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Billiard Parlors
It's a long way from Jackie Gleason to Tom Cruise. Today's pool halls attract a crowd more intent on being entertained than hustled. Gone are the days of artificial lighting, eye shades and a guy named Eddie guarding the front door. When they start calling themselves Family Billiards and banning smoking, it's time for Minnesota Fats to take up canasta.

Bank Shot Billiards
350 Altair Way, Sunnyvale (408/733-3855)
A mellow place to play pool, Bank Shot Billiards offers 15 very nice tables and a casual atmosphere free from the worries of having to run the table or cop an attitude. A weekday happy hour, 5­7pm, makes this a great place to relax after work. Young couples can be found at Bank Shot on dates, as well as a few really good players. Rates are $8 an hour after 7pm on Fridays and Saturdays.

Blue Chalk Cafe
630 Ramona St., Palo Alto (415/326-1020)
It wouldn't be much of a stretch to imagine a Tennessee Williams heroine languishing by a potted palm on the patio, so infused with Southern charm is this breezy, two-story eatery. A creative, Cajun-inspired menu caters to business visitors for lunch and dinner, but after hours, the cafe is popular with 20-somethings, who get downright sporting in the roomy billiards area and shuffle-board room, and drink up some hospitality at the long, well-stocked bar.

Campbell Billiards
1777 Bascom Ave., Campbell (408/377-9886)
With basic nourishment and nonalcoholic lubrication, the distractions of jalapeño poppers and fruity mixed drinks are not a concern in this smoke-filled pool hall. The late-'80s hard rock notwithstanding, Campbell Billiards has a singular devotion to providing the masses with the opportunity to cue up. Open 365 days a year, noon­2am, it tends to cater to a younger set. And with 24 tables and the option of a $65 monthly fee for unlimited play before 6pm, even the most dedicated can hone their skills here. They just have to find a table through the haze. One player pays $5 per hour; two pay $8.

Campbell Pool 'N' Pizza
2097 S. Bascom Ave., Campbell (408/377-3104)
No decor here. But the seventeen pool tables, foosball, snooker, jukebox and super lunch special$5.95 for a small pizza, soft drink and two hours of poolbring 'em in in droves. This no-alcohol establishment, open noon to 2am seven days, caters to 18- to 21-year-olds, although an occasional older sharp plays Table 9. Friendly owner Bob is there every night to monitor the parking lot for drugs and alcohol. Ronzo's Pizzeria next door puts the "Pizza" in the name. Daily players Julie and John rave about the calzone and say Campbell Pool offers the lowest pool prices in town--$7/hr. for two. Free coffee and donut holes too.

Diamond Billiards
4700 Almaden Expwy., San Jose (408/266-POOL)
A bit hard to find--it's in the Pak 'n Save mini mall--but hustlers can rack 'em up on 26 Brunswick tables and a snooker table, all illuminated by bright brass-and-glass overhead lamps. Diamond Billiards took over last year and instituted discount rates ($20 a table, unlimited players, noon­6pm). The intimate hall also has a cafe, arcade, beer-and-wine bar and 8- and 9-ball tournaments. All ages. Open Sunday­Thursday, noon­midnight; Friday­Saturday, noon­2am.

Eddies Billiards
235 S. Milpitas Blvd., Milpitas (408/942-9500)
Local company managers can find their engineers here stretching the lunch hour over a game of billiards. During the odd hours of the day, this hall draws a devoted young Asian crowd, late teens to early 20s, and a decent mix of soft-spoken pool diehards. Friday and Saturday nights see a flux of players, many women, willing to wait up to two hours for a table. Prices are low, roughly $4­$5 an hour for a table, but management is pretty strict on the "four to a table, spectators included" rule. Thirty-two tables strong, the joint is a stripped affair reminiscent of bowling alleys.

