Things to do and eat in Silicon Valley

Summer is the time for family and friends to come and visit, so I took a little while and tried to think about things to do and places to eat.

Some things to do in Silicon Valley and nearby:

  • Sunday morning farmers’ market in Mountain View
  • Take a tour of Google (okay, you need to know someone who works there, probably)
  • Kitsch value: Intel Museum, Nickel City (arcade games are only a nickel, or even free!), San Jose flea market claims to be the world’s largest. There’s also an electronics flea market on the second Saturday of the summer months (e.g. Aug. 13, 2005) on the De Anza College campus parking lots. Meanwhile, De Anza has its own flea market on the first Saturday of the month (e.g. August 6, 2005).
  • Shopping: Santana Row/Valley Fair, Stanford Shopping Center, maybe University Ave or Castro St
  • San Jose: The Tech Museum, the Winchester Mystery House
  • Computer Geeks: Weird Stuff, Fry’s (I like the Sunnyvale store), Digital Guru (tech bookstore right near the Sunnyvale Fry’s), Microcenter, Best Buy, CompUsa, Surplus Computers
  • Pretty drives: Driving down Highway 1. Skyline Boulevard. Lick Observatory is only 20 miles away, but two hours of winding driving.
  • San Francisco: the painted ladies, then drive the Haight, and end up in Golden Gate Park to see the Japanese Tea Garden and the botanical gardens, continue on to rent a boat on the lake in the park, then drive by Cliff House before finishing at the Palace of Fine Arts and the Exploratorium. Or hit the Museum of Modern Art before walking to Union Square for shopping and walk in Macy’s and Tiffany’s before walking through Chinatown on the way to Pier 39 and Alcatraz (while looking up at the crookedest street) and looping over to Ghirardelli Square, then finish with a trolley car ride back to Union Square. Or get dim sum and then drive across the Golden Gate Bridge (stopping on the other side to look back at the city) before proceeding on to Muir Woods and hiking around.
  • Day trips: Santa Cruz (cold water, but nice boardwalk. Kitsch lovers might want to check out the Mystery Spot), Roaring Camp Railway, Carmel/Monterey (including the aquarium), or spend the day walking around Stanford and go up in the Hoover Tower, then check out the Stanford bookstore or the Rodin sculpture gardens.
  • Overnight trips: Healdsburg is a nice introduction to the edge of wine country. You can also go canoeing on the Russian River in Healdsburg. The Point Reyes lighthouse is really pretty; we haven’t found a favorite place to stay up there yet. Lake Tahoe can be nice.
  • Multiday trips: Yosemite is 5-6 hours away but is spectacular: rent a cabin in Camp Curry or stay in the Wawona hotel (their Sunday brunch is expensive but amazing). If you prefer to go up the coast, Eureka has a quaint downtown. If you make it up to Portland, be sure to spend some time in Powell’s bookstore.
  • Hikes: Borel Hill, Rancho San Antonio, the Stanford Dish, Eagle Rock Loop in Alum Rock City Park in San Jose

Places to eat:

  • Left at Albuquerque
  • Amarin Thai
  • Pho
  • Tomatina
  • Mexicali
  • all along University Avenue in Palo Alto
  • all along Castro St in Mountain View
  • In and Out Burger or Clarke’s
  • Chipotle in the Cherry Orchard (Ozzy Osbourne loves this food)
  • BJ’s Brewhouse in Cupertino
  • Benihana
  • Cheesecake Factory
  • Mongolian BBQ (in Santa Clara, the one that is not Sue’s)
  • Evvia (Greek, Palo Alto)
  • Picasso’s (Tapas, San Jose)
  • Sushi Lovers or anything with a sushi boat, Seto Sushi (recommended by Linus Torvalds!), Miyake
  • Dim Sum (San Francisco or Ming’s in Palo Alto)
  • Original Pancake House in Los Altos, esp. for their coffee
  • Ethiopan place (maybe on Homestead?)
  • Banana Leaf in Milpitas
  • Amber India
  • Maybe Dave and Busters in Milpitas, just for the games ‘n’ stuff
  • Mexican: Bueno Bueno in Mountain View, Burrito Real, La Bamba, La Costena, Fiesta del Mar, that one place on the south side of El Camino between Rengstorff and Shoreline, Taqueria los Charros

66 Responses to Things to do and eat in Silicon Valley (Leave a comment)

  1. I haven’t worked down there for over 12 years, and I never realized how much I would miss Weird Stuff and Fry’s till I started moving around the country. There was also another surplus place out near 680 that was a great complement to Weird Stuff.

