15 Essential Restaurants You Need to Know in Silicon Valley
AI wishes it could eat at these places.
Silicon Valley is, of course, all about tech. And perhaps it’s in keeping with this theme that the area is more of an idea rather than an actual city or county. There are no hard lines delineating where it starts and ends, though most agree that it centers in and around Sunnyvale—home of Atari in the 1970s— and includes surrounding areas like Palo Alto, Mountain View, Santa Clara, and San Jose. San Franciscans may be deterred from the idea of going to the sterile suburbs full of engineering nerds, but SV is also home to sizable immigrant enclaves. Taiwanese, Mexican, Indian, Vietnamese, Polynesian, and more communities have brought amazing culture and food to the area for years, and many are worth the trek from up north. Here are 15 of the most exciting restaurants to jump start your tastebuds and showcase the South Bay’s culinary chops:
State Street Market
Just having opened in September, the newest food hall of Silicon Valley doesn’t even have all of its vendors open yet. That said, there are still plenty that will fill your belly to the brim, and the rest will open any day now. It’s a space for fine-dining chefs to play around with creative fast-casual food. An eating itinerary may start with oysters from Ostro or Taiwanese-Korean baos from Bao Bei. Move on to a Margherita flatbread at Banks & Braes or a Cal-Indian cauliflower burger from Little Blue Door. Then get pumpkin almond toffee ice cream for dessert at Tin Pot Creamery or a cheese board at Murdochs. End with cocktails at the forthcoming unnamed speakeasy bar.
How to order: Walk in; many restaurants employ ordering via smartphone instead of using paper menus.
Only open since July, Warung Siska in Redwood City already has a Michelin Plate rating, meaning dishes are carefully prepared with fresh ingredients. Chef and partner Siska Silitonga built her reputation offering innovative California-Indonesian cuisine under the food truck and pop-up ChiliCali in San Francisco, whose SoMa incubator kitchen burned down a couple of weeks after Warung Siska’s opening. Fortunately, Silitonga was able to continue filling a huge hunger for Indonesian food in the Bay Area. In the laid-back, yet bright and beautiful restaurant, try the appetizer Ihan Goku (ternate fish crudo), then a main dish of Duck Betutu (Balinese Roast Duck). Everything is served family-style, so everyone at the table will get a chance to try a bit of each dish.
How to order: Walk in; no reservations required except for parties of six or more people. Book large party reservations here.
Opened in February of last year, right before shelter-in-place orders, this upscale restaurant, serving pioneering Cal-Indian fare, has managed to survive to now. Chef Srijith Gopinathan gained local fame by previously leading Taj Campton Place in San Francisco, where he was responsible for the restaurant’s two Michelin stars. At Ettan, feast on the Sukka Braised Beef Short Rib meal for two, which is stir-fried with curry leaves, dry coconuts, shallots and pumpkin, all served with steaming, flaky Kerala Paratha. The dessert selection includes perfumey flavor combinations like the Saffron Slice, made with rhubarb, pistachio, and cardamom. Ettan also has a fast-casual concept in the brand new State Street Market in Los Altos, for those wanting the same essence of the food in a more laid-back atmosphere.
How to order: Walk in, make reservations, or order pickup via Chownow.
It was only a matter of time before East Palo Alto’s Polynesian cultural scene got more attention. Nearly 11% of the cityʻs population is Pacific Islander, one of the largest in the US. Tokemoana Foods, which has since moved to Redwood City, brings Tongan food to the Bay Area, and does so with produce imported from owner Fusi Taaga’s father’s farm in Tonga. As the only Polynesian restaurant in Silicon Valley, the sosisi (Polynesian sausage) and taro cooked in coconut milk provide a taste of home for local Tongans and other Pacific Islanders. The guava cup, layered with whipped cream and guava cake, is also not to be missed.
How to order: Walk in, call 650-449-6500 or order online for takeout.
