Antonio's Nut House
321 S. California Ave, Palo Alto; 650.321.2550
Probably the most casual bar in the otherwise tony digs of Palo Alto, Antonio's Nut House has been serving regulars for years. With five pool tables and a blessed pinball machine for when the peanut munching and TVs begin to bore you, Antonio's is a classic-rock, decidedly blue-collar haven done up in the most random décor you're likely to find anywhere.
Blue Chalk Café
630 Ramona St, Palo Alto; 650.325.1020
Palo Alto's happening billiards bar gets packed nightly with well heeled Stanford kids playing at being a pool shark or just chilling out in the comfy lounge. During the day this bilevel establishment serves up generous portions of Tex-Mex grub, but food really isn't on people's minds when the crowds start rolling in. A word to the wise, however, on some nights the Blue Chalk Café has a drink minimum (usually in the $15 range).
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473 University Ave, Palo Alto; 650.752.0350
The wine list is extensive, with liberal selections from the venerable winery of Niebaum-Coppola. The cafe itself serves a variety of Mediterranean-style dishes in its sumptuous dark wooded space and, as an added bonus, all of the wines can also be purchased to go for at-home consumption.
Cibo Bar and Grill
3401 El Camino Real, Palo Alto; 650.493.2411, 800.492.7335
Located inside Palo Alto's Creekside Inn, Cibo Bar and Grill does a fantastic menu of Mediterranean and California-infused cuisine to satisfy your hunger pangs and also has an extensive, well-developed drink list. At Cibo all of the restaurants cuisine is available in their chic lounge, which is a true blessing from this newer Palo Alto restaurant hot spot.
Dan Brown's Lounge and Sports Bar
4141 El Camino Real, Palo Alto; 650.493.9020
A tale of two bars in one, Dan Brown's Lounge and Sports Bar is a retro chill-out lounge in the front part and a raucously partying sports bar, complete with 10 televisions, in the back. Further amenities in the back sports bar include pool tables, foosball, pinball and air hockey.
Empire Grill and Tap Room
651 Emerson St, Palo Alto; 650.321.3030
The Empire Grill and Tap Room restaurant is continually packed and with good reason. The beer selection (on tap, of course) is comprised mainly of regional microbrew favorites with some imports thrown in for flavor and, if your tastes don't run toward beer, Empire's bartenders can fix you up one of the best Bloody Marys. The grill offers reimagined, contemporary pub food and other stylish dishes.
420 Emerson St, Palo Alto; 650.326.0983
Reminiscent of an outdoor Greek taverna, even though the restaurant is indoors, Evvia serves California-inspired Greek cuisine. The wine list is incredibly well developed, sampling a little bit of everything from around California and the Mediterranean that pairs excellently with their cuisine.
Fanny & Alexander Restaurant
412 Emerson St, Palo Alto; 650.326.7183
The local bar hot spot to hang out at, Fanny & Alexander takes care of its teeming masses beautifully with some nights devoted to DJ dancing, while others showcase live music. Also, the excellent cuisine is the ever popular Asian-California fusion variety, and the kitchen stays open late. Even if there was no outside entertainment hosted at "FnA's" (as the locals and nearly everybody else, except possibly their accountants, call it) it's still a must on the bar-crawl list.
640 Emerson St, Palo Alto; 650.323.7723
The Gordon Biersch in Palo Alto is the local bar and brewery that started it all off for the two enterprising, beer-loving owners and is still going extremely strong today. You can come in and sit under the reflective gaze of the huge silver beer tanks that tell you the beer is produced on-site and sample one of their classic, German-inspired microbrews or seasonal specialty beers. Also, the kitchen still pumps out really good grub.
624 Ramona St, Palo Alto; 650.329.9533
A Hawaiian island oasis right in downtown, Hukilau shoots to please ex-island dwellers or just anyone looking for some liquid escapism from their everyday routine. But it's not just the drinks that transport you to paradise; the kitchen serves up truly authentic Hawaiian food like spam musubi, the loco moco and ahi poke. Hukilau also sports indoor and outdoor seating, a friendly staff and the overall atmosphere would lead you to believe that Don Ho is going to start belting out some classic Hawaiian love songs at any moment.
La Bodeguita Del Medio
463 California Ave, Palo Alto; 650.326.7762
Probably the only place in the Bay Area where you can sip on aged Cuban rum while puffing away on a cigar is this Cuban-inspired lounge, restaurant and all-around hangout. The main drink list is, of course, derived from the best of what our little socialist island neighbor to the south has to offer.
Lavanda Restaurant & Wine Bar
185 University Ave, Palo Alto; 650.321.3514
The upscale older set in Palo Alto wines and dines at Lavanda, a French-Mediterranean bistro-style restaurant that boasts more 600 wines (30 of which can be ordered by the glass) for your drinking pleasure, and its tapas menu certainly hits the gastronomic mark.
Luna Lounge at the Westin
675 El Camino Real, Palo Alto; 650.321.4422
The perfect place to kick off a classy night out on the town is the Luna Lounge in Palo Alto, where you can sip on some classic martinis by the Westin's heated pool or enjoy the comfortably chic ambience indoors. The kitchen serves up light Mediterranean inspired fare and the Luna Lounge's extensive California wine list features the best of what our viticulturists have to offer.
