“There’s a reason we’ve been here so long,” says Dottia Bilic, co-owner/founder of Tarragon Restaurant. “We’ve got really good food. We’ve got a comfortable setting. We have the most comfortable bar in the South Bay.”
The most comfortable bar in the South Bay?
Dottia doesn’t back down when pushed on that claim. Yes, the restaurant is terrific. It is food like mom made (assuming mom is a great cook). Yes, people have been returning time and time again since it opened on July 28, 1998. They love the warmth and comfort. They love the big space upstairs for weddings, birthdays, meetings and other personal and corporate events.
“But just look at that bar,” she points out. “Brass, copper, wood. Curved just right. Enough TVs to engage you but not so much that you are distracted. An incredible Happy Hour with bar food and drinks 50% off from 4-6 p.m.
“It absolutely is the place you want to come and have a drink.”
A Family Business
Originally Dottia and her husband Tony were going to open a bar and billiards hall in the location. Dottia credits Tony, (who also owns the classic dive bar Paul & Harvey next door) with first realizing that an even better idea would be fine dining in downtown Sunnyvale with a really good atmosphere, upscale but welcoming to families, and priced right.
The concept was spot on. Many regulars have been coming more than 10 years, and have become like family. As some patrons grow older or move away, others come in. The restaurant has seen a lot of life’s changes, and changes in the Valley, over 18 years.
Their kids (now 14 and 15) “were practically raised here. It’s a family business,” she says. “As they get older, I want them here helping out and I like that they know where money comes from. I hope they’ll want to take it over one day. And,” (she smiles) “I hope they read this so they know what my dream is.”
Is it really the most comfortable bar in South Bay? You’ll have to decide for yourself. Whether you decide the best feature is the restaurant or the bar, there’s one thing Dottia has to say: “Come on in. You won’t be disappointed.”
To do that, head over Tarragon Restaurant, 140 S. Murphy Ave, or call ahead at 408-737-8003, for a reservation or help with your next event.
You won’t be disappointed and you’ll find a very comfortable bar there as well as a local business ready to treat you like family. Be sure to join the Tarragon family on Facebook too!
Roberto Cervantes has been in the United States for more than 30 years, but he still remembers the recipes of his childhood in Ameca (a city in the central-western Mexican state of Jalisco). For holidays, festivals, weddings, baptism, there was always birria. His mother made it, his grandmother made it. “You didn’t get to eat it every day,” he remembers.
Now birria is one of several specialty recipes from home that he brings to Roberto’s Cantina. Here, the food is prepared following family recipes handed down for generations.
Quality, Authenticity, High Standards
Roberto credits the success he’s had since he opened in April, 2013 to the “quality, authenticity, high standards and original family recipes” that are his philosophy for running a restaurant. That, and the fact that everything tastes great.
To keep his recipes authentic, he gets his chilies from Mexico (“there’s something about the sun and soil that makes a chili with a special taste”) and offers more than 150 premium tequilas. His selection of mescal is all “small batch” – some come from batches as small as 20 or 60 bottles. “I’ve been in the restaurant business here for 18 years, and the brokers know that I have an eye for excellent mescal.”
Success Takes Work
The restaurant has a good selection of non-alcohol and alcoholic drinks (Roberto recommends his version of the Mexican Mule if you’re looking for a tasty drink with a kick), multiple TV screens, and is family friendly.
To accommodate tastes and food sensitivities, they can cook most dishes to order. “I really try to give personal attention to the restaurant and to the people who eat here,” he says. “If someone has an idea or feedback – good or bad – I want to know. I think of our customers as family.”
When your name is on the door, there’s always a lot at stake, and for Roberto, having his dream fulfilled in a restaurant with his name means a lot of work. “We work hard. My wife works here. My two grown sons come in and help. I’m here. The staff knows what I expect and supports that,” says Roberto. “I think when you work hard, do your best and take care of people it shows in your product and in your success.”
When you’re ready for something hearty and delicious, something grandma would have made if your grandma grew up in central Mexico, stop by Roberto’s Cantina, 168 S. Murphy Street or check them out online at www.robertos-cantina.
Remember when kale was but a humble garnish? Lots of people would no more nibble on it than gnaw on a T-bone. Now, of course, the leafy green is seen as a superfood best scarfed up by the handful.
Staying on top of changing trends is key to longevity in the cutthroat restaurant business, every bit as much as it is in the go-go tech firms a block or two away from Joe Antuzzi’s Italian-American bistro and bar in downtown Sunnyvale, il Postale. That’s why it’s still going strong after more than two decades.
“In 20 years, Italian food went from No.1 to possibly No. 3 or 4 now,” Joe says. He’s stayed in the game by tweaking mostly around the margins and, when necessary, more fundamentally. “We’ve pushed the envelope, but we don’t change the basic cookbook.”
