Air travel is expensive. Try a mental trip out of town at one of these distinctive San Jose restaurants.

Grand Century Mall food court
I’ve never been to Vietnam, but I bet parts of it feel like Grand Century Mall, especially the food court. Stall after stall serves different kinds of Vietnamese specialties to an appreciative crowd of Vietnamese natives. My favorite is Dinh Cong Trang, purveyor of big, lacy banh xeo, vegetable, shrimp and pork stuffed crepes.

Henry’s Hi Life
It’s hard to say what the dining room of Henry’s Hi Life looks like. An old lodge? A grandmother’s rambling dining room? San Jose 100 years ago? Whatever it is, Henry’s is one of a kind and a definite respite from the ordinary.

A mai tai, an order of Spam masubi and some polynesian visuals works wonders on your sensory perception. Hukilau is as close as you’re going to get to Hawaii without heading to SJC and flying west.

Le Papillon
In addition to the outstanding modern French food, one of the amazing things about Le Papillon is once you park your car, open the restaurant’s door and leave busy Saratoga Avenue behind you enter another world, one of comfortable elegance and style that is far away from where you were before you stepped inside.

Metro Balderas
Le Papillon and Metro Balderas are worlds apart in more ways the one. Metro Balderas on Alamden Avenue feels like you’ve been riding the subway in Mexico City and popped up to find a taqueria specializing in Mexico City street food. Which is fitting given the place is named after a metro stop on the city’s subway and they serve a straight outta DF menu of street snacks.