Great Places in Los Gatos
Sad news on the dining front: California Cafe in Old Town, Los Gatos, has announced that it will be closing at the end of July on its Facebook page. No reason was provided for the closure. This fine dining establishment once hosted then-president Bill Clinton. For many Los Gatans, it’s a go-to place for special occasions. This lovely restaurant will be sorely missed – and we wish the proprietors well in whatever venture they next undertake.
Here’s what the restaurant said:
“After 31 years of happily serving the Los Gatos community, we regret to announce the closing of California Cafe at the end of July. Join us tomorrow, July 9, for a special one-day offer featuring 31% off all food and beverage purchases. Check back here for additional farewell offers throughout the month.”
Hurry on down there TODAY, Saturday, July 9th, for a substantial discount. Learn more at the eatery’s FB page:
Perhaps you’ve driven over Highway 17 from Los Gatos to Santa Cruz and wondered about the large white building off to the left, perched on a knoll overlooking the valley and that same highway. That’s the Sacred Heart Jesuit Center, now a retirement home for Jesuit priests and brothers (members of the Society of Jesus) for the provinces of California, Oregon, and Washington (now collectively known as “Jesuits West”). Many decades ago, it was the novitiate for the California province, meaning it’s where young men entered the order. Two of my uncles did just that. I am a fairly frequent visitor to this lovely place now, as one of my uncles has gone full circle and has retired where he first entered. Some of my old professors from Gonzaga University in Spokane are there, too, as well as Jesuits that I knew growing up in the area.
So today I wanted to share some photos with you, as many people living in Los Gatos would have no occasion to visit what my family still calls The Novitiate. However, Testarossa Winery is next door (at what used to be the Jesuit Winery), so many of my readers will have been close. Please enjoy the photos, which I took last Saturday while there to see my uncle.
Are you moving to Los Gatos with kids? Or just arrived? This is a wonderful town for young people and the cool things to see and do continue year round. Below please find a list of my personal favorite places (shops, restaurants, parks etc.) and things to do with children in Los Gatos.
Things to do year round:
Los Gatos Saratoga Community Education & Recreation (all ages – classes, camps, fun things to do)
Petroglyph – decorate ceramics
Beading classes (older kids) at Natural Expressions in the Opera House
Oak Meadow and Vasona Lake County Parks – carousel and small gauge train
Local parks and open space trails for hiking – see town of Los Gatos website for link
Hillbrook School summer camp (horseback riding)
Youth Science Institute at Vasona
Vasona Lake County Park – paddle boat rides, Parks & Rec classes on sailing and more
Los Gatos Creek Trail
Food & restaurants:
Classic Burger (very casual)
Happy Hound (very casual)
Shangri-La – Chinese food (casual)
Andale – Mexican food (casual)
Purple Onion (2 locations) (casual)
The Diner of Los Gatos (hot dogs and hamburgers in cardboard “cars”)
Double D’s Sports Bar
Los Gatos Cafe (cinnamon buns, breakfast for all)
Also: the Farmers’ Market on Sundays has a wonderful crepe booth!
—>Add link to article on patio dining in Live in Los Gatos blog
Holiday tree lighting (usually 1st Friday night in December) & Holiday Parade (usually 1st Sat in Dec)
Screen on the Green – free movie night each September at Oak Meadow
Summer free music concert series: Jazz on the Plazz, Music in the Park, Vasona Vibrations
Another article which includes things to do NEAR Los Gatos with kids, and not just IN LG:
Where can you find a great salad for lunch or dinner in Los Gatos? Here are some of my favorites (updated from the original 2007 post), though I must add a disclaimer that I have not (yet) tried every restaurant in town. Did I miss one that you love? Please post in the comments below!
Fast salads and salad bars in Los Gatos
Looking for a salad bar? Whole Foods offers a healthy selection. Ambiance, not so much. Another place to browse a salad bar is T-Birds Pizza, where you can get a fast slice of pizza with a small side salad for a very reasonable price. Comfy seats, too (unlike Whole Foods). In east Los Gatos, pizza and a salad bar can be found at Los Gatos Pizza, too – and their pizza is fantastic.