What remains a constant at the neighborhood white-linen restaurant is the conviction that delicious, generous portions of Italian-influenced food offered at a moderate price, with top-notch service in a casual atmosphere will never go out of style. Fresh fish, hearty pasta, fine pizza, soups and salads.
Sometimes, however, big changes are required. In August 2015, Il Postale relocated to 100 S. Murphy Ave. -- into a lovely, historic Del Monte drying shed -- after many years in the original Sunnyvale post office on Washington Avenue. The time was right because Joe had realized for some time that he needed more seating, including alfresco dining, and more bar space. (You can check out more pictures of the decor here on Facebook.)
He noticed years ago that patrons were more health-conscious and were no longer flocking to traditionally heavy Italian fare in big numbers, so he changed up the menu to offer more lighter entrees and appetizers, including vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free dishes.
Another challenge requiring Joe to adapt was when the lunch crowds that famously flocked to restaurants during the dot-com era began to dwindle. Suddenly, the catering il Postale offered became a more important part of his business, as did gift cards. He also worked harder to spotlight the value of enjoying an il Postale meal. The new weekday $10 lunch deals are a good example where customers can choose two delicious items off a selected menu at a great value on the go or at the restaurant.
So, yes, much has changed at il Postale. But you should still call ahead at 408-733-9600, for a table reservation if you’re planning to come down with a party of five or more.
There is still one other ingredient that has remained in place since the very early years. Chef Santos Villa has been at il Postale for 19 years, cooking and adapting recipes, many of them handed down to Joe through his mother and grandmother.
With over 20 years of experience delivering family recipes that fit the neighborhood needs, il Postale is ready to serve you. Stay connected with il Postale on Facebook and visit www.ilpostale.com
If you’re like many Americans, you like wine but hesitate to walk into a wine bar because you don’t want to risk looking foolish by asking a lot of “elementary” questions that more expert people might scoff at. I mean, who likes to feel like they’re being looked down upon?
What foods pair well with which wines? Is the price of a wine a good indicator of its quality? If not, how do I know what to order? How do I even talk about wine? (Do I have to?)
Andrew Nguyen, the bar manager at Vino Vino in downtown Sunnyvale, just hates the pretension that often surrounds wine drinking in America -- and he’s doing something about it.
That’s why one of the first things a customer notices upon entering the store at 100 S. Murphy Ave. is the big block letters on the corrugated metal overhang: Wine Without Attitude.
Fixed price and on tap
So relax, friend. Vino Vino, with its rustic design evoking a wine cellar, bends over backward to take the anxiety out of experimenting with wine and food. The great majority of the wine sold is on tap – 13 kinds – an unheard-of number in the industry. And every glass of tap wine is $9.
“They’re priced all the same,” Nguyen said, “because we want to keep it simplistic. We want people to choose what to drink based on what they want to drink, not based on price.”
Adding to the casual experience is the glassware. Instead of the typical stemware, the wines are served in a vessel that looks like the product a rendezvous between a hefty pint glass for ale (bottom half) and the sensuous bubble shape of a standard wine glass.
Vino Vino, which opened two years ago at Murphy and Washington avenues in historic downtown Sunnyvale, features only wines from the immediate area: Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties, northern Monterey County and Livermore. “Localism is huge to us,” Nguyen said.
He personally selects all the wines and buys only those whose characteristics remain stable when served on tap. He works closely with the vintners to ensure quality and adequate supply.
He adapted a standard beer tap system specifically for wine. Why? Two reasons. First, buying and selling barreled wine reduces the cost – no bottling and corking. That’s how he can afford to sell all the wines at the same price. But Nguyen said sustainability is also a big part of the reason.
Chilled wine, chill staff
The staff aims to keep things relaxed, too. Nguyen trains them to know their stuff, but they aren’t going to start going all oenophile on you -- unless you ask or they read in your body language that you have questions or comments. They’re trained to watch and listen discreetly, pick up comments about how guests are reacting to what they’re drinking, and pass along the info Nguyen, who closely monitors the product himself.
The staff will also happily recommend food-and-wine pairings. Luscious Italian-influenced cuisine dominates the the menu: panini, bruschetta, capocollo and more.
Dinner reservations are available at 408-675-8466. Happy hour, which includes $5 appetizers, runs Monday through Friday, 2-5 p.m. and Saturdays, 9:30pm to 1am.
With the arrival of the holidays – what better time to toast your friends? –
why not drop by Vino Vino for a relaxed, celebratory glass?
