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Bars & Clubs

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Sports Bars

Alex's 49er Inn
2214 Business Circle, San Jose (408/279-9737)
The women behind the counter at Alex's are enough to show up for, said the woman behind the counter. The clientele are working men, mostly, who sit at the bar or at tables with stools and occasionally order and eat arm-sized sausages. Regulars come for the free buffet, 1pm­6pm on Saturdays and Sundays, of cold cuts. Big TV; one dart board; two pool tables. Open daily, 6am­2am; no cover ever.

Alma Bowl
355 W. Alma Ave., San Jose (408/294-8825)
Normally, bowling is what draws patrons to Alma Bowl's bar, but in recent months, a second, sometimes noisier, form of entertainment has been the main attraction. Wednesdays through Saturdays, Alma patrons join in karaoke, crooning their favorite tunes while guzzling beer and mixed drinks. Offset from the bar are a cafeteria, arcade and bowling alley, which, together, create a classic 1950s-style entertainment center. Open daily, 11am­2am.

Blinky's
3145 El Camino Real, Santa Clara (408/241-3933)
Set back in a barely visible strip mall along El Camino Real, Blinky's Sports Cafe is nothing like a cafe and everything like a good ol' fashioned saloon. The lighting is so dim, patrons are forced to use the illuminated Budweiser logos to navigate to the bar. From 6pm to 2am, bar-goers can engage in a host of noncontact sports such as shuffleboard, video games, darts or pool. Only Bud and Miller are on tap, but hard liquor is abundant. When Blinky's opens at 6am sharp, 20 or so early birds regularly drop in for their morning brandy and a chat with the owner, who is also the only blind bartender in the valley. Blinky's has karaoke and a prime-rib dinner every Thursday.

Blue Pheasant
22100 Stevens Creek Blvd., Cupertino (408/255-3300)
Located on the green near Blackberry Farm, the Blue Pheasant Bar and Grill attracts the golfing crowd. The bar fairly reflects the majority of the players teeing off--mostly middle-aged and older men--although with golf becoming a fad among rock groups, there have been a few sightings of Gen-Xers downing beers before proceeding to the greens. Blue Pheasant barflies are receptive to banter, especially if it's about Tiger Woods. On weekend nights, nongolfers as well as friends of golfers crowd the house to make things a little more happening. Open for lunch and dinner; closes about 10pm, except Monday when it doesn't open at all.

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.

C.S. Riff's
1505 S. Winchester Blvd., San Jose (408/866-0511)
If you're into the basics, C.S. Riffs is the place. Featuring a full bar, two pool tables, dart boards, a big-screen TV and a reasonably priced menu of greasy favorites, Riff's is a great place for a beer, some french fries and few tunes by a local band. There's plenty of seating and the plant-lined stage offers everyone a decent view. The ambiance is rather plain, with the usual assortment of beer posters, Formica tables and glass bricks. Live bands Wednesday­Saturday. No cover. Open daily, 11am­2am.

Double D's Sports Grille
354 N. Santa Cruz Ave., Los Gatos (408/395-6882)
Around opening day a year ago, Double D's caught flak from town do-gooders about the sexist connotation of its name. Owners Darin and Dean Devincenzi took the hailstorm in stride and have disproved the shortsighted view that the bar would be a low-rent version of Hooters. The only diversions here are the popular pub grub, 14 TV screens blasting sports programming, video games, jukebox, pool tables. Waiters and waitresses work in khaki shorts, not thongs. Since the opening, the Devincenzis have managed to make a name for their bar, instead of the other way around.

Duke of Edinburgh
10801 N. Wolfe Road, Cupertino (408/446-3853)
The trappings are Victorian--all dark wood and crushed red velvet--but the Duke has the atmosphere of a typical British pub. Some patrons come to wash down Cornish pasties with pints of Guinness while watching either British or American football on the telly. The darters working the three boards load up the jukebox with tunes by everyone from the Pogues to Sinatra. Between mouthfuls or throws, steady customers--expatriate Brits and American Anglophiles--can be heard arguing about the Beatles' influence on popular music or the correct pronunciation of "pasty." Open till 2am.

Empire Tap Room
651 Emerson St., Palo Alto (415/321-3030)
This Palo Alto watering hole, clad generously in wood and subtle safari prints, achieved landmark status in writer Po Bronson's novel The First 20 Million. Though the sports channel overhead and khaki-shorts-wearing, mostly male crowd makes it look more like a frat-house reunion than the dealmaking spot of the '90s Internet boom (fashion tip: wear a Netscape T-shirt if you want to look like a 20-something decamillionnaire), the liquor selection immediately belies any suggestion that this is a budget-conscious keg-beer or fruit-drink crowd. An ample selection of single-malt scotches keeps company with a deep roster of grappas, French brandies, ports, agaves and microbrews. Oh, and did we mention cigars? Although they were out of our first three requests--Havana Club rum, a 1964 Armagnac and a Honduran Romeo and Julieta stogie--the Empire builders deserve credit for having them on the list. Open weekdays 11am­10pm and weekends 11am­10:30pm.

