The Best of Silicon Valley 2014

Music & Nightlife | Editors' Picks


Best Monday Night Party

Motown Mondays, 55 South

55 S. First St, San Jose

55 South went from being one of the best cocktail bars in downtown San Jose—OK, probably the best—to also providing the best first-of-the-week party. Motown Mondays are not your average industry nights. As many as a dozen DJs spin while the booze flows free, well, not free but you get it. (JK)

Best All-Ages Rock Shows

San Jose Rock Shop

30 N. Third St, San Jose

More than a decade after the Cactus Club shuttered for good, the Rock Shop has filled the void it left behind by offering an all-ages venue.The 8,000-square-foot space at Sperry Station on Third Street includes rehearsal space, a repair shop, retail shop and stages for live shows. David Nevin, 33, started the whole thing in his garage six years ago, and says he's still reeling from the success of the homespun endeavor. The age aspect is important, he notes, because it gives teens a chance to invest time and interest in live music and offers a sanctioned place to perform and practice. This summer, Nevin plans an ambitious 90-day festival where he hopes to showcase as many as 270 bands. He hopes the event raises the profile of his shop, but more importantly, of San Jose's up-and-coming music scene. (JW)

Best Burbank Bar

7 Stars Bar and Grill

398 S. Bascom Ave, San Jose

In a boom-town real estate market, places like the Burbank neighborhood stand ready to be mulched and infilled by identical three story townhouses. For the time being, the Burbank has its soul—it is, as yet, a repository of misfits, green-cross clinics, rickety second-hand shops and tattoo parlors. The 7 Stars Bar and Grill serves a number of functions—happy hour microbrews, a breakfast burrito and a pint after a night shift, trivia and karaoke. It's both a good neighborhood pub with a sci-fi bent (Star Wars decor and a 1/10th or something scale statue of Jabba the Hut) both a friendly bar and an easy going luncheonette where you can bring a kid or two. Come here, bring San Francisco friends, and prove to them that there is life outside the Mission. (RvB)

Best Place to Geek Out on Vinyl

Wax Wednesdays at Cafe Stritch

374 S. First St, San Jose

Among DJs, it's an argument that will never be settled: whether one needs to spin actual vinyl records in order to be a real DJ or not. But for those that fall on the vinyl-or-nothing side, Cafe Stritch offers a wax-only weekly show. The DJs will play anything, so long as it's on vinyl: soul, funk, garage, psychedelic-rock, indie, hip-hop—really, whatever the DJ of the night feels like spinning. There are sometimes live bands on a Wax Wednesday bill, but regardless there's always plenty of vinyl geekery to be had throughout the night. (AC)

Best Old-Fashioned Old Fashioned


43 W. San Salvador St, San Jose

Unsurprisingly, the original San Jose old-fashioned speakeasy makes a rather old-fashioned Old Fashioned. Also unsurprisingly, it's the bomb dot com. The Old Fashioned is named such because it most closely approximates what the cocktail originally was: liquor, water, sugar and bitters. But ask for an Old Fashioned at many bars and one will receive a concoction of fruit, soda and maybe some bourbon in there somewhere. At Singlebarrel one gets bourbon or rye whiskey with simple syrup and bitters, plus a lemon peel run around the rim—which seriously makes a difference—and a sphere of ice, to minimize melting. It's simple, and it's hard to beat. (SL)

Best Place Where Everyone Knows Your Name

Rookies Sports Lodge

1535 Meridian Ave, San Jose

OK, they probably don't know your name—yet. But hang out enough times at the sports bar whose slogan rings, "Friends don't let friends drink in Los Gatos," and you'll be able to get a personalized mug with your very own number that hangs above the bar. (JK)

Best Dive Bar Serving Prime Rib

Redi Room

4340 Moorpark Ave, San Jose

This hole-in-the-wall spot recently brought back their Tuesday prime rib dinner special: 13 bucks for prime rib, a salad, potato and garlic bread. It's first-come, first-served and the service can be slow, but the drinks are cheap and strong, and the vibe is chill. Just go there expecting to hang out for a while, shoot some pool, throw some darts and enjoy the steak. (SL)

Best Source of Cutting -Edge Latin Music

Sonido Clash

Various venues

San Jose has direct access to the new up-and-coming Latin scene thanks to Sonido Clash, who are on one hand, a collective of local Latin artists (Philthy Dronez, Raul y Mexia, Turbo Sonidero Futuristico), and at the same time a promotion company that has been bringing amazing cutting-edge Latin acts to San Jose—some from right here in the United States (like Oakland hip-hop duo Los Rakas), and some all the way from Latin America (Like Argentina's wild, all-female Las Kumbia Queers). For most of 2013, Sonido Clash was a regular monthly event at the Pagoda Lounge. Now their shows are more sporadic—and at different venues. (AC)

Best Pho and Blues

Little Lou's BBQ

2455 S Winchester Blvd, Campbell

The name doesn't mislead—Little Lou's BBQ is indeed a barbecue joint, but if anything, the name undersells the place's offerings. In addition to barbecue fare, Little Lou's menu includes a nod to Vietnamese cuisine with dishes like pho and spring rolls, but given the twist of Western ingredients such as brisket and tri-tip. And most every night of the week there's live music, featuring local blues and country artists, such as Chris Cain, Terry Hiatt and Fred McCarty. To bring it all together: a selection of craft brews, including Santa Clara Valley New Almaden Red and beers from Lagunitas, Hangar 24, Knee Deep, North Coast and other small breweries. (HZ)

Best Free Concert Series

Daydream Nation at San Pedro Square Market

87 N. San Pedro St, San Jose

For going on two years, Daydream Nation has taken place in the spacious, bustling San Pedro Square Market. Every month, promoter Eric Fanali brings the best talent from San Jose and beyond—acts like The Bang, Judgment Day and Foxtails Brigade, that would normally be playing at some of the neighboring, not-free venues. During the warm summer months, the shows take place on the outdoor patio, where people can relax and drink a glass of wine or a cocktail while they enjoy the tunes. Plus, unlike a lot of other live music venues, there are plenty of great dining options to indulge in. (AC)