bluedowntowngemsanjose-300x283 (1)Downtown Gems are tips for the best places to go in the neighborhood, as recommended by business and property owners, downtown employees, our Facebook fans and SJDA staff.

These are the places that provide us with total pleasure and enjoyment, put us in the moment, fit perfectly into our lifestyles, and fill our senses.


Class of 2015-16

Number on Map
1Anno Domini366 S 1st St, San Jose, CA 95113Anno Domini founders Cherri Lakey and Brian Eder’s art gallery serves up more than just a visual art experience in a converted movie theater. The murals outside help define the space as a gateway for the SoFA District – and provide a sneak peek into the eclectic artwork inside. The space becomes downright electric on First Fridays, Street MRKTS and during the SubZero Festival, which Lakey and Eder also originated.Entertainment
2Back-A-Yard 80 N Market St, San Jose, CA 95113This is downtown’s only Michelin-recommended restaurant in 2015. This is also where jerk chicken is smoky, spicy and tender. Get within a hundred yards downwind of the smoker billowing on Market Street, and you’ll go home wreaking of barbecue. The coconut rice and red beans, side salad, and caramelized fried plantains on the side are darn tasty, too. Restaurant
3Cafe Stritch374 S 1st St, San Jose, CA 95113This is the go-to place where locals of all ages take out-of-town guests to show them a good time in the SoFA District. Go for great live jazz, sometimes from the legends themselves. Go for the homemade mac-and-cheese and grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup. Go for the sidewalk patio that reigns over the
active SoFA street scene.
4California Theatre 345 S 1st St, San Jose, CA 95113Take a step inside and you know you’re entering something historic, unique and majestic, “back to a more glamorous time.” Then you get to enjoy lectures, movies, opera, symphony and performances that seem to match the excellence of the surroundings, that is, if you can draw your focus away from the architecture. Built in 1927 and restored from 2001-2004, every piece of this theater is special, from the entryway and windows to adjacent courtyard. Theater
5City Lights Theater Company 529 S Second St, San Jose, CA 95112See top amateur and professional actors “up close and personal” in award-winning productions. The “black box”-style theater on Second Street seats 100.
Party with the actors and creative staff after the show. Intimate. Accessible. Fun. Since 1982.
6Diaz Menswear 70 E Santa Clara St, San Jose, CA 95113Known for quality service and selection, this is the place to find the perfect-fitting jeans, where owner Alfredo Diaz will match up the orange thread if your new Levi’s need alterations. Even if you’re not a hat guy, it’s still fun to take a look at downtown’s biggest selection.Shopping
7Guadalupe River Park and Gardens 438 Coleman Ave, San Jose, CA 95110Cyclists, walkers and joggers love cruising miles of trails along the Guadalupe River, traversing an urban cityscape that somehow transitions into something much more peaceful and natural. Some like to trek to the foot of the airport, where they can get close-up views of the planes overhead. Others gawk at the wildlife – Chinook salmon, egrets and herons, skunks and
beavers. The Heritage Rose Garden, historic orchard, Children’s Discovery Museum and soon the Rotary playground are destinations in themselves.
8Henry's Hi-Life301 W St John St, San Jose, CA 95110“Those ribs,” says Karl Schramm, resident. People have talked about them for more than 50 years. Some stray to try the steak, prime rib or chicken – and love them, too. Always worth waiting for, and served by friendly staff in a rustic setting – the way barbecue was meant to be consumed.Restaurant
9MACLA510 S 1st St, San Jose, CA 95113Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana is San Jose’s hub for creative expression, offering a unique approach to participatory arts for 25 years. As an urban arts space rooted in the Chicano/Latino experience, MACLA serves as a key connector in the city’s art scene, bringing together artists, activists, youth, entrepreneurs, business leaders and residents in an ongoing dialog about art, technology, social equity, citizenship-building and community. Priming the discussion are visual arts exhibitions and performance that span music, theater and dance, and digital media youth programs. Entertainment
10Pizza Bocca Lupa87 N San Pedro St, San Jose, CA 95110Some regard this Neapolitan wood-fired thin-crust pizza as best in town The basic margherita pizza is “yummy.” The custom-made oven direct from Naples brings the taste of Italy to San Pedro Square Market.Restaurant
11Poor House Bistro"91 S Autumn St, San Jose, CA 95110This joint is cookin’ every night of the week and especially hoppin’ on Friday and Saturday and event nights at the nearby SAP Center. The namesake Poor Boys send us back to N’Awlins, but what makes this a real gem are live bands serving up the blues.Restaurant
12Psycho Donuts 288 S Second St, San Jose, CA 95113Residents such as Blaise Hartment praise the great service provided by friendly staff dressed in “weirdo” costumes, but it’s the unique donuts that also keep them coming back to Second and San Carlos streets. The maple-and bacon donut definitely attracts an acquired taste.CafŽe
13St. Joseph Basilica80 S Market St, San Jose, CA 95113San Jose is blessed by the great Latin tradition of placing a magnificent cathedral in the city center. Nominated by downtowners who call it “classic,” “stately,” “elegant,” “historic,” “awesome” and “the crown jewel of the city,” the building dates back to 1876, the dome was finished in 1885, and the restoration occurred 1987-90. The Vatican granted it basilica status in 1997. This grand building includes 39 stained glass windows and Odell organ. It’s a great sanctuary and perfect acoustically for concerts, says SJDA’s Helen Hayashi.Church
14San Jose Museum of Art 110 S Market St, San Jose, CA 95110Compelling artwork and exhibitions start with the Dale Chihuly glass sculpture in the foyer. Interesting events. Backpacks with art supplies for children to use. Rental space available for receptions and meetings. Gift shop with unique items is a gem within the gem.Entertainment
15San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles 520 S 1st St, San Jose, CA 95113The guest book at the front tells the story of this jewel. Comments include: “We weren’t sure what we would see, but we loved what we saw.” “Expanded my thoughts about what ‘textiles’ are.” “Awed at the imagination and creativity.” Fans like the way the descriptions of the art bring it to life. Like other mu-
seums, the gift shop is full of interesting, artistic items.
16 San Jose Stage Company490 S 1st St, San Jose, CA 95113The Stage keeps building on its reputation for excellence since opening in 1983 and becoming the first arts organization in San Jose to acquire and manage its own facility in 1990. Their professional actors and crews do it by producing works of “explosive power and social resonance,” says Groupon. They have presented 11 world premieres and introduced another 44 plays to this region. The small 200-seat theater in SoFA ensures no bad seats.Theater
17 TreatBot Factory San Pedro Square Market, 100 N Almaden Ave #168, San Jose, CA 95110Sing for your $1 ice cream on Thursday from a truck parked inside the San Pedro Square Market. Try flavors that are as original as the concept and get rave reviews: Lavender, Eastside Horchata, 408 and Thai Tea ice creams and Strawberry Basil sorbet. Each scoop is the size of a fist. CafŽe
18 Vero's Coffee387 S 1st St., San Jose, CA, 95113Fans praise the quality of service and coffee, and the large tables at the original business in the fledgling SoFA Market. “Lots of authenticity and it’s easygoing,” says Carol Steinfeld of Aedis Architects. The Mexican Mocha stands out.CafŽe

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