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Bars & Clubs

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Hangouts

Almaden Feed and Fuel
18950 Almaden Road, San Jose (408/268-8950)
Unlike North Santa Cruz Avenue in Los Gatos, the south-bound lanes of Almaden Expressway are not associated with "a night out." But when the road splits, bear right, then make a quick left into the Feed and Fuel parking lot. The "feed" is the grilled fare (steaks and chicken) and the "fuel," presumably, is provided by the microbrews, small-batch bourbons and single-malt scotches. An Almaden Valley voice of rebellion lives on Fridays and Saturdays with live blues, country and rock & roll bands plugging in from 9:30pm to 1:30am. A blues jam happens on Sundays around 5:30pm.

Antonio's Nut House
321 California Ave., Palo Alto (415/321-2550)
This friendly local watering hole goes beer nuts one better: snackers can retrieve handfuls of peanuts from the cage of a "gorilla." (A floor covered in peanut shells attests to the gorilla's congeniality.) Posters and plaques bearing some of the oldest (and corniest) jokes in the world, including a gargantuan pair of underwear stamped "Santa Clara County Department of Corrections," adorn the bar. Much like the decor, the patrons here--everyone from a retired rocket scientist to the Brazilian soccer team, as one regular attested--is ageless and truly diverse. Open daily, 10am­2am.

The Bank
14421 Big Basin Way, Saratoga (408/867-5155)
The Bank is Saratoga's only downtown bar. While one wouldn't expect a saloon amid the classy restaurants, quaint coffee shops and specialty delis, if one's got to be there, let it be the Bank, which is located in a historical building that has been around since 1913. Beers are served by the bottle only, and the establishment is smoke-free by choice. The Bank does not open until noon and closes by midnight during the week. The only type of fights the bartender has ever had to break up are intellectual ones. And there's a dictionary and a stack of encyclopedias behind the bar for just that purpose, in case things get hairy.

Beefy's Cabin
1028 W. Washington Ave., Sunnyvale (408/736-7141)
Beefy's features a classic '70s strip-mall motif. This oasis of funky Americana in the heart of Silicon Valley comes complete with dollar cigars, two TVs, three pinball machines and four dart boards. Displayed on one wall is a fake-parchment poster, a testimonial to Beefy's departed founder sporting the advice, "If you haven't met your neighbor, now is the time to do so." It seems to have worked: on the opposite wall, below a signed photo of Joe Montana, is a plaque, a Christmas present from the bar's patrons, declaring it "The Friendliest Bar in Sunnyvale." Open daily, 8am­2am.

Bella's Club
1872 W. San Carlos St., San Jose (408/998-3425)
There's no doubt about who the queen of the ball at Bella's Club is. It's Bella, of course. The portrait titled Bella the Legend above the bar welcomes the regulars to this neighborhood establishment. A juke box, pool table and darts provide the recreation. The lively patrons supply the entertainment. No need to put on airs or Armani to get a beer or cocktail here--just a smile and $2.50. The doors open at 10am and close 14 hours later. As for credit, a sign above the bar reads, "Sex is like credit. ... Some get it, some don't."

Benjamin's
10041 S. Blaney Ave., Cupertino (408/253-6899)
It'd be easy to miss Benjamin's during a drive along Stevens Creek Boulevard, and that'd be a pity. This is an almost preposterously friendly neighborhood bar that provides two pool tables, a jukebox, analog darts and even food (pizza, tamales, burritos and egg rolls). Bartender Adrienne DeValmont makes friends at light speed and would no more dream of pouring a mixed drink with a measure than she'd think of letting a drinking customer drive. Drafts are $1.75, well drinks are $2.50, called shots are $2.75 and up. Second location: Benjamin's 2: 820 E. El Camino Real, MV (415/969-2098).

Black Watch
141 1/2 N. Santa Cruz Ave., Los Gatos (408/354-2200)
Nothing is certain in this world except that, for $5, you can get a pint-sized kamikaze, aperitif glasses and a strainer from one of the ebullient barkeeps at this classic Los Gatos dive. The Black Watch has been the site of more than one celebratory round of lime-flavored firewater, and more than a mouthful have been unpleasantly resurrected later in the evening. The intimate, house-party atmosphere keeps 'em coming back, often lining the sidewalk outside to get in. Open daily, 9am­2pm.

