This post about Silicon Valley is a two-fer…two-fer-the-price-of-one! This is all about our recent trip to San Jose/Silicon Valley this summer and I not only talk about the food (DUH!), but I’m also including a couple places we visited!
I’ll be the first to tell you that most people don’t think of going to Silicon Valley for a vacation. It’s not exactly your typical touristy-vacation type of destination. San Francisco? Napa Valley wine country? Monterey? Absolutely. But tell someone you’re going to Silicon Valley or San Jose, and the response will most likely be “Oh. Where is that?”
We lived in San Jose for almost 20 years. Just about every time we told someone where we lived, we would be asked that very question, “Where is that?” The easiest way to describe it was to say, “It’s an hour’s drive south of San Francisco.” Oh well then..that changes everything! Everyone knows San Francisco! Cue the sudden look of enlightenment, followed by “Oh! Okay! You must go to San Francisco all the time then!”
Silicon Valley basically encompasses the region south of San Francisco Bay. San Jose is a big part of it, and it extends to about Palo Alto. That being said, the term Silicon Valley has come to include some cities north of Palo Alto, with the growth of tech companies in the area.
Supporting what I mentioned about about Silicon Valley not being a vacation destination, we don’t consider our trips back to San Jose a “vacation” either. I suppose you can call it a vacation from the humid heat of Hong Kong since San Jose has “dry heat” (VERY different for those of you keeping track…). However, when we go back, my husband stops into the office for meetings, and we make the rounds visiting friends. We also take advantage of shopping at Target, Costco, and Trader Joe’s!
Silicon Valley is the heart of the computer and tech industry and where silicon computer chips were invented. Did you know that’s what the “silicon” in the nickname refers to? And if you didn’t already know, many large tech companies call Silicon Valley home: Google, Apple, and Facebook…have you heard of any of those?
Before I get too far, let me make a quick mention of where we stayed this summer because it was so very awesome. Instead of staying at the Extended Stay like we have the last few years, we opted to try an Airbnb instead. We found a gem at Zara’s Cozy and Entertaining Guest House. Conveniently located to shopping, dining, and access to freeways, Zara’s was way more comfortable than a room at the Extended Stay. Complete with two queen beds, full kitchen, washer and dryer, projection screen TV, AND a foosball table, this was a fabulous home away from home.
Zara was an awesome host, making sure that our stay in her guest house was a good one…and it was! If you are thinking of visiting San Jose, consider staying there!
Okay, back to the trip…
Because Silicon Valley is basically the heart of the computer industry, only there will you find the Computer History Museum! I actually didn’t know it existed until I saw a Groupon deal for admission to it! Needless to say, it looked like a great thing to check out and we paid a visit there this summer.
This museum is nothing short of thorough in giving a full history of the computer. From the abacus (a primitive computer!) to modern day technology and everything in between, the museum covers every detail. It was fun explaining to our boys how we used to store data on big floppy disks that didn’t actually hold much information!
We used to own an Atari game console when I was a kid, and it was a big deal! Seeing the joystick brought back so many memories!
Did you know that Apple had created a personal computer called the Lisa?? While there is not exactly a confirmed story as to the name origin, one theory is that Steve Jobs named it after his daughter. Unfortunately, the Lisa computer didn’t quite catch on like the Apple II or Macintosh. It’s too bad…I think the name is quite catchy! 😉
Another highlight from our trip this summer is our hike on the Stanford Dish Loop Trail. With the Santa Cruz Mountains to the west and the foothills to the east, there is no shortage of exploring you can on foot. My husband and I used to hike quite a bit when we lived in California (in pre-children years). But I wanted to do the Stanford Dish trail this time since we’d never hiked it before and we thought the boys would get a kick out of getting close to the Dish!
The trail is completely paved (and sun-exposed) and once high enough, you get great views of the Bay Area. It was a bit hazy on the day we went, so it wasn’t as clear as it could be, but it was still a beautiful view.
And then, of course, as you progress along the trail, you see what you’re working your way towards! The Stanford Dish! The Stanford Dish is a radio dish and belongs to Stanford University. This loop trail gets you pretty close access to it, and is very popular with hikers. We also saw a number of people pushing strollers on the trail.
It’s pretty cool when you get up close to it!
As you leave the dis and continue on the loop trail, you get beautiful views of the Santa Cruz Mountains in the distance. This hike takes about 2-3 hours, depending on how fast you walk, but overall, it is an easy trail.
There are obviously more things to do, but the Computer History Museum and the Stanford Dish Loop Trail was what we did this summer. Next time you’re in the area, I hope you’ll check them out!
On to where to eat!
Keep in mind that the area that Silicon Valley encompasses is huge, so I can’t cover the whole area and every possible type of restaurant. Also, since we base ourselves in San Jose, most of the restaurants I have listed here are in the South Bay (referring to the area south of San Francisco Bay). We have been to other restaurants further north that are also great eats, but for the sake of staying current, these restaurants are ones we visited this summer.
First up – Khanh’s! Khanh’s is a family-owned Vietnamese restaurant in San Jose. Located a block away from the swanky Santana Row area, this humble restaurant serves up a wide variety of Vietnamese dishes for decent prices. The service is always warm and cheerful, and the food does not disappoint. We often go for pho, but other dishes have never disappointed.
Now brace yourself… This will come as a bit of a shock…but the only photo I actually took this year was the name on the restaurant. No photos of the food!
