Get ready for a tour of San Jose unlike any other.
Local author Cassie Kifer — who published “Secret San Jose: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure” — has done it again.
In “San Jose Scavenger,” Cassie delves deep into the hidden treasures of the great 408, giving us playful riddles and rhymes to learn about notable San Jose landmarks, eateries, art, and more.
Today, we’re sharing new things we learned about various spots on the hunt.
Stop 1: The Mexico Theater
The line that clued us in: “First called Mayfair and later the Esquire/With this unique, cylindrical tower.”
This theater did indeed go through a few name changes after opening in 1949 before settling on “Mexico Theater” in 1980. It has been closed to patrons since the mid-1990s, but its Streamline Moderne style still makes it stand out on East Santa Clara Street.
There were talks of reviving this piece of architectural history by making it into a live entertainment music venue with a cafe and art gallery, but it remains vacant to this day.
Stop 2: Popular Bakery
The line that clued us in: “Crafting sweet round tarts with a lovely sheen/In flavors of almond, orange, or bean.”
This Portuguese-owned bakery has been a community mainstay for over 30 years. It is hailed as one of the must-try spots in the Bay Area for Portuguese egg custards, or pastéis de nata. And it won’t break the bank — enjoy lemon, bean, or coconut tarts for $1.50 each.
Pro tip: This spot bakes fresh bread daily — so grab the papo secos (Portuguese rolls) and don’t forget cash.
Stop 3: La Placita Tropicana
The line that clued us in: “Find this site at a key intersection/For car clubs, activists, and celebration.”
What’s a more popular San Jose intersection than Story and King Road? That’s where the popular shopping plaza, La Placita Tropicana, has lived since the 1960s. It’s an iconic meet-up spot for the lowrider community, and this year, the San Jose Quakes even came here to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.
The East Side SJ retail destination features art of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a powerful symbol to Mexican identity and faith. The glass mosaic can be easy to miss, but sits to the left of the seafood restaurant, Cajun Crack’n.
Curious for more? Head to our Q+A with author Cassie Kifer to learn more about her writing process and SJ faves.