AnQi Shaken & Stirred
The pandemic delayed the opening of this select Vietnamese eatery, which is the sister restaurant of SF’s Crustacean and Thanh Long. The opening finally happened this year, and of course the signature garlic noodles, which many credit Thanh Long for inventing, are a key item here, too. While the famous crab is only an occasional offering at AnQi, there’s still a mouthwatering selection of royal tiger prawns, king crab legs, sea bass, and shaken beef. The restaurant is semi-hidden inside the Bloomingdale’s at Westfield Valley Fair Mall (fancy on fancy!), so it doesn’t always get as crowded as the more visible eateries.
How to order: Make reservations online.
Shepherd & Sims
Accessible fine dining is a concept that more restaurants should get behind. None of the pretension, all of the flavor. Shepherd & Sims is located in an area of Los Gatos that doesn’t offer many fine dining restaurants, and provides a relaxing atmosphere that allows customers to order caviar while wearing jeans and sneakers. Owners Jim and Angelique Stump offer creative dishes that they like to eat as a couple, like Hasselback-style white Japanese sweet potatoes and pickled fried green tomatoes. Don’t forget to look up at the giant mural of a cat eyeing hummingbirds above the entrance.
How to order: Walk in or make reservations online.
Chiang Beef Noodle
Cupertino is home to one of the Bay’s most sizable Taiwanese populations. Naturally, that’s where most of the good Taiwanese food is, in contrast to San Francisco’s heavily-Cantonese scene. One dish that fires up people’s comfort cravings is the Taiwanese beef noodle soup and owner Justin Chiang has honed a labor-intensive, studied process for making the beloved dish. Chiang utilizes techniques learned from years of working in Japanese restaurants, including the popular Orenchi Ramen and Taishoken (there’s Japanese influence in Taiwanese cooking from 50 years of colonization). He simmers a rich, complex eight-hour broth, with 30 ingredients, including star anise and beef tendon and shank. The final product comes with chewy, thick noodles, pickled mustard greens, bok choy, and tomatoes. Only 150 orders are available each week.
How to order: Pre-order online for pick-up in Cupertino.
Paper Platez Food Truck
For fans of La Bamba, the long-time taqueria that moved from San Francisco to various parts of Silicon Valley over the years, Paper Platez is where to find the latest incarnation of the family-owned business. Opened in December 2020, the official menu is a pared-down version of what you’ll find on offer at their brick-and-mortars, offering classics like a carnitas super burrito, pupusas as a nod to the Muñoz family roots in El Salvador, and more recently, popular items like quesabirria tacos. Old customers, however, can still get off-menu items they miss from the restaurants, like the cheesy chile relleno burrito.
How to order: Walk up to the food truck that’s usually located outside of O’Malley’s Pub. Follow the Instagram account for other potential whereabouts.
Sifu Wong Kitchen
Dim sum hounds would follow Chef Dongcheng Wong of Cooking Papa and Hong Kong Flower Lounge anywhere. Luckily, following opening delays caused by an indoor dining ban, Chef Wong got to debut his new quality restaurant this spring. Named after himself, Sifu Wong sits inside the Ramada Silicon Valley. Enjoy classics like shrimp-stuffed har gow in a silky dumpling skin and soft steamed rice noodle rolls filled with beef. The crispy pork belly and rich-tasting Peking duck are must-haves. Also enjoy the addition of modern, social media-friendly dishes like the Black Gold Salty Egg Yolk Bun, covered in a swipe of glittery edible paint and oozing with a melty custard.
How to order: Walk-ins only for weekend lunch; Call 408-212-4903 for reservations. Order online for pickup.
It may not be a brick-and-mortar place, but Cambodian food is not as plentiful in the Bay Area as fans would like, and Angkor Chef offers an extensive menu of starters, street food, classics, a decent number of vegan offerings, and Angkor-branded condiments like chili paste. Signature dishes include coarsely-ground chicken or pork sausages (twah goh) flavored with fresh galangal, rice, salt and sugar. These can be accompanied by pickles or arugula. Pair that with poat ang (Cambodian grilled corn) cooked in coconut milk, white pepper, and fish sauce. End with the sweet jackfruit sticky rice dotted with roasted mung beans.
