There's no denying that Manresa—whose dish of kinmedai, Dungeness crab, and koji butter is pictured here—put Los Gatos on the map. (Photo by @gammanine, courtesy of @manresarestaurant)

Escape to Los Gatos: Destination Restaurants, Craft Beer + Sunny Days at the Park

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The picturesque town at the base of the Santa Cruz Mountains may be known for glitzy homes and even glitzier tasting menus, but it's also one of the most exciting Bay Area towns for exploring and feasting at all price points.

In fact, with just over 30,000 residents, Los Gatos has a surprising amount of cultural and natural sights worth noting. Yes, there is that gastronomic powerhouse you might have heard of called Manresa, but even before the Michelin-starred destination restaurant starting drawing worldwide attention, Los Gatos' had a pretty super dining scene. And even the most jaded San Francisco drinkers will find a mighty craft cocktail scene here, too.


It's easy to eat and drink all day in Los Gatos, but the nature game is also strong here with plenty of trails and parks for biking and walking off all that homemade bread and pinot noir. Follow our guide and enjoy one of the Bay Area's most happening suburbs.

Where to Eat in Los Gatos

Manresa

There's no denying it: Manresa put Los Gatos on the Bay Area map. Before chef David Kinch founded the game-changing, high-end Californian tasting menu in 2002, Los Gatos was just another sleepy, pretty South Bay community. But ever since Manresa's opening, Los Gatos has become a city that gourmands and Michelin star chasers from Boston to Bangkok dream of visiting for their fine dining bucket list. Some have called it The French Laundry of the South Bay, but that's undercutting what Kinch and his team have created, which is a completely unique and spectacular, elegant but not stuffy, invigorating and fresh experience. Each dish combines ingredients from the hills and waters of the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Pacific with the highest level of cooking techniques, yielding one of the globe's definitive locavore restaurants. The entry price is steep at $275 per person, but YOLO. // 320 Village Ln. (Los Gatos), manresarestaurant.com

Oak & Rye

Bay Area pizza nerds are well aware that Los Gatos has some of the region's finest wood-fired Neapolitan-style pies with pedigree. Pizza maestro Angelo Womack left Brooklyn's beloved hipster paradise Roberta's for this Los Gatos project, and his pies are idyllic with just the right puff and char to the crust, and cleverness to simplicity balance in choosing the toppings. Craft cocktails are the main sidekick, but frankly, sippers like the frothy Tum Raider (coconut-washed gin, spiced rum, falernum, and turmeric) are so good that maybe one day they'll get their own bar. // 303 N. Santa Cruz Ave. (Los Gatos), oakandryepizza.com

Nick's Next Door

When it comes to celebratory fancy dinners in Los Gatos for town residents, this is where the locals go. Nothing about the eclectic menu is particularly trailblazing, but every dish is satisfying in the way that chicken liver pâté with Cognac honey toast and duck confit with sausage cornbread are. The sleek black-and-white space has the same mature, artsy bent as the food. // 11 College Ave. (Los Gatos), nicksnextdoor.com

Lexington House

It's interesting how Downtown Los Gatos' top craft cocktail bars are all full-on sophisticated restaurants. Along with Manresa and Oak & Rye, Lexington House pours outstanding cocktails that will keep you there for a round or three after dinner. But, don't forget about dinner here—Lexington House serves seasonal, creative Californian fare without Manresa's price tag. The menu changes frequently, but make sure to focus on the playful small plates like hamachi crudo with avocado, nuoc cham, and Thai peanuts. // 40 N Santa Cruz Ave. (Los Gatos), thelexlg.com

The Bywater

While David Kinch is now synonymous with ambitious NorCal cooking and its seasonal emphasis, he always had the itch to cook the wonderful food of his hometown, New Orleans. The Bywater is his chance—and no, it's not Manresa with a NoLa twist. Opened three years ago, The Bywater is your go-to for French Quarter and Garden District classics like po' boys, gumbo ya-ya, beignets, and Sazeracs—with, of course, a careful touch and ingredients superior to anything you'll find on Bourbon Street. // 532 N Santa Cruz Ave. (Los Gatos), thebywaterca.com