Boswell's
1875 S. Bascom Ave., Campbell (408/371-4404)
In the enveloping darkness at Boswell's, tipplers can scope out ESPN during the day or get loud and loose in the evenings with cover bands every night, even Sundays. The bar boasts a dedicated crowd --people who know all the words and shtick to Goofy Foot and Frank Joseph. Open daily, noon­2am.

The Cats
17533 Santa Cruz Hwy., Los Gatos (408/354-4020)
Having ripened naturally into mature funkiness, this roadhouse with gold-embossed doors and open-grill barbecue should by all rights be invaded each night by youthful seekers of the authentically weird. Fortunately it's not. Most of the bar's clientele consists of locals and couples edging toward retirement. Although it's set just a few car lengths back from the mortally exciting Highway 17, the Cats is swathed in the essence of an era when gin was made in bathtubs. The staff is friendly, the drinks tasty and the menu charmingly simple. Live music on the weekends helps the considerable wait for a table go faster. Opens at 5:30pm for dinner; closed Monday.

Coconut Willie's
1099 W. San Carlos St., San Jose (408/971-1737)
The closest thing to a tiki bar that San Jose can muster, Coconut Willie's greets the thirst-driven with palm fronds and prompt, friendly service. Neon beer signs and professional wrestling on TV provide the light for those patrons bent on getting tight. Bamboo pillars, pinball machines, a giant marlin and tropical mural print evoke the '50s. "What'll you have," asks the bartender. "Just a Bud," responds the customer. "No such thing as just 'a' Bud," chimes a nearby patron. So have two. Open daily, 10am­2am.

Daybreak
1711 W. El Camino Real, Mountain View (415/940-9778)
It is been said that gay bars are the friendliest of drinking establishments. The Daybreak upholds this theory. Not much to look at from the outside, its inside is another story. It is loud and lively with sort of a Mardi Gras, Christmas, thrift-store motif. A pool table and pinball machine occupy one end, and the black-and-white checkered dance floor takes up the other. The bar in the middle is occupied by the thirsty crowd and bartender Robert, who pours a mean Purple Hooter and a bunch of other stuff. Karaoke on Thursdays and Saturdays. Ellen on the large-screen TV on Wednesdays.

Dos Locos Cantina
150 S. First St., San Jose (408/993-9616)
Known for its massive Schooner Margaritas and its breathtaking selection of tequilas (31 brands), the Pavilion's Dos Locos Cantina has developed a reputation as the downtown meeting place. It's a favorite with San Jose State University students. The pub proper is tiny, but there's plenty of breathing room out on the patio. The close quarters are part of the cantina's charm. Microbrews include Norwester Raspberry Wheat. Fifty-cent tacos and live blues or calypso out on the patio on Fridays, 5­8pm. Open daily, 11am­2am.

The Drying Shed
402 Toyon Ave., San Jose (408/272-1512)
Out on the true edge of town, the Drying Shed is one of those restaurant pubs where everyone knows your name--or will know it in a minute or two. The decor is lounge-modern, and baseball banners adorn the walls, but the real atmosphere comes from the gregarious bartenders and cocktail servers and a cadre of friendly local drinkers of all ages. Conversation is paramount here; even when the oldies cover bands are playing on the weekends, customers can still hear themselves think. And since the bar is attached to a full-service restaurant, sustenance is but a few steps away. Open Sunday­Thursday, 11am­11pm; Friday­Saturday, 11am­2am.

Flamingo Lounge
2103 Scott Blvd., Santa Clara (408/241-0687)
This small neighborhood hangout pays subtle homage to the spindly pink wingers of its name with some plastic lawn flamingoes strutting their stuff discreetly at the end of the bar--and a pink and green stripe painted on each wall. But what it lacks in thinking pink, it makes up for with a number of recreational amenities: pinball, pool, darts, a jukebox and a big-screen TV. Open daily, noon­2am.

The Garret
1777 S. Bascom Ave., Campbell (408/559-7930)
After a four-year absence, the Garret has returned. The new location near Campbell Billiards serves up pizza, sandwiches and salads to accompany the beer and wine. Draft suds include Sierra Nevada, Guinness and Tied House Amber; the moderately priced wines range in quality from Gallo's better efforts on up to Clos du Bois, and are available by the bottle as well as the glass. The tile work--acoustic above, ceramic below--gives The Garret a half-cellar, half-rumpus room effect, and the deeply padded booths are both cushy and private. Open daily, 10:30am­1:30am.