A fast salad in a low key environment can be found at Sweet Pea’s. There the only trouble is that you may be tempted to order quiche, crepes or something else! Also fairly fast with a nice variety of yummy salads is Panera.
The Purple Onion is in two locations in town and features a number of great salads, including the healthy sounding “Spa Salad” (I have never asked how many calories there are – I don’t think I want to know!).
Southern Kitchen (they don’t seem to have a website – here is a link to the page on them over at Yelp) is just incredible for breakfast, but the last time I was there I enjoyed an incredibly good Greek salad. I would go back just to try another one of their salads!
Willow Street lists a very nice variety of delicious salads but also includes a changing menu with seasonal items. In the last few months I have enjoyed a warm brussel sprout salad and a steak and peach salad. There seem to always be between four and six salads available, so it’s easy to return there again and again and not get bored.
Thinking of a taco salad, or a fajita salad? Both Andale’s and also Pedro’s are worth a visit, and if you want more casual, the food at Una Mas is fantastic too (and it’s easy on the budget). How about a Chinese Chicken Salad? Jasmine Chinese Cuisine has 2 to choose from – the original recipe (from prior owners) and their newer one.
If upscale and impressive ambiance is what you’re after, here are some other restaurants which serve delicious salads: Steamer’s Grillhouse, Campo di Bocce, Viva, The Wine Cellar, California Cafe and the Los Gatos Brewing Company.
These are my current favorite places for salads in Los Gatos. What are yours?
January 15, 2013
Los Gatos has one of the largest collections of Victorian homes (and neighborhoods from that vintage) in Santa Clara County. This makes for scenic views that newcomers and visitors enjoy. The town also enjoys gorgeous tree-lined streets, a bustling downtown, views of and from the foothills, and of course large parks. When you have visitors, or friends moving to Los Gatos, what are your favorite spots to show off?
One of mine is Quito Road with its interesting speed signs.
Your input for “best places to show visitors and newcomers” is welcome!
April 18, 2011
From 1910 to 1955, the hills over Los Gatos just off Bear Creek Road were home to a boys’ school, the Montezuma Mountain Ranch School for Boys. Although there was never an enormous population of students, at one point the campus did include a whopping 300 acres.
Known for discipline, hard work and ethics, the school appears to have been exceedingly well respected and influential for its work with students all the way from k – 12.
Notably, Julia Morgan, the renowned architect best remembered for her design at the Hearst Mansion, seems to have played a hand in the school’s buildings too, making the site doubly interesting from an historical perspective.
A Catholic religious order, The Sisters of the Presentation, bought the site in 1956. Initially it was Presentation College (from 1958 to 1971), connected with the University of San Francisco (a Jesuit college) and served as that order’s novitiate. Today it is the interfaith Presentation Conference and Retreat Center. (Check out their photo tour and map, which calls out Montezuma Hall too.)
The Montezuma Foundation continues to be active more than a half century after the school’s closing. Each summer the members offer a three day leadership program at the Presentation Center, the old campus location, and it boasts that “over 300,000 high school students have participated in this program since its inception in 1934”. Pretty impressive that the influence of the school’s founder lives on.
The sisters have an “open house” about once a year where visitors can come and take in the scenery, check out their “green building” program and have a look around.
In the near future, though, is their annual Mother’s Day Brunch, which is open to all. If you have never been up to this scenic spot, Mother’s Day might be the perfect time for the trip!
Newsletter article from the Preservation Action Council of San Jose, summer 1998
Online article History of Montezuma
Historical info from the Presentation sisters on their order, the prior school, their college and the work at the campus today.
Images of the Montezuma School in 1940, care of the Hooked on Los Gatos program
January 21, 2009
The Youth Science Institute, or YSI, is based in Los Gatos at Vasona Lake County Park, but serves all of Santa Clara County. It serves about 30,000 children each year across Silicon Valley and is highly regarded, but has been in danger of being shuttered due to a significant financial shortfall of $300,000. It’s down to the wire now and just $20,000 is still needed by the end of January.If you can help, please visit the campaign’s website and donate or make a pledge!
