In Los Gatos, it may be possible to dine out of doors year round, but it is always a popular option between March and October in the scenic town once referred to as “the gem city of the foothills”.
Today I want to highlight these establishments for diners and give a nod to a number of the Los Gatos restaurants which offer dining al fresco; we are lucky to have so many choices!
Those listed below are some which I’ve patronized and especially like. It’s not a 100% comprehensive directory of Los Gatos eateries with patio dining, only those which I have enjoyed myself with a few exceptions of some which are on my “must try soon” list.
Finally, I should mention that these restaurants with outdoor seating offer varied selection and pricing, from super casual (Happy Hound, Classic Burgers and Los Gatos Meats are all low key) to much more costly and formal. Not every one of these businesses is in downtown Los Gatos either. I’m providing links so you can check them out yourself.
Did I miss one that should be mentioned? Feel free to email me any updates!
The 2013 Michelin Guide for great dining in the San Francisco Bay Area and Wine Country has just been released. Michelin rates on a scale of one to three stars.
In years past, including 2012, Manresa earned two stars from Michelin and Dio Dekka awarded one star. Dio Dekka was named in 2011 as well, and Manresa had enjoyed the two star accolade for five years in a row.
This year, Dio Dekka was dropped from the list but Manresa came up with 2 stars once again. No other Los Gatos restaurant was named. (This may be unrelated, but it used to be possible to enjoy lunch at Dio Dekka, but a week or so ago I tried and discovered it’s only open for supper except on Sundays. So too with Palacio – only open for supper most days.)
In neighboring Saratoga, the Plumed Horse was awarded one star, as was Chez TJ in Mountain View and Alexander’s Steak House in Cupertino. Palo Alto can boast a 2 star rating at Baum
Los Gatos is a wonderfully diverse place to bring or enjoy a date, or just spend time with your loved ones, whether you’re 15 or 105. If you’re looking for a romantic place in Silicon Valley, you’ve got it in Los Gatos!
For the young, and the young at heart, a great creative outlet in Los Gatos is Petroglyph, where you can try your hand at pottery designs. We have several momentos from there around our home. It’s nice to have useable art too – our daughter made a teapot eons ago that she continues using to this day. This is a fun spot ,and for dates, it can really break the ice to have something to do beyond talking. I recommend it highly as a starting point, especially if this is relatively early on in the relationship.
Parks can be naturally romantic (if there are not a lot of screaming kids, anyway). Los Gatos boasts many, many excellent parks. Oak Meadow Park is usually called “The Airplane Park” by local children as it features an old WWII plane – one of very few left in parks around the nation (it is a decommissioned USAF T-33 Jet). It also offers a neat hand-painted carousell and a small guage railroad, the Billy Joans Wildcat Railroad, which runs from Oak Meadow Park (owned by the town of Los Gatos) into adjoining Vasona Lake County Park. Vasona is really a resevoir but it’s sooo pretty and you can rent either sailboats or paddleboats and enjoy the many, many scenic (and romantic) views. So bring your honey to the parks. Walk through Oak Meadow and get nostalgic. Indulge in a ride on the merry-go-round and another on the train. Feel playful. Then go out on the lake – where it’s quiet and peaceful and the views are lovely. My first nomination for “Great Places to Kiss” in Los Gatos, then, is out on Vasona Lake, taking in a view of the hills (El Sombroso on the left and El Sereno on the right as you look toward the coastal hills and downtown Los Gatos). By the way, the Parks and Rec department offers sailing lessons in the summers and they are open to kids too. A couple of years ago, Jim and I had Clair and Brian do this class and as their grand finale, they sailed us around the lake. That was a trip. But I digress. Back to romance in the park. Something else about the Vasona – Oak Meadow setting is that there are free concerts in the summer! The series is called Vasona Vibrations and it’s every Saturday from 5 – 7pm. So the parks are a fun and scenic date place, but they are also very kid-friendly too. Allow a couple of hours.
My next nomination is really more of an adult venue. Another beautifully romantic spot worthy of kissing is Testarossa Vineyards. Located at the historic Jesuit Novitiate (built in 1888), it is essentially a downtown Los Gatos spot but with some elevation. The building is old, the wine is great and the valley views are timeless! We enjoy bringing visitors there for tasting. The patio with the view is very inviting and feels like something out of a & (Los Gatos has no & Bs, but that’s another post). A little wine, a view, and thou: what more could you want?
Many parts of downtown Los Gatos beckon for dates. The town is overflowing with bars, restaurants, and desert shops, among others. You could hardly go wrong to just stroll down Main Street or North Santa Cruz Avenue and see what you find, maybe ending up at Dolce Spazio for some yummy gelato. But I particularly like Old Town on University Avenue. It’s a bit bustling, but I’d start at Steamer’s for a drink…Then stroll across the street to the older part of Old Town, and just browse (and probably buy) awhile. Both the California Cafe and The Wine Cellar have outdoor seating, if the weather is right and you want to people-watch. Both are great restaurants. The California Cafe has tables near the windows which enjoy a view of the hills – great ambiance. And the Wine Cellar has booths for cozying up ( they aren’t nearly as dark as they were 30 years ago, but are still dating material). Personally, I think fondue makes for a romantic meal – and if you think so too, do make it to the Wine Cellar, as their fondue is fantastic. But either way, you really can’t go wrong.
After the meal, perhaps a stroll through Border’s Books is in order. Or not – your choice! If it’s not too cool, walk to the back of Old Town. There’s a small amphitheater there. Concerts and plays used to happen in that spot, and sometimes now you catch a person just playing a musical instrument there. A pedestrian bridge beyond the amphitheater will take you over the freeway (highway 17) to Forbes Mill (now a Los Gatos history museum). There’s something nice about just making that little walk, and for some reason it has always struck me as romantic too. So my third nomination for most kissable spots in Los Gatos has to be somewhere on or near this pedestrian bridge linking Old Town and Forbes Mill. One time it might be by the old museum itself, another time at the amphitheater, and maybe another time – I know, a shock – right on the bridge with the whole world seemingly passing underneath.
There are many other nooks and crannies around town which may inspire a romantic moment. The many trees and hills and views, together with some beautiful old architecture and fun shops, can certainly make romance feel imperative in Los Gatos. It’s spring. And I think I must be overdue on a “date night”. Don’t tell my kids! (It’s my kids pictured above, in May 1996 just before my sister’s wedding in Boston, MA.)