The original location of this beloved pizzeria opened in San Francisco’s Mission District in 2005. Much of this incarnation in downtown Burlingame feels the same: long lines, great wine, magnificent pizza. While there are mainstays on the starter, salad and pizza menus, daily specials are also available. A scoop or two of gelato makes for the perfect ending to a meal here.
1444 Burlingame Ave.
Organic produce and sustainable proteins fuel a fiery farmers market-driven menu at this South Indian restaurant. The kitchen traffics mostly in fresh, inventive winners, Westernizing dishes without dumbing them down. Any worries that Rasa’s Indian essence might be diluted fades at your first taste of the lively rasam, a tomato-and-tellicherry pepper broth that’s hot enough to free the fillings from your teeth.
209 Park Road
Named after the largest open-air produce market in Austria, this downtown find delivers a taste of Vienna with California verve. With an exposed-brick wall and an open kitchen at the center of a wraparound bar, it is the place to come for classic Wiener schnitzel—a pounded, breaded, golden fried veal cutlet as big as your head, that’s accompanied by sweet-tart lingonberry sauce and a vinegary potato salad. Spätzle, dumpling noodles fortified with quark cheese, are a must-try. The ethereal Salzburger Nockerl, a warm vanilla souffle, will have you floating home.
384 E. Campbell Ave.
Since opening in 2005, Alexander’s has been serving up great steakhouse fare, with meat and seafood sourced from the U.S., Australia and Japan. The menu is sprinkled with Asian influences, like its signature hamachi shots, kimchee-glazed pork belly and uni-fried rice. And every meal ends on a sweet note: complimentary cotton candy.
Main Street Cupertino
19379 Stevens Creek Blvd.
Peninsula-based devotees of Andrew Welch’s Spanish- and Italian-inflected cuisine no longer have to drive to The Basin in Saratoga to enjoy his scallops served atop smashed potatoes, handmade pasta dotted with exotic mushrooms or 24-hour brined duck breast. His sequel, named after his son, is housed in an Olson Kundig-designed building whose double-height window wall can be cranked up to expose the restaurant to the street.
242 State St.
Coastal seafood meets Mediterranean sensibilities in this offshoot of the longtime Half Moon Bay restaurant. It offers everything from smoked salmon pizza to silken pastas, which are all made in-house except for the gluten-free ones. Carnivores aren’t left out, either, not with Nebraska flat iron steaks and braised lamb shanks.
400 Main St.
This casual restaurant by Michelin three-starred fine-dining chef David Kinch pays homage to his New Orleans roots. With gas lamp fixtures outside; a jazzy soundtrack inside; and a witty floor mosaic that states, “Be Nice or Leave,’’ it exudes attitude. Housemade andouille flavors the gumbo along with a concentrated roux. Po’boys spill over with crunchy shrimp snuggled inside a tender roll baked by his Manresa Bread bakery. Tin Roof Drink Community created the cocktails, both classic and culinary-inspired.
532 N. Santa Cruz Ave.
Cin-Cin Wine Bar & Restaurant
This is the place to enjoy local and global varietals by the glass or bottle alongside small plates of Korean tacos and larger offerings of braised short ribs. Want to stock your cellar at home? The restaurant even offers a free sommelier wine-buying service customized to your preferences and budget.
368 Village Lane
At Alexander Hult’s second Flights (the first is in Campbell), the dishes and drinks are served in threes. Begin with margaritas in mango-jalapeno, pineapple-passion fruit and classic. Skillets of pizza piled high with barbecue chicken, brisket and meatballs land on the table with a thud of authority. The meatballs are also available on their own, topped with Swedish lingonberries, Italian marinara and pineapple teriyaki. Brunch delivers a triple-threat of Swedish pancakes as well as popular chicken and waffles.