675 El Camino Real, Palo Alto; 650.321.4422
MacArthur Park has been a Palo Alto bar and restaurant institution for years serving the Bay Area public upscale, generous portions of American cuisine while maintaining its ever-casual charm. Boasting more than 200 California wines and a decent selection of tap microbrews certainly doesn't hurt MacArthur Park's efforts in winning over drinkers and diners alike.
Maddalena's Café Fino
544 Emerson St, Palo Alto; 650.326.6082
Maddalena's Café Fino provides the more mature set with a place where they can kick back, listen to some cool live jazz stylings and sip on some of the finest martinis we have ever had. This 1920s-style art deco masterpiece in addition to playing host to live jazz also has cabaret acts roll through on occasion to tickle the ivories of Maddalena's grand piano. This Palo Alto lounge and live music club is a total throwback to a more stylish bygone era.
140 University Ave, Palo Alto; 650.323.9449
Miyake is Palo Alto's partying sushi bar. It really is a cool sight to see, especially on Friday nights, when slick techno beats are matched with a multicolored light show, when everybody—and we do mean everybody—in the restaurant is seriously having a great night out eating and partying.
535 Ramona St, Palo Alto; 650.328.2722
A little more refined than the Bourbon Street juke joints that it was inspired by, Nola restaurant serves the Stanford masses classic New Orleans grub in a funky setting that makes you want to linger for hours in one of its two lounges or on the open air patio, and Nola makes it incredibly easy to do just that.
2865 El Camino Real, Palo Alto; 650.325.2070
541 Ramona St, Palo Alto; 650.326.1446
Palo Alto's classic sports bar, the Old Pro gets packed to capacity whenever there's a game on, but especially when Stanford is playing. The two locations however do slightly differ in clientele and ambience with the downtown one (on Ramona St.) being the snazzier of the two, but, and call us old-fashioned, we prefer the original one because it totally reminds us of a bus depot bar which you just can't seem to find among the otherwise usual tony Palo Alto establishments.
Pavilion Bar at Spago
265 Lytton Ave, Palo Alto; 650.833.1000
Wolfgang Puck's venerable Spago restaurant serves innovative Asian-infused American and pan-Mediterranean cuisine in a sophisticated atmosphere to the delight of Bay Area diners. Even though the world-class Pavilion Bar actually occupies an entirely separate area from the main dining room, patrons can, thankfully, still order from the main restaurant's menu or the bar menu which features more snacklike foods.
Rose and Crown Pub
547 Emerson St, Palo Alto; 650.327.7673
A great British-style local pub, the Rose and Crown Pub relies heavily on its extensive selection of imported beer sporting about 20 on tap, and the scene here is like a beer-laden family gathering. For entertainment, the Rose and Crown Pub features standup comedians on Mondays, while Sundays are reserved for live jazz acts, but, any day or night of the week, you can just kick back in the comfy confines of this local bar, shoot some darts and swill some fine beer with all of your new friends.
Rudy's Pub at Elbe Restaurant
117 University Ave, Palo Alto; 650.321.3319
Rudy's Pub in Palo Alto is a haven for lovers of imported European beer, featuring some beers that even our well-traveled liver hasn't sampled. This dark and cozy corner bar also sports DJ dancing on the weekends and, before that fun begins, has an accordion player supposedly warming up the crowd, but with a beer selection this good they could be playing Gregorian chant and we'd still booze there. Look for some karaoke and comedy action as well.
Stoa Restaurant and Wine Bar
632 Emerson St, Palo Alto; 650.328.2600
Stoa Restaurant and Wine Bar can get a little pricey, but this sophisticated eatery is well worth it because the Mediterranean-inspired vegetarian dishes never fail to astound and Stoa is one of a handful of late-night dining options in downtown Palo Alto. Of course Stoa features a full bar, but the real treat here is its vast wine selection which features unique selections from California and Europe.
Sundance the Steakhouse
1921 El Camino Real, Palo Alto; 650.321.6798
Sundance the Steakhouse's low-key rustic-style bar is a great place to start or end an evening out, with a friendly, knowledgeable staff who can also pour you up a killer martini that goes perfectly with their American steakhouse fare.
546 University Ave, Palo Alto; 650.325.8500
Tamarine, Palo Alto's premier Vietnamese restaurant, is also home to one of the hippest bar scenes downtown. Maybe it's because of their excellent small-plate Vietnamese cuisine that can be ordered in the bar, maybe it's because they're known for their exotic martini menu that infuses unique flavors expertly, or perhaps it's continually packed because the walls of this Palo Alto restaurant and lounge are adorned with a rotating array of fascinating works by hip Vietnamese artists turning Tamarine into a cutting edge gallery.
4269 El Camino Real, Palo Alto; 650.849.9800
Located in Dinah's Garden Hotel, Trader Vic's drinks and food instantly transport you to some undiscovered Polynesian island where, legend has it, the founder of this worldwide restaurant and bar chain was inspired to bring the South Seas to the masses. If you've ever drunk and dined at Trader Vic's you're probably eternally grateful for whatever his inspiration was.
430 Kipling St, Palo Alto; 650.328.6722
With two bars and some truly inspired, distinguished Mediterranean-style cuisine, Zibibbo has made a name for itself as a chic eatery and bar that has a palpable lively energy about it. The main bar is a dark wood and dramatically lighted showpiece, while the outdoor bar is like hanging out on your friend's back porch, but with much better food, drinks and company.
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