    Most of my favorite lunch places are gone, but Nicolino’s Garden Cafe in Sunnyvale is still there. Great pasta and pizza, as well as the best garlic bread I’ve ever had. We went there at least once a week.

  2. Ever since I moved from TX I’d been looking for BBQ, and my standards are pretty high. Next time you drive down Haight check out Memphis Minnie’s, which has the best brisket I’ve had yet.

  3. Great travel tips, Matt! Just returned from SES and did not get to say hi to you at the Google party but thanks to for a great event..

    Consider adding these travel items for those heading North to Portland: Crater Lake NP, Rogue River Jetboats, rafting, and hiking, Birdwatching in Klamath Basin, Surf and Dunes along Oregon Coast, Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Jacksonville (a Historic Register Town), and much more. Also FYI WIFI – we (Oregon Tourism people) are putting info kiosks and WIFI hotspots in some of the welcome centers and some tourist areas.

  4. great ideas for a n00b to the area. i moved from new york city. too laid back here but has a similar feel to troy, ny.

    i would add Aroy Dee to the list of restaurants. it’s an excellent Thai place on the intersection of Saratoga and Steven’s Creek.

    btw, i came to your site through the Search Engine Blog.


  5. Matt, I’m an italian reader of your blog and I had the chance to visit SF several times. I would suggest you to add a couple of spots to your Places to eat list. Both are located in SF and are worth a visit for sure:
    1) Swan Oyster Depot (1517 Polk St) think it’s one of the best places in town for fresh seafood
    2) Ristorante Ideale (1309 Grant Avenue) is (no kidding) the best italian restaurant in the whole city. It’s just like eating in Rome. Same great taste 🙂
    I’m sure your readers, after trying them, will agree with me.

  6. Reading your blog and seeking answers to why my (5) ringtone related sites have been loosing their Google traffic. Came up with something and must look into that – thanks!

    P.S. Last week I was visiting San Fransisco (for two weeks). Unfortunately I saw your post just now. Maybe next time?

  7. Thanks for that! I’ve been thinking about visiting San Francisco before. Well, I might do a visit to Google as well, what would be a great honour, though I wouldn’t have any idea how to get in contact with some guys who work there.

  8. Matt,
    The where to eat places sound great, however one needs a map to find them.A search by zip may get close. A search by city-state can be frustrating for a bad speller like me.My vision is wherever one happens to be -on the ground -he can find local info on the web-WITHOUT-entering a bookmark for a business, WITHOUT entering city and state, WITHOUT entering a zip code, WITHOUT clicking on a menu or map, WITHOUT GPS. A short instantly recognizable geographical code that is instantly recalled for the on the ground location and used as the “search” term on site makes it happen. Unlike looking up 40,000 zips to find the right one, you instantly know a 100,000 locations after seeing just one.

  9. I tried to tour Google, but the nice woman with the Google umbrella turned us away.

  10. Hi Matt,

    We met briefly at the Berkley, Consumer Reports WebWatch Conference. I just got back late Saturday from SES San Jose where I stayed with a relative in San Mateo.

    I combined business with pleasure by driving to Santa Cruz twice; once on Route 1, and then on Route 17. Both are great drives, especially if you stay on Hwy 280 versus 101 for the start/finish of the latter drive.

    I wanted to recommend Applewood Pizza ( ) in Menlo Park for its great ingredients. I grew up in NY, so I still like some places back there the best, but I was impressed by their sauce and cheese quality. I now live in Texas, and if your ever in Houston, check out the Goode Company BBQ on Kirby Drive ( )

    I just started my blog on 7/18/05 with TypePad, and I am experimenting, building content, and learning before I promote it. But, it has my photo on it if you want to put a face with a “voice”. Good Luck with your blogging experience.

