackberry sorbet, or the beignets with cinnamon sugar and caramel custard. Offering prime service and a refreshing ambiance, Arcadia is a popular place serving up delicious, Zagat-rated steakhouse fare.

Address and telephone number: 100 W San Carlos St, San Jose, CA, USA + 1 408 278 4555

Zeni Ethiopian Restaurant

Zeni Ethiopian Restaurant is a dining experience for the adventurer looking for a cultural experience at home. With an authentic Ethiopian menu featuring items like alitcha wot, gomen besiga, quanta firfir, and ye-timatim fit fit, the names of the dishes themselves can be intimidating, but don’t let that sway you. The spices and flavors of this unique cuisine will melt you mouth, and you will feel all the better when you realize the ingredients themselves are not so strange. Alitcha wot, for example, is a mild and spicy beef stew, extra lean chopped beef simmered in mild sauce with spicy butter, onion, garlic, ginger and turmeric. As for gomen besiga, it is simply lamb on the bone cooked with collard greens, herbed butter, garlic, ginger, onions, and green pepper. The real adventure begins as soon as you sit down. For a real cultural immersion, customers can sit on the floor & eat with their hands while enjoying the colorful Ethiopian décor of the place.

Address and telephone number: 1320 Saratoga Ave, San Jose, CA, USA + 1 408 615 8282

Caffe Frascati

While Caffe Frascati is more of a hip coffee shop, it also offers up some tasty café fare and wine, plus regular events like live music nights, open mic, and slam poetry. Inspired by the cafés of Rome, Caffe Frascati embodies the old world décor of an authentic Italian café. With its casual atmosphere and homey loft, the café is a great place to work or study during the day and becomes a popular hangout spot by night. Some menu items include croissants, English muffins, and bagels, all of which are made into any kind of egg sandwich you could want, pastries and desserts, a variety of paninis and sandwiches, salads and quiche, and of course and assortment of coffees, teas, and wines. Caffe Frascati is a laid-back place and is a great hangout spot for anyone looking for good food and entertainment.

Address and telephone number: 315 South First Street, San Jose, CA, USA + 1 408 287 0400

Aqui Cal-Mex

Aqui Cal-Mex is a San Jose franchise serving quick, quality food. When you walk into any one of the warmly decorated restaurants, you place your order at the counter and wait at a table until the food is ready. While you wait, you might admire the walls of Aqui, which are decked out with unique artwork from talented local artists. The menu features a cultural mix of Asia, American, and South American flavors with items like adobo chicken lime avocado, mango sesame chicken, Thai peanut bowl, California enchiladas, and cotija taquitos. For a quick, healthy bite that is full of flavor, stop at one of Aqui Cal-Mex’s locations in San Jose.

Address and telephone number: 5679 Snell Ave, San Jose, CA, USA + 1 408 362 3456

Nemea Greek Taverna

Nemea Greek Taverna is a little taste of Greece at the heart of San Jose. Nemea is dedicated to serving the freshest ingredients with outstanding quality and distinct flavors straight from the Mediterranean. As you enjoy the warm ambiance of the restaurant itself, peruse a menu full of savoury dishes like lavraki, a Mediterranean bass, mesquite, braised greens, roasted potatoes, with lemon vinaigrette or moschari souvlaki, a filet of beef with mushrooms, onions, Nemea potatoes and yogurt dressing. Nemea’s is an upscale restaurant that offers the best of authentic Greek cuisine and even live music on occasion. The staff are all friendly and very knowledgeable about what they are serving, and offer the best of hospitality. Nemea’s is also available for parties and events for those who want to share their love for Greek cuisine with everyone.

Address and telephone number: 96 S First Street, San Jose, CA, USA + 1 408 279 4225

Veggie Grill

Veggie Grill is a Vegan restaurant featuring the best that vegetables have to offer in new and innovative dishes. Try their Sonoran bowl filled with steamed quinoa and seasoned black beans with fire roasted carrots or corn, avocado, salsa, jalapenos, tortilla strips, and roasted red pepper sauce, or maybe you would like a simple serving of mac and cheese with organic, non-GMO rice pasta, VG-Cheese sauce, and bread crumbs. At Veggie Grill the vegetables, grains, nuts, and fruits are the superstars, and whole healthy eating is at a max. Something like the harvest bowl with field roast sausage, herb-roasted veggies, supergrains, steamed kale, porcini mushroom and miso gravy, and hemp seeds, offers up the flavors of meat in a completely Vegan way. Veggie Grill has a little something for everyone, and everything on the menu is healthy and flavorful. With its quick and easy counter-service setting, you can’t go wrong.

Address and telephone number: 3055 Olin Ave. #1030, San Jose, CA, USA + 1 408 296 6473

Vito’s Trattoria

Vito’s Trattoria is a restaurant that offers up genuine Italian cuisine packed with flavor and surrounded by excellent service. Prepared from authentic Italian family recipes, each dish has a little taste of home cooked comfort whether it be the farfalle con piselli e’ prosciutto (bow tie pasta, with peas and prosciutto in a garlic cream sauce) or the simple homemade meat and sausage lasagna. Open for lunch and dinner since 2003, Vito’s has gathered a following of locals and out-of-towners alike. The décor is charming and reminiscent of an Italian villa, and the staff is always hospitable and accommodating. Vito’s also offers pizza to go, a homemade pie that has people coming back for more. They also own a café right next door with a nice selection of salads, sandwiches and pizza ready to grab and go.

Address and telephone number: 90 Skyport Dr, San Jose, CA, USA + 1 408 453 1000