165 Los Gatos Saratoga Road
Make a reservation at this Michelin three-star restaurant and prepare to be blown away by the flavors and presentation of the $295 tasting menu, which showcases seasonal ingredients as well as chef David Kinch’s creativity (for example, charcoal-grilled squid cut to resemble udon noodles, swimming in a broth with persimmon and Parmesan). The beverage pairing adds another $235 to what will surely be one of the most memorable meals you’ll experience anywhere.
320 Village Lane
Nick’s Next Door
Hometown boy makes good as native Los Gatos chef Nick Difu has fashioned a place that’s a perennial favorite of locals for its inviting atmosphere and approachable menu that always includes his Nani’s Meatloaf with whipped potatoes, and fresh abalone pan-fried in plenty of butter. Look for daily specials too.
11 College Ave.
Authentic tapas are scarce in the South Bay. This is one place that does it right with an all-Spanish wine list of blancos, tintos and sherry—all the better enjoyed with wedges of eggy tortilla, golden codfish croquettes and olive oil-cured white anchovies. Step inside the slender, glimmering, blue-tiled restaurant and be transported to San Sebastian by way of Los Gatos.
424 N. Santa Cruz Ave.
Arrive early and enjoy a drink in the Rosewood hotel’s bar, which spills out onto a patio that overlooks the pool. Then settle in for a delicious meal in Madera’s dining room, where the menu features American fare crafted on the wood-fire grill and rotisserie oven, and the wine list is impressive. The dishes change seasonally, with offerings such as squid ink tagliatelle with kohlrabi and crab; Schmitz Ranch pork loin with Brussels sprouts and mustard greens; and oak-grilled beef tenderloin with new potatoes, king trumpets and kale. Save room for the salted caramel cream puffs.
2825 Sand Hill Road
Oak + Violet
Located inside the modern Park James Hotel, whose theme nods toward Irish history, this restaurant is where Palermo-born chef Simona Oliveri delivers a new benchmark for crispy Brussels sprouts, melty olive-oil poached salmon, and perfectly pan-seared bone-in filet atop fennel mash. Brunch fare includes Dungeness crab Benny; doughnut bread pudding French toast with bourbon syrup and drunken raisin butter; and a power breakfast of poached eggs, quinoa, pumpkin seeds and spinach for hard-charging movers and shakers.
1400 El Camino Real, Menlo Park
The liberal use of liquid nitrogen, foams and gelées is easy to dismiss as stunt cooking, but rarely does Baumé, where Bruno Chemel offers “French cuisine moderne”—aka molecular gastronomy—become that sort of show. The items on the seasonal eight-course tasting menu are ever-changing, as is the price, but you can expect to pay a few hundred dollars to dine here and enjoy dishes composed of caviar, lobster, turbot, beef or squab.
201 S. California Ave.
Husband-and-wife team Emily and Robbie Wilson opened this cool downtown eatery to, quite simply, serve the type of food that they like to eat. And that translates to California fare with Asian influences. The menu is divided into three sections: small dishes that work well as starters that can be shared (the wood-grilled avocado is a signature), protein (such as a wagyu rib-eye and fried chicken) and sides (mostly veggie-based). Lunch offers an almost entirely different menu than dinner, with the latter including a burger consisting of a leek ash-dusted bun. You can get the burger during dinner, but only at the bar and on a limited basis.
420 Ramona St.
It’s hard to go wrong with anything that this Hellenic restaurant serves—from the crispy zucchini cakes and grilled octopus, to the moussaka and mesquite-grilled lamb chops, to the phyllo-wrapped vanilla custard and rice pudding with spiced, poached pear. The service is as warm and welcoming as the interior, which has an Old World feel and features a large, rustic fireplace, along with an array of handmade pottery and copper cookware.
420 Emerson St.
Founded in 2007 by two former Nobu executive chefs, Jin Sho offers an extensive selection of fresh sushi—from the traditional to the unusual (like the Sharks, named for the local hockey team and comprised of tempura, eel, tuna, salmon and a jalapeno dressing)—and Japanese dishes such as the miso-marinated black cod and nabeyaki udon. The sweet corn tempura, which comes with matcha salt, makes for a great starter to share.
