Local dining and shopping thrive in San José
text: Tanya Mutz
Sharks fans yell at the big screen on the wall by the bar, glasses clink together as a waitress quickly busses a nearby table and hundreds of conversations jumble together in a noisy murmur.
This is a typical Thursday night scene at San Pedro Square Market (SPSM), one of downtown San José’s hidden gems.
And while the two buildings and courtyard that make up SPSM are not always jam-packed, Destiny Simone, a server at San Pedro Square Market Bar, said it does get fairly busy when there is a local game on or music performed at the Market.
San José Jazz hosts concerts in the Peralta Adobe Plaza at SPSM every Friday night from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. The Market also brings a different band to the outside stage almost every weekend.
For patrons who want to be a part of the music, Treatbot, a food truck serving freshly made ice cream, hosts karaoke every Tuesday night from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Katie Raynes, Treatbot’s factory manager, said it costs a dollar to sing a song and afterward participants are given a free scoop of ice cream.
SPSM also features various events year-around.
Every Monday night at 7 p.m. the Garage Bar hosts Trivia Night. People arrive in teams of their own or join one, and after that the questions begin.
Kaela White, a bartender at the Garage Bar, said the gathering is “social, it’s free, and there is no cap on the amount of people that can be in here.” She said almost 40 teams have participated in the past.
Even some of the shops inside of the Market hold their own events.
Ay Dios Mio, a shop specializing in Mexican folk art and Latin-inspired designs, often host events featuring local artists and hands-on activities, said Rose Mendoza, the shop owner.
Aside from events, the Market’s businesses are at the heart of its thriving atmosphere. With more than 20 businesses inside SPSM, each space offers a different dining, retail or service experience.
Visitors can also shop at San Pedro Square Gift Shop, Showroom, a San José lifestyle store, and The Poppy Farm, a home and garden shop.
Another unique addition to SPSM is Crewners, a full-service barbershop with only one chair, specializing in business cuts. Crewners was the first business to open inside the Market back in September 2011, said Dan Dixon, the owner of the shop.
Whether you are in the mood for Neapolitan-style pizza at Pizza Bocca Lupo, carnitas tacos at Loteria Taco Bar, or a banana Nutella crepe at Cre Paris, a wide variety of food choices are available at SPSM.
Jennifer Clark, a patron of SPSM and host of a doodling group that meets there once a month, said, “I have a diverse group of people with different dietary needs and there’s always something for everybody here.”
Alex Drao, a first-time visitor to the Market and a new resident of downtown San José, said that at Sama Zama, “The salads, soups and everything were really fresh.”
Bray Butcher Block & Bistro, one of SPSM’s newest additions, serves up fresh all-organic meat in a style that owner Josh Hanoka likes to call “Cali-que.”
“I’m not BBQ, but I do BBQ food. It’s our own take on it,” Hanoka said.
In addition to serving items like French dip sandwiches and pulled pork, Bray slices its own deli meats, smokes everything in-house and sells fresh cuts of meat or fish when in stock.
Another popular place to eat at is Little Chef Counter, where Elizabeth Kerridge, a customer at the Market, said, “All you need to know is duck fat fries.”
The Market’s wide variety of culinary options make it not only the perfect destination for a group of picky eaters, but also a great place to sit down and have a drink.
Vino Vino, an indoor-outdoor wine bar, only serves local wines. Staff bartender Jenna Johnson said, “The unique thing about us is we have wine on tap.” She said guests often come in just to try a glass or to get wine flights and an appetizer.
And for patrons who prefer beer over wine, the Market Beer Company offers more than 200 different beers served in 22 oz. bottles.
One of the biggest perks to eating or drinking in the Market is the ability to roam around and take things with you. Guests can sit anywhere — inside one of the two buildings or at tables in the plaza — with food and drinks (alcohol included) from any of the Market restaurants or bars.
The bottom line: San Pedro Square Market, an all-ages marketplace in the heart of downtown San José, is home to great food and drinks, countless events and entertainment.
Tony Avila, a recurring visitor to the Market, said, “I like the ambiance here. It’s kind of a chill environment, [with] fresh air and a good crowd.”