Bambu Desserts and Drinks on Washington has been there for two years, but new owner Oanh Ho has already made exciting changes since she purchased the franchise in June, 2016. "I love healthy food. I love great taste. And I love the Bambu concept," she says. "So I wanted this store to be very special.
From day one, she insisted on bringing in only fresh foods for the drinks they serve. No pre-frozen, pre-packaged. No powdered milk or juice extracts. "Every morning I inspect the food and make sure it's what I like, what I'd want to eat."
Customer Base is Rapidly Building
Oanh's love of tasty, healthy food is rapidly building a fan base, (as recent reviews on Yelp show). To a new entrepreneur, this is very exciting. "We're happy to custom make drinks, and one man came by to say, ‘Thank you, my toddler daughter loved the drink you made with coconut milk, avocado and no sugar.’ This is so wonderful; it makes my long days and all the work worthwhile."
Like a growing number of small business owners, Oanh says this has been a long-time dream. She had a business degree in her native Vietnam, but came to USA 10 years ago with little more than hopes. She worked two jobs while attending San Jose City and Mission College. In her early 30’s, she's a bundle of energy, loves interacting with customers, is mother of a 4-year-old, and is brimming with pride at her new endeavor.
"Taste this coffee," she says while making a strong, fragrant cup of Vietnamese coffee. "Or look at this fruit. We cut it just this morning, so it would be perfect for smoothies. Do you want vegan? Gluten free? Lactose free? Let us make it for you."
A Labor of Love
"You have to love food. You have to love working with healthy food. You have to love people, and hard work, and have big dreams," she says. "If I could say just one thing about the work so far, it would be 'THANK YOU' to the encouraging, wonderful customers who come by regularly."
For a great afternoon snack, or a lovely dessert after a meal in downtown Sunnyvale, stop by Bambu Desserts and Drinks, 189 W Washington. Check out the Yelp reviews at Bambu Sunnyvale, or view the menu at www.bambusunnyvale.com.
Stop by Gelateria Bella Roma, and there are three things you can count on: You will taste delicious Italian gelato, you will be greeted by the owner, and the gelato will be fresh and made in the shop.
Or more simply, as one Italian customer proclaimed, “Mmmm. It’s just like back home.”
“We’re not some big conglomerate or a chain or franchise,” says store manager Bali. “We are family run, family operated, and all the ice cream is made in small batches, right here, every day.” Dad Sam, son Bali and cousin Manjit are putting in seven days a week to make sure everything is perfect and to welcome you with a smile.
The Perfect Gelato
The perfect gelato, for those who don’t know, should never be hard like American ice cream or soft like frozen yogurt. It should be perfectly creamy and smooth. Filled with deep, rich flavors and served at a temperature that melts on the tongue.
For Manjit, who made gelato for 15 years at a well-known gelateria by the Tivoli Fountain in Rome, gelato is an art.
The Perfect Setting
“We love Sunnyvale for the diversity of cultures, and for the community. Everyone has been very welcoming.” says Bali. “We looked for nearly two years for just the right spot, the right size, a place with a lot of foot traffic, people of all ages. It’s great when people stop by to say they are glad we chose to locate here.”
The location at 127 S. Murphy took some time and preparation to have things perfect for the May opening but Sam said “it was worth the wait”. He added that it may have taken longer than expected but the other Sunnyvale merchants and the city were very helpful.
So stop by, welcome the new business owners and try a scoop or two, or maybe a milkshake. Several dairy-free and vegan options are available. Check out
Gelateria Bella Roma on Facebook or call at 669-246-5051.
Now is the perfect time to indulge in a delicious taste of Italy in downtown Sunnyvale.
Like many startups, the idea for PhoEver blossomed from a passion. “We LOVE to eat. We LOVE to cook,” co-owners Kim and Lana say when asked why they opened a restaurant. “Our food is filled with LOVE. We love working with fresh, healthy ingredients and we love having people eat here. It’s like family.”
A Crazy Idea
The two are mothers, busy working-women, who met at West Valley College nearly two decades ago. They can’t precisely pinpoint when they decided to open a restaurant. “The idea just came to us,” they agree. “It was a crazy idea. But crazy in a good way.”
They traveled to Southeast Asia to explore tastes that would fit well with their Vietnamese culture and heritage. They tried out recipes at home.
Beyond Vietnamese Food – Asian Fusion
The dream became reality in January, 2016 when PhoEver opened. Lana creates all the recipes, artfully blending flavors that go together to create a fusion of cultures. “You don’t have to love Vietnamese food to love her dishes,” Kim says.
The extensive menu includes appetizers, entrees, sandwiches and desserts. Fish, chicken, steak, and of course, several pho offerings with deep, rich broths that are slow-cooked overnight. Sometimes Lana’s best ideas come from what’s seasonal in the market. Other recipes are the product of trial and error. Her hand-crafted marinades and sauces are already attracting interest from caterers who want to incorporate her creations in their menus.
