Spoiler alert: There’s more than tech in Silicon Valley (Insert shocked emoji)
The best of Silicon Valley depends on who you are talking to. When it comes to food, drinks, bars, clothing stores… come to think of it, just about anything… I prefer the path less traveled along with a 4-star yelp rating of course. What I mean to say is that there are so many great places to check it can get a little overwhelming – right? And often times its the hole in the wall places or perhaps those that are a little less trendy that get overlooked, but sometimes those are the best IMO.
Especially when you’re traveling to the mecca of Tech, Silicon Valley. Star struck by the likes of Google and Facebook can make even the best Ramen place seem bland. But please don’t be fooled… there is definitely more to Silicon Valley than tech.
The Fine Print (*)
In an effort to showcase my hometowns hidden gems I’m compiling this best of Silicon Valley list which I’ll periodically update with new finds. A girl can only eat and drink so much so I’ve tapped into the collect wisdom of my trust inner circle, and of course have marked them with a (*) so both you and I will know that I need to add it to my list.
Being a bay area native, yes we exist, I have seen Silicon Valley grow from orchards to open source hackathons and everything in between. Just the other day I was at one of my favorite restaurants in Palo Alto having yet another celebration for my fierce and fabulous birthday. I got to talking to an older gentleman at the bar who was expressed his disappointment with the changes on University Avenue, particularly with the dining scene. He clearly had some history in the area and by the looks of him, he knew his dining scene, and the fact that he was a regular at a restaurant that is definitely on my best of silicon valley list nudge my food ego just a smidge.
Where is Silicon Valley
If you’ve gotten this far then I’m guessing you know a thing or two about Silicon Valley like where it is in the world. But just in case, here’s a little overview.
Silicon Valley is a region in the south bay area ( south bay as we say it) of Northern California. If it hadn’t become the birthplace of “silicon chips” then the region would have gone by it’s traditional name, Santa Clara Valley.
Silicon Valley (note: we never say “the valley” that’s an LA thing) is comprised of the following cities: San Jose, Palo Alto, Menlo Park , Santa Clara, Cupertino, Mountain View, Sunnyvale… and with a little bit of a stretch, my hometown of Milpitas which is at the very Northeast of the South Bay – still counts!
Is San Francisco part of Silicon Valley
Nope. But given that Silicon Valley also has a more figurative association of high tech businesses, SF as well as other neighboring cities are often associated with Silicon Valley when referencing tech companies. This blog is not about the techie side of Silicon Valley, which I do also love and if you’re interested in more on that I think Silicon Valley Guide has some great resources, they even list hacker accommodations?!
Without further ado let’s get to it. Here are some of my favorite places to eat, drink, visit, walk around, get my sweat on, maybe get my hair and nails did, or just people watch. Have suggestions? Post to comments or send me an message. I’m always looking for a new adventure.
Silicon Valley Food Guide
Some of my favorite food places in Silicon Valley for a variety of reasons. Either the food is really good, its simple and hits the spot, its a chill spot with nice ambience, has a decent happy hour – or all of the above. As time goes on I’ll refine the categories but for now, it’s all here for you to feast on. In no particular order other than what is popping into my mind as I write this.
- The Refuge: The BEST Pastrami Sandwich in Silicon Valley, Garlic Fries, and Kwak on draft. Plus you can take a photo with Guy Fieri 😉
- Evvia: Lambchops, lamb shank, lamb anything, plus other items on the menu, Kin and Kith red wine… it’s drool delicious Silicon Valley Greek food.
- Jersey Joes: If you like cheesesteaks, this is the place to go for the best cheesesteak in Silicon Valley. I’m not a huge fan but if I was I would love it here.
- Quattro: This restaurant is in the Four Seasons. I only really like the bar but the ambience is nice for the dining as well and I thought the food was good. Not very hole in the walley though.
- Buck’s Restaurant (*): Haven’t made it here yet but I hear great things so it’s worth a visit
- Town: One of the few Silicon Valley Steakhouses. Great food and ambience.
- Taqueria La Espuela: A small Silicon Valley Taqueria with big flavor and fresh horchata. I usually get the taco salad here.
- Whole Foods Market on The Alameda: This one in particular is on my list because it has an upstairs bar and seating area with heat lamps and open air. Go here on Tuesday or any day for their delicious tacos.
- El Torito: Speaking of tacos, this place is still a fave for Taco Tuesdays in Silicon Valley, plus it’s a little nostalgic for me since I grew up going here.
