Exploring West San Carlos Street

glassgecko.JPGI have been exploring West San Carlos Street in San Jose. I had no idea that there were so many interesting little places along here. West San Carlos is an old street that runs east and west between highway 87 and 880, just north of 280. It is dotted with antique stores, barber shops, and all sorts of ethnic restaurants. I first started going there for the Ethiopian food. Have you noticed that San Jose has tons of Ethiopian restaurants? And three of them are on West San Carlos.

Last night I tried Lebanese food for the first time. Just Laziz is right next to The Lunch Box, which is the best deal for Ethiopian food and beer around. I saw this place and had been wanting to try it out. Then we headed next door to the Glass Gecko for a little dive bar action.

More about the my food finds, cheap beers, and colorful locals after the jump.

Ethiopian food finds:
San Jose has a large Ethiopian community, and with it, lots of amazing food. The three along San Carlos are Mudai, Gojo, and The Lunch Box. I had Ethiopian food for the first time less than a year ago, and it is one of my favorite foods now. If you like Indian food, you’ll love Ethiopian. Food (plenty vegetarian too) is spicy and flavorful, served on a spongy flat bread called injera. You tear off the bread and use it to scoop up the food. So yummy! You’ll stuff yourself for less than $10 a person. I challenge anyone to eat more food than that.

These restaurants also offer traditional coffee service and incredibly cheap beer. Last night I we ended up at The Lunch Box where we, along with lots of middle-aged Ethiopian men chatting and drinking, had imported Ethiopian stout for $2.75 each. They are pretty tasty, too (the beer, not the men).

laziz.JPGLebanese food find:
Just Laziz, which claims to be “Just Delicious”, is a simple little bakery and restaurant that offers up traditional Lebanese food and baked goods. Some of the food was familiar to me, like the humus (delicious!) and tabbouleh, but most of it was new. The main thing they serve are manakeesh, which are pita-like breads served with different toppings, like cheese, spinach, and meat. They also offer shawarma (like a gyro), which I passed on, being a vegetarian and all. But reading the reviews, it is supposed to be quite good. Best part was that it was cheap. Like Ethiopian food, you’d have to really push yourself to eat more than $10 worth of food.

Dive bar find:
After eating dinner, we had some time to kill, so we crossed the street and checked out the Glass Gecko. It was around 7:30 and still light outside, but the place was already full of the locals. On the little white board next to the two pool tables, there was the message “Happy Birthday Wife.” Under the message was what appeared to be the remains of a grocery-store cake. A happily inebriated couple stumbled and danced around the pool tables to whatever music was playing (Boyz II Men at one point). I could only assume that they were “Wife” and her husband.

My friends and I went up to the bar, and even though they had no beers on tap, they had an impressive selection of liquor, better than most bars in Santana Row. But we got some $3 MDGs and took a seat. The tipsy couple headed out, but not before “Wife” stopped by our table and told us how nice it was to see us. Another woman also took off around that time, but not before slamming her beer. When she turned around, we saw that she proudly wore her “B is for bi-atch” t-shirt. We headed out just in time: as we left, they started setting up for karaoke.

5 Comments so far

  1. joann Landers (unregistered) on August 19th, 2006 @ 2:34 pm

    The Burbank area of San Jose that is West San Carlos Street, though so close to Santana Row, is interesting, gritty, and real.


  2. Lauren (unregistered) on August 19th, 2006 @ 4:33 pm

    Burbank…that’s what it is called! I knew that area had a name, but I couldn’t remember it. Seems like people just call it West San Carlos anyway. And yes, it really does seem real compared to Santana Row on one side and the downtown party on the other. I think I like it better than the Alameda area just to the north, which is overflowing with new apartment and condo complexes.


  3. mrgn (unregistered) on August 21st, 2006 @ 11:24 am

    Great post, but no mention of the Y Not? ;)


  4. Jim (unregistered) on August 27th, 2006 @ 3:59 am

    West San Carlos. Home of the original ( and best) Orchard Supply Hardware.


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