Family Billiards
680 E. Calaveras Blvd., Milpitas (408-945-6440)
A 20-table pool and billiards hall in a shopping center, Family Billiards belies the usual image of a pool hall by provided large front windows to let in the light. Patrons come in groups to play pool and drink beers or sodas. Table rates are $8 an hour for four people; $7.50 an hour for three; $6 an hour for two; and $4 an hour for one. Tables are cheaper Mondays through Wednesdays. No smoking; cash only. Open till 1am, except Fridays and Saturdays, when closing time is 2am.

Pockets
251 Castro St., Mountain View (415/961-7744)
Light and airy, this upscale pool hall is the place where the young and upwardly mobile pass the time. Providing areas to sit and talk, not to mention 13 tables, Pockets is conducive to meeting people, although those exclusive types can have their own private parties at the two tables upstairs. Only a year and a half old, the establishment is still awaiting a wine and liquor license, but does sell beer and is working on getting live entertainment. After 7pm on weekends, the basic rate is $12 an hour.

Q Cafe Billiards
529 Alma St., Palo Alto, (415/322-3311)
Spacious, well-designed, elegant and energetic--with its own Web page, even--Q Cafe Billiards is totally '90s. As such, it accommodates a healthy range of customers: from dance-crazed youth to well-turned yuppies. This is a clean and classy club, sans grunge, smoke and long bathroom lines. A split-level dance floor and funk, house and techno music encourage groove-thangs to shake, while a separate billiards area with regulation-size tables allows for subtle flirtation and relaxed conversation. Most men wear jeans with nice shirts, while some men--and most of the women--come tricked out in their finest threads.

Santa Clara Billiards
4525 Stevens Creek Blvd., Santa Clara (408/296-3333)
Although everybody drops in for a game, the Asian American hip-hop generation, ages 18 to 25, thrives at Santa Clara Billiards. Souped-up Integras, Preludes and MR2s crowd the parking lot as a trendy young crowd of smokers loiters in front. The no-smoking policy inside draws plenty of health-conscious players who don't mind the $10-an-hour charge. Attractively done in neon, black and billiard green with plenty of stools, this slick place is suitable for fashionable patrons. Open till 4am, Thursday­Saturday.

Shoreline Billiards
1400 N. Shoreline Blvd., #C-1, Mountain View (415/964-0780)
Attractive without being trendy, this nonsmoking "family" place is more or less the advertised article. A truly diverse crowd, racially and socially, racks 'em up at this 28-table establishment. There are well-to-do Harley riders, cuddly engineers and parents with children in tow. But the best part is probably the sight of the various mother-and-daughter duos bonding over a game that has historically been billed as a father-and-son rite. Billiards here is as clean and benign as it'll ever get without becoming uncool.

Shooters
769 Mathilda Ave., Sunnyvale (408/738-2787)
Right off of Highway 101, out there in the wide open spaces of northern Sunnyvale and sharing a parking lot with the Bold Knight, is Shooters. It's a clean, brightly lighted bar with a couple of pool tables (hence the name), pinball games, appropriately loud modern rock and a full bar (maybe also hence the name). The customer base is 25 to 35, casually dressed and on the lively side. Service is prompt and generally courteous, and drinks are reasonably priced.

South First Billiards
420 S. First St., San Jose (408/294-7800)
The warehouse-sized pool hall softens the edges with warm brick, stained wood and lamp accents. The 30-plus tables fill up quickly, especially on weekends, so come early or wait in the echoey bar area outfitted with tables, booths, video games and a foosball table. The price to shoot has not been raised in the last year; it is still $10 after 7pm, half-price from 4 to 7pm. On Fridays and Saturdays, the rate is $12.50. The bar serves 15 beers, only five of which are not microbrewed. Open until 2am every night; 21 and over.

The Village Inn
1355 Hacienda Ave., Campbell (408/866-9853)
Out in this very residential corner on the Los Gatos­Campbell border, in a lonely shopping center, the Village Inn welcomes pool players, pinball wizards and sports fans to its guy-bar ambiance. The barkeep touts this Friday's arrival of the Bud Girls, as well as the regular Thursday-night pool tournaments and barbecue ($5 entry fee). Open 10am­2am; happy hour 4­6pm weekdays.

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

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