Orchestria Palm Court: Where the players play

Close to the convention center, a hop, skip, and a jump away from Cesar Chavez park, and right next to The Stage Theater (also a new SJ favorite haunt–more on that in a future post!) you’ll hear the delightful, twinkling sounds of a multitude of pianos…but only a couple nights a week for a few hours a day.

The hidden San Jose gem we’re featuring today is the truly unique Orchestria Palm Court, a walk back in time to the early 1900’s where the comfort food is outstanding, the waiters wear sleeve garters, and you’re entertained by player pianos that come to life one-by-one, providing a merry soundtrack for your meal.

Surrounded by invisible musicians

Orchestria features music written in the ‘teens and 20’s of last century, played as you would have heard it then—on music machines. Fitting, really, that these machines, considered “high tech” in their day, are now at home one of the world’s most important birthplaces of modern technology. The owners plan their musical selections based on seasonality, including French music for Bastille Day, specific composers’ music for their birthdays, and carols for the whole of December. That said, they’ll also take your special request for your favorite jazz or ragtime song from the era—you know you have one.

Is that a…phone booth?

The decor and ambience is like nothing you’ve ever seen before—especially in San Jose. The building itself is a refurbished brick building from 1910, and the inside is made to look like a bar or restaurant from the early 20th century—complete with kitschy lamps and chandeliers, travel posters, rolls and rolls of player piano music stacked high, and–of course—the aforementioned plethora of pianos. Also featured is a self-playing violin from 1925, the “Violano-Virtuoso” which uses electromagnetic technology to play along with a piano accompaniment.

Tips:

  • RESERVE, RESERVE, RESERVE: Because they’re only open about 6 hours a week, they’ll likely be fully booked if you try to walk in.
  • Order the Austrian Goulash. Your life will be changed for the better.
  • Don’t just dine and dash! Get up and look around—this place is like a museum, restaurant, bar, and concert all in one.

The Fight for the Swine Sign

Across the street from Poor House Bistro and Diridon Station is a pig not quite as famous as Wilbur, not quite as well known as Babe, but to San Jose, is his own special, porcine celebrity.

The Dancing Pig on the vintage Stephen’s Meat Products sign has been proudly hoofing it since the 1950’s…even after the business closed. But, contrary to what people believe, weather happens in San Jose, and the iconic sign fell into disrepair. Cue pigpen jokes.

This didn’t sit well with the Preservation Action Council of San Jose (PAC*SJ) who has been trying to raise money to revitalize the sign for quite some time. And with “Google Village” slated to move into town riiiiiight around Montgomery, they’re working even harder to raise awareness.

Ideally, they note, Google would absorb this piece of San Jose history and physically feature it in some way. (Or digitally– it would make a HECK of a Google Doodle). 

 

We caught up with John from Preservation Action Council of San Jose (PAC*SJ) during their most recent fundraiser at Poor House Bistro on February 25, where 25% of food and beverage sales went to perking up the pig. Here’s what he had to say about why they’re doing this at all:

 

 

Landmarks. In a city that could easily be seen as just corporate buildings and suburban sprawl, there’s still a need to “find yourself” in this place. Some find themselves in our history, even with something so ordinary as a vintage meat products sign. Others find themselves in looking ahead to the future, with new businesses and buildings that facilitate the constant innovation happening here. 

And there’s certainly enough room here for both. No snout about it. 

Cool Runnings: An Interview with Treatbot

It’s a hot Thursday in June. You want some ice cream. But dang it, you also want to SING.

 

I’m sure we’ve all been in this predicament before, and the good news is, San Jose’s infamous Treatbot karaoke ice cream truck is the answer—bringing the songs AND the sweetness to delighted San Jose residents for 7 years.

To kick off our new summer series featuring the best of the best in San Jose ice cream, we were lucky enough to catch up with Treatbot owner Christine to get answers to some of the questions that have been chilling in our readers’ and our minds.

 

What led to the birth of the Treatbot?