How to order: Call 408-809-1639 for pickup or order ChowNow, Uber Eats, or other delivery apps for pickup and delivery options.
It’s not the first restaurant in SV to utilize the iPhone naming convention (looking at you, iTalico), but aside from that questionable practice, the opulent iChina opened in August to great reception. Drenched in a dreamy turquoise color palette, a paneled glass chandelier anchors the main dining room, with translucent blue floor-to-ceiling room partitions and art deco-inspired gold wall panels surrounding the commanding long center dining table. There’s also the JiuBa cocktail lounge and several private dining areas in the two-story space. And, oh yes, the food. It’s a New American Chinese concept, combining executive chef Eddie Lam’s Chinese and pan-Asian American cooking sensibilities with local ingredients. The current $88 Tasting Menu with a $30 A5 Wagyu substitute option features seven dishes. Museum-worthy plates include a pampered lobster dumpling topped with scallop brûlée and curated caviar selection, and a triple-rich XO rice with duck confit, duck egg, and duck breast.
How to order: Make reservations online.
Angelenos may complain that the Bay Area doesn’t have good Korean food, but 10 Butchers would be the Korean BBQ showcase diamond around these parts. The 10 types of farm-to-table Wagyu beef available at each meal is what draws SF and East Bay folks south to Sunnyvale. The beautifully marbled beef provides a delightful visual experience upon arriving raw at each table. It’s like being presented with works of art in the form of expertly cut rectangles of Wagyu flaps or thinly sliced and perfectly rolled pieces of Wagyu brisket. There are also stews and soups, like kimchi jjigae and the cold myung naeng myun. Check out the abundant to-go packages if you want to feast at home, all of which come with seven types of banchan and doenjang jjigae (fermented soy bean paste stew with Wagyu beef, and tofu).
How to order: Walk in, make reservations, or order the to-go special online.
Fleet Street Pie Company
Listing a chef from the community-based meal delivery service Shef can open a can of delicious worms, as there are many amazing chefs on the site. However, New Zealand (and Australian) meat pies are hard to come by in the Bay, so Fleet Street must be mentioned. The California-born, New Zealand-raised chef, Genni Thomas, makes real-deal bacon and egg pies, steak and cheese pies, and sausage rolls with crisp, flaky pastry that all look straight from Aotearoa. There’s also dessert, including airy pavlova and coconut-covered lamingtons. Bonus: the delivery range is generous. A customer in San Francisco can order a couple of days in advance from the Santa Clara-based business.
How to order: Order at least two days in advance via Shef.
Singaporean food is another Asian cuisine sorely underrepresented among Bay Area food offerings. The joy of having the US flagship location of the internationally loved Killiney Kopitiam land in Palo Alto launched kaya toast wishes and nasi lemak dreams for peninsula residents. Sip on a Kopi C (coffee with evaporated milk and sugar) or any of the other 18 coffee and tea offerings, and chow down on the filling and comforting char kway teow—stir-fried flat, wide rice noodles with shrimp, fish cake, Chinese sausage, egg, bean sprouts, and sambal chili. More good news is that additional locations are planned for Cupertino, Livermore, Walnut Creek, and Westfield Valley Fair Mall in Santa Clara.
How to order: Walk in or call 650-752-6039 for takeout.
At this point, the Bay Area has welcomed the brown sugar boba craze with open taste buds. The cascade of brown sugar syrup swirling in fresh milk atop chewy boba is not only in every major Bay Area city at various shops, it now also comes in ice cream bar form at Safeway. It’s in mochi form at Costco. Food nerds, however, will want to make a pilgrimage to Tiger Sugar in Cupertino. It’s the only Northern California location of the Taiwanese boba chain that’s responsible for popularizing the brown sugar boba trend. Guzzle down the signature Black Sugar Boba Milk with Cream Mousse, add green or black tea to the original version, or get the Tiger Sugar brand ice cream bars and Tiger Sugar Popcorn to restart the sugar hit when the last boba pearl has been sucked up.
How to order: Walk in or order takeout online.