San Jose, California, is more than computer chips and software nerds. The largest city in the San Francisco Bay area has professional sports, live entertainment, cool restaurants, urban breweries, and wineries. If you are looking for a night out in the city, here are some suggestions from a long-time resident of San Jose.
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Wine and Beer
There are two different downtown wineries in San Jose, but only one of them is open to the public vs. wine club members. No, there are no vineyards in this neighborhood of San Jose. Coterie’s founders, Shala and Kyle Loudon buy grapes from a number of California vineyards. They may be in Silicon Valley, which is the center for America’s technology, but the Coterie approach to wine is more old fashion and low-tech. One can’t argue with the results. They make a number of whites like Roussanne and Viognier and a few reds like Pinot Noir and Syrah.
Coterie is not normally open after 5 pm, but Friday nights they stay open until 8 pm and bring in popup restaurants. This can be a great place to start your evening out in San Jose.
885 West Julian St
Hapa’s Brewing Company
Hapa’s Brewing Company is a great spot for anyone looking for delicious craft beer in San Jose, California. The beer selection is heavy on the IPAs, but Hapa’s has something to satisfy every palate. Hapa’s isn’t just about outstanding beer, they offer a small food menu with options ranging from sausages, kid’s grilled cheese, kale and pear salad, and empanadas. Hapas’ spacious taproom and outdoor seating offer lots of room for groups, so your next outing will be stress-free. Whether you’re looking for a great place to grab a beer or to enjoy a unique evening out with friends Hapa’s Brewing Company has got you covered.
460 Lincoln Ave #90
Uproar Brewing in downtown San Jose, California is the place to be if you’re looking for a great craft beer experience. Uproar has a wide range of beautifully crafted ales, lagers, porters, and IPAs with something that everyone can enjoy. Uproar is located in the SoFA neighborhood (South First Ave). The atmosphere of Uproar also helps to make it one of the city’s favorite spots for a pint or two. Their food menu is typical pub grub with burgers, beer batter fries, and chicken tenders. Uproar has top-notch craft beers, friendly staff, and a cozy atmosphere.
439 S. First Street
Also located in the SoFA area, one block north of Upraod Brewing is the tiny SoFA Market. We first discovered SoFA Market when one of our favorite San Jose restaurants Habana Cuba gave up their large location for a smaller stall in the SoFA Market. SoFA Market is like a food court for foodies. You can grab a poke bowl at Hawaiian Poke Bowl, a salad at Sticks n’ Greens, hand-rolled sushi at Umi Hand Roll, tacos, Indian street food, or of course, a great Cuban sandwich.
The venue is not spacious so it is a better spot for a quick dinner before a show than a leisurely dinner, but each of the 8 restaurants I have tried has been a winner. They will validate for 90 minutes at nearby parking garages.
387 South 1st Street
San Pedro Square Market
San Pedro Square in San Jose is a blast. With lots of outdoor seating, live music pretty much nightly, and bustling nightlife, it’s the perfect place to go if you’re looking for some fun after the sun goes down. There’s something for everyone here – restaurants, bars, and a few shops – making it a great place to just check out the scene and soak up some atmosphere. There are numerous food options. You can get great tacos (my favorite), fish and chips, gourmet sandwiches, burgers, sushi, pizza, and more. When you want something to drink there are a few different cocktail bars, the Alma Tequileria, and the Market Beer Company.
N San Pedro St
Ludwig’s German Table
If you’re looking for a San Jose spot that feels like you’ve stepped right into Germany, then Ludwig’s German Table is where you want to be. It’s a Bavarian-style beer garden that offers up a cozy atmosphere and classic beer-garden fare including bratwurst, pretzels, schnitzel, and of course plenty of pints of imported German beer. You can sit outside on the open-air patio or head inside to the historic Germania Hall which was built in the 1880s and was for many years a German-American social club. At Ludwig’s German Table you’ll find an authentic European experience without having to leave the country.
If you are looking for light vegetarian food… this is not your place. Ludwig’s San Jose is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
261 North 2nd Street
Petiscos Adega Restauarant
My Brazilian “daughter” would not forgive me if I did not include one of her new favorite restaurants in this post. Petiscos Portuguese restaurant in San Jose is definitely worth checking out if you’re looking for a unique dining experience. It is from the same folks who brought you the Michelin-star Adega restaurant in the Little Portugal Neighborhood.
Serving up traditional Portuguese dishes, as well as creative dishes crafted with a modern twist, this eatery is sure to satisfy any craving. The menu focuses on small plates and contains fish, meats, sandwiches, and so much more – all seasoned perfectly with authentic herbs and spices. Petiscos Portuguese restaurant may quickly become your favorite spot in San Jose.
399 S First Street
Many of the best live entertainment venues in the Santa Clara Valley are in downtown San Jose. The city boasts a symphony, opera, as well as live theatre.
San Jose Civic Auditorium
The San Jose Civic has hosted The Who, The Rolling Stones, Frank Sinatra, Diana Ross, Bob Dylan, and Barbra Streisand. A quick check of the calendar for the theatre will show a variety of acts. The day I wrote this article, the schedule included established (and maybe of the hill) acts like Ringo Starr, Kansas, and Johnny Mathis, but also included a Mexican artist, an Indian pop star, and a Taiwanese singer-songwriter. The San Jose Civic also has a speaker series.