Billy's Boston Chowder House

If Los Gatos' affection for lobster rolls and chowda' were any indication, you could be forgiven for thinking the city is full of Red Sox and Patriots fans (well it's partially true, see Loma Brewing below). Those two New England cuisine stalwarts are wicked good at this brick-walled restaurant that's decked out with the expected Boston sports banners but thankfully avoids the usual lobster-shack nautical design schtick. Beyond the three versions of lobster rolls, a platter of fried Ipswich clams, lobster Louies, and blueberry cobbler always do the trick of transporting us to a Cape Cod summer day. // 29 E Main St. (Los Gatos), bostonchowderhouse.com

PintxoPote

In San Sebastian, dinner is a moveable grazing event during which Spaniards sampli tapas and sangria from one spot to the next to the next. In Los Gatos, tapas grazing means just sitting and enjoying an evening at PintxoPote, just outside downtown. Look for more than a dozen classics—think tortillas, boquerones, and albondigas—all executed flawlessly. The all-Spanish wine and sherry list keep dinner going until Los Gatos calls it a night. // 424 N Santa Cruz Ave. (Los Gatos), pintxopote-tapas.com

The Pastaria

Los Gatos has a sizable population of good to excellent Italian spots. The best of the group for pasta is, ahem, The Pastaria. Homemade pasta, gnocchi, and meatballs make this destination a perennial hit. Even being in the tech center of the world, the vibe and intimate environs still feel very much like a countryside trattoria. The restaurant is nearing its 25th anniversary and seems as energized as ever. // 49 E Main St. (Los Gatos), thepastaria.com

Reggae Pot

Who knew Los Gatos has a great spot for Jamaican food? Seldom seen around the Bay Area, this island cuisine can be found in a strip mall behind a McDonald's on Los Gatos Boulevard (aka the city's other main street). The counter-service space is relaxed and doesn't have many elaborations beyond a map of Jamaica. It's the plantains, ackee and saltfish, and fiery jerk chicken that are deservedly the focus here. // 15495 Los Gatos Blvd. Suite D (Los Gatos), reggaepot.com

 Los Gatos’ Best Coffee Shops, Ice Cream & Snacks

Dough becomes edible art at Manresa Bread.

(Courtesy of Manresa Bread)

Manresa Bread

What Manresa is to fine dining, Manresa Bread is to bakeries. The flavors and forms of baked goods aren't overly complex. What is complex here is the process for head baker Avery Ruzicka to make such top-tier levain boules, giant walnut-filled whole wheat chocolate chip cookies, and croissants. After all, Manresa Bread mills its own flour at a nearby commissary in order to have superior breads and pastries. Clearly, it works. Three things to know: Unlike the brand's new cafe in Campbell, this original brick-and-mortar isn't a lunch spot. Come early or early-ish because the bakery closes at 3pm and often runs out of most goods before that. And finally, Los Gatos' coffee shop scene is exceedingly mediocre, so your best bet for third wave coffee latte art type drinks is here (Verve is the roaster). // 276 N Santa Cruz Ave. (Los Gatos), manresabread.com

Fleur de Cocoa

In Paris, patisseries are usually different from chocolatiers, and dessert seekers have to go to one then the other on a little treasure hunt. In Los Gatos, Fleur de Cocoa is doing it all, from exquisite chocolate mousse–based cakes to elegant tartes with various fruits. Then the French baking greatest hits continue: canelés, almond croissants, eclairs, millefeuilles…oh, and they make their own chocolates, too. You wonder if the staff ever gets any sleep! The petite, cheery cafe offers a small lunch menu of quiches and classic French sandwiches and salads. The coffee here is roasted by Verve and the espresso-based drinks are substantially better than at the actual coffee shops. // 39 N Santa Cruz Ave. (Los Gatos), fleurdecocoa.com

