New California. $$. Housed in a downtown landmark, Agenda features a hip nightclub upstairs, a fully-appointed restaurant at street level, and DJ-ing in the basement. Entrees include buttery filet mignon perched atop potato puffs, and roasted chicken ballotine expertly filled with a sage and chestnut mousse. Full bar. 399 S. First St, San Jose, CA. Closed Sun-Mon. 408.287.3991.
New American. $$$$. If Jules Verne had designed a restaurant, this would be it. The setting is gorgeous and the entrees are perfection. Wine list is deep in the best California reds. Full bar. 163 W. Santa Clara St, San Jose, CA. 408.292.9928. Book a table online.
New American. $$$$. A spacious oasis for those with a few expense accounts to rub together, Arcadia offers witty play on American regional classics. Cute menu titles, like the "meat & potatoes," translate to complex sauces with some dazzling flavor moves. Open daily for breakfast, lunch, dinner. 100 W. San Carlos, in the San Jose Marriott. 408.278.4555.
Italian-American. $$$. One of downtown San Jose's most attractive eateries, Bella Mia serves regional dishes with flair. Full bar. 58 S. First St, San Jose, CA. 408.280.1993. Book a table online.
American steakhouse. $$$. The lavishly portioned dishes streaming from the kitchen here pack a load of flavor. Juicy and succulent steaks abound and, to finish, Blake's does a very tempting dessert tray. 17 N. San Pedro Square, San Jose, CA. 408.298.9221.
Mexican. $. Flowers, murals and friendly servers provide accompaniment to some of the best chile rellenos around; lovely flan, too. Closed Sun. 18 S. Almaden Ave, San Jose, CA. 408.293.1387.
City Bar and Grill
Classic American. $$$. Big-shouldered food in handsome surroundings is the rule. The steaks are big and juicy, the pot pies better than Grandma used to make. Full bar. 300 Almaden Blvd, San Jose, CA, inside the Hilton. 408.947.4444.
Vietnamese. $$. San Jose's second-oldest Vietnamese restaurant continues to draw those in search of delicious traditional fare. Ingredients are fresh, spices aren't shy, and the surroundings are clean and friendly. Open daily for lunch and dinner. 408 E. William St. 408.294.6989.
E & O Trading Company
Southeast Asian. $$$. You don't have to be a trader to dine like one. Entrees come on playful serving dishes and are beautifully spiced with multi-culti flavors, from Bali to Ceylon and back through Malaysia. Full bar. Open 11:30am to 10:30pm, until midnight on weekends. 96 S. First St, San Jose, CA. 408.938.4100. Book a table online.
Contemporary French. $$$$. Features white-tablecloth amenities without the stuffiness, and a first-rate menu combining classic, nouvelle and minceur cuisines. Full bar. Closed Sun-Mon. Resv suggested. 545 S. Second St, San Jose, CA. 408.289.1960.
New American. $$$. The revamped menu emphasizes robust flavors and beautiful presentations. Several standouts have been retained from the previous menu, as have the sexy Eulipia cocktails. Full bar. 374 S. First St, San Jose, CA. 408.280.6161.
The Grill on the Alley
American grill. $$$$. The Fairmont Hotel's newest resident is one good-looking destination for power lunchers, celebrity diners and anybody who needs a great steak. Full bar. 170 S. Market St, San Jose, CA. 408.294.2244. Book a table online.
Seafood. $$$. Next door to the San Jose Rep Theatre, Hawgs offers simple seafood and convenience for theatergoers. Mostly shellfish and pasta combinations are offered; the linguini clams and sautéed scallops are full of garlic and rich flavors. Closed Mon. 150 S. Second St. 408.287.9955.
House of Siam
Thai. $. This popular establishment runs the gamut of Thai treasures. Casual. Beer, wine. 55 S. Market St, San Jose, CA. 408.279.5668.
Hunanese. $. Hunan Taste was the first in the South Bay to offer real Hunanese cooking. Joanne Song, the chef and niece of Henry Chung who opened the ever-popular Hunan in San Francisco, created a menu that hums with the spirit of her birthplace, the village of Lile in the Hunan Province. Spicy, complex, neighborhoody. Closed Sun. 998 N. 4th Street. 408.295.1186.
Regional Italian. $$. Embraced by the graceful Sainte Claire Hotel, this location (there are several up and down the coast) transports the diner. The menu showcases a different region of Italy monthly, and pasta dishes vie with entrees for mouth-watering attention. Order the fennel custard. Full bar. 302 S. Market St, San Jose, CA. Daily for all three meals. 408.271.3366
Peruvian; South American. $$. A unique addition to downtown's bistro glut, Inca Gardens boasts authentic Andean fare. Casual. Wine, beer. 87 E. San Fernando St, San Jose, CA. 408.977.0816.
