I'm a bit depressed just signing up and seeing very little on the great dining in the San Jose area. Most posts are dated years ago! So, here is a very 'short list' of some of my favorite 'Mom and Pop' ethnic places here in San Jose, CA.
I'm sorry I don't have the time to post addresses. But you can easily take the name of the establishment, hook it into Google and search 'XYZ in San Jose, CA'. An address and possibly a map should pop up or hit the on-line yellow pages.
One of my all time favorites is literally a 'hole-in-the-wall' Mom and Pop Japanese place in San Jose's Japan Town. Gombei is so homely, it reminds me of an old Hawaiian restaurant, complete with COUNTER SEATING. Weekend nights you can be assured of a line out the door. The food is fresh, and best, the prices are far under $13.00 per person. You'd really be stretching to spend more (unless you have alcohol).
They often have specials written on their white board...often for under $12.00 which includes soup, salad, pickles, rice and your main dish. There is only sashimi (no sushi), and favorites like Katsu of all types, Udon, etc. You leave stuffed. There are two locations (San Jose and Menlo Park). They also own the upscale Kubota also in Japan Town (SJ)...which is far more pricey. If you like real down home family food, this is THE place to eat it (and if you are really lucky, they have Poke on the menu).
Mitsua Market (inside Japanese lunch counter)
This is a hidden gem...only found by word of mouth, or if shopping at this huge Japanese market in San Jose. The hot lunch counter is very busy with local japanese who have finished or are just starting shopping. No sushi or sashimi here...only udon, katsu, noodles, noodles and noodles. Prices are under $10.00 for a large meal, and seating is like a busy new york subway; hard to find. A great place for lunch or dinner, but expect NO abience. This is down home cooking at it's finest and budget as well.
Mexican/Salvadorian: El Chalateco Salvadorian
280 N Capitol Avenue - San Jose, CA
This is a small chain, and I've been to almost all of them. This location is my favorite for the fact it is the cheesiest location with garish yellow and orange floor and insides, cheap plastic furniture and best; a HUGE pot of Curtido for your table to 'help yourself'. I'd stick with the Pupusas, Plantains and so forth. I've never had their 'mexican' here...but I've heard from the regulars the tortas are quite good.
Also, you MUST have an 'ensalada' Now, we speak a bit of high school spanish and this word is 'salad' in spanish. However, in El Salvador, this is a drink of different types of fruit and we purchased a large one here. It was downright fabulous! It is an orange colored drink with bits of cucumber, apple, pineapple, oranges; whatever veggie or fruit is available at the moment and totally refreshing on a hot summer day or night. Prices are so cheap...about $1.95 per item...The ensalada is about $3.50 for the large and worth every penny.
Taj India on Camden Ave in San Jose and in Sunnyvale
Taj India is a very small 'chain' that serves great indian food, not so highly spiced, that you are turned off due to your taste buds getting singed. My husband and I enjoy the combinations that are 'hidden' on the back page of the menu. The combos are delicious and under $12.00. If you have a larger appetite, the Thali dinners are double the size, and you get a taste of almost everything. If you don't like a small sample of the meal, you simply skip it and move on.
Bombay Oven on Stevens Creek (other locations in San Mateo, Fremont and San Rafael)
Bombay oven serves the best buffet lunch in San Mateo, hands down. So, I was THRILLED to have them move to the San Jose area and sampled their HUGE buffet now available for dinner. This place is highly populated with 'locals'...that is local Indians who also appreciate the food, beautiful surroundings and cheap prices. Buffet dinner was approx. $13.00 with dozens of choices of meat, veggie with FREE serve-yourself hot Chai and soda--unheard of in the San Jose area.
Tumeric Indian Restaurant (Sunnyvale)
We love the buffet for both lunch and dinner. Beautifully decorated Indian is on the 2nd floor with nice breeze flowing in from the open window. However, it is very LOUD when children are present (and there are many Indian families who frequent this establishment). Buffet is well stocked, hot, and good value.
Chinese: Pagoda House
This is your typical old-style Chop Suey joint...with the carpet so dirty and soiled, you can see the trails of grease from years of build up. If you are looking for 'high end' chinese...this ain't it. This is the greasy spoon cashew chicken, Won Ton soup, and other americanized chinese fare for very low prices. Therefore, lots of families frequent the place on weekends. Typical asian 'comfort food'.
Hidden in a very run down strip mall, it is easy to miss. But the local latino population has found out, and makes up a large customer base that keeps this baby rolling.
Chinese: Ocean Harbor
We recently found this place out...hiding in an unlikely area: on Monterey Hwy!
This is an excellent spot for all kinds of seafood and ESPECIALLY dim sum. My husband is Chinese and mourns the fact he has not found a really great place in San Jose. This one comes pretty darn close. Try all the dim sum you can handle on the weekends (there will be lines). Also great fresh seafood. You will more than likely be the ONLY non-asian in this restaurant if you aren't of the 'asian persuasion'
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