Fibbar Magee's
156 S. Murphy Ave., Sunnyvale (408/749-8373)
Minus the scuffs and stains of older public houses, this bright, spacious pub is certainly none the worse for lack of wear. At lunch time, the downtown workers dine on pub fare; evenings find 20- to 30-somethings gathered to watch sports, listen to live music or just hang out. Despite the newness of its fixtures and wood, this welcoming tavern evinces a certain Gaelic inspiration--with soothing green lighting, Irish souvenirs on the wall and the names of soccer clubs etched on glass panels at the top of each booth. Open 11am­2am.

4th Street Bowl
1441 N. Fourth St., San Jose (408/453-5555)
It's Saturday night, 1957. Dick picks up Jane in his father's Plymouth and takes her to the bowling alley. They share a malted and a basket of fries, then eyeball Eddie from geometry class rolling strikes. In the lounge, teams take a break from the lanes to eat hot dogs and drink beer in the red-leather booths. The past lives at 4th Street Bowl, although the Fonz's jukebox has been replaced by disco lights and nightly karaoke. Owner Jim Koshiyama spins the discs and calls the next victim. The 4th Street Bowl is a cynicism-free zone. Alcohol is served every night in the lounge till 2am.

Gary's Sports Bar
2369 S. Winchester Blvd., Campbell (408/374-3257)
Most sports bars offer the usual assortment of TVs, dart boards and sports memorabilia, but how many can boast a six-hole putting green? Located in the outdoor patio, the green is 30 square feet of Astroturf delight. Inside, Gary's features a huge TV room with cafeteria-style seating, a roomy darts area and an extensive selection of burgers, sandwiches and draft beers. Accented by piles of sports memorabilia, Gary's is also the unofficial hangout for the San Jose Seahawks rugby team. As '80s sports bars go, this is the real deal. Open 11am­2am.

Gaslighter Theater
400 E. Campbell Ave., Campbell (408/866-1408)
Abbott and Costello's "Who's on First" routine would go over well here, since Gaslighter recently added a sports bar to its bawdy vaudeville stage shows. Beer and wine provide liquid succor to nail-biters during championship games on the big-screen TV. Fridays and Saturdays, the Gaslighter players skewer good taste and bad villains with equal glee; shows start at 8pm.

Hugo's Sports Bar
4219 El Camino Real, Palo Alto (415/843-2521)
Hugo's, inside the Hyatt Rickey's hotel complex, is a travelers' bar --a place where nobody knows your name. As a home away from home, Hugo's functions admirably. The decor is '50s, but with a Twilight Zone feel, sort of "Brady Bunch family room meets Chili's," with tall tables for snacking on crab cakes and Philly cheese-steak sandwiches; a real, movie-house popcorn machine; a big-screen TV; comfy plaid couches and a comfy bartender with a name tag (because nobody knows her name) who'll pour a tired, lonesome traveler a $5 shot of Wild Turkey Rare Breed Bourbon. Even if you do have a home here, Hugo's works best when what you want is to be alone with a stiff drink among strangers. Open 11am­12:30am.

Los Altos Bar and Grill
169 Main St., Los Altos (415/948-4332)
By day, this sports bar plays host to a regular group of friendly old curmudgeons who dispense their worldly wisdom to the person warming the next barstool. During happy hour, a slightly younger crowd converges to partake of half-price appetizers and watch sports on TV. Some stay on into the evening to dance to cover bands. The restaurant offers an extensive wine list, mixed drinks and beers. The atmosphere is relaxed, the service friendly and finding a conversation not a problem. Open till 1am weekdays, 2am weekends.

Lou's Village
1465 W. San Carlos St., San Jose (408/293-4570)
In the '40s, Lou's Village was an elegant spot that demanded nothing less than a dinner jacket. Despite the scads of sports memorabilia now decking the walls, the bar retains a sense of respectability. Our microbrew-sipping crew glimpsed the mostly 50-and-up clientele flirting over Manhattans. Nonplussed, we turned our attention to the big-screen TV and applied ourselves to the happy-hour grinds and wondered whose surfboards are hanging from the ceiling. (They're the owner's.) Yea to cigarettes; nay to cigars.

Johnny's Northside Grill
532 N. Santa Cruz Ave., Los Gatos (408/395-6908)
A young crowd comes to watch sports on any of five TVs; Los Gatos families come for the barbecue and all-American food. The bar stocks wine and beer, plus hand-poured shots and 25 tequilas. Outdoor patio seating is available. Open daily, 11am­midnight.

Magic Edge Officer Club and Cafe
1625 N. Shoreline Blvd., Mountain View (415/254-7300)
With its black-lit, late-'80s neon retrograded into a slick chrome-against-black motif, Magic Edge cuts some interesting slices from the valley's denizens. Techno buffs as well as genuine mighty neuro-powers mingle over mixed drinks while officer wannabes wait for their turn to buckle into million-dollar virtual jet fighters in memory of Top Gun. These high-priced video dogfights are a great low-risk rush at rush hour.

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.