We started Treatbot in 2010 hoping to have  a “side business” after I had my son. We had paid all our debt off and had quite a bit of savings and money to invest from other sources so it was either buy a house or start a food truck. So we decided to start a food truck. With the economic downturn at the time all our equipment and labor was inexpensive and it was a good time to get our foot in the door as food trucks were up and coming at the time in the Bay Area. Everyone was doing fusion food but no one was doing gourmet dessert, so we decided to go for ice cream sandwiches and then add karaoke onto the truck to give us a niche but also add our personal “flavor” to the truck, because we love karaoke. After all the love we got from social media and fans loving the concept, it was hard to stop the momentum and it became more than a side business and has become our passion and livelihood.

We need the ‘dish’: What’s your most popular flavor of ice cream?

It’s “408” hands down—our caramel ice cream, fudge ripple and crushed oreos. However Eastside Horchata comes in a close second, which is our cinnamon flavored ice cream fashioned after the Mexican rice drink. Closely after that is our Filipino flavors Macapuno (young candied coconut) and Ube (purple yam).

What’s the weirdest flavor you’ve put out there?

Bacon and Cheese, Durian, Banana, with peanut butter and bacon.

Talk a bit about the “karaoke” part of the Treatbot Karaoke Ice Cream Truck. Do you still give people the opportunity to sing? Or are you pretty stationery in San Pedro Market Square now?

At our store at the San Pedro Square Market we have karaoke every Thursday night from 7:30-10:00 pm. We are revamping our karaoke on the truck so that we have it available for the masses more often for public events. It’s a big part of our roots. Being of Filipino descent, karaoke is a huge part of family parties, so it’s a special thing. Add ice cream to that and you have good clean fun!

What’s the strangest song choice someone’s made when singing with Treatbot?

Strangest song….hmmm that’s a tough one. I can’t say, to be honest, because karaoke can be strange and wonderful all in one fell swoop whether you know the song or you don’t. It really depends on the person singing.

What’s a song you WISH people would do?

My personal preference would be some older R&B. A lot of pop gets done, and show tunes, but not enough oldies. That’s my jam and I’d love to hear more….maybe we’ll start doing themed nights so we can hear some of this stuff!

We want an invite to the first theme night if you do! Final question: How do you feel about San Jose, and what makes you passionate to operate here?

What makes us passionate to operate here is that this is our home and we want to make our home awesome to be in. We want to put it “on the map.” There is so much diversity here that breeds our creativity along with the innovation of Silicon Valley. It truly is a special place a diamond in the rough.

To get a scoop of 408, visit Treatbot in San Pedro Public Market, or learn more at https://treatbot.com/.

San Jose Celebs: Places Woz Eats

Guys — we love Steve Wozniak, amitrite? He’s integral to the tech world, he has a street in San Jose named after him, his dancing skills are unparalleled, and most importantly, he’s a lover of some of our favorite franchise eateries. Woz is known for taking to Twitter and noting the (very ordinary) culinary delights he’s enjoying around San Jose.

Want to run into Woz? Try heading to some of the favorite haunts he’s been frequenting this year:

Outback Steakhouse, Campbell — seems to be a fave of his lately! 

 

Marie Callenders, San Jose

Famous Daves, San Jose

Mandarin Gourmet, Cupertino

Jalisco, Campbell

The Old Spaghetti Factory, San Jose

Hickr’y Pit, Campbell

Bonus!

Got dogs? Have a canine playdate with Woz and his pups Ziggy and Zelda at Butcher Dog Park or Blossom Hill Park.

Interested in seeing a movie? Sit shoulder to shoulder with Woz at AMC Saratoga 14.

San Jose’s 2017 Resolutions

resolutions

You’re not the only one that wants to hit a few key goals this year.

We at Searchlight SJ think that our fine city would want to make some changes for itself too. Here are just a few ways San Jose can win 2017. 

 

Resolution 1: Get the kids to stop drawing on the walls

We love the art on the power boxes throughout San Jose. On our overpasses and city signage however? Not so much. The city is already working on solutions to problems, including crowdsourcing ideas through Unleash Your Geek San Jose, where the Mayor has called for groups to come up with creative solutions for fast graffiti removal for a cash prize.

Resolution 2: Lower rent prices

As of December 2016, a one bedroom apartment rents for nearly $2500/month on average here in San Jose. Many of us have reconciled ourselves to the fact that in order to live in one of the most pristine climates in the nation, we’re willing to also live in an expensive shoebox. Nonetheless, it would be great to see those prices drop and make San Jose an awesome AND affordable place to live.

Resolution 3: Get another Michelin star restaurant

San Jose saw its first Michelin star restaurant with the contemporary Portuguese cuisine at ADEGA, where it can take months to secure a reservation. Why not improve our chances of getting in and up our culinary cred by adding another Michelin-worthy eatery?

Resolution 4: The ultimate Shark attack

We missed the mark on the Stanley cup by thismuch last year. Currently, our San Jose Sharks are leading the Western Conference, and with any luck, the mayor will be receiving a goody basket this year, not giving one.

Resolution 5: Fewer tents, more shelters

Homelessness has become a major issue for San Jose that we’re actively working to fix by developing solutions such as modular temporary homes and “recycling” those run down, shady motels and turning them into viable housing options.

What do you think should be on San Jose’s resolution list?

The Sarah Winchester Movie: A Former Winchester Tour Guide Weighs in on What Should be Included

Winchester_Mystery_House_(door_to_nowhere)

Will the Sarah Winchester movie be a hit? Or will it go…nowhere?

As many of you San Jose enthusiasts already are well aware, Helen Mirren is slated to play our beloved Sarah Winchester in a movie sometime in the next year. We’re already dying of curiosity to see what type of angle this movie takes.

So what should the movie include? We thought that the best person to ask is someone deeply familiar with the Winchester story, and the mansion itself. Cue our resident Winchester expert Brian, former Winchester Mystery House tour guide. Here are his thoughts on some ways Hollywood can maximize the story.

The earthquake
“If there’s one scene that I would love to see put to screen, it would be the 1906 earthquake. The mansion used to be considerably larger than it is now, and the most spectacular piece was the large, 7 story tower. Following the earthquake it was so damaged that it had to come down (and an entire wing of the mansion was sealed off to boot), but it’d be very slick to Hollywood that up. Add in the shrieking of angry spirits and so forth as the gigantic 7 story tower goes toppling down to the path below. And it should also probably explode.

In seriousness, though, it seems like the earthquake had a pretty profound effect on Sarah. She was trapped in an unfinished room for several hours, and while I’m not sure that she blamed the spirits for the earthquake, she definitely blamed them for her being stuck in that part of the mansion. She boarded it off (basically the entire front part of the mansion, aka the only part of the mansion that actually looks a little bit nice) and focused more on cheap, rapid, eternal building. That’s one of the reasons for the varied designs you see when you walk through the house. You have her initial, crazy stage where she’s trying all sorts of fun, kooky stuff (the secret passages, traps, and so forth). Then she gets to the, “Oh… wait… I’m rich…” portion, where she tries to make things look like a rich person’s home. Then the earthquake hits and suddenly she goes into the “clearly I’m not building fast enough” phase, where she just builds as cheap and fast as humanly possible.”

The supernatural

Meet Brian!

Meet Brian!

“If they’re going to go with the ghost angle, it might be fun to have the workers (who are supposed to be the current ongoing residents of the mansion, not Sarah) start developing their unnatural connection to the place. Like you could have one of them quit and move away, but the work crew continues to see him around the site. They could even telegraph him to make sure he’s not still around, but he’s just sort of left this permanent imprint. Or you could have them develop their own superstitions and paranoias about various portions of the house.

There was one spot in there that always freaked me out at the end of the day. When we would shut the lights off and begin to close up, there was a long hallway that had an intersection with another long hallway. No matter which way you looked: in front of you, behind you, to the left or to the right, the hallways stretched straight away into dark eternity. I HATED that part of the mansion. I can’t help but imagine that the workers would develop their own aversions, maybe particularly to the sealed off front part of the house.”

