Sunday, January 12, 2014

Toddler Favorites: San Pedro Square Market, Downtown San Jose


San Pedro Square Market is one of my favorite finds in San Jose in recent years -- exactly the type of thing downtown needs to become more of a destination for visitors of all ages. Make a trip out of it, or just visit for a meal before heading to one of the other fun activities in the downtown area.

What is it?

The Market consists of two converted warehouse-ish buildings that house a dozen yummy restaurant outlets (crepes, burgers, pizza, falafel, Vietnamese food, sushi, oysters, Mexican food and chocolate goodies, just to name a few); two full bars, plus a wine bar and a beer emporium of sorts; various shops and gourmet food vendors (cheeses, meats, etc.); and a large courtyard in between, which hosts live music every weekend. 

Why is it toddler-friendly?

We've found SPSM to be very toddler-friendly primarily because of the range of restaurants available -- food for every toddler's palate -- and the fact that you order at a counter and pick up your food (no slow servers or extended waits for the bill).

Toddler X has really enjoyed sharing Mommy's meals from the Vietnamese place (teriyaki salmon and spring rolls are a hit); Pizza Bocca Lupo (the pizzas and the caprese salad are fantastic); and Robee's Falafel. Creparis sells Greek yogurt and Go Go Squeeze pouches if your toddler isn't into more exotic fare. One thing to note: while Loteria Taco Bar has delicious food, much of it is SUPER hot, and not necessarily toddler-friendly. Toddler X loves spicy food, but this proved too much for him (and for Mommy too). 

Another toddler plus: while you wait for your food, there's space for a wiggly toddler to move around in the courtyard between the two buildings. This is obviously more true during less busy hours of the day -- if you come at dinnertime on a Saturday, open space may be hard to come by.



There are ample tables at the Market and we *usually* are able to find a high chair (big tip: high chairs are usually stacked in the courtyard outside the door nearest Pizza Bocca Lupo or inside the main building, to the right of CaliDog -- if you don't see one, ask a staff member). Bellano Coffee, a tasty gourmet coffee place where they make drip coffee one cup at a time and the lattes are fantastic, can give you a boost of energy after a sleepless toddler night. Best of all, there is a permanent version of the legendary TreatBot food truck (http://www.treatbot.com). If you haven't been there yet -- well, it's time to go. Try the 408 special. 

We've only taken Toddler X on a weekend music night once, but he really enjoyed it. While the hipster crowd is in full force, there are lots of families with kids too, and several kids were dancing around in the dirt area in front of the stage. It's a fun place to go with a couple of other families -- no bills to split, everyone gets the food they like, and you can take off when the various toddler bedtimes (or meltdowns) approach.

The Market is catering to the toddler crowd with their weekly Music and Movement classes, facilitated by the kind folks from the King Library downtown (the main branch of the San Jose Public Library). The classes are for ages 1-5 and take place Tuesdays from 10:30-11:30. We like to go to the class, then grab lunch afterwards with our toddler buddies.

Logistics: 

Hours: Most of the restaurants open at 11 am, 7 days a week. However, Creparis and Bellano Coffee open earlier (8 am and 7 am, respectively), so if you want to try the Market when it's relatively empty and there's lots of toddler space, visit for breakfast/brunch on Saturday or Sunday. And if you're particularly frazzled due to typical toddler behavior, good news -- the bar opens at 11, and the bloody marys look fantastic. What's a little tantrum after a mimosa or two?

The restaurants are open all day, with most closing at 9 pm or later, so lunch and dinner are great (but more crowded) options too. 

Parking: Park in the garage on San Pedro Street directly across from the Market. Parking is free with validation, and you don't actually need to buy anything to get validated. The little validation machine is located at the far right end of the bar in the main building -- just stick your ticket in (you can do it yourself) and you're all set! 

Tip: Wait until you're ready to leave before you validate. The validations only cover you for 10 or 15 minutes after you punch the ticket -- after that point, they start charging again (as I learned at my last visit when I ended up having to pay $1 upon exiting the garage). 

One more tip: Each restaurant in the main Market building has a water dispenser and cups on their front counter. They don't seem to mind if you fill up without ordering food at that particular restaurant. Several of the places have flavored waters -- the Vietnamese restaurant's is my favorite.

For more information, visit http://www.sanpedrosquaremarket.com. 

Happy toddling!

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