With its repurposed forest-green wine bottle chandeliers, exposed brick and cement walls, and cultivated Cali-Euro bistro cuisine, SP2 Communal Bar + Restaurant, adjacent to San Pedro Square in the spot once loudly occupied by Sabor, has positioned itself as a little slice of the San Francisco dining scene in the South Bay.
“There’s a need for this here,” says Ben Schwartz, spokesman for the just-opened restaurant. “San Jose is either super upscale or super trendy. There’s not much in between.”
SP2 meets in the middle, between Silicon Valley’s range of restaurant chains and quadruple dollar-sign steakhouses, offering up casual yet sophisticated fare that’s moderately priced (up to $8 for sides and $15 to $24 for an entree).
The look and feel seems transplanted from that city to the north because the menu and management actually are. Those sticky-sweet ginger and soy-glazed baby back ribs that slide cleanly off the bone are the same creation that garnered chef Ola Fendert critical acclaim. It’s a recipe the Stockholm native first invented for staff at his almost-eponymous S.F. eatery, Oola. SP2 imported it with Fendert to San Jose, where it’s served for a half rack or full ($12 and $24, respectively) alongside a small heap of apple red-cabbage coleslaw.
Side dishes include slender-cut truffle oil fries topped with a crisped-up web of thinly grated parmesan.
The bar, a striking beam of polished wood, is a prominent visual fixture, and offers a setting to complement an array of appealing cocktails. Bartenders finish off a cucumber basil gimlet with a slap-bruised basil leaf floating on top—the basil releases an herbal aroma with each sip. Simple syrup for all the cocktails is mixed daily with fresh ingredients, including the jalapeno-ginger tincture that heats up the Cool Spice Squared, a muddled-cucumber-gin-and-lime drink poured over ice in a Collins glass.
SP2’s ambience alone should attract walk-in customers—some of the 12,000 or so that visit San Pedro Square on a weekly basis. Communal tables in the middle of the space allow guests to dine in large groups or with strangers. Natural light streams from skylights in the vaulted ceiling and a massive sliding glass door opens to live music from San Pedro Square’s open-air stage—a backstage pass.
It’s a dramatic departure from Sabor. Instead of the club’s cordoned-off patio, the new restaurant leaves it open. An outdoor bar serves guests seated on low-to-the-ground white-cushioned wood benches. Terrariums, gnarled driftwood, cacti and the occasional pop of orange flowers accent the decor inside and out, giving it an earthy California vibe. Schwartz boasts of it as the best patio in San Jose.
SP2 Communal Bar + Restaurant
72 N. Almaden Ave., San Jose (adjacent to San Pedro Square).