- Orenchi Ramen (*): I must first say that I am not a ramen person, yet. But just about everyone I know is and they rave about this place.
- Straits Cafe: Happy hour starts at 3pm and they serve up some tasty bites and a good house red
- The District: A good place for Happy Hour, their music selection keeps you reminiscing all night long.
- San Pedro Market: If you’re indecisive go to a place with multiple choices. You’re bound to find something here to eat and drink
- SP2: When it’s warm outside, as it often is, this place has lots of outdoor seating, their Gin Martinis (stirred not shaken) are excellent along with the ribs.
- Sino: If it didn’t feel like I walked into a cave, I would visit this place more often. Their food is good and like SP2 they make a great Gin Martini.
Silicon Valley Coffee Guide
I’m a little limited on my coffee since I’ve converted to tea for the most part but I still do enjoy going to coffee shops and working.
- Philz Coffee: Hands down my favorite coffee. They make one cup at a time, and the best part is when they ask you to try it and make sure its PERFECT. Talk about feeling special. I’ve been going here since 2009 when Philz himself would hang out at the shop with his Fedora on and chat with all the patrons. A big reason why I’m still a Philz girl.
- Joe and The Juice: Love the ambience here. It’s kind of like the Virgin America of coffee shops minus the pink lighting. I can’t quite tell if I’m in a techno party or just in the tech hub. They’re coffee is fine, they have some great juices and smoothies along with food. I really just like the ambience.
- Backyard Brew (*): I haven’t been here yet but from the looks of it and what I hear it’s worth a visit for the coffee and ambience.
- Coupa Cafe: A Palo Alto favorite. I used to spend a lot of time studying here or just overhearing innovative ideas brewing up and possibly being asked to test a prototype or answer a survey.
Silicon Valley Meditation Guide
Innovation isn’t only limited to technology. I started teaching Yoga in silicon valley in 2006, at the time it was just becoming popular in San Francisco with studios popping up on every corner while rest of the bay area seemed to be light years away. Needless to say, times have changed. Following in the footsteps of some of Silicon Valley’s greatest like Steve Jobs, meditation is not only accepted it’s a must do morning ritual if you want to be a successful entrepreneur. There are a number of apps and courses for meditation but nothing replaces being in person. Meditation studios are slowly hitting the scene, and I’m going to bet they are here to stay.
- Enlightened Meditation: San Jose’s first meditation studio opened it’s doors in December 2018. I’m proud to be a teacher here from day 1 to witness it’s growth and experience the magic of this place. They have a 2 week unlimited class intro offer for $35.
- Zen Center of Sunnyvale: If you’re looking for no frills and something more traditional this place has a number of zen buddhism classes, lectures, and sitting times
- Awakin Circles: Deepen your self awareness while cultivating community. It took me traveling to London to learn about something that was right next door. There are over 60 circles that meet around the world, we sit in silence for one hour followed by a circle share and breaking bread (sharing food).
- Center for Spiritual Enlightenment: A traditional meditation and yoga center offering courses and lectures.
Silicon Valley Yoga Guide
Since I started teaching yoga here in Silicon Valley in 2006, I have had the honor to be learn from some of today’s super yoga stars, I’m not talking about Instagram famous stars, I mean the one’s that immersed themselves into the practice, traveled to India and back, and taught countless hours of in person classes to pass on their teachings. Some of these teachers are now Insta famous and others you may never hear of. If you visit any of these Silicon Valley studios then you certainly will feel their energy.
- Avalon Yoga: I loved this studio so much I volunteered to work the front desk so I could spend more time there.
- Yoga Source: One of my first studio homes where I stopped in to take class during my lunch break
- Bikram Yoga San Jose: My very first yoga class was a Bikram class in Sacramento. It set me on a path of self discovery and landed me to this local home. It’s worth a visit, be prepared to drip sweat and bliss out
- Bikram Yoga Milpitas: Not only does this studio make the list because its in my hometown but they’ve cultivated a beautiful community as well
- Breathe Los Gatos: This place has a lovely mandala tea house inside, beautiful yoga accessories, and brilliant classes
- Yoga Shala: As they say old is gold, shala is a cornerstone of San Jose Yoga
- Be The Change: A donation based studio in San Jose. As a student living in Los Angeles, I was able to deepen my yoga practice thanks to Bryan Kest’s Donation studio. I wish there were like these.
Ritu Riyat is an Applied Yoga and Meditation coach and Diversity and Inclusion leader in Silicon Valley. She creates simple habits to support sustainable health through food, movement, and meditation. Download her free guide to a more mindful life.