  11. For Ethiopian, you have a choice between Shebelle in Campbell, Zeni’s on Saratoga/Payne, Hawa’s on San Tomas/Hamilton. There’s others in the city too… (berkley also i beleive).

  12. Great San Fran list. I just have to mention driving up to Point Reyes is essential.

  13. stephen,

    you could try getting an on-site interview there.

  14. Bula Matt,

    Have you thought about expanding your “travel” section.

    To cover say ” great holiday places”

    Everyone can then benefit.

    Vinaka, Grant.

  15. Matt ,

    Any galician restaurant round there? it must to be one o two. high recommend

  16. one,two,three? any galician restaurant over there?

  17. Thanks for that! I’ve been thinking about visiting Mountain View before. Well, I might do a visit to Googleplex as well 🙂

  18. If you’re going to visit the Cliff House, be sure to lock all your doors, roll your windows all the way up, and stuff every valuable thing into your trunk where no one can see it. That’s because the parking lots near the Cliff House are high-crime. I once had someone come in through an open window and steal every CD (the rear window was open due to a forgetful visiting cousin). A year later, someone saw my girlfriend’s handbag in the back seat, and broke the door lock to take it. I don’t even visit the Cliff House that often – only when taking visitors around on a tour of SF.

  19. I really wish to visit googlplex! but anyway if your coming to italy gimme a call 😀

  20. Thanks for the Cliff House tip Jorg, that’s not a very good track record!

    Chipotle in the Cherry Orchard? I’m assuming this isn’t the Chipotle fast food they have all over the place?

  21. Are you sure that arcade game are free ?? If true i have to leave france to work in sillicon valley (just for the games).

    I allways want to be a pacman (Maker) ;-). Youre contry is great.

    Sorry for my bad french

  22. Hi Matt

    I like the idea of you expanding your travel section to all places, infact you cover so much already you may as well cover everything in even greater detail.


  23. HI Matt,

    Love the Blog and the travel tips – any sign of adding more and how about going international? I could help you with Ireland if needed 😉

    All the best,


  24. I never thought I would see this. lol

  25. I highly recommend any place in Portland. Sure beats the crowds of Los Angeles. Also if you like hiking, give Washington Park a shot. It is absolutely beautiful.

  26. Takes me back to when I was up there.

    Oh! the fun we had. 🙂


  27. HP Garage, if you are a techie historian :-), and certainly Googleplex, if you are a techie futurist 🙂 🙂

  28. Interesting to find that this post is number one for [muir woods places to eat] …

  29. Alternatively, why not go down The Pub?

  30. I used to live in San Jose…

    Hey, What’s wrong with Su’s Mongoilan BBQ – It’s good too.

    The Ethiopian place is called “RED SEA” and it’s near the San Jose City Hall.
    (Big Glass and Rust cube)

    Armadillo Willies is good for Texas style BBQ. There is also a place on Bascom for BBQ, they have a O gauge train that runs around the dining room at near ceiling level.

    Fung Lum is my Fav for Chineese.

  31. is Mongoilan BBQ open on friday?

  32. What’s wrong with Texas style BBQ? I love that shiznett!

  33. I haven’t eaten in Silicon Valley since the halycon days of the 1970’s at DEC.

    Thanks for the culinary tips, when I visit San francisco, maybe I
    can afford a meal.

  34. That’s because the parking lots near the Cliff House are high-crime. I once had someone come in through an open window and steal every CD (the rear window was open due to a forgetful visiting cousin). A year later, someone saw my girlfriend’s handbag in the back seat, and broke the door lock to take powerleveling

  35. wow you Silicon Valey people , the life style of movie’s prototype , on how we will be living in the next digital economy cicles….

  36. Honestly, you guys over there have got strange ideas about food. Here in the UK we have a mixture of ancient cultures that come togther to probuce some of the most opulent gastronomic delights the world has ro offer. If you want a real taste of good fod just try a weekend in Oxford. Wealthy students have a multitude of excelent place to eat at here and they are all good. Well if they are not they soon shut down because of the amount of competision!

