Orchestria Palm Court – San Jose, California - Gastro Obscura

Orchestria Palm Court

This restaurant's marvelous musical machines include a self-playing violin. 


At most restaurants, music is a mere garnish. But at the Orchestria Palm Court in downtown San Jose, diners can enjoy a buffet of marvelous musical instruments along with their meal.

As part of Silicon Valley, San Jose is no stranger to amazing technology. At the Orchestria Palm Court, that technology happens to be 100 years old. Before Steve Jobs and his Apple engineers in nearby Cupertino ever dreamed up an iPod, people still turned to machines for music. Engineer Mark Williams, Orchestria Palm Court’s owner, collected a wide array of such machines and has put them on display in a refurbished auto showroom from 1910.

There’s the Coinola electric piano, which can play the hits of the early 20th century. Then there are the restaurant’s two orchestrions. An orchestrion (also the namesake for the restaurant) is a machine that can mimic the sounds of an entire orchestra. Along with piano, mandolin, and various percussion instruments, the establishment’s Coinola X Orchestrion will even play the triangle.

Also featured are two early jukeboxes (1926 and 1928) and, perhaps, the most wonderful machine of them all: the Violano-Virtuoso Player Violin. If the magic of a self-playing violin isn’t enough, the machine also accompanies itself with a piano, all using an electric motor and electromagnets. On holidays from Bastille Day to Christmas, along with the birthdays of famous composers, the machines are set up to play the appropriate tunes.

While music from the various machines plays, diners can sample a farm-t0-table menu, of which the Austrian goulash and chicken breast saltimbocca are favorites. Orchestria Palm Court also has an old-fashioned soda menu, including malted milks, phosphates, and drinks with names such as Poppy Dew and Raspberry Ambrosia. But if you want to listen to some old-time music and sip an old-school soda, be sure to keep an eye on your calendar. Orchestria Palm Court is open only on Friday and Saturday, from 5:45 to 8:30 p.m., and reservations are heartily recommended.

Know Before You Go

You can see the full holiday line-up and make a reservation on the restaurant's website.

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March 27, 2019

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