The Hut
3200 The Alameda, Santa Clara (408/296-6024)
If the Hut were a person, it would be diagnosed with multiple personalities. At any given moment, this, well, hut, could be crawling with 20 beer-guzzling frat boys or catering to the needs of a middle-aged barfly. Students mostly take over the otherwise divey bar at night, especially Wednesdays, when well drinks and bottled beer are $1.50. The Hut offers a pool table, dart board and pinball machine. Dollar bills and business cards dot the drinking hole's ceiling and walls--allegedly the first dollars earned by SCU alum. Interestingly, grads far outnumber the bills. Either the former students aren't finding success in the real world, or, more likely, some poor undergrads needed quick cash for the next round.

Island Food and Grog
4141 El Camino Real, Palo Alto (415/493-9020)
According to my new friend Louanne, Island Food and Grog is a bar at which "a woman can be a woman and a man can be a man, for Chrissake." She's right. She's also right when she says it's a spot where "you can belly up to the bar, goddamn it, and have a goddamn drink." The bellying-up is no joke. A curved bar running the length of the main room features a padded edge for the ergonomic drinking experience. Deep into a recent Saturday night, a couple of housewives, a smattering of mellow guys in baseball caps and some grizzled pool players rounded out the crowd. Everybody was low-key, murmuring or engaged in serious bar talk roughly two decibels above the crooning of the Righteous Brothers and Patsy Cline, which poured like whiskey from the jukebox. The Island is the real thing--'50s before '50s got "retro." Open daily, 7am­2am.

Jack's Club
167 E. Taylor St., San Jose (408/293-8995)
A beer or a mixed drink. A TV. And a cigar. And good, long conversations. That's the essence of Jack's, where Jack serves the drinks himself, as often as not. He tries to give the place an old-fashioned feel, like what bars were like in the old days. The doors open at 7am. Jukebox and darts; single-malt scotches and premium tequila. Cash only. No fancy drinks.

Joe's Bar and Grill
1460 Old Oakland Road, San Jose (408/453-3392)
Joe's Bar and Grill is located in a nondescript strip mall amid sprawling software companies, but the regulars are more likely those who construct the buildings than those who work inside them. There's no grill in site, but there is an antacid dispenser--in case the happy hour chips and salsa get the better of you. In addition to snacks, there are pool tables, darts, a jukebox and a large-screen TV. Only Bud and Redwolf are on tap, but hard alcohol is abundant and classier beers can be purchased by the bottle for $3.50.

Khartoum's
300 Orchard City Dr., Campbell (408/379-6340)
This Campbell bar has survived the trends that demolished joints like Eli McFly's, Puma's and L.A. Rocks. It remains a classy, glassy sanctuary among the few new but mostly old businesses in downtown Campbell. A big-screen TV keeps eyes glued while video games and darts beckon those with gifted motor skills. Open 11am­2am daily.

Los Gatos Bar and Grill
15 1/2 N. Santa Cruz Ave., Los Gatos (408/399-5424)
This is a casual '90s hangout on the top floor of one of downtown Los Gatos' historical brick buildings. The decor is classical, but that's no reason to be uptight. Dress is casual (in a calculated way, of course). Crowds pack in shoulder-to-shoulder Friday and Saturday nights--the perfect excuse to trip over a smoldering woman or fall ("oops") into the arms of a large-chested man. Other attractions: full bar, grill menu, electronic darts and billiards. Open 5­10:30pm Monday­Wednesday; 5­11:30pm Thursday and Sunday; and 5pm­12:30am Friday­Saturday.

McNeil's
800 N. Kiely Blvd., Santa Clara (408/244-4038)
Unable to choose between the pennant and the stage, this sports-bar-cum-live-music-venue divides its busy week among karaoke, dart and pool leagues and rock & roll cover bands. "Unpretentious" is a fine description for the decor: black vinyl stools (no booths), turquoise walls and a petite but gaudy stage. More hangout destination than meat market, this neighborhood bar draws folks ages 21 to 60-plus. Bud and Miller rule the roost, kamikazes flow from a full bar, and food exists. No cover.

