The Best Budget-Friendly Restaurants in San Jose

Looking for good food in the Bay Area? Steer your car south to San Jose. The capital of Silicon Valley is also the center of cheap and good eats.

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Looking for good food in the Bay Area? Steer your car south to San Jose. The capital of Silicon Valley is also the center of cheap and good eats. Sure, you can find plenty of upscale dining here, but the best part of the South Bay restaurant scene is its global flavors and family-run eateries, so loosen up your belt for a tour of some of San Jose’s top food stops.

Falafel’s Drive-In

Falafel sandwich stuffed with, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber and white Tzatziki sauce in pita bread, set on a wooden table at a restaurant in San Jose, CA

If you follow Guy Fieri from Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, then Falafel’s Drive-In is a must while you’re in San Jose. The huge falafel sandwiches are sloppy with flavor, especially with plenty of the famous white and hot sauce added on, while the fried falafel balls are crisp and crunchy on the outside and soft and savory in the middle. The Nijmeh family has been running the Mediterranean hotspot since 1966, so hop in line (it moves fast), grab a picnic table, and don’t forget the napkins and the (real) banana shake to wash it all down.

San Pedro Square Market

This food hall in downtown San Jose is made up of 17 food stalls, giving diners lots to choose from. At San Pedro Square Market, you can order from anywhere you want, and then meet your friends at a table in the middle. You’ll find some of the best brick-oven pizza in the city at Pizza Bocca Lupo, and Konjoe Burger Bar lets you top your burger with fried egg, jalapeno or kimchi cucumbers.

Walia Ethiopian Cuisine

San Jose is the place to go for some of the best and most authentic East African restaurants in the Bay Area. Walia Ethiopian Cuisine leads the pack, with slow-cooked stews and sauces that are rich with flavors. Tender beef tips and moist cubed lamb are menu highlights that you scoop up with strips of slightly sour (injera) bread.

Din Tai Fung

This dumpling house in Valley Fair Mall is a branch of the world-famous original in Taiwan’s capital city of Taipei. And if the lines are any sign, the San Jose Din Tai Fung is just as popular. So make a reservation or order take-out to get your food even faster and eat in the mall’s food court. Either way, you don’t want to miss the soup dumplings, such as pork xiaolongbao. A tasty slurp of savory soup is wrapped inside each hand-made dumpling, like magic.

Little Saigon

Lunchtime bowl of Vietnamese beef noodle soup, or pho with onions, green onions and other toppings  in a white bowl chopsticks pulling out rice noodles at a restaurant in Little Saigon in San Jose, California

For some of the best pho this side of the Pacific, take a drive to San Jose’s Little Saigon. The area is home to one of the largest Vietnamese communities in the country, with a long list of family-run restaurants spread along Story Road. Try Com Tam Thanh’s broken rice or brisket pho, or go for the cheap and crusty French bread banh mi sandwiches at Huong Lan Sandwiches.

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