When I left Washington early on Wednesday morning it was really, really cold, yet when I stepped off the plane in San Francisco six hours later, it was at least 20 degrees warmer and gloriously sunny. Flying across the country really emphasised how huge the US is, and how varied: the aerial views of the Rockies and the frozen fields of Wisconsin were particularly striking.
Unfortunately, my conference was in San Jose, not San Francisco, and extensive online research had pulled up only one potentially good coffee shop: Bellano Coffee's B2 in San Pedro Square Market. We went there for breakfast on my first two days and had excellent pourovers on both occasions, made with SF-based Sight Glass coffee and dripped into a mason jar (but of course). I also enjoyed a sinfully delicious almond croissant on Thursday, but sadly the pastries hadn't arrived yet when I stopped by on Friday morning.
San Pedro Square Market is a cool indoor space with lots of hipster fast-food counters, including Little Chef (no, Brits, not that Little Chef!). It has an industrial vibe with acid green chairs that add neon pops of colour to the greyscape.
One day, I ate lunch at Loteria Taco Bar, and had three amazing tacos (when in California...): one cod, one with carnitas and one with carne asada.
I thought B2 was going to be the only place in San Jose where I could find a decent cup of coffee, but on the way to an event on Friday, I stumbled across Vero's on South First Street and spotted a) some pourover drippers and b) a sign saying that they served Intelligentsia coffee. It is also just across the street from my hotel, so I headed straight there after my first, early-morning conference session on Saturday.
Vero's is a family-run coffee shop, which only opened a few months ago. I had a very good Rwandan Intelligentsia pourover, which I sat and drank in the morning sunshine. They also serve a few pastries and I had a delicious Nutella-filled croissant.
Although there are plenty of restaurants in downtown San Jose, most seemed to be sports-bar-type establishments, but the guys at B2 recommended we try SP2, also based near San Pedro Market Square. We went for dinner during happy hour where each dark and stormy cocktail was only $5. I tried the burger and it was impressive. How could it not be when there was delicious crispy bacon, cheese, avo and watercress? At weekends, they also do a 50/50 burger, which is half beef patty, half bacon.
It's still San Jose so there were multiple TV screens showing sports, but SP2 has a cool vibe, friendly staff and good food. We went again on Friday for a working lunch and tried the fish tacos, which were really good. I was only sorry I didn't get the chance to try out their brunch.
We didn't do too badly finding somewhere to eat on our first night either. I used my usual font rule (well-designed awning and menu = good restaurant) to pick out The Farmers Union on West Santa Clara Street. They do a lot of barbecue and southern food. I had the fried chicken with mash and gravy, which was very good, and after all that bourbon in DC, I finally switched back to the gin with a Bee's Knees cocktail.
Although I don't think I'll be back in San Jose anytime soon, the town does have its benefits; mainly the weather, which has been gorgeous. I have been able to swim in the hotel's outdoor pool (in February!) and my morning runs have been very pleasant, even if the scenery isn't particularly exciting.