  37. Silicon Valley people have the “celebrity” lifestyle ?

  38. Matt ,

    Any galician restaurant round there? it must to be one o two. high recommend

  39. Take a tour of Google that would be the best things to do. cant imagine how could be and after it. hahaha!!!

  40. “Take a tour of Google that would be the best things to do. cant imagine how could be and after it. hahaha!!!”

    Would be nice to tour google and learn a lot of “secrets” 😉 😉

  41. Take a tour of Google that would be the best things to do 🙂

  42. I love Chipotle, nice to see Chipotle in your list Matt.

  43. I’m really hungry now 🙂

  44. This gives me the taste to eat 🙂 lol

  45. Home Decor Accents

    It sounds good, can they deliver to Texas ?

  46. Nice to have Chipotle!

  47. Feel hungry now and cannot ficus on my work. Hahaha…

  48. What else is good there ?

  49. is there a lot of good chinese restaurants there ?

  50. I went there last year and I gotta say that it was very enjoyable. Theres a big bowling club and a wide range of computer shopping outlets.
    I found the prices abit steep in some places. But the people were very friendly!

  51. Matt, I respect you so much. Though we don’t know each other, you always represent the intelligence and wisdom in the bottom of my heart. I really don’t know why I have this feeling all the time.

    I just put the following page on my website where you can find many real videos about how animals suffer so much before they become meat :

    In my humble opinion, the animals are just like our sisters and brothers. We should take good care of them rather than killing and eating them.

    I hope the shocking vedeos can really awaken people to change their diet to be vegetarian. If everyone can treat animals with love, how beautiful our world will be.

    Matt, thanks so much for your time!

  52. you could try getting an on-site interview there.

  53. Nice to have Chipotle!

  54. I would like to eat at the Amarin Thai. I have heard of it a lot from my friends.

  55. Ever since I moved from TX I’d been looking for BBQ, and my standards are pretty high. Next time you drive down Haight check out Memphis Minnie’s, which has the best brisket I’ve had yet.

  56. When I lived in the Bay Area. Reading all of your “things to do” reminded me of how great it was to live there. Whatever you do in the Bay Area you also have great weather and good air quality as the Delta winds keep the air clean. The only thing I didn’t see was to water ski on the Delta or live in a place like Disco Bay that has deep water docs (that’s how I lived) and fish and water ski off you back porch. Why then did I leave? I could buy a mansion in Las Vegas (and did) with my profits from RE appreciation in Byron. Still miss it though.

  57. Craving for pizza? 4th. St. Pizza Co.’s The All Meat pizza is the best for me! You can try it, and I’m sure you’ll love it too. I always eat there whenever I visit my cousin in San Jose.

  58. I have been once to the Winchester Mystery House on a flashlight tour. It was so much fun getting lost in the maze of rooms.

  59. Yami Yami! (-:
    How was the Banana Leaf in Milpitas ?

  60. Matt,
    Just wanted to say thanks for this post… 🙂

    I think I skimmed over it a few times before we got to San Jose and while we were there in August last year, and just realised we went to a _lot_ of those places… Google, Intel, Nickel City, the flea market… And a whole bunch of the rest of the list…. (And a lot of the stuff we missed is on the list for next time)

    mind you, one thing that comes to mind… in the SF section, the 49 mile drive, IMO, is well worth the effort…

    Thanks again, you keep posting ’em, we’ll keep reading ’em…

  61. Hi Matt, Just out of curiosity I thought I’d take a look at your very first post on this blog. I have to say that I was not very surprised to see how ahead of your time you were back in 2005! As you know, today such lists are compiled on Facebook. For example, I started something similar 20 days ago called 365 Things To Do in Madison, Wisconsin. It’s been a big hit with the locals and displaced Madisonians with over 86 new fans joining daily! Maybe it’s time to move your list to Facebook? 😉

  62. I love Amber India very very much

  63. Never thought I’d be using your blog as a travel guide, but as it turns out I will be visiting your side of the world next month and will definitely check out some of the mentions here 🙂 Thanks Matt.

  64. Thank you very much Matt.