The San Jose Civic has 2,850 seats. It originally opened in 1936 and had a major renovation in 2012.
San Jose Civic Auditorium
135 W. San Carlos St.
San Jose Center for the Performing Arts
The largest of the downtown theatres is the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts which opened in 1972. If there is a broadway touring company playing in the city, this is likely the venue. The theatre also hosts other musical acts and speakers. The theatre has 2,608 seats, although fewer ADA-compliant seats than the San Jose Civic Auditorium.
San Jose Center for the Performing Arts
255 S Almaden Blvd, San Jose, CA
Hammer Theatre Center
The Hammer Theatre Center began as the San Jose Repertory Theatre Company but is now operated by San Jose State University. The theatre is used for university performances (this fall was the musical Into the Woods) as well as other musical and speaker events.
Hammer Theatre Center
101 Paseo de San Antonio
If you’re in San Jose, you can have the best of both worlds at the California Theatre – Symphony Silicon Valley and Opera San Jose. Symphony Silicon Valley offers a unique blend of classical and traditional entertainment programs that has earned them great acclaim from special guest soloists, conductors, and international touring orchestras. Or, if opera is more your style, Opera San Jose puts on some of the greatest operatic productions of all time with an immense range from classic to modern interpretations. No matter what you’re looking for in musical expression, the California Theatre has it for you.
345 S. First St.
San Jose Improv
If you are looking for some live theatre that is a bit edgier then consider taking in dinner and a show at San Jose Improv. The menu of bar food may be predictable but the comedy is not. Like any improv show, you never know quite what you are getting. These days though, most comedians have a youtube video or two up so check out what comedians are scheduled to be performing and then see if their comedy style has you rolling in the aisles.
62 South 2nd Street
San Jose Sharks
San Jose is the proud home of the NHL’s San Jose Sharks. Since their first game in 1991, Sharks fans have been welcomed with a roster full of talented players and skilled coaches. Attending one of the games at the SAP center can be a fun and exciting experience for any fan. Mascot Sharky leads a sea of teal clad fans to cheer on this amazing team that always looks to deliver thrilling performances. From exhilarating wins to buzzer-beaters, watching a game can be an unforgettable experience for hockey fans living around San Jose or visitors from out of town.
The SAP center is an easy walk from the restaurants at San Pedro Square and other downtown restaurants so come right after work and make a night of it.
San Pedro Social
San Pedro Social is all about the games. This bar and restaurant has food, beer, and cocktails but what people come for is the fun. You can play free arcade games, rent one of their 4 bowling lanes or karaoke rooms (6 people max). Or you can hang out on their patio and play cornhole or beer ping. Share a pizza or burgers and play pinball, pool, skee ball, shuffleboard, or hoops. You could bring a date, but this is a better venue for hanging out with your group of friends. It’s right there in the name, come when you want to be social.
163 W Santa Clara St.
If you’re in San Jose, don’t miss out on MINIBOSS. It’s the perfect combination of video games, pizza, and cocktails. With a wide variety of classic arcade games like Donkey Kong, Ms. Pac-Man, and Mortal Kombat, it’s sure to bring out the big kid in all of us. Plus, the intimate atmosphere and crafty drinks make it an ideal spot for a date night or just a night out with friends. So come hang out at MINIBOSS – where the drinks are always moving and gameplay is always as exciting as ever. The only thing that would make it better is if they had some of my favorite games like Joust and Spy Hunter. Alas, no such luck but they do have a wide variety of pinball games. MINIBOSS is closed on Mondays.
52 E Santa Clara St
Axe-Men Throw House
I will admit that the axe-throwing sport has not been one that I have adopted but I know numerous friends that say that going out drinking and throwing sharp tools that can be used to chop down trees is great fun. Right next door to MINIBOSS you can step up the adrenaline a bit from Ms. Pacman and try your hand at axe-throwing or even join an axe-throwing league. You will be required to sign a waiver before you start flinging hatchets. You think?
They only have snack food at the Axe-Men throw house currently, but you can bring food or have it delivered. They also offer table games like Jenga and Connect 4, a jukebox, a couple of arcade games, and an air hockey table. But… let’s face it… you are really there to throw sharp things. Axe-Men Throw House is closed Monday and Tuesday.
14 S 2nd St
If you want to make a night or a weekend of downtown, some of San Jose’s best hotels are in the downtown neighborhood.
The old San Jose Fairmont has re-branded and re-opened as the Signia by Hilton San Jose. The Signia is across the street from Plaza de César Chávez Park in the heart of downtown. This stylish hotel offers modern amenities such as a 24-hour fitness center, onsite dining, an outdoor rooftop pool, and suites.
San Jose Marriott is one of the top hotels in San Jose, and for good reason. Guests are accommodated with high-end amenities and services, from the inviting outdoor pool deck to the 24-hour fitness center. San Jose Marriott’s helpful staff are always willing to answer any questions or provide more information about San Jose sights and attractions. San Jose Marriot is sure to make your stay comfortable and memorable.
Across the street from the San Jose Marriott is another Marriott property, the Westin San Jose. The Westin is in the historic Sainte Claire hotel building and was recently renovated. The hotel’s Il Fornaio restaurant has its own reputation as one of the better Italian restaurants in the area. The lobby lounge has a beautiful old-world charm.