It’s Friday night in downtown San Jose. As you stroll along North San Pedro Street, a number of inviting restaurants tempt—but just ahead, a lively plaza with rows upon rows of string lights beckons like a beacon. Glowing red letters above the entrance announce your destination: San Pedro Square Market.
San Jose’s first food hall, a staple of downtown celebrating its twentieth anniversary this September, has gained recognition as a thriving community hub with over a dozen food and beverage vendors. Step inside, and you’ll find a fashionably industrial interior with transparent warehouse-style doors, modern light fixtures, and weathered brick. On the back patio, bands perform live music six nights a week.
With so many possibilities, making a culinary choice can be downright daunting. Not to worry, we’ll help you navigate with these eight recommendations:
The Californication at Crepes & More
Ever wondered what California tastes like? Look no further than the Californication at Crepes & More. The crepe version of the Golden State requires chicken, chipotle, corn, jalapenos, onions, pepper jack, cheddar cheese, and avocado—because can anything truly represent California without avocado? Your meal also comes with a show. There’s something satisfying about watching someone smooth crepe batter across a hot plate. And when the generous heaping of toppings are finally folded into the welcoming arms of a golden-brown blanket, it’s like coming home.
Ceviche and lomo saltado at Jora Peruvian Food
If Jora (pronounced “ho-rah”) is your first venture into Peruvian cuisine, you’ll want to order the country’s national dish: ceviche. You know it’s a big deal because the nation dedicated an entire holiday to it. To bring this classic recipe to life, Jora accompanies fresh fish with tiger’s milk (a spicy citrus marinade), yam, and several kinds of Peruvian corn (canchita, chulpi, and choclo). For your main, go for the lomo saltado—sautéed strips of beef tenderloin stir-fried alongside fresh tomato, red onion, aji amarillo (yellow chili pepper), and fries. You’ll taste the care behind the meal because Arturo and Juan, the Peruvian partners behind Jora, operate under the motto, “we cook as if we’re cooking for family.”
Raspberry Hang Glider at The Three Sisters
The Victorian-themed bar known as the Three Sisters is hard to miss. Look for three painted ladies in gilded frames peeking over the bartender’s shoulder as if to make sure your old fashioned is properly made. The featured trio—Anita, Emma, and Isabella—are the lovely daughters of Captain Thomas Fallon, one of San Jose’s earliest mayors. In fact, across the street, you’ll catch a glimpse of his 18th century home in the fading light. If you turn back to the bartender and ask about the most popular drink on the cocktail menu, he’ll steer you toward the Raspberry Hang Glider. If you’re looking for a sweet, refreshing drink, this blend of raspberries, vodka, and lemon juice, topped with soda should be just the thing. Regulars also say they make a killer Bloody Mary.
Joe’s Special at Pizza Bocca Lupo
A native Neapolitan and an avid ambassador of thin crust pies, Pizza Bocco Lupo’s owner takes pride in the details of his craft—down to the fresh mozzarella cheese, crushed tomato sauce, 00-style flour, and extra virgin olive oil. The tiled oven—its belly fed by a steady diet of almond wood and pizzas—was built by a third-generation oven builder from Naples and cooks each disk of dough to perfection in two minutes flat. For the pizza purists, the restaurant offers a satisfyingly simple margarita, its modest covering of sauce, cheese, and basil leaves allowing you to focus on the skill of pizza making without the distraction of toppings. But if you like a pizza with a little more oomph, request Joe’s Special. Your piping hot pie will come adorned in sausages, basil leaves, and mushrooms.
Carbonara at Pasta Fresca
Speaking of Italian cuisine, you’ll want to pay a visit to Pasta Fresca. Shawn McKenna, the restaurant’s owner, spent a stint working at a Michelin star restaurant in England in the 90s, and he makes a mean meat lasagna. But his go-to recommendation is the carbonara: pasta made from scratch, then cooked with egg yolks to thicken it to its customary creamy texture. And let’s not forget the grinding of fresh black pepper. “It needs to be eaten within 10 minutes,” Shawn shares on the San Pedro Square Market website. “That’s why I don’t offer to-go for this, unless you order with cream.”
Gorkali chili (with a side of chicken momo dumplings) At Urban Momo
For your Indo-Nepali cuisine fix head over to Urban Momo. With a long history of fusion, Nepal has incorporated cooking elements from its neighbors for centuries, embracing Indian spices and Chinese cooking techniques. Fittingly, Urban Momo’s chefs have cooked their way across Nepal and the Himalayas. We recommend the namesake dish. Momo are steamed Napalese dumplings stuffed with minced veggies or ground meat. Make sure to eat them along with achaar, a spicy full-bodied dipping sauce. Accompany your momo with a bowl of gorkali chili, a pleasing mixture of stir fry vegetables, meat, and spices in a robust sauce.
Lobster roll at Anchors
Have a hankering for halibut? The crispy clam strips, scallop linguine, and New England chowder at Anchors will sweep you right out to sea (fittingly, the sign on the back wall instructs guests to “work like a captain, play like a pirate.”) You’ll be tempted to settle for the classic comfort food of fish and chips, but we encourage you to order their lobster roll. A buttery French roll (soft on the inside, toasted on the outside) is loaded with generous chunks of lobster to fulfill your crustacean cravings. And they won’t drown it in mayo so you can still taste the ocean. This roll pairs perfectly with a spicy thatch of Cajun-seasoned fries.
Tokyo Latte at Voyager Coffee
If you plan your visit earlier in the day, travel via tastebud with Voyager Craft Coffee’s destination-themed drinks. The coconut cream, cayenne pepper, and honey of the Bali latte will have you daydreaming of volcanic hikes and trips to crumbling Hindu temples—while the orange blossom water and vanilla of the Valencia latte will take you to a garden terrace in sunny Spain. But a fan-favorite is the Tokyo latte. This delectably floral blend of espresso, cream, house-made vanilla, cherry blossom water, and brown sugar will transport you to springtime in Japan and its flowering trees. If you order it hot, don’t forget to request rainbow latte art.