454 S. California Ave.
In a small space with one communal table, Michael and Meichih Kim (of Redd, Benu) redefine Korean cuisine to spectacular effect. At one seating, three times a week, small bites precede eight or more courses ($175 per person), with wine pairings available ($100). Maum (Korean for “from the heart”) offers a pate-like blood sausage and salted shrimp mixture; raw oysters with kimchi-flavored ice; and cool buckwheat noodles in dried fish broth with pork belly marinated in fermented soybeans and then grilled and glazed with sour plum. Desserts include sweet potato Mont Blanc.
322 University Ave.
Located inside Nobu Hotel—previously known as The Epiphany—this marks chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s first restaurant in Northern California. The menu features his classic dishes that channel Japanese and Peruvian fare and flavors, such as yellowtail sashimi with jalapeno and sake-miso marinated black cod. Grab a spot at the bar or streetside and enjoy your meal with a side of great people-watching.
180 Hamilton St.
Master sommelier Dennis Kelly and executive chef Anthony Secviar—who worked together for years at The French Laundry—opened the doors in spring 2018 and quickly earned one Michelin star. The 80-seat venue features a lounge, along with a four-course prix fixe-only dining room. Among the highlights is an exquisite short rib pithivier on the lounge menu; in the dining room, ricotta gnudi is showered tableside with black truffles. Save room for desserts by pastry chef Eddie Lopez (like his dark chocolate pavé, inspired by his love of mixing Peanut M&Ms into a bucket of popcorn at the movies); in the lounge, the sweets come around on a cart. Also noteworthy: The 250-selection wine cellar holds some rare finds.
250 S. California Ave.
Executive chef and co-proprietor Tammy Huynh offers upscale, contemporary Vietnamese dishes in an elegant interior. The Tamarine Taste, an appetizer sampler, is a good introduction to the cuisine’s flavors. A variety of soups, salads and noodles are available (the crab and garlic noodle plate is a winner). The larger plates are perfect for sharing; among the highlights are the clay pot cod, shaking beef and hoisin lamb chops. The specialty cocktails (such as the Lemongrass Press, made with dry gin, lemongrass syrup and ginger beer), as well as desserts like fried banana (enjoyed with a Vietnamese coffee), are also worth trying.
546 University Ave.
Beyond the bright-blue door, diners are treated to Thanasis Pashalidis, Hakan Bala and chef William Roberts’ ode to Hellenic cuisine. Taverna’s casual and warm ambiance, coupled with impeccable food and service, has yielded a winning combination. While there are a handful of entrees, choose from the bites and small plates to enjoy more of Roberts’ dishes, like sweet pea fritters, grilled octopus, saganaki (the cheese arrives at the table in flames) and arnaki (grilled lamb chop).
800 Emerson St.
In late 2016, Rocco and Shannon Scordella—the husband and wife behind Tootsie’s—debuted a modern Italian restaurant mere steps from their casual daytime spot. Along with wood-fired pizzas, housemade pastas and the Impossible Burger, Vina Enoteca’s menu features starters such as crispy baby octopus with marble potatoes and entrees like roasted local lamb saddle with sunchokes, Brussel sprouts and citrus. The interior’s rustic brick walls counterbalance the contemporary decor for an altogether inviting atmosphere.
700 Welch Road
The Courthouse 2021
At this upscale restaurant—which features prime steaks, seafood and an array of appetizers—it pays to be a regular: The owners bestow a VIP card upon loyal customers, with perks like preferential reservations, as well as special wine or cigar dinners. The menu features everything from a bone-in filet mignon to a 42-ounce tomahawk. The fried chicken is brined for 48 hours before being cooked to order. There’s even a caviar service that comes with a test-tube of truffle creme fraiche and a test-tube of Russian vodka. Also noteworthy: The wine list has more than 150 offerings.