Tea on the Avenue

Whether it's matcha, kombucha, a London Fog latte, or a pot of Old Tree Yunnan, there's no doubt what stars at this newly opened spot in the heart of downtown. Two years ago, a mother-daughter team created Casablanca Teas, and decided to showcase their small-farm, loose-leaf teas from around the world in this contemporary-looking spot that feels more like a craft cocktail bar than the usual plush Victorian tea salon. Pastries and cookies are particularly special here, and a light lunch menu is available on weekends. // 155 N Santa Cruz Ave. (Los Gatos), teaontheavenue.com

Dolce Spazio Gelato

Nearing its fourth decade, Dolce Spazio is the first and final word when it comes to ice cream in Los Gatos. The parlor's smooth, dense gelato is some of the finest in the Bay Area, whether you go for a classic flavor like hazelnut or something different like bananas foster. The espresso isn't bad here either, making it a popular afternoon pick-me-up spot for a little sugar and caffeine rush. The interior is a bit dated, but we all know that great gelato doesn't need a hip vibe. // 221 N. Santa Cruz Ave. (Los Gatos), dolcespazio.com

BLVD Coffee

Los Gatos has a handful of classic coffeeshops that came a generation before the whole Insta-sleek cafe movement. BLVD is the only one worth going out of your way for since the coffee is substantially better than the others, while the vibe is decidedly non-Third Wave low-key and friendly. The shop, located away from downtown towards the 17 and 85 intersection, can feel like the unofficial community gathering spot at peak morning hours. BLVD's Cubano (espresso powered with cane sugar) is the signature drink, and there's a host of sandwiches, crepes, and baked goods from BLVD's San Jose bakeshop. // 15525 Los Gatos Blvd. (Los Gatos), blvdcoffee.com

Where to Drink in Los Gatos

A hazy IPA situation at Loma Brewing Co.

(Courtesy of Loma Brewing Company)

BREWERIES, BARS + LOUNGES

Loma Brewing Company

Brothers Scott and Kevin Youkilis made a name for themselves on opposite coasts in completely opposite ways. Scott is a long time Bay Area chef/restaurateur (remember Hog & Rocks and Maverick in SF?), and Kevin is beloved in New England for winning championships with the Boston Red Sox. The Sox fans even have their own greeting for him ("Yooouuuk!"). A few years ago they teamed up to take over the Los Gatos Brewing Co. and have created a brewpub juggernaut that hits the sweet spot for a place to drink with food that goes a little above and beyond your typical beer-friendly grub. Dishes such as duck two-ways, crawfish bucatini, and everything-bagel pretzels pair with outstanding brews. Somehow the venue manages to be popular with families, cougars on the prowl, Tinder dates, and sports bros all at once, making it an interesting, likeable place. Bonus points for the terrific adjacent coffee bar. // 130 N Santa Cruz Ave. (Los Gatos), lomabrew.com

Cin-Cin

If there was study of Los Gatos' most frequented date night spot, this wine-bar-lounge-restaurant would likely be the runaway winner. It's a feel-good place both for the consistently cheery vibe and how many of the wines come from biodynamic and/or sustainability-minded producers. You'll find the rare later-night happy hour on Fridays and Saturdays (9 to 11 pm). // 368 Village Ln. (Los Gatos), cincinwinebar.com

Jack Rose Libation House

In the mansion-filled countryside at the border of Los Gatos and Saratoga, Jack Rose is exactly what you'd imagine when the contemporary craft cocktail culture takes over a countryside roadhouse. It's truly a cocktail destination with a nice mix of spruced-up classics and thoughtful creations, and it's the kind of place that has its own bourbon blend and makes its own grenadine. Sunny days mean the patio gets flooded, while the main bar area is more hip-cozy. Regardless of the weather, the vibe is always chill, and the crowds adore the particularly great burger and flatbreads. // 18840 Los Gatos-Saratoga Rd. (Los Gatos), jackrosebar.com

Enoteca La Storia

It's easy to do the full-on dinner full of antipasti, pasta, and panini at this always upbeat hot spot. But Enoteca La Storia really shines when you leisurely make your way through the by-the-glass wine list, which excels at Italian varietals but also has a sneaky good selection from France and California. Pair with small bites like crostinis, burrata, and pork and beef polpette. // 416 N Santa Cruz Ave. (Los Gatos), enotecalastoria.com