I know! What was I thinking?? Perhaps I was too hungry when we went that I forgot to take photos. Or perhaps I thought I already had photos…which I don’t. Nevertheless, I have to mention Khanh’s, photos or not, because it is definitely worth visiting.
Lazy Dog Restaurant and Bar is a new one for us this year and was good enough to mention!
Located in Cupertino, in the recently developed Main Street shopping and dining area, Lazy Dog, as you can guess, welcomes dogs! The restaurant itself is quite big and also boasts a really nice outdoor seating area. There’s even a large fire pit with seating around it!
As with most restaurants, they have a kid’s menu for the littler ones. My son chose to order a make-your-own pizza, and we all know making your own makes it taste so much better. 😉
Their menu is very extensive. Aside from standard dishes like burgers, steaks, and pasta, they also offer dinner-sized salads and Asian themed dishes. If you like to enjoy a glass of beer or wine with your meal, they’ve got plenty of that, too!
Chez Sovan serves Cambodian food and could be considered a hidden gem. Located in Campbell, it is an unassuming restaurant that doesn’t look like much on the outside. But the food they serve is sooooo good.
My husband introduced me to Chez Sovan years ago after he had enjoyed a meal there with coworkers. I liked it so much that I wanted to return there again, but I didn’t always remember! Well, this year, I remembered! We took the boys there after our Stanford Dish hike and the food was so good. Tom Yum soup (spicy but oh so good!), sach ang beef shish kabobs (they were THE BEST!!), kuy tiew cha rice noodles (YUM!), and Amok Fish (one of their signature dishes and so tasty!). I can’t wait to go back again next time we’re there!
If you’re in the mood for Japanese, try out Mizu. We are never ones to turn down a good Japanese meal or sushi and Mizu doesn’t disappoint!
Mizu is a hopping busy place. If you don’t have reservations during peak lunch or dinner times, you will have a bit of a wait. It is THAT popular…and with good reason! Aside from a large selection of sushi offerings, they also have cooked and grilled items on the menu.
The boys like to get their udon noodle soups, but we also have a good helping of sushi because it is so good. And most orders come with complimentary salad and miso soup. Bonus!
In the mood for pizza? How about custom pizzas? Check out Pieology! This was another new restaurant I wanted to try this year and the boys and I tried it out one day for lunch.
The concept behind Pieology is simple…choose your crust, your sauce, your toppings. Someone behind the counter puts it all together for you before sliding it into an oven. Pay, find a table, and wait patiently for your custom pizza to arrive!
While the boys chose standard pizzas like cheese or pepperoni, I went with chicken and artichokes and spinach and feta…it was so good!
While the pizzas are not huge, they can easily feed two people…or you’ve got leftovers for the next day! Take-out pizza boxes are readily available if you need them! Our Pieology experience was so positive that we went back a second time!
Now if you’re in the mood for finer dining, but not hoity toity dining, consider trying Village California Bistro in the Santana Row area of San Jose.
This restaurant is all about fresh, local foods and good wine…totally Californian. Being where it is on the Santana Row strip, we like to sit outside to enjoy our meal so we can enjoy the ambiance and get our share of people watching. If it gets chilly, they have portable heaters ready to keep it comfortable for you.
And the food? Really yummy, is all I’ve gotta say…
Pair the good food and wine with a relaxing atmosphere and you’ve got a winning combination.
Have you tried poke bowls? We hadn’t. Well actually, let me rephrase that… We had never gone to a restaurant to have poke bowls before, even though I make them at home! Needless to say, I was determined to try them from a restaurant and Poke One was THE one! Poke One in San Jose was recommended by a friend who has tried many poke bowl places…it seemed silly not to trust her!
Poke One focuses more on the Japanese style of poke bowl, instead of the Hawaiian style. I’m not interested in mixing pineapple and fruit in with my rice and fish, so the Japanese style was definitely more appealing. At Poke One, you choose your base (white rice, brown rice, half and half, or salad), choose your fish (salmon, tuna, shrimp, etc.) and your sauce. Then pick from a wide selection of veggies and toppings!
Poke One was so good, we fit in two visits before we left California! We love how everything is fresh and flavorful and simple. If you’re looking for fresh and healthy fast food, Poke One is a good option!
Finally, I can’t talk about Silicon Valley, or California for that matter, without mentioning a Mexican restaurant. A good Mexican restaurant is one thing we haven’t found yet in Hong Kong. So Mexican is a meal we really look forward to when we go to California!
This year, we discovered Mexico Lindo on Race Street in San Jose. We actually happened upon it by accident because another Mexican place we tried going to had over an hour wait! No worries, though, as Mexico Lindo was a great Plan B!
There is nothing fancy about this modest local eatery, but the food is simple, cheap, and good…just like Mexican food should be! One of my favorite Mexican meals is fish tacos and I was really happy with what I got! Piled high with fresh cooked fish, greens, avocado, tomatoes and cheese, I couldn’t actually hold it in my hands! But a fork a knife worked just as well! And my husband thoroughly enjoyed his loaded quesadilla…complete with a gluten-free tortilla! This local neighborhood hangout was definitely worth the stop.
I hope you enjoyed reading about our trip to Silicon Valley this summer. The next time you’re in the area and are wondering a) where to stay, or b) what to do, or c) where to eat, look back on this post! If there are other places you like to visit, or if you have a favorite restaurant you want to recommend, feel free to mention it in the comments below!