2021 Broadway St.
At this earnest, outsize restaurant, chef Donato Scott’s sprawling menu is strongest at its simplest, as with wild-boar bruschetta and uncomplicated pizzas like a blistered margherita. The housemade pastas include agnolotti filled with sausage, veal and a tomato-and-onion sauce as well as potato-and-branzi cheese ravioli served with a walnut-and-milk pesto. Desserts include Italian classics like panna cotta, tiramisu and gelato.
1041 Middlefield Road
Chefs Jessica Carreira and David Costa had but a modest dream: to elevate for a new generation a most soulful yet unheralded cuisine, one based upon their Portuguese grandmothers’ cooking. At Adega, that means artful yet authentic plates of green-hued parsley tempura-fried egg with duck salad, fisherman’s stew with octopus and sponge cake adorned with eucalyptus-smoked chocolate sauce.
1615 Alum Rock Ave.
Get ready for a modern whirlwind of Indian cuisine served in a showy dining room with a planetarium-like ceiling of glowing constellations, complete with shooting stars. The butter chicken is legendary. Rosemary-flecked naan, and lobster tail napped in a creamy coconut fennel sauce make you rethink what you know about Indian food.
377 Santana Row
Chef-owner Sachin Chopra has an uncanny way with the global spices that flavor the elegant dishes served inside this cozy 1906 Victorian house. The Michelin-starred chef is of Indian heritage, but his cooking pushes far beyond those boundaries in dishes such as foie gras creme brulee with pickled persimmon, and black cardamom-braised short ribs with curried potato fritter.
1602 S. El Camino Real
Pausa Bar & Cookery
For Andrea Giuliani and Steve Ugur, Pausa is a labor of love, where the housemade pastas and almond wood-fired pizzas garner raves. Craft cocktails, including spritzes, and an all-Italian wine list are also on offer. (The interior is the work of CCS Architecture and is sure to please the design-minded.)
223 E. Fourth Ave.
If a Michelin-starred restaurant could be called a hidden treasure, it’s this tiny gem, buried at the far end of a shopping center. True to tradition, chef Katsuhiro Yamasaki’s kaiseki $95 nine-course prix fixe menu is a meditation on the seasons: its delicacies drifting from foie gras over sushi rice to chawan mushi. The evening builds toward robust American Kobe beef and sesame-flavored snapper. Yamasaki’s wife, Mayumi, provides all the service needed for the serene 12-seat room.
115 De Anza Blvd.
This is one restaurant where it pays to make a reservation or to at least call ahead about availability. That’s because it’s situated right on the ground level of Levi’s Stadium, which means if there’s a 49ers home game or a concert going on, you can’t get in without a ticket. When you do enter, it’s through the more casual Bourbon Pub (look for the tiled wall autographed by celeb chefs and football greats), before you’re led to the more sedate steakhouse side with its luxurious wagyu steaks, butter-poached lobster and a smoked bourbon flight prepared with aplomb tableside.
4900 Marie P. DeBartolo Way
The only Michelin-starred place in town, Plumed Horse’s dishes are as inventive as they are delectable. The chef’s tasting menu might start with kampachi and end with salted caramel mousse, while entrees include abalone accompanied by stinging nettle risotto and artichoke “scampi,” as well as milk-roasted lamp shoulder served with caramelized whey. The restaurant also boasts an elegant interior, impeccable service and a stellar wine list.
14555 Big Basin Way
The Village Pub
While there is a pub menu here—with a great burger—the sophisticated cuisine and plush decor belie the casual moniker. Think Sonoma foie gras terrine and hand-rolled pistachio pappardelle with braised duck. The wine list is extensive, and although the desserts change, the chocolate souffle dramatically drizzled tableside with an Earl Grey creme anglaise is a longtime crowd-pleaser.
2967 Woodside Road