Tenes: East San Jose is the gem of the city
A file photo of the Alum Rock area in East San Jose. Photo courtesy of Steven Martinez, South Bay Visions.

I’ve got a bone to pick that SJ Today didn’t even consider East San Jose as one of the best neighborhoods in San Jose.

First of all, we have all of the best parks in San Jose — Emma Prusch Farm, Overfelt Chinese Cultural Gardens, Lake Cunningham, just a little further up is Grant Ranch Park and the grand dame of them all Alum Rock Park, which just celebrated its 150th anniversary. Any hiker, biker, walker or stargazer will tell you these are some of the best nature spots in San Jose to visit.

Other attractions and amazing places to visit is the Sikh Gurdwara San Jose which is the largest Sikh temple outside of India. Lake Cunningham’s Action Skate Park at 68,000 square feet is California’s largest skatepark and Raging Water’s 23 acre lot with a 350,000 gallon wave pool makes it Northern California’s largest waterpark. Then there is Lick Observatory, the world’s first permanently occupied mountain-top observatory in service since the 1880s and at one time had the Earth’s largest refracting telescope.

And food? Come on. Taco & Pho lovers will rejoice at the options on every corner, not to mention authentic food from every country in the world. San Jose institutions Peter’s Bakery founded in 1936 is the originator of Burnt Almond Cake, Mark’s Hot Dogs’ orange dome drive-up has been serving up classic dogs since 1936 and Antipasto’s has been lovingly making the best raviolis in San Jose since 1987. I’m not even going to pick one Panaderia to mention or conchas and tortas may start flying.

The truth is most of the food trends start in mom-and-pop shops then cross town where you’ll get half the portion for twice the price on a fancy plate.

And if you’re looking for upscale options you can’t beat the Grandview Steakhouse with great food and a stunning view of the valley and both Acopio and El Portal Cocina have chef-inspired Mexican cuisine in a modern setting. Since I am claiming everything east of the 101, I must include Adega, which is the only Michelin star restaurant in San Jose.

Eastside lifestyle ranges from golfing and dining at San Jose Country Club where generations of San Joseans have been members since 1899. At least three generations of lowriders have cruised Story and King and parks to show off their pristine classic cars. And where else can you see Rancheros on their beautiful horses going to the local mercado? Yes, we still have honest-to-goodness ranches in the East foothills.

And speaking of animals, we still see and hear wildlife in these parts. Song birds chirping, soaring eagles and prancing deer. On occasion you’ll have a sighting or hear an owl, coyote, bobcat or wild boar. On the downside, every once in awhile you’ll catch a whiff of the distinctive scent of a skunk.

Finally, it is the generations of families and the diversity of cultures that live here that make it so special. You will never find people anywhere in this city with more pride for their neighborhood than an East San Josean.

Darlene Tenes is a longtime East San Jose community leader and activist.

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