The Winchester rifle victims
“Another supernatural angle: what if the ghosts of the people killed by the Winchesters forgot how to be human, and so they started imitating the workers whose routines were predictable and constant? So the ghosts at the mansion today are actually the same ones Sarah was afraid of, only they behave like the workers they observed for so long.”

What do you think should be included in the movie?

Juuuuust to the north of Hollywood: Films shot in San Jose

You find yourself looking around San Jose with it’s not terribly high skyline, corporate offices, and lack of landmarks, and think that it’s not exactly a highly sought-after location for filming a major motion picture. Well, this is why you and I aren’t location scouts. Turns out there are PLENTY of nooks and crannies here in our beloved San Jose that film directors deemed perfect for a few key scenes. Here’s just a smattering:

Beverly HIlls Cop 3 (1994)

California’s Great America

Eddie Murphy appears to hang from a giant ferris wheel ride in a nightmare-inducing scene from 1994’s Beverly Hills Cop III, and it happened right in the heart of what’s now California’s Great America. At the time, the park was owned by Paramount, who also released the movie. The ride in real life was called The Triple Wheel (called “The Spider” in the film), but is no longer in the park. Fun fact: my family was at the park the day they were filming this scene. I never went on the ride again.

The Rookie (1990)

I-680 Freeway

The freeway chase scene in this 1990 classic was filmed on what appears to be I-680 (you can see street signs for Capitol Expressway and Alum Rock Avenue in one scene) and boasts actually really lovely aerial views of the city at night.

 

Marnie (1964)

Diridon Station

Alfred Hitchcock loved using Bay Area locations for his films, and Marnie is yet another example. This 1964 classic, crazy-female-pathological-liar thriller begins in Diridon Station in San Jose. It’s the very first scene of the movie, but was the last to be filmed.

Marnie

 

 

 

 

 

 

And speaking of Alfred Hitchcock…

Birdemic: Shock and Terror (2010)

Nha Trang Restaurant
Okay, yes. It’s not EXACTLY The Birds, BUT it sure wants to be! Birdemic was made on a $10,000 budget and is thought to be one of the worst movies of all time. The director, who went to school in San Jose, filmed a few scenes (potentially with birds? I mean, who actually has seen this?) at Nha Trang Restaurant located at 1820 Tully Road. And I hear their Nem Nuong Cha Ram Ninh Hoa is delicious.

NhaTrang

 

 

 

 

 

Flubber (1997)

San Jose State University, San Jose, California, USA
The late Robin Williams lived in San Francisco, which might explain why movies like Flubber and What Dreams May Come include so many Bay Area locations. In Flubber, you see a house in the Rose Garden district, a classroom at San Jose State U, and the Adobe building at 345 Park Avenue.

Edtv (1999)

SAP Center

At 1:48 in this trailer you’ll see the SAP Center and Ed riding on the zamboni machine. The scene was filmed during an actual game (Sharks v. Mighty Ducks), and the 17,483 game attendees got to be extras.

Lots of other movies including Kiss Shot (featuring Whoopi Goldberg),  Larger Than Life (with Bill Murray), and Mad City (starring Dustin Hoffman and John Travolta traipsing ALL OVER San Jose) include scenes from San Jose as well, but I’ll let you schedule your own movie night to do those SJ sightings.

So Light ‘Em Up, Up, Up: Christmas Light Shows in San Jose

Even in the land of exorbitant rent and 24/7 work schedules, people are finding time and resources to spread Christmas joy that Buddy the Elf would be proud of.

If you’re looking for an evening of light gazing, you don’t have to drive far to do it. And in the “good will to men” department, several of these houses also give you the opportunity to donate to organizations like Make-a-Wish or collect food for Second Harvest Food Bank, among other charitable pursuits.

Grab your friends or kids, get out of the FRIGID 52-degree weather, and check out these displays in a neighborhood near you.

Obewan Christmas

Obewan

 

Where:

694 Alamo Drive

San Jose, CA 95123

 

Opportunities to give: Make-a-Wish Foundation

 

The deets:

Shows run 6:00 – 10:00 p.m. nightly in this neighborhood extravaganza with a stunning 32,000 lights synchronized to music. And they’re looking out for your freezing limbs too: songs featured in the show are broadcast on 92.9 FM, so you don’t have to leave the warmth of your car.