PhoEver is MSG-free, offers several gluten-free offerings and has a page on the menu with vegetarian and vegan choices, including a tofu roll that Lana said is a favorite.
Like any Silicon Valley start-up, Kim and Lana find themselves working around the clock. The restaurant is open six days, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. (Closed Sundays).
Their passion is clear, and now it’s up to the customers. “We want feedback and ideas from everyone,” Kim said. So take your family, your work group, your significant other, or just go by yourself. Say hi, and check out what Sunnyvale is discovering about food cooked with passion, and presented with love.
PhoEver is located at 321 W Washington Ave. Sunnyvale, CA 94086. Drop in or give them a call at 408-962-0669. You can also contact them by email at: Info.firstname.lastname@example.org
Foodies: prepare to be delighted. The team at The Oxford intends to make every bite and every sip a palate pleaser.
“We are very, very, very serious about the food we are serving,” says Rahul, managing partner and general manager. “And we are very, very, very serious about the drinks we are offering.”
Rahul emphasizes that the food and drink offerings are chef-created and chef-prepared, but The Oxford is equally committed to creating a welcoming environment. The intent is that it be comfortable, casual and the “go to” place whether it is a family, a group of co-workers, or a few friends meeting for a drink.
A London Inspired Gastropub
Billed as a gastropub, The Oxford menu is inspired by London’s multi-cultural food scene and created with the California ethos of seasonal, locally sourced ingredients, wine and beer. They are also proud that “as much as we can, and as much as possible,” the chef and staff make their own infusions and flavors.
The Oxford Mule, for example, was created with a sly nod to London: the vodka in this drink-with-a-kick is infused with just the right amount of Earl Grey tea. The ginger beer is brewed in house. The in-house hummus is made by roasting the chickpeas rather than soaking them in water. “It’s something the chef picked up in his travels,” explains Rahul. “It’s very good.”
A Work In Progress
The restaurant opened on St. Patrick’s Day 2016, and has tweaked and adjusted the menu based on suggestions from patrons. Rahul said he’s very happy to be attracting great customers who are genuinely excited about what The Oxford brings to Sunnyvale. “We’re very lucky to be able to get feedback. We could sit around and talk and talk, but what the customers want is much more important.”
Ideas are flowing, and the current menu will continue to change and evolve both before and after the May 7, 2016, grand opening. Rahul refers to it as “a work in progress.”
What won’t change is to work hard every day to present fine food in a unique and comfortable setting. To join the conversation, find The Oxford on Instagram and Twitter, @TheOxfordCA.
The Oxford is located at 195 S Murphy Ave. Sunnyvale, CA. Stop by The Oxford on May 7, 2016, at their Grand Opening to meet the staff and sample the unique tastes and treats of this gastropub.
A visit to Kabul Afghan Cuisine is every bit an authentic Afghan experience, but its food is prepared for a wide range of tastes. Each dish is uniquely prepared. For example, just among its offerings featuring lamb are ten different dishes prepared ten different ways, each using different spices, with spiciness that is not too much or too little, but just right. Its cooking is designed to bridge Middle Eastern and Mediterranean styles.
Fresh Ingredients Daily
Kabul Afghan Cuisine has no freezer in its kitchen: lamb, beef, chicken and fish are delivered several times each week. Its meat is served as fresh as possible and in larger slices than is traditional in Afghan-style cooking, to preserve its juiciness. Kabul’s signature rice servings, browned and white, are prepared twice daily, so that their stock of seasonings retain their flavor.
An Original Afghani Restaurant
When Kabul Afghan Cuisine opened in Sunnyvale 29 years ago, it was one of California’s first Afghan restaurants. Najib Naimi, its owner, learned traditional Afghan-style cooking from his mother back home in Kabul and he picked up extras from his cousins who launched one of the first Afghan-style restaurants in the US. His career in the dining business spans forty years. He started out at a five-star restaurant a few blocks from the White House. Following his move to the Bay Area, he mastered his craft at a four-star establishment in Santa Clara. Together with his brother, Adib, who has been chef at Kabul since it opened, Najib has learned what works and is necessary to ensure each of his guests has the best possible experience at Kabul.
Kabul Afghan Cuisine moved to its current location at 351 W. Washington Ave. Sunnyvale, Ca 94086, in February of last year. A new generation of diners has joined the guests that followed Najib to his new venue. Each of his guests appreciate the subtle differences his family brings to the fare of Afghanistan to make their dishes flavorful and pleasing to a wide variety of tastes. Give them a call if you have any questions or you’d like some additional information: 408-245-4350.
Sunnyvale Downtown Association