Jorge Gomez’s followers on Instagram already knew where to get some of the best pho, barbeque and pizza in San Jose from his mouth-watering reviews. Gomez wondered if he could take his shout outs to the next level and help local eateries.
He decided to survey his 66,000 social media followers to find out. When 80% said they’d be willing to contribute to help a local restaurant, San Jose Food Club was born.
Gomez transformed his Instagram page that featured jokes to a community page with news, media, memes and food. He built a website and selected his first restaurant to highlight: Jackie’s Place at 840 N. First St. in San Jose’s Japantown.
“The food club focuses on local businesses that don’t get enough recognition, have good food, seating and are well thought of,” he said. “That was for sure Jackie’s Place.”
Gomez, who goes by @SanJoséFoos on Instagram and Twitter, wants to increase foot traffic at mom and pop restaurants. The food club selects a restaurant, and on a predetermined day the eatery creates a specialty menu. Tickets are sold online in advance and meal prices are fixed.
At Jackie’s Place, it will cost $50 a plate. Plates at other venues will vary in cost from $30-$50, each including an appetizer, entree, beverage and dessert.
Jackie’s Place will offer a choice of black salmon with Cajun seafood king sauce on a bed of rice or mashed potatoes, southern-style smothered beef short ribs, collard greens and artichoke-stuffed chicken over yellow rice and Not your Mamma’s Meatloaf; a vegan item with mashed potatoes. Each entrée includes a beverage like beer or a specialty cocktail and dessert.
Owner Jacquelyn “Jackie” Jackson is excited to create a special menu.
“We get to showcase what’s not on the menu, but in the soul food family,” she told San José Spotlight. “I’m an artist. I’m super excited about that event. It will be a new opportunity.”
The event will take place on March 19. Seatings are available for lunch or dinner, and tickets are available on Gomez’s website.
San Jose Food Club is still in is fledgling stage, growing out of food competitions Gomez held on Instagram for everything from who has the best donuts to favorite Mexican and pho restaurants.
“We’ve been able to pack places out,” he said. “I thought, why don’t we start a food club where we can all go together?”
Gomez is lining up other locations for the food club, including Last Round Pizza located downtown at 354 E. Santa Clara St., which he proclaims has the best pizza in San Jose. He also plans to highlight El Mazatlezo at 782 N. 13th St., which he said “hands down” serves the best mariscos (seafood), and best Mexican food in general. He’s also planning ongoing shout outs for Culture Night Market events, which feature vendors, food trucks and live music.
His rationale for selecting these first three is simple: “Good food, good people and they’re locals in the community. That’s why we chose them first,” he said.
And he’s not stopping with the traditional. Another locale Gomez supports is Circle-A Skateboards and Coffee, located at 108 Paseo de San Antonio in downtown San Jose. He said owner Bob Schmelzer, who designed the skateboards featured on the wall, deserves as much love as he can get.
Circle-A manager Joel Montoya said the business is a communal hub where skateboarders are welcome.
“There are not that many places we can go and feel totally welcome and hang out,” he told San José Spotlight.
Gomez envisions empowering neighborhoods through their support of local small businesses.
“I’m just trying to show people places they can go to help the community,” he said. “Economically, it’s better to keep the money flowing here. If your neighbors are winning, you’re winning. It’s spreading love. Power to the people.”
Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected]