The annual spring cleaning ritual is not unique to any one culture or religion. There’s the yearly Iranian tradition known as the “shaking of the house,” and the Jewish practice of getting the kitchen spick-and-span before Passover, and more. Any productive tidying session will inevitably reveal items that can be discarded to make way for the new. It is also likely to unearth some forgotten gems. Reviewing the South Bay’s constantly evolving menu of restaurants reveals many old standbys that deserve continued devotion, as well as plenty of new nosh spots that are sure to eventually become treasured and trustworthy family favorites.

Old & Faithful

Los Altos Grill
233 Third St, Los Altos
The Los Altos Grill (formerly known as Bandera) has been quietly serving up some of the best wood-grilled steaks and chops in the South Bay since 1996. The elegant wood interior and open kitchen—complete with an open flame—is the perfect setting for a romantic evening. The prime rib ($38) is aged, slow-roasted on the bone and expertly seasoned.

Happy Hound
15899 Los Gatos Blvd, Los Gatos
For nearly 50 years The Happy Hound has been the go-to spot for folks in the South Bay to get an all-American hot dog with “snap.” Dogs were all they served until 1987. That year they went out on a limb and began grilling burgers. They nearly closed after a closet fire in 2011, but reopened after a few grueling hot dog-less months. The eponymous Happy Hound ($4) comes out with red onions, tomatoes and a pillow-soft bun. Combine with a real ice cream shake and you’ll be in hound heaven.

247 Hamilton Ave, Palo Alto
Located on the bottom floor of the Cardinal Hotel, this Tuscan original has been serving up classic Italian fare for more than 30 years. Since its purchase almost three years ago by Giuseppe and Mauricio Carrubba, most of Osteria’s produce, beef and eggs come from its own Grandview Farms. The carpaccio app ($15.50)—with its thinly sliced, house-raised beef—is simply divine, and any of their veal dishes should be listed on every check.

Falafel’s Drive-In
2301 Stevens Creek Blvd, San Jose
In the San Jose dining landscape, there is a handful of iconic locations that every true native resident has eaten at over the years, and Falafel’s Drive-In is certainly one of them. It’s been in the current location since 1966. While Falafel’s does serve up other Middle Eastern fare—like kebabs, dolmas, foul, baba-ghanouj, hummus and gyros—I always find myself sticking to the namesake deep-fried balls of garbanzo goodness. The classic combo of a large falafel sandwich and banana shake ($10) might be the best one-two veggie-friendly punch in the South Bay. Add-on an order of za’atar-laden pita chips ($3) and you’ll really be in for a Middle East feast.

Vung Tau
535 E Santa Clara St, San Jose
Vung Tau first opened in 1985 as a tiny, 12-table eatery on San Carlos Street. It became so popular that the restaurant soon moved to its current, larger digs on East Santa Clara Street. Fast forward more than 30 years and the once-humble bistro now sports three locations—as well as a Palo Alto offshoot, Tamarine—and is even Zagat-rated. Vung Tau serves traditional Vietnamese fare, but in a fancy, white-tablecloth environment that’s diametrically opposed to the typical pho house. The Canh Cha Cá Bông Lau ($19.50) is a tamarind-based catfish soup that has an unctuous sweet and salty base. Th popular Bò Lúc Lắc ($18.50), also known as shaking beef, comes out fork tender with the larger pieces cooked perfectly medium-rare.

Instant Classics

1614 Alum Rock Ave, San Jose
San Jose’s only Michelin-starred restaurant continues to shine in 2018. Chefs David Costa and Jessica Carreira specialize in elevating little-known Portugese fare, with such stunning dishes as Polvo à Lagareiro (oven-roasted octopus) and the classic Bacalhau à Λdega (pan-seared cod). They offer three course prix-fixe menus ($79/per), but for a real treat, splurge and get the seven course chef’s tasting menu ($120/per) for an epic culinary adventure.

Brown Chicken Brown Cow
397 E Campbell Ave, Campbell
Though it’s been open less than five years, Brown Chicken Brown Cow has quickly risen to the top of South Bay burger lists—including a recent win in Metro’s 2018 Best of Silicon Valley survey. BCBC’s crispy prosciutto burger ($12) comes with a sublime triple crème brie and a soft yet sturdy bun. Combine any order with green garlic fries ($6) and be prepared for the impending vampire apocalypse. The grass-fed beef and cage-free chicken are another reason diners can feel good about eating here.

Our House
185 Park Ave Ste 189, San Jose
This downtown lunchtime favorite has one of the better menus around, but limited hours (Monday through Friday 11am–2:30pm) makes them a tough act to catch. Our House’s menu is chef-driven and contains mostly organic ingredients sourced from within a 500-mile radius of the kitchen. Despite the high-end ingredients, prices are quite reasonable. The American wagyu burger ($19) and foie fries ($9) will please high-end food connoisseurs without breaking the bank. Our House’s menu changes seasonally. The latest edition features grilled, grass-fed short ribs ($18) and an organic braised leg of lamb ($17).

Luna Mexican Kitchen
1495 The Alameda, San Jose
To make a city that isn’t exactly hurting for Mexican cuisine stand up and take notice isn’t easy. But that’s what Luna Mexican Grill has achieved. The husband-and-wife team of John Lopez and Jo Lerma-Lopez take top-shelf ingredients, combine them to make authentic recipes and add a blend of modern décor—with a touch of south-of-the-border flair—to create one of the hippest new communal dining eateries around. The bacon-wrapped camarones ($14) come with Oaxacan cheese and make for a savory starter. Luna’s mixed grill ($52-$169) comes comes with handmade tortillas and in a variety of sizes to suit small and large parties. Choose from carnitas, garlic shrimp, steak, ribs, bacon-wrapped shrimp, jalapeño sausage and adobo chicken. Be sure to add on a tequila-based cocktail for a well-rounded meal.

The Voya Restaurant
1390 Pear Ave, Mountain View
Voya’s drab strip-mall exterior hides a magnificent juxtaposition to its interior of glitzy chandeliers, an open kitchen and dazzling marble bar. To go along with the fancy digs, The Voya offers up fine South American cuisine, from tapas and ceviches to seafood stews. The cochinita pibil ($25) is a Yucatan-style braised pork served with plantains, pickled onions, queso fresco and cilantro rice. The wild Corvina sea bass fillet ($29) is another popular item and is served with a citrus vinaigrette-infused mango salad.