Black Watch

If you're bar hopping in Los Gatos—which TBH is quite the curious concept—chances are high the last stop will be at downtown's beloved dive, which opened in 1959. Los Gatos' favorite place to let its hair down isn't exactly your normal dive, though, as it actually has a decent craft beer list, is more friendly than edgy, and feels even slightly refined with its stained glass window quirky Scottish knights theme. But let's not get carried away here: The bar's signature drink is the Kamikaze, which comes as a pitcher of vodka, lime juice, and triple sec. Bougey craft cocktail? Eh, no. Will it get the party started? You bet. // 141 N Santa Cruz Ave. (Los Gatos)


WINERIES + TASTING ROOMS

Left Bend Winery

While next-door neighbor Saratoga has several winery tasting rooms in its downtown, Los Gatos' wine spots are mainly unaffiliated with wineries. Left Bend is one of the exceptions, with a primo location pouring several varietals grown in the nearby hills and mountains. Like everyone in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Left Bend has chardonnay and pinot noir, but this is also the spot to understand how syrah, cabernet franc, and tempranillo do in South Bay and Monterey Bay climates. It's also the place to explore sparkling rosé Pét-Nat, an early bottled sparkling style that is so in fashion with natural winemakers around the world but is not often made in NorCal. // 346 N. Santa Cruz Ave. (Los Gatos), leftbend.com

Black Ridge Winery

A little planning ahead is required to check out the excellent wines of this producer near the Lexington Reservoir. Black Ridge is only open on Thursdays and the third weekend of the month. Yes, that's pretty precise scheduling, but these are indeed precise, beautiful wines. The estate vineyard where all of the grapes are sourced is three miles away from downtown and speaks of the region's history. It's pretty remarkable how such a small vineyard and operation can yield this diverse roster of fully realized wines, from viognier to malbec to pinot noir. // 18570 Black Rd. (Los Gatos), blackridgevineyards.com

Wright's Station Winery

Summit Road, high up in the Santa Cruz Mountains above Los Gatos, is full of wineries including many that are known all over NorCal (David Bruce, Burrell School). The best of the area's wineries is Wright's Station, a lesser-known gem with a great blend of superb wines, breathtaking patio, and a fun, don't-take-the-wine too seriously vibe. Pinot noir and Chardonnay are the stars here, like everywhere on Summit Road. By the way, cool history for the name: Wright's is a nearby ghost town that was built in the 1870s for the construction of the Summit Tunnel connecting Santa Cruz and the Santa Clara Valley. // 24250 Loma Prieta Ave. (Los Gatos), wrightsstation.com

Los Gatos' Best Parks + Hikes


Vasona Lake County Park

The 110-acre park just outside Downtown Los Gatos is the town's prominent green space where hikers, joggers, paddle boaters, and dogs all mingle happily together on frequent sunny days. There are abundant picnic areas and hiking trails, with the signature trail being the one that closely hugs most of the perimeter of Vasona Lake. Kids and kids at heart love the Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad and its real steam engine, and the adjacent Oak Meadow Park. The Billy Jones nonprofit also is responsible for the park's 106-year-old carousel. // 333 Blossom Hill Rd. (Los Gatos), sccgov.org

St. Joseph's Hill Open Space Preserve

Between downtown and Lexington Reservoir, the 1,253-foot hill rises majestically as part of the backdrop for almost every picture of Los Gatos. With trails winding around the various oak woodland, chaparral and grassland areas, St. Joseph's Hill is also one of the South Bay's (and 7x7's) favorite places to hike, bike, and ride horses. Most visitors park on the north side of the reservoir, then hike up the winding Manzanita and Novitiate trails to the hill's summit. Panoramic views are the reward. If you're up for a full-day adventure, take the Los Gatos Creek trail from downtown to the park, then head up the hill and catch your breath at the top before heading back to town. // Near 17201 Alma Bridge Rd. (Los Gatos), openspace.org

