Mini City Guide: San Jose, CA

July 5, 2021

Black Population: 2.9% 

San Jose, California. The city of Silicon Valley. Home of the techies, year-round sun, and Earthquakes. No, not those earthquakes, these Earthquakes. Nestled in the south part of the San Francisco/Bay Area, affectionately known as the South Bay, if you are Black and find yourself here, you only need to ask two questions: 

“How did I end up in San Jose?” and “Where are all of the Black people?” 

The answer to the first question might prove harder than the second. Black people have been leaving San Jose for decades as the tech boom has catapulted housing prices to astronomical levels. Gentrification is in full effect, and homelessness has reached crisis levels. Black communities of San Jose have continued to disappear as people have found more solace in cities like Houston and Atlanta, where a three-bedroom house won’t cost you $1M. 

There are, however, a few of us still around the area. And if you happen to find yourself in the heart of the valley for a few days or so, take a gander at this little guide to get yourself started on how to have fun and stay Black. 

Places to Eat

I am only listing Black restaurants with one exception. Some people will tell you that the South Bay has a great food scene. To that, I say “meh.” The diversity of food is amazing, and there are some excellent Indian, Asian, and Mediterranean food spots. But as a whole, I have definitely been more whelmed than overwhelmed. So if you’re visiting, check out these Black food spots before you bounce. 

Jackie’s Place – @jackiesplacesj

This is a must-have. Jackie’s is THE BEST soul food spot in this area. Hands down. You want good fried chicken? Got that. You want bomb mac & cheese? Got that too. In the mood for chicken and waffles? Got that too. You want red Kool-aid? You know it. Jackie’s Place is close to downtown, perfect for a quick return to your hotel once the post-brunch itis hits. 

Jubba Somali Restaurant – Yelp 

Have you ever had authentic Somali food? I didn’t think so. Well, it’s ok; Jubba has you covered. Located in south San Jose near Oakridge Mall, Jubba offers very little in terms of ambiance, location, or any frills. But none of that matters. This food is ridiculous, and you get a ton of it for $12-$15. As you can imagine, in a city with only a couple Black people per 100, food from the Diaspora isn’t abundantly plentiful. So when you find flavors this delectable, you go there, fast. 

Le You – @leyouethiopian

Let me be clear, there are some really dope Ethiopian spots in this city. Walia, Gojo, and Kategna are all contenders for tops in the city, as decided by my wife. But my undefeated champion is Le You. For starters, they are near downtown, which is always a plus. Secondly, they have draft beer, which isn’t always readily available at most East African restaurants. Thirdly, their food is just darn good. The lamb is cooked to perfection, as is everything else. Again, while I love Le You, you can’t really go wrong with any of these places. 

Back A Yard Caribbean Grill – @backayardgrill

Another downtown spot. Another winner. Backayard features jerk everything and some of the best fruit juices you’ll ever taste. If you are from the Caribbean, or you live somewhere where island food is plentiful, you might be skeptical that San Jose boasts great Jamaican food, but the 4.5 rating on Yelp should tell you that at the very least, this is somewhere you need to check out. And I’ll bet you a mango-passion fruit juice that you won’t be disappointed. 

Claw Shack – @clawshack

Claw Shack gets the nod as the one non-Black restaurant that makes the list. Why? Because it’s delicious. I didn’t know that the Bay area was the land of the seafood boil restaurant, but they are everywhere. So how do you distinguish which one to patronize? You don’t. You trust me and go to Claw Shack. You get the boil with the head-on shrimp combo (it’s cheaper with the head-on, and you can tear it off yourself) with the corn, potatoes, and sausage, king crab, all with the shambalang sauce. Add some cajun fries and garlic noodles, and let all of your cares float away to the wind. 

Black Places to visit

San Jose African American Community Service Agency – @sj_aacsa

The SJAACSA, or more affectionately known as “The Agency” is quite possibly the most amazing place in San Jose. It is a small but powerful epicenter of Blackness throughout the area. The Agency supports youth, adults, homeless, community orgs, college students, provides educational programming for kids, opportunities to attend sporting events, and hosts two of the biggest Black events in the city. Their annual Block Party is just a fun time literally on the block of 6th and Julian right in front of their building, and Juneteenth in the Park is the biggest Juneteenth celebration on the west coast. 

Nirvana Soul – @nirvanasoulcoffee

If you need your caffeine fix, this is the only place to go. Nirvana Soul is the newest Black business downtown, and it serves as much more than a coffee house. It is a home for Blackness in DTSJ, a space for love, conversation, and fellowship. If you come at the right time, you can take in any number of Black events while enjoying some of the best coffee in the city. 

Black Churches

We have a nice array of Black churches for a city with a sparse amount of melanated people. If you are like me and need to get your praise and worship on, take a Sunday to check out one of the churches below. They each offer a different feel and are special in their own unique ways. 

The Barbers Inc Barber Shop – @thebarbersinc

So you’ve found your way to the South Bay, and you’re asking yourself, “Why is my hair jacked, and how do I fix this?” Well, fear not my friend, The Barbers Inc. Barber Shop has you covered. With two locations, multiple barbers, and skills galore, they will turn your do-it-at-home special into a cut even your momma can be proud of. 

Things to see

Tommie Smith & John Carlos Monument at San Jose State University 

Before John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised a fist on the podium in Mexico City at the 1968 Olympics, they were sprinters on San Jose State University campus. An amazing monument was built in their honor in the middle of this downtown campus, and it is a must-see for all Black visitors. 

Photo cred: Joanne Ho-Young Lee/Mercury News

Other Places to Visit

San Pedro Square Market@spsmarket

This gem is one of the best places in San Jose. An open market with bars, eateries, coffee shops, and outdoor seating with televisions, games, and community. Stop here before you step out for the night. Or if you’re with a group, this place is awesome because everyone can get the food they want, and checks never have to be split. 

Santa Cruz – @beachboardwalk

The only non-San Jose place to make my cut as a must-visit stop is the city of Santa Cruz, and more specifically, the beach. I’m not even a huge beach person, but Santa Cruz just has a ton to offer. It has scenery, good food, a fun boardwalk, and a beach that features both low-key and high-key areas. Unlike east coach beaches, Santa Cruz is between, in, and on mountains, so the terrain and views are unlike what you will get everywhere. Take a day to venture out of SJ and make the 35-minute drive to Santa Cruz. You’ll be happy that you did. 

Other Stuff

San Jose Earthquakes Match – @sjearthquakes

If you are into soccer or just want to take in a sporting event for the evening, Paypal Park is the place to be. You can watch some Major League Soccer, or you can enjoy food trucks and the largest outdoor bar in North America. 

Local Breweries

I like beer. You like beer too. San Jose is slowly becoming a brew powerhouse for the Bay Area. Here are some spots that you need to check out if you like a good variety from which to choose. 

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Creator + Founder of @BlackWifeLife. Champagne, Curls & Coffee.