Best Dinner in the South Bay

From enjoying a simple meal with family and friends to a celebrating a milestone birthday or entertaining out-of-town guests or clients, there are noteworthy South Bay restaurants to suit every occasion come dinnertime. Looking for Michelin-starred French cuisine in Mountain View, thoughtfully prepared Mexican in San Jose, modern Vietnamese in Palo Alto, or classic New England-inspired seafood favorites with a waterfront setting in Half Moon Bay? We’ve got you covered on all fronts. Here are our South Bay Best Dinner winners for 2023 in the Peninsula, Silicon Valley, San Jose and the coast, selected by our editors — look for our readers’ choice winner, selected by our audience.

Featured Photo: The Farmers Union

In and around the Peninsula

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Photo: Courtesy of Saffron

Saffron

Since Ajay Walia opened Saffron in 2003 in San Carlos, the restaurant has been winning fans with its flavorful South Indian fare. Now he has rebranded his formerly Michelin-starred Burlingame restaurant, Rasa, as Saffron, too, where diners can enjoy specialties like crispy dosas with a variety of savory fillings; street food like lamb kofta meatballs with spicy, garlicy tomato sauce; and curries, including the signature makhani daal, black lentils simmered for 24 hours with tomatoes and spices. The dishes are perfectly paired with a house cocktail like the aam sutra, a blend of mezcal, mango, cilantro, grilled jalapeno and lava salt. thesaffronrestaurant.com 

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Photo: @fleastreetcafe

Flea Street Café

This charming eatery specializes in Californian-New American cuisine: think fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Their menu is constantly changing, but exceptional comfort food is a constant. If you enjoy a spicy cocktail, we recommend the Comin’ In Hot. Make sure to save room for dessert, it will most definitely be worth it. cooleatz.com

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Oak + Violet

At Oak + Violet’s chic new American restaurant inside The Park James Hotel, cocktails and sharable starters like the crispy Brussels sprouts and shrimp and prosciutto croquettas, as well as mains like the grilled ribeye with roasted garlic mashed potatoes, garner high marks from locals and visitors alike, who also appreciate the many veg and gluten-free options on the menu. Enjoy it all in the elegant dining room or, better yet, in the spacious outdoor courtyard, where there are plenty of couches to spread out with a group. Regular live music performances and island-inspired Friday happy hours with tropical drinks and bites provide two more reasons to visit. parkjames.com/oak-violet

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Photo: @kristinhildy

Tamarine Restaurant & Gallery

This modern Vietnamese spot has an extensive menu of unique small and large plates. The upscale, chic décor matches the Michelin-star food and incredible service. We recommend the Banh Mi Roti and Garlic Noodles, and don’t miss their lengthy cocktail list. The drinks are just as tasty as they are aesthetically pleasing. tamarinerestaurant.com

Asa North

Named after proprietor Andrew Welch’s son, Asa focuses on elevated American classics like a pork chop with roasted apples, sauteed kale and mashed potatoes, but also takes a cue from Spain and Italy with dishes like saffron- and paprika-infused paella Valencia with shrimp and chorizo and a rich carbonara pasta. Fittingly, the robust wine list showcases stellar winemakers from both California and Europe, however the exquisitely crafted seasonal cocktails are also not to be missed. asarestaurants.com

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Photo: @thevillagepubwoodside

The Village Pub

A high-end eatery specializing in American cuisine. Grab a seat on their back patio, kept warm by multiple heat lamps and surrounded by plants and Meyer lemon trees, the ambiance is one of a kind. The menu changes seasonally to always offer the freshest fare year round, so you can’t go wrong with anything. If you’re having a tough time choosing, the pub burger is a fail-safe. Save room for the chocolate soufflé. thevillagepub.net

In and Around Silicon Valley

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Photo: @orenchiramen

Orenchi Ramen

One of the most reviewed restaurants on Yelp in the South Bay, Orenchi Ramen is a popular, intimate Japanese spot known for their ramen dishes. While you must try their ramen, we also recommend ordering the karaage and shishito peppers. orenchi-ramen.com

ichina Restaurant, Santa Clara, Chinese Food, Fine Dining
Photo Courtesy of iCHiNA Facebook

iCHiNA

Transport yourself to the scene of elevated dining in modern Hong Kong and China at iCHiNA. Traditional dishes, premium wine, and cocktails complement the lavish ambiance at this contemporary Cantonese restaurant. An internationally recognized and esteemed culinary team is dedicated to enhancing flavors while preserving the heart of classic dishes like Peking Duck. Reserve a table at the JiuBa lounge for an unforgettable afternoon tea and dim sum or try the fully immersive and multi-sensory Virtual Reality Dining experience where an 8-course tasting menu is matched with audio and visual effects designed to complement the menu and stimulate the senses. ichinarestaurant.com