Lexington Reservoir

Most Bay Area residents know of the this vast reservoir as the place where traffic bogs down frequently on the 17, either coming from or going to Santa Cruz. So get out of the car and explore this beautiful area where Los Gatos Creek flows into the 450-acre lake created by the James J. Lenihan Dam. There are a few hikes around here and it's fun just to hang out by the water for a picnic. One of the best hikes is the Priest Hill climb from the reservoir's east side to the top of Mt. El Sombroso, a steep workout concluding with stunning South Bay and Santa Cruz Mountains views. // 17770 Alma Bridge Rd. (Los Gatos), sccgov.org

Los Gatos’ Best Shopping

She She Shoes

To quote one of the greatest movies of all time, the whole place looks like it's been hosed down in Pepto-Bismol. But in a nice way! One of Los Gatos' most beloved, and no doubt flashiest, boutiques, She She Shoes dabbles in both household-name designers such as Tory Burch and under-the-radar makers. Look for equally cute handbags, accessories, and jewelry. // 130 N Santa Cruz Ave. Suite D (Los Gatos), shesheshoes.com

Kitsch Couture

This boutique is Los Gatos' fashion maven go-to for pretty much anything trendy in the way of clothing, shoes, and accessories. Shop everything from silk dresses to hip jeans and Minnetonka moccasins. // 10 N Santa Cruz Ave. (Los Gatos), kitschcouture.com

French Theft Lingerie

The former Santa Cruz lingerie shop now calls Los Gatos home, and it's worth a visit just to enjoy the swank environs—think posh velvet sofa, flower arrangements, and mid-century modern art. The luxury lingerie selection is extensive, with brands including Lise Charmel, Adina Reay, and Samantha Chang. Personal bra fittings are available, too. Attention, guys: There's a fun Men's Shopping Guide on their website that will make you sound like a pro lingerie buyer. // 59 N Santa Cruz Ave. (Los Gatos), frenchtheftlingerie.com

The Library

Where do some of Silicon Valley's most well-dressed men find their apparel? For the non-hoodie crowd, that would be The Library. Owner Cristian Croll has the right eye to help guys find dress shirts, puffy foggy-weather jackets, and sharp shoes that balance being tony with functional. The shop itself is a bit of a guy's clubhouse with a dart board and TV lounge area for watching the Warriors while browsing denim. // 34 N Santa Cruz Ave. (Los Gatos), thelibrarylg.com

The Wooden Horse

For over 40 years, this kids' favorite store has been the address to know for all kinds of toys, dolls, children's books, puzzles, and curiousities. Located in a shopping plaza just off Los Gatos Boulevard, it's a town institution. Even adults can surely find a stuffed animal or puzzle to take home. // 796 Blossom Hill Rd. (Los Gatos), woodenhorsetoys.com

Where to Stay in Los Gatos

Hotel Los Gatos

The town's signature hotel is this 72-guestroom, Tuscan-villa-esque property just outside downtown. Along with the luxurious rooms, one of the city's finest restaurants (the Greek-Californian themed Dio Deka) and the city's leading spa (Verde Touch) can be found at the Hotel Los Gatos. It's a pet-friendly place and many of the rooms are wonderfully spacious with fireplaces and/or balconies. The deluxe touch extends outside with a made-for-Instagram pool and hot tub surrounded by palm trees, beautiful tile work, and no shortage of lounge chairs for enjoying days in the sun. // 210 E Main St. (Los Gatos), hotellosgatos.com

Toll House Hotel

In the heart of downtown, the 115 rooms and suites of the Toll House are winners for their comfortable-meets-refined look, all decorated in lighter, calmer colors meant to evoke the local environment and the nearby Santa Cruz Mountains. Amenities are a particular strength for the hotel—think hot stone massages, an indoor/outdoor fitness center, and a serene central courtyard. Rooms are a step below luxurious but are well-appointed and generously sized, especially the suites that sport living room-like sitting areas and fireplaces. The on-site restaurant, Verge, serves solid casual-creative food and drinks. Toll House is run by the MetWest Terra Group, who specializes in some of the region's top boutique mid-to-high end properties like The Lodge at Tiburon and Casa Madrona in Sausalito. // 140 S Santa Cruz Ave. (Los Gatos), tollhousehotel.com

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