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Biter

That's So Row

Hanging at the Las Vegas of San Jose

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"I was out of town last weekend."
"Where'd you go?"
"Santana Row."

BITER OCCASIONALLY NEEDS to take an exotic vacation right here at home, and where else to go but Santana Row? The opulent Hotel Valencia, in particular, calmed our savage beast on a recent visit. With fur comforters, custom-made towels and prominent balconies overlooking chic European-style promenades, Hotel Valencia drives it home that Santana Row is the Las Vegas of San Jose. In the same way that Vegas is a manufactured adult Disneyland plopped down in the middle of a desert, Santana Row is an upscale urban oasis in the middle of suburban sprawl. You're not in San Jose anymore, Toto.

We don't mean that in a bad way; far from it--the place absolutely works. Federal Real(i)ty Investment Trust knew exactly what they were doing when they designed Santana Row. Its restaurants--Yankee Pier, Maggiano's and Straits Café to name just three--are over the top. Hotel Valencia is probably the most gorgeous accommodation in all of San Jose. The neighborhood (if you can call it a neighborhood) is safe, stylish and populated by textbook specimens of a social order with which Biter shares nothing in common whatsoever.

Hanging out on the balcony of the hotel's ultra hip V Bar on a Saturday night amid a staggering collection of females with much more money than us, Biter reaffirmed our love/hate relationship with Santana Row. If you're searching for some lost exotic piece of yourself, go to V Bar.

Santana Row's tag line is "A place like no other," which is also perfect. What most people don't understand is that the neighborhood isn't supposed to resemble reality. It's a place where affluent types go to escape the bedroom communities and the nauseating suburban sprawl.

Again, we're not trashing Santana Row. Vegas artificiality aside, the complex is filled with hidden artworks you'd never even notice unless someone pointed them out. For example, 28 Phases of the Moon depicts the moon's cycle underneath one particular overhang. And don't miss the bizarre collection of Tunisian wire-framed window bars imported directly from France. And where else can you get wireless Internet access from a giant outdoor chessboard? Just like in Vegas, it's these details that count.

We contemplated all this back inside V Bar, where silver beads hung in the doorways and thumping disco atrocities rocked the dimly lit house. Hipster night owls continued to line up outside. Pierced belly buttons and perfect female derrières flourished. At the bar, Biter ordered a $6 glass of Spaten Franziskaner, and the Caucasian hipster couple next to us ordered a mixed drink called a Sweet Chinese Pussy.

"This is nice," the guy said after taking a sip. "Give my regards to whoever came up with this."

"Right back atcha," the blonde female bartender replied.

No matter what part of the unsocial spectrum you're from, V Bar is so ultrachic and sexy it just hurts. It's a perfect place to amplify your own misery if you're alone, single and terminally unimpressed. That being said, Biter just couldn't stay any longer. After slamming the Franziskaner, we left and went straight over to police-infested downtown--the real San Jose.

And when the evening was through, we grabbed a taxi back to Santana Row only to have the Punjabi driver try and lead us off toward Highway 880.

"Don't take the tourist route," we barked. "We're from this town. We know where we're going. We're going to Vegas."


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From the May 12-18, 2004 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.




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