San Jose local launches food club to support small businesses

Jorge Gomez’s Instagram followers already knew where to find the best pho, barbecue and pizza in San Jose thanks to his mouth-watering reviews. Gomez wondered if he could take his shouting to the next level and help local restaurants.

He decided to survey his 66,000 social media followers to find out. When 80% said they would be willing to contribute to help a local restaurant, the San Jose Food Club was born.

Gomez transformed her Instagram page that featured jokes into a community page with news, media, memes and food. He build a website and chose his first restaurant to highlight: Jackie’s Place at 840 N. First St. in San Jose’s Japanese Quarter.

“The dining club focuses on local businesses that aren’t recognized enough, have good food, seating, and are well thought out,” he said. “It was for sure Jackie’s Place.”

Gomez, who goes by @SanJoséFoos on Instagram and Twitter, wants to increase foot traffic at mom and pop restaurants. The dining club selects a restaurant, and on a predetermined day, the restaurant creates a specialty menu. Tickets are sold online in advance and meal prices are fixed.

At Jackie’s Place, it will cost $50 a plate. Plates at other venues will run between $30 and $50, each including an appetizer, main course, drink, and dessert.

Jackie’s Place will offer a choice of dark salmon with Cajun seafood royale sauce on a bed of rice or mashed potatoes, southern-style smothered prime rib, collard greens and artichoke-stuffed chicken on yellow rice and not your mom’s meatloaf; a vegan item with mashed potatoes. Each entree includes a drink such as beer or a specialty cocktail and a dessert.

Owner Jacquelyn “Jackie” Jackson is thrilled to create a special menu.

“We get to showcase what’s not on the menu, but in the soul food family,” she told San José Spotlight. “I’m an artist. I’m super excited about this event. It will be a new opportunity.”

The event will take place on March 12. Seating is available for lunch or dinner, and tickets are available on Gomez’s website.

The San Jose Food Club is still in its infancy, spun off from the food competitions Gomez hosted on Instagram for everything from who has the best donuts to favorite Mexican and pho restaurants.

“We were able to pack the seats,” he said. “I thought, why not start a dining club where we can all go together?”

Gomez is lining up other locations for the dining club, including Last Round Pizza located downtown at 354 E. Santa Clara St., which he says has the best pizza in San Jose. He also plans to highlight El Mazatlezo at 782 N. 13th St., which he says serves “hands down” the best mariscos (seafood) and the best Mexican food in general. It also plans continued shoutouts for Culture Night Market events, which feature vendors, food trucks and live music.

His reasoning for choosing these top three is simple: “Good food, good people and they are local people in the community. That’s why we chose them first,” he said.

San Jose Food Club founder and Circle-A Skateboards and Coffee fan Jorge Gomez talks business with store manager Joel Montoya. Photo by Lorraine Gabbert.

And it doesn’t stop at the traditional. Another venue supported by Gomez is Circle-A Skateboards and Coffee, located at 108 Paseo de San Antonio in downtown San Jose. He said owner Bob Schmelzer, who designed the skateboards featured on the wall, is the greatest and deserves as much love as possible.

Circle-A director Joel Montoya says the company is a community hub where skateboarders are welcome.

“There aren’t many places where we can go and feel totally welcome and hang out,” he told San Jose Spotlight.

Gomez plans to empower neighborhoods through their support of local small businesses.

“I just try to show people where they can go to help the community,” he said. “Economically, it is better that the money continues to circulate here. If your neighbors win, you win. It’s spreading love. power to the people.”

Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected]

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