Christmas in San Jose!

ChristmasSanJose

 

 

Where:

1473 Glacier Drive

San Jose, CA 95118

 

 

The deets:

This light show operator admits to putting up “more than the average amount of lights” for nearly a decade of Christmas fun, and even goes into a year-by-year breakdown of what’s been added and updated since 2008. This year, he’s updated his “Pixel Megatree”; it now stands 25′ high with 2,160 pixels Shows run from 5:30 p.m. – 11:00 p.m. nightly.

 

Santa’s Carnival

SantaCarnival

 

 

Where:

1408 Kimberly Dr.

San Jose, CA 95118

 

Opportunities to give: Second Harvest Food Bank

 

The deets:

Watch for lights, inflatables, and a white picket fence—as if you could miss them— in this year’s Santa’s Carnival on Kimberly Drive.

 

The MegaTree

MegaTree

 

 

Where:

1683 Catalonia Way

San Jose, CA 95125

 

 

 

The deets:

It’s all about the tannenbaum in this display– a 25 foot tall tree with lights that bounce and dance and spiral to the music on 92.9 FM. The homeowners note, “Keep a close watch and you may even see Santa, Frosty, Rudolph, and other characters.”

 

Matto’s Orchard Lights

MattosLights

 

Where:

1545 Stone Creek Dr

San Jose, CA 95132

 

 

The deets:

This picturesque display spans over 1/3 acre of apricot trees and features over 72,000 LED lights. This one’s a walkthrough display with several “lands” to explore, including a candy shop, snowman land, and nativity scene. Shows run from 5:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m., and later closer to Christmas.

 

It’s my birthday, and I’ll have it in San Jose if I want to

TreatbotYou’ve done your birthday in SF, you don’t want to spend the money to do your birthday in Vegas, and in San Jose, well, it seems like your options are pretty dang limited.

Don’t resort to Denny’s! You can actually have a birthday that you WANT to talk about on social media right here in San Jo. Here are some of our picks for what to do:

 

HayesHayes Mansion: History and a Hefeweizen

The second best mansion in San Jose (it’s hard to beat Sarah W’s place), is Hayes Mansion. The former home of Mary Hayes Chynoweth (a spiritualist and close personal pal of–you guessed it–Sarah Winchester), Hayes Mansion is now a gem of a hotel in South San Jose. Built in 1905, this place is loaded with history, including a library full of Mary’s favorite books, framed pictures of turn of the century San Jose, and a secret speakeasy you can access via a secret elevator. (We’ll let you discover that one on your own). Palm Plaza Lounge, the bar on the property, has a gorgeous, large outdoor patio area with heat lamps, sofas, and live entertainment on weekends.

 

4thstreet4th Street Bowl: For something completely different

Do you enjoy bowling? Do you equally enjoy singing? How about dancing to generic ‘90’s beats? Then 4th Street is the place for your annual shindig. A combination bowling alley/karaoke bar/club, it is a truly memorable (and weird) experience that you have to try at least once…and possibly only once.

 

MonopolyMonopoly in the Park: For a record-setting birthday

Joey Chestnut isn’t the only record-setter of note in San Jose. We are also home to the largest Monopoly board in the world, a 930- square foot Guinness World Record holder you can rent out for your birthday. Play the game with larger-than-life dice, giant token hats, black and white stripes for unfortunate “go directly to jail” cards, and more.

 

sanpedrosquaremarketlightingSan Pedro Market: Lots of food, plenty of alcohol, and a really, really old house

With more than 20 unique vendors selling food, beverage, and trinkets in the shadow of the oldest residence in San Jose (the 219-year-old Peralta Adobe), you’ll be able to make everyone on your b-day guest list happy here. Check the calendar of events for live music, and be sure to visit our friends at Treatbot Karaoke Ice Cream for a perfect birthday dessert from a San Jose original.

