Local Perspectives: A Culinary Trip Around San Jose

By Michelle Powers

You walk through the front door of Pho Hoa Noodle Soup and place your order at the counter. The decor is simple and inviting. As you sip on your jasmine milk tea, you listen to the conversations around you, all of which are in other languages, some of which are unfamiliar to you. You close your eyes, take in the sounds and smells around you and—for a minute—imagine that you have instantly teleported to another country. Within minutes, a steaming bowl of pho is placed in front of you. The disparate, yet complimentary, smells of the pho—the fragrant basil, sweetness of the broth, tenderness of the mushrooms, freshness of the lime, delicate scallions, and crunchy bean sprouts—make your stomach growl. You dig in.

The city of San Jose boasts the largest Vietnamese population of any city outside of Vietnam, many of whom reside in the Little Saigon neighborhood, where hundreds of restaurants serving up traditional Vietnamese food are located (TIP: for great Vietnamese near the the Western Museums Association 2015 Annual Meeting), check out Dalat Restaurant, Phonomenal, and Pho 69.) The unique combination of ingredients in your pho is a micro representation of the many cultures, languages, and countries represented every day in the city of San Jose. According to the Bay Area Census, the city of San Jose, with just over one million citizens, is one of the most diverse metro cities in the entire United States.

As a result, a trip to San Jose means you have the privilege of sampling from any number of incredible international foods, including Greek, Thai, Chinese, Mexican, Ethiopian, Vietnamese, Persian, Caribbean, Japanese, Korean, Indian, and Portuguese. In one day, you can travel to three different continents through your meals. A comprehensive food tour of San Jose would take years to complete.

You have an incredible opportunity to experience the food of so many distinct cultures, all from your seat in each respective restaurant. Like the flavors in your pho that are initially discordant, these different cultures and flavors combine and to create something new and harmonious.

During your visit to San Jose in October 2015, I invite you to join me on a culinary journey of the world. Soak in the cultures and languages represented in the multi-faceted city of San Jose. Eat something you’ve previously feared to try (chapulinas from Mezcal Restaurant, anyone?). Nosh on something unexpected for breakfast (how about kitafirfir and kinche from Mulu's Ethiopian Restaurant?). Split a plate with a new friend (just try and finish the jerk chicken at Back A Yard all by yourself!).

A few other San Jose favorites include:

Welcome to San Jose: let your taste buds be your guide.

Make sure to stop by some of these fantastic eateries during the Western Museums Association 2015 Annual Meeting on October 24-27 in San Jose, California! Learn more about WMA 2015 Registration

Michelle Powers is the Director of Development at History San Jose and is a member of the WMA 2015 Host Committee.



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