How did the YSI come to be in such a dire situation? Apparently it was due to a combination of things, from fewer signups in the summer programs, not enough donors or donors unable to be as generous as in the past, fewer field trips (due to state budget issuesj etc.
The YSI had fewer than 200 donors prior to the fundraising campaign. Today that number is over 1000. The public support has been fantastic but a little more help is needed: $20,000 by the end of January.
Please help if you can!
March 07, 2008
Gelato in Los Gatos: Visit Dolce Spazio for the Best!
Voted Best Ice Cream over and over and in multiple competitions, Dolce Spazio (which means Sweet Space) has also been voted Best Dessert Place in Santa Clara County as Metro Readers’ Choice and The Wave Magazine. A Los Gatos dining mainstay since 1980, it makes an ideal place for dessert after a fine meal elsewhere or as a snack to enjoy while browsing the stores and people-watching in downtown Los Gatos.
What makes Dolce Spazio so special? Naturalmente, it’s first & foremost the gelato. It’s authentic tasting, which means delicious. Gelato has less air and more fat that American style ice cream, and it is softer (not frozen hard) and very rich. Of course, Dolce Spazio also offers sorbetto, an espresso bar, milkshakes and other goodies here too. Additionally, Dolce features pastries and other treats – so stop by in the morning for a bite to eat, a latte and bring your favorite paper or book – or just take in the views through the oversized windows. It’s a great way to start the morning.
Something nice, too, is that the good folks there will kindly email you when they make and sell your favorite gelato. Today I asked if they’d please ell me when they have rum raisin available. Mike Orlando wrote me back that although they’ve never made it, he’ll let me know if he runs across a good recipe. What more could you ask for?
It’s the next best thing to a visit to Florence, where an architect named Buontalenti invented the stuff for one of the Medici wedding celebrations in the 1500s.
Something else: Dolce caters too, so if you want a little something special at your next party, think Dolce Spazio to Go!
Dolce Spazio is located at 221 North Santa Cruz Avenue, Los Gatos, CA 95030. Phone is 408 395-1335, or visit them online at DolceSpazio.com.
Note by Mary Pope-Handy: this is not a paid endorsement and the owners of this gelato shop did not approach me about doing a review of their shop on my blog. My idea – I love this place (even though I don’t eat a whole lot of the goods there) and think it’s a great downtown Los Gatos shop that I’m happy to promote.
October 11, 2007
Today I celebrated a friend’s birthday by taking her to lunch at Dio Deka, a fairly new Greek restaurant, in the Hotel Los Gatos. It was the first time I returned there since the restaurant had changed hands and gone Hellenic.
What a nice improvement! The service, food, and ambiance were all top notch.
A nicer setting would be hard to find. The Hotel Los Gatos is one of the most beautiful buildings in Los Gatos, a town already much loved for its scenic beauty. If you haven’t seen it, it’s almost directly across the street from Los Gatos High School so is in the heart of downtown. The architectural style is Spanish, but it reminds me of the elegant and inviting Santa Barbara Spanish style in particular. Inside, the hotel and restaurant are well appointed, comfortable, classy, and relaxing. Great ambiance.
At Dio Deka, each employee we encountered was warm, pleasant and gracious. Service was never wanting. Their manners and protocol were impeccable. That may sound stuffy, but let me explain by giving an example: in many eateries, even in “fine dining” establishments, patrons are given one knife and one fork. If the utensils are soiled by eating a salad or appetizer before the main course arrives, the used utensils are often given back to the customer if they’re left on the plate as it’s being removed.The idea, of course, is that the patron is expecting too much to get a clean knife and fork for the next dish. Usually the “old” utensils are put back on the table. But not here. At Dio Deka it’s not too much trouble to get it right and provide clean cutlery for each course. It’s a small thing but it’s representative of the quality of the dining experience here. No detail is too small to get right.
