San Jose’s N. 13th Street is one of my favorite streets in San Jose. It’s like a microcosm of the city itself. Once known as Old Oakland Road because it was the old road to Oakland, North 13th was first a Sicilian neighborhood and then evolved along with the rest of the city so that it now has businesses representing Mexican, Vietnamese, American and Italian culture. Today, it’s got a little bit of everything, restaurants, stores, homes and an appealing park. 

Local businesses have formed the Luna Park Business Association to represent the area. (Luna Park takes its name from an amusement park that used to stand near Highway 101 and North 13th Street.) To celebrate the neighborhood community and unique identity, the association is holding its fourth-annual Chalk Art Festival on Sept. 24, 10am-4pm, in Backesto Park. The event will feature talented chalk artists, live music, food booths and an opportunity for kids to create chalk art as well. The best way to get a sense of what the street is to get something to eat. Here are few of my favorite stops:

Chiaramonte’s Deli and Sausages
: The last vestige of the street’s Sicilian heritage. Owner Lou Chiaramonte’s Sicilian-born grandfather started this deli 100 years ago to serve the Italian neighborhood and travelers heading north. Back then, Chiaramonte’s was the place to go for fresh-made Italian sausage. It still is. Chiaramonte’s sells the sausage by the mile, shipping it as far as New York for people who just can’t go without it. The deli also makes great meatballs. 609 N. 13th St.; 408.295.0943.

El Sol Taqueria: Located in front of a Mexican market of the same name, this taqueria is somewhere between a taco truck and a more permanent structure. There are a few plastic tables out front under a canopy. Tortillas are made by hand, and the al pastor tacos are especially good. They’re just the right size and filled with marinated pork and roasted, sweet onions. If you want more on your taco, there’s a self-serve condiment bar with good red and green salsa, onions, limes and cilantro. 705 13th St., cash only.

Jalisco Restaurant: Goat soup doesn’t sound as good as it does in Spanish—birria de chivo. Birria is the specialty of the house at tiny Jalisco Restaurant. And special it is. It’s an acquired taste for some gringo tongues, but there is no better introduction to the soup than here. The soup, available in small and large bowls, is dark reddish brown and filled with bony chunks or rich, slow-cooked goat meat. It’s made with a myriad of spices and has a complex depth of flavor that had me spooning up the last drops. 693 N. 13th St.; 408.288.9437.

For more information about North 13 Street, the Luna Park Business Association and the Chalk Art Festival go to

Redwood City Salsa Festival
Also this weekend, Redwood City presents its fourth annual Salsa Festival (on Sept. 24). The event in the city’s revitalized downtown will feature live music on three stages, amateur and professional salsa cooking competitions, tequila tastings, a children’s play area, free art projects and food booths from local restaurants. For info, call 650.780.7340.