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Restaurants in San Jose

You’re don’t earn the No. 17 ranking of best place to live in the country by U.S. News & World Report without having some really great dining options. But which ones are worth a visit? We know time is a precious resource in Silicon Valley, so we created a guide to the top San Jose restaurants. From a traditional Moroccan joint to a cafe with craft beer and vegan eats, here are the best restaurants in San Jose right now.

Menara Moroccan Restaurant

Walking into Menara doesn’t feel like walking into other restaurants. Instead, it feels like walking into a Moroccan palace. Menara’s ornate tiles, padded benches festooned with colorful pillows, and pièce de résistance, a tiny blue pool in the middle of the room, transport guests into another world across the globe. The food is authentically Moroccan too. There are tagines, cornish hens with preserved lemon, B’stillas, and prawns in chermoula sauce. And of course, meals wrap up with pieces of baklava and glasses of mint tea. After dinner, many guests retire to the hookah lounge for a leisurely smoke.

 

Good Karma Artisan Ales & Cafe

Just because you want to eat vegan food, doesn’t mean you don’t want to have any fun. The owners of Good Karma scoff at the tired notion that being vegan means being boring—their cafe and beer-hub proves that it just isn’t true. They ply guests with tasty plant-based eats, including Jamaican jerk tofu smothered with a spicy caribbean jerk seasoning, and chili verde made with veggies and a house-roasted tomatillo-jalapeño verde sauce. They also curate the craft beers in their taps, selecting brews from across the country, but especially California.

How to Smoke Hookah at a Hookah Bar

  1. Choose your shisha. Shisha, the stuff you smoke, is made from tobacco, but may contain herbs or chopped-up fruit, too.
  2. Let the lounge staff pack and light the bowl. They know what they’re doing.
  3. Ask for your own mouthpiece. Hookah lounges in the US are required to provide a disposable mouthpiece to each customer. Fit your mouthpiece onto the hose when it’s your turn to smoke, then slip it off before you pass the hose to the next person.
  4. Inhale lightly. Draw in the smoke slowly and lightly, taking breaks in between puffs. This is called a pull.
  5. Don't smoke at the same time as someone else. Just because the hookah has more than one hose, doesn’t mean two people should take simultaneous pulls. If they do, the coals will burn too hot, and neither person will get a satisfying pull.
  6. Don't bogart the hose. Go ahead and take a pull or three when it’s your turn. But if you take too many consecutive pulls, you risk burning the tobacco faster.
  7. Smoke for about 60–90 minutes. A bowl can burn for up to three hours, but toward the end, it starts tasting like burnt tobacco.
  8. Chill. Frequent hookah smokers might not experience this, but newbies should be prepared to feel a bit buzzed and relaxed.
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Back a Yard

Back a Yard, Jamaican slang for "the way things are done back home," is one of the best downtown San Jose restaurants. In fact, it’s been praised by the Michelin Guide for its delicious Jamaican comfort food, including tender jerk chicken with just the right amount of smoke and spice, hearty curry goat, and sweet potato pudding. Even better? The beers and sangria are cheap at less than $4 each. If you can’t make it downtown, Back a Yard has two other locations in Menlo Park and Gould Shopping Center off Capitol Expressway.

Le Papillon

In the late ’70s, it was common to see executives from such tech companies as Apple and Intel dining at Le Papillon. Nowadays, Silicon Valley execs still head to this fine French restaurant for gorgeously plated French cuisine, albeit French cuisine that has been updated with modern flavors. There are grilled beef medallions topped with butter-poached prawns and grilled noisettes of lamb in rich cabernet jus paired with dried sour cherries. There are also pieces of swordfish with coconut curry and mango chutney.

So a Count Totally Invented the Negroni

Though he’s no Earl of Sandwich, Italian count Camillo Negroni invented something pretty cool, too—the negroni cocktail. Negroni was born into a wealthy family to an Italian father and an English mother. He was a world traveler and a consummate drinker, as people who invent cocktails tend to be.

 

Legend has it that Count Negroni asked a bartender at Caffè Casoni in Florence to make him a stronger version of a drink known locally as the Americano. The Americano was a blend of Campari, sweet vermouth, and soda. It was named after American expats in Italy after World War 1, who kept ordering the mix of Italian aperitifs sweetened with soda. Count Negroni supposedly asked the Caffè Casoni bartender to make him something with a little more “oomph.” That oomph? Gin.

 

It proved to be such a hit that locals kept asking for their Americanos “the Negroni way.” And now, the Negroni is one of the most popular cocktails in the world.

Mavericks Mexican Grill

Growing up, Ed Rael spent time at his grandfather's Mexican deli in the Mission District of San Francisco. Later, Ed moved to Hawaii, and for 15 years, he learned what it meant to cook fish fresh from the sea while working at his beach stand. He now combines his expertise into one passion, cooking up tacos and burritos and seafood fillings at his own Mavericks Grill.

 

Mavericks gets great reviews for the food, as well as the ambience. The cute eatery boasts colorful murals of underwater scenes and Mayan and Aztec history, all of which were painted by a local artist.

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