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Photo: @sidecarlg

Sidecar Modern Tavern

A New-American tavern serving high-quality dishes and drinks. You can expect a laidback atmosphere, ‘90s music, and speedy service at Sidecar Tavern. Come for the drinks, but stay for the food. We recommend ordering family style to try as many dishes as possible, but don’t miss the cauliflower appetizer. If you’re coming for dinner, book a reservation in advance. sidecar7.com

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Photo: @thelexlg

The Lexington House

The Lexington House is a contemporary eatery serving seasonal California cuisine in downtown Los Gatos. Although indoor dining is limited, the attractive outdoor patio’s atmosphere is equally as elegant and comfortable. We recommend skipping the entrees and ordering multiple small plates. The beautifully presented small plates pack big flavor with quality ingredients. thelexlg.com

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Photo: Courtesy of @chez.tj

Chez TJ

Ensconced in a charming 1894 Victorian home in the heart of downtown Mountain View, Michelin-starred Chez TJ boasts its own garden, from which many of the ingredients for its contemporary French dishes are sourced. You never know what will be on chef Christopher Lemerand’s nightly multi-course tasting menu, which draws inspiration from the bounty of the Bay Area, as well global flavors, but that is part of the experience. Diners can choose to complement their meal with a curated wine pairing. cheztj.com 

In and Around San Jose

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Photo: Courtesy of @lunamexicankitchen

Luna

Luna prides itself on its wholesome Mexican food prepared with clean ingredients using ancient methods, starting with the masa for its tortillas, which is made daily using the ancestral method of nixtamalization, where corn is soaked in alkaline overnight, rinsed and then ground with stone. Standouts include a variety of enchiladas, from mole poblano to rojas; cochinita pibil, 24-hour marinated, achiote-citrus pork, slow-braised in banana leaf; and the chile relleno stuffed with roasted corn, squash, cheese and quinoa. There are plenty of gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options here, as well as a robust menu of signature and classic margaritas, tequilas and mezcals. lunamexicankitchen.com 

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Photo: Courtesy of @meso.restaurant

Meso Modern Mediterranean

Known to fans of La Folie and Left Bank Brasserie, acclaimed chef Roland Passot hones in on Mediterranean flavors, creative cocktails, and Mediterranean and California wines at this culinary gem on San Jose’s Santana Row. The colorful array of small plates includes lamb and beef kufta meatballs with pomegranate, pine nuts and tahini and a trio of creamy dips, while larger portions include lamb shank “tagine” served atop a bed of couscous spiked with dried pears, cranberries and golden raisins and vegan potato gnocchi in a broth flavored with Calabrian chili and sundried tomatoes. mesorestaurant.com 

The Farmers Union-South Bay-Dinner-@thefarmersunion-800x450
Photo:@thefarmersunion

The Farmers Union

A cozy tavern with American eats, craft beers, and multiple TV’s making it a great sport-watching spot. From Smoked Brisket Tacos to Spicy Prawn Linguine, there’s something on the menu for everyone’s taste buds. We recommend the Fried Chicken with buttermilk smashed potatoes and bacon gravy, you will not be disappointed. thefarmersunion.com

In and Around The Coast

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Photo: Courtesy of @pastamoonhmb

Pasta Moon

Open since 1987, Pasta Moon embodies the farm-to-table concept in real terms, building its menu around organic produce, the catch of the day, and the finest cuts of meats and poultry. Eco-friendly and inventive, you’ll find a world of house-made pasta here ranging from puttanesca to lasagna to pappardelle and beyond. Don’t sleep on the drinks either. There is a bevy of unique seasonal cocktails offered like the Tulum margarita with Hornitos reposado tequila, jalapeno agave, lime and cranberry, and the Atticus Finch, with Old Forester bourbon, Campari, benedictine, and plum bitters. pastamoon.com

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Photo: Courtesy of @samschowderhouse

Sam's Chowder House

Sitting on this New England-inspired seafood house’s expansive oceanfront patio perched on a cliff overlooking the Pacific with a platter of oysters and a glass of rose in hand is a perfect way to watch the sun go down. Follow it up with one of Sam’s many sustainable seafood specialties like paella spiked with clams, mussels, scallops and prawns; lobster spaghetti for two; local halibut with wild mushrooms and sherry cream sauce; and of course, a steaming bowl of chowder, available in both New England and Manhattan varieties. samschowderhouse.com 

More Local Favorites in the South Bay

Who’s writing these?

Meet our always-hungry team of foodies who compiled this list.
Please let us know if we’ve missed your favorite eat@localgetaways.com.

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Clean Plate Club

The job of delivering the best possible content for our restaurant recommendations can not be left to one person. Click here to meet the team behind the Bay Area Clean Plate Club.
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