Murphy's Law
135 S. Murphy Ave., Sunnyvale (408/736-3822)
A huge TV screen is eclipsed by no-cover blues bands four days a week, and the pleasantly noisy Murphy's Law is bisected by a long shuffleboard table parallel to the bar, where, during one visit, an unassuming 30ish/40ish crowd sat on stools yakking and watching the Giants. Softball trophies tower over the back bar; about a hundred dollars' worth of crumpled singles are pressed up against the ceiling, along with one significant artifact: an air-conditioning vent painted to look like a Lockheed missile.

The Old Pro's
2865 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, (415/325-2070)
This crowded, sometimes rowdy pub opens at 8am during football season, and posts the schedule of the Stanford and Notre Dame football teams just outside its otherwise nondescript entrance on busy El Camino. On most weekend nights, a youthful crowd mobs the smallish front room, filled with pool tables, and the longer back room here. Sports memorabilia clutters the walls, and the bar mostly serves the ultimate sports drink: beer. There's also wine, but no hard liquor. While Old Pro's is sports oriented, it's not '80s-style sleek and corporate, capitalizing on sports as a "concept." No, Old Pro's is sports in the neighborhood-bar sense of the word: locally owned, dedicated, spirited and engaged. Open 11:30am­2am daily.

Peacock Lounge
19980 Homestead Road, Cupertino (408/777-0812)
A full-participation sports bar and grill straight out of the '80s. There are teams/competitions for shuffleboard, pool, darts, foosball and softball. Despite the activity, this is an uncommonly mellow sports bar and grill. Full bar includes 12 premium tequilas, 10 single-malt scotches, four small-batch bourbons, four wines by the glass, three vintage ports and 12 microbrews on tap. Grill fare, plus full dinners. Open 10am­2am daily; happy hour, 3:30­6pm.

Peppertree Pizza Co.
1275 Piedmont Road, San Jose (408/251-6310)
Photos of sponsored Little League and youth soccer teams lining the walls reflect the neighborhood family patronage of this sports-oriented pizza place. The glory decade for the 49ers lives in the Joe Montana poster. Beer and wine only, but lots of beer: 100 bottled types; six on tap. Happy hour, 4­6pm, Monday­Thursday. Ten-foot TV screen, video-game room, pool table, foosball, darts. Closes at 10pm; half-hour later on weekends, earlier Sundays. Every other Saturday, open till midnight for live band. No cover; smoking allowed.

Players
1589 Pomeroy Ave., Santa Clara (408/296-9955)
Loud jukebox music, high stools topped with vinyl and 1970s beer placards featuring Farrahesque models all work together to create Players' atmosphere. Gigantic plastic beer-bottle lights hover over the bar's six pool tables, which spring into action after three quarters are slipped into their metal slots. The full bar is stocked with American beers on tap and offers a few microbrews, including Gordon Biersch's. For nondrinkers, there's a Coke machine--Players' fridge isn't big enough to hold anything but beer.

San Jose Live!
150 S. First St., San Jose (408/294-5483)
Get here early--the line of sporty guys and gals starts to grow alarmingly around 9:30pm. San Jose Live! houses plenty of jock-related entertainment: video games, pool tables, darts, basketball hoop, foosball, round-the-clock sports programming on numerous TVs. It's a veritable Chuck E. Cheese for adults. The venue has undergone a little restructuring in the past year. A new '70s dance club, Flashbaxx, services all the folks who don't want to dance in the boxing ring. L'il Ditties, the bawdy piano bar, manages to "Lucille" many prospective brides into submission.

Shark and Rose
69 N. San Pedro St., San Jose (408/287-6969)
As the name implies, the Shark and Rose opened a few years ago to cater to the thirsty minions who support the local hockey team. Actually, armchair athletes of all stripes come to the Shark and Rose to cheer on or wince at the game du jour with their fellow 'Niners, Giants or Clash fans. Since nothing breeds camaraderie like a sporting event, lone patrons should have no problem finding folks who'll share in a toast to the winning team or commiserate over a beer should--heaven forbid--the hometown favorites lose. The bar stays open till 12:30am.

Sharky's
1151 Lincoln Ave., San Jose (408/279-0996)
Tucked into a back room behind the White Dove Café on Willow Glen's main drag, Sharky's is not so much a cocktail lounge as what the British call a "local," where you can count on a chat or a game of electronic darts. It's the sort of place where the regulars will not only ask a newcomer's name but will also remember it after a few drinks. Although Sharky's is a sports bar, which is not to say a jock bar, the mixmaster doesn't hesitate to kill the sound on the multiple TVs to accommodate those who'd rather listen to the well-stocked jukebox.

The Sports Page
1431 Plymouth St., Mountain View (415-961-9104)
The Sports Page is a bar of nightly specials: Tuesday, karaoke; Wednesday, volleyball; Thursday­Friday, live bands; Sunday, light sounds. Patrons range from college-aged to middle-aged. Cigar-smoking is allowed on the patio (big enough for volleyball and smoking). The menu includes standard bar fare: cold and hot sandwiches, Buffalo wings and mozzarella sticks. Some microbrews and imports on tap, like Newcastle Nut Brown Ale.

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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