 

campoCampo di Bocce: Bocce ball if you’re feeling old; Fireball if you’re still feeling young

Okay, okay, it’s TECHNICALLY Los Gatos, but we couldn’t leave this place off the list. Just when you thought bocce ball was just for bored people at parks, Campo’s got food, alcohol, and a super competitive environment: all the ingredients for a perfect birthday (assuming you’re on the winning team).

Hicks Road: Haunted or Hyped?

hicksAs a YA reader in the ‘90’s and In honor of the Goosebumps movie (coming to a theater near you in October!) I wanted to cover a topic that has been the fodder of many a San Jose sleepover story: Hicks Road.

Situated alongside Almaden Quicksilver County Park, Hicks Road has become legendary in San Jose for all the wrong reasons. If you even mention it in driving directions, you’ll get a “oh hayyyllllllll no” response and a request for a different route. Hearing the stories about what makes Hicks Road so dang creepy might turn you as ghostly white as the albinos rumored to inhabit the area. Which leads me to the first piece of Hicks Lore.

The Albinos

There’s said to be a community of albinos (in some versions of the story, Satanic albinos) on Hicks that are rather wary of visitors. They reside in what people have spun as either harmless “small trailer homes” or “creepy huts,” once you turn right at a fork in the road onto a no-through street. While hard evidence of their hostility towards “out-of-streeters” is a bit hard to come by, there are some favorite anecdotes, for instance, this gem:

“He was coming after us in his Jeep…my buddy got a good look and said he was hella’ white.”

…or one brilliant skeptic who simply asserts:

“I personally do not believe in albinos.”

Oh NorCal.

The Devil’s Door

…is a giant rock. With a door painted on it.

The Movie

San Jose, perhaps desperate for a solidly great urban legend, has seen stories of Hicks Road perpetuate through several decades. And its influence has even made it to the silver screen. Several college students produced a short Blair Witch-style movie called—appropriately— Hicks Road in 2009. Here’s the plot summary:

The urban legend of Hicks Road has captured the minds and thoughts of many residents in San Jose, California. And especially the imagination of four college students that grew up hearing the story again and again. These four curiosity seekers attempt to find out what is really going on in the shadows of Hicks Road. But little do they know that what lies ahead will haunt and change them for the rest of their lives…

 

It may not be The Hills Have Eyes, but it’s something.

The Threatening Motorists in Cars That Are, Like, WAY Faster Than Yours

One of our own Searchlighters had a late-night experience on Hicks that left him convinced that the hype is true. Here’s his version of the story:

It was a dark and stormy night, or at least, 15 years later in my mind it was.  As bored South San Jose teenagers we were sick of roaming the halls of Oakridge, sitting outside of Starbucks, or killing time at the Cardinal Lounge so we decided to go for some real adventure – a trip on Hicks Road.  About five minutes after turning onto the road an old busted up pickup truck raced up behind our car.  The driver flashed his high beams multiple times so we assumed he simply wanted to pass.  We pulled off into the first turn off and the truck slammed on its breaks behind us, high beams still shining bright and the driver opened his door and exited carrying a large object which in our retellings of the story has been everything from a shotgun to a fishing pole. The screams from our vehicle could be heard from Quicksilver park to Old Almaden and we hit the gas and raced off of Hicks as quickly as possible.  Was he albino?  Hard to tell.  Was he Satanic?  I suppose it’s possible.  Was he a poor local who lives off of Hicks and hates having teenagers who are terrible drivers and likely up to nefarious activities roaming around his neighborhood?  Probably yes but on that fateful night he was only one thing; our worst nightmares. 

HicksRoad

The Road Itself

As the paved road gives way to dirt, abandoned cars, sketchy messages on cardboard, and people threatening you with shotguns make Hicks, well, potentially “less-than-friendly.” And maybe not where you want to teach your teenager to drive.

If you want to brave the road, just get on Camden from 85 and head for the hills. It might turn out to be no big deal. It might turn out to be the stuff nightmares are made of.

But ultimately, the way I see it, how scary can a road that scales a hill called “Mt. Umunhum” be?