Mac's Club
349 S. First St., San Jose (408/998-9535)
Tucked away among the downtown nightclubs lies a small, dark gay hangout that's been around for nearly 35 years. Although Mac's will be relocating in the next few months to Post Street, the warm spirit of the club will remain. What Mac's lacks in frills, it generously makes up for in character. The patrons are cheerful and friendly, and the bartenders are welcoming to new customers. The only prerequisite for straight visitors, according to one bartender, is that they know their color palette. The full bar carries premium tequila, wine and "gayly specials" along with mocktails, nonalcoholic beer and smoothies. Open noon­2am.

#1 Broadway
102 S. Santa Cruz Ave., Los Gatos (408/354-4303)
Off the beaten track in little-mentioned South Santa Cruz Avenue territory sits this quaint upstairs lodge with a panoramic view of Los Gatos. Light jazz, blues and Motown by the likes of Spang-a-Lang and Thick get dancers moving Tuesdays through Saturdays. Regulars (mostly on the far side of 30) are serious about dancing--chairs and tables convert into coat racks, and the humidity level jumps as the evening progresses. Closed Sunday, open 3pm­2am other days.

O'Shea's Pub & Grill
258 Union Ave., Los Gatos (408/371-1861)
This is the kind of neighborhood watering hole that every neighborhood should have. O'Shea's stands on Union Avenue in a suburban district at the very verge of Los Gatos, where the local lugs like to drop by for a bracer and a bit of sports talk. The latest attraction here is the weekday dinner menu with new south-of-the-border daily specials like chile verde. (The pub's popular favorites, such as hamburgers and cheese steaks, are still available.) Full bar and microbrews; electronic darts and video games. Cash only. Open 11am­10pm weekdays; 11am­midnight Friday­Saturday.

Paul & Eddies Monta Vista Inn
21619 Stevens Creek Blvd., Cupertino (408/252-2226)
This small neighborhood bar, which opened for business in 1939 in the middle of endless orchards, now finds itself on the edge of suburbia, two freeways and a thriving high-tech community. It caters to working folk of all kinds, offering $1 draft beers, pool tables, darts and a jukebox. Frequent barbecues are a popular attraction. The longtime owner recently shut down for a month and rebuilt the circa 1915 building from the foundation up, but left the rustic, historic exterior intact. Regulars won't recognize the new floor, now level for the first time in history. No credit cards, but ATM cards are honored.

Paul and Harveys
130 S. Murphy Ave., Sunnyvale (408/736-5770)
Mighty fine example of the nearly extinct orderly sociable neighborhood bar, complete with saloon portrait of reclining naked babe (modeled after Anita Ekberg?) over the backbar, near the mechanical cash register. Two sincere pool tables; a glass cabinet with serious-looking cues for sale to the rear. None of that post The Color of Money martial-arts action-billiards stuff (swearing is proscribed). And cigars never went out of style here. (Bumper sticker on display: "Cigar Smokers Have Better Butts.") Paul and Harvey's is as full of aging integrity as Paul Harvey himself. Good day! Happy hour 11am­2pm.

PJ Mulligan's
19979 Stevens Creek Blvd., Cupertino (408/255-0588)
The waitresses love to show off their purple hooters. No wonder the place is packed on weeknights. 'Course, it could be the live rock & roll DJ Thursdays through Saturdays, the dance floor, the Tuesday-night karaoke, the 4­7pm happy hour or the large-screen TV. There are booths and tall tables for conversation over hamburgers (specialty of the chef), but once the music starts, shouting is the best way to communicate. By the way, purple hooters are made of vodka, raspberry liqueur and sweet and sour.

St. James Infirmary
Super Survivor: The Wonder Woman statue has stood tall for decades at St. James Infirmary.

St. James Infirmary
390 Moffett Blvd., Mountain View (415/969-0806)
Beer and barbecue, nectar and manna. More than 100 flavors of one and not enough words in Roget's to praise the other. Quirky place, this, with big-screen TV, pool tables and extraordinary junk hanging from the ceiling. A 25-foot Wonder Woman and a giant fish head gaze down on masticating Silicon Valleyites at their checkered troughs during lunch-time. Fridays and Saturdays at 9pm, the tables move aside so that the more energetic can dance to '70s, '80s and '90s music until 2am. Happy hour Monday­Friday, 5­9pm.

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From the June 12-18, 1997 issue of Metro.

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