Contemporary Italian. $$$. Grilled meats and fresh seasonal vegetables are treated with an unstudied, almost rustic sense of sophistication. Casual. Full bar. 233 W. Santa Clara, San Jose, CA, in the Hotel de Anza. 408.286.8686.
Mexican. $. A small player with a big rotisserie, this taqueria cultivates a devout lunch following. All standards get billing, but the mesquite-roasted chicken is the star. Beer. 72 E. Santa Clara St, San Jose, CA. 408.277.0333.
Italian diner. $$. Classy and classic rat-pack-style diner, featuring tuxedo-clad waiters. From the homemade chicken soup to the Veal Scaloppini, Sinatra would be right at home. Full bar. 11am-1am daily. 301 S. First St, San Jose, CA. 408.292.7030.
Chinese. $$$. The cuisines of China share top billing with the opulence of the decor. Pagoda offers the gamut of regional all-stars. Dressy. Full bar. Closed Sun. Fairmont Hotel, 170 S. Market St, San Jose, CA. 408.998.3987.
Italiano Sicilian. $$$. The restaurant that spawned the South Bay's epidemic of Sicilian restaurants, Palermo feeds its patrons authentic Southern Italian specialties amid a unique collection of memorabilia. Full bar. 394 S. Second St, San Jose, CA. 408.297.0607.
New Italian. $$$$. Filled with artistic spins on California-meets-Italy, the kitchen turns out elegant entrees spearheaded by seasonal vegetables. The impeccable service compensates for the modest portions. Full bar. 333 W. San Carlos St, San Jose, CA. 408.294.2558.
Italian. $. Exuberant, inexpensive and fast cuisine made to order and served with sparkle. High concept and low costs make Pasta Pomodoro a dream trattoria for lovers of robust Italian flavors. 1205 The Alameda, San Jose, CA. 408.292.9929
Seafood. $$$. Culture lovers and power brokers alike find impeccable sourdough, a sea of marine treats and other entrees, and a panoramic view (there's a sister eatery in Palo Alto). For maximum pleasure, get there at sunset. Full bar. 185 Park Ave, San Jose, CA. 408.971.1700.
New American. $$. This Silicon Valley hot spot's magnetic ambiance balances industrial sleek design with warm fabrics and textures for a casual but hip dining experience. While the atmosphere is energetic, the fare is simple and elegant, prepared using classic French techniques. Full bar. 754 The Alameda. 408.280.1644. Book a table online.
71 Saint Peter
New American. $$$. This romantic eatery provides recipes that speak with a slight French accent, from imaginative appetizers to the always-reliable roast of the evening. Beer, wine. Closed Sun. 71 N. San Pedro St, San Jose, CA. 408.971.8523.
Indian. $$. Shalimar opened a few doors down from the San Jose Museum of Art--a good location for drawing in diners in search of a generous and tasty buffet ($8.95). Vegetarian and clay-oven specialties are featured. 167 W. San Fernando St. 408.971.2200.
Regional Italian. $$$. With its sexy two-story interior, Spiedo brings a sleek presence to the downtown restaurant scene. Its zesty menu highlights rotisserie dishes. Dinner nightly; lunch weekdays. Full bar. 151 W. Santa Clara Ave, San Jose, CA. 408.971.6096.
Bistro. $$$. This upbeat bistro packs style and culinary punch into a renovated dining space. The sensuous menu involves lots of hearty grill updates, lusty pastas and assertive salads. Casual. Full Bar. 71 E. San Fernando St, San Jose, CA. 408.293.1121.
Brewpub. $$. Burgers and California cuisine mix well with housemade beers. Especially fun during sports events and happy hour. Casual. Full bar. 65 N. San Pedro St. 408.295.2739. Also Mtn. View: 954 Villa St, San Jose, CA. 650.965.2739.
Vegetarian. $. This restaurant-cum-temple provides a slew of spiritual paraphernalia along with a menu offering vegetarian dishes from around the world. Casual. 520 E. Santa Clara St, San Jose, CA. 408.292.3798.
Waves Smokehouse and Saloon
Texas BBQ and more. $$. Set in one of downtown's historical gems, Waves feeds the taste buds with barbecue, the eyes with an exquisite mahogany and stained-glass bar, and the ears with live and DJ music. Casual. Full bar. 65 Post St, San Jose, CA. 408.885.9283.
Vegetarian. $. White Lotus showcases a strictly meatless and eggless menu, offering a wealth of dishes. Casual. Beer, wine. Closed Sun. 80 N. Market St, San Jose, CA. 408.977.0540.
Chinese. $. Wing's belongs in an old movie with gumshoes and low-brimmed hats and cigarette smoke drifting in dark alleyways. The food is complemented by an exotic dining room with sequestered seating equipped with hanging beads and doorbells, and other miscellaneous peculiarities of a bygone era. Always a fun place to visit. Open daily. 131 E. Jackson St, San Jose, CA. 408.294.3303, or 998.9427