Day Trip: What to Eat & Drink in Los Gatos
Los Gatos, the mellow, moneyed small town not far from San Jose, boasts a walkable main street. Despite being suburbia (but lovely suburbs at that, surrounded by redwoods on the edge of the Santa Cruz Mountains), Los Gatos has a number of edible gems — and some of the best cocktails in all of the South Bay — worthy of a day trip. One of the great fine dining restaurants of not only the South Bay but California, Manresa, is sadly closed for awhile due to a recent, devastating fire, but we anticipate the day Chef David Kinch and team will be back again. We also attempted a visit to cool-looking roadhouse Jack Rose Libation House a couple times but hours were off. We're curious about their cocktails and bites. Here are our Los Gatos favs:
Excellent pizza is (thankfully) a dime a dozen in the Bay Area. But of the many newer spots around, Oak & Rye is destination-worthy, serving strong cocktails and stellar pies from Angelo Womack of famed Roberta’s in Brooklyn. His red sauce is a sweet-savory triumph, while the crust walks that fine line of bubbly char and chewy depth. We are hooked on the Scotty 2 Hottie pizza ($16), despite its name. Tomato, basil and mozzarella undergird a sensational trio of meaty soppressata, honey and hot pepperoncini oil. Sweet, spicy, savory...it's the trifecta.
303 N. Santa Cruz Ave.; 408-395-4441
Lexington House opened just under a year ago and feel as if you never left San Francisco. The menu's inventive dishes and "craft" cocktails exude classic elegance. Owner and skilled barman Stephen Shelton and equally talented co-owner James Marino run the house with panache — and make a mean cocktail. Chef Philippe Breneman wows with inventive appetizers like caramelized onion and ramp sformato "dip" in a jar ($11; pictured below). Sweet and salty from caramelized onions, ramp pesto perks it up with a bit of green, while you dig into the lush dip with vegetable chips.
40 N. Santa Cruz Ave.; 408-354-1600
Nick’s Next Door is a South Bay gem with front garden/patio, a neighborhood restaurant filled with regulars. It's upscale enough (though definitely relaxed) to feel like a night out. Expect a warm welcome from Nick himself, who moves effortlessly between kitchen and guests, ensuring everyone is having a good time. There’s a Cali-fresh sensibility to the cooking and playful twists on classics like steak tartare with frites or “NOT your traditional Caesar”, but it's house staple Nani’s meatloaf that steals the show: a tender mound of beef partnered with whipped potatoes and sauteed broccolini in a mushroom gravy.
11 College Ave.; 408-402-5053
Our bakery and chocolatier recommend in Los Gatos is Fleur de Cocoa. With French-style pastries (classic almond croissants and pain au chocolat), cakes and espresso, it's also a worthy stop for gourmet chocolates made in-house with fillings like Cognac or banana caramel.
39 N. Santa Cruz Ave.; 408-354-3574
Lexington House's "chips and dip" [Photo source: Virginia Miller]