So let’s talk about food. My girlfriend and I split a Greek salad for starters. It was artistically presented and offered a wonderful mix of greens, olives, celery slices, split cherry tomatoes and dressing together with a small brick of warm goat cheese. It was delicious. The moussaka appealed to both of us, so that is what we each ordered. Set as a stack of circular layers in the middle of a deep dish, this too offered a very pleasing appearance. And again, the flavors were sumptuous. The sauce was too good not to enjoy too; luckily the table had a basket of bread – just right for sopping up the flavors.
Coffee was enough for me to top off the meal, but we had a birthday to celebrate and my friend ordered baklava. She assured me it was every bit as good as the rest of the meal. And, as with every other course, it, too, was simply very pretty.
We enjoyed every aspect of our meal today at Dio Deka. If you enjoy fine dining and appreciate being pampered, stop in for lunch or dinner. I’ll be back!
Dio Deka is located at the Hotel Los Gatos, 210 E Main Street, Los Gatos CA 95030
Tel 408 354-7700. Open for lunch and dinner.
By the way…This is not a paid endorsment, but is simply the response to a great dining experience today. Writing a blog post about the meal was not on my mind when I arrived there at all.
Updated March 7, 2008: Dio Deka Will “Hold the Ketchup”
A couple of my friends, Wendy Tomaro and Debi Merchain, took me to lunch today at Dio Deka (a belated birthday celebration for me). As before, the food was great and so was the service. One small surprise, though, came when I was told that I could not have ketchup with my fries. They don’t serve condiments, such as mustard and ketchup, because they wouldn’t be served in Greece.
What do you think about that? On the one hand, I can appreciate wanting purist food and not having the good Greek food tampered with (or ruined). On the other hand, I really like catsup or ketchup with my fries – whether I’m in Greece, Los Gatos, or anywhere else.
I have travelled a fair amount (been to Europe, Israel, Greece, Japan, Polynesia and a few other foreign places) and often the restaurants present variations of their normal cuisine to match the locale where they’re operating. A McDonald’s in Germany will offer beer, for instance, and one in Israel won’t have cheeeseburgers.
The food at Dio Deka is really good, no matter what. The fries I got were garlic and I think rosemary and they were tasty – but still I’d have liked them better…well, you know. It’s their restaurant and of course they can do whatever they want, and apparently they feel strongly about this point.
Of course I will go back. But next time I won’t order anything that comes with fries – too much of a tease to me!
fan of Greek food…and American
June 23, 2007
Things are heating up now and you may be thinking about where to go for a little relief. There’s the beach, of course – it’s always temperate over in Santa Cruz on the water (and a nice breeze usually blows too). There are all the usual air conditioned places (stores, malls, theaters). But there’s also a little place in Los Gatos, hidden from the view of most folks, where you can get a surprising amount of relief from the heat.
And amazingly, it’s right in the middle of town!
The secret location is along the Los Gatos Creek Trail under the Vasona Dam spillway. The rush of water through the gates creates a cool, light mist that floats down like some of the “misters” that you may have encountered at Disneyland, Paramount’s Great America in very nearby Santa Clara, or in waterparks like Raging Waters in San Jose.
To get there, the easiest approach is via Garden Hill Drive, which is off of Lark Avenue in Los Gatos. Follow the road almost to the very end, when it takes a sharp bend to the left. Park your bike or car and enter the park/trail and follow the path northwest (away from the freeway) and you will find the misty spot not too far up.
There are no benches or tables, so this is a spot not intended for picnicing – but I think it’s a great place to do it nonetheless. (In fact, there’s a warning sign to not go too close to the spillway.) It is not secluded (so ixnay on the romantic spot, this did not qualify as one of my “Best Places to Kiss” in Los Gatos) but it is cool and comfortable and refreshing.
Would you like to see some photos from the dam area? I have compiled a Vasona dam area 60-second slideshow (plus extra photos if you want to see them). Take a look!
Do you have a favorite place to cool off? I’d love to have you share it here!