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The Metro Bars & Clubs 2004 Guide
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Nut House Denizens: Antonio's Nut House in Palo Alto keeps the peanut gallery happy with pool, pinball and classic rock.

Palo Alto

Antonio's Nut House
321 S. California Ave., Palo Alto
650.321.2550
Known affectionately by locals as "The Nut House," Antonio's is a down-home, classic-rock type of place. Attire is always casual, and drinkers must wade through a slew of peanut shells to get to the bar. Wisecracking bumper stickers and other truly random trinkets cover the Nut House's walls—don't miss the mechanical gorilla in the corner. Other distractions include five pool tables and pinball. (AB)

Blue Chalk Café
630 Ramona St., Palo Alto
650.325.1020
Mix billiards, killer Chocolatinis and a multitude of Stanford kids, and the result is Blue Chalk, a bilevel establishment that's a Tex-Mex restaurant by day and a social hot spot by night. High ceilings and comfy couches make Blue Chalk great, but be warned that on some nights drink minimums can be steep (up to $15). However, patrons seem more than happy to oblige. Chalk it up to Stanford money. (AB)

Cibo Bar and Grill
3401 El Camino Real, Palo Alto
800.492.7335 or 650.493.2411; www.creekside-inn.com/restaurant.htm
Cibo, which means "nourishment" in Italian, is a casual bar and grill inside Palo Alto's Creekside Inn. This spot, which used to house Fresco Restaurant and then Willow St. Café, is one of El Camino Real's newer offerings. It has a well-developed drink list, and the restaurant's entire Mediterranean-Californian menu is available from any barstool. Pair appetizers like mezah or hummus with a beer. (AB)

The Cocktail Lounge at Palo Alto Bowl
4329 El Camino Real, Palo Alto
650.948.1031; www.fun2spare.com
Get bowled over at Palo Alto's 32-lane bowling alley, which boasts a cozy nook that serves as a cocktail lounge. Beer selection is limited, but various mixed drinks are available. (What's better than sipping a Bloody Mary while actually attempting to knock things over?) The bar area also features a billiard table and darts. A snack bar sells pizza and pretzels, and a loud video game arcade can be found at the other end of the bowling alley. At Palo Alto Bowl, each night has a different theme. Tuesdays, for example, are karaoke night, and Saturdays are Planet Bowling, featuring a light show and a DJ playing top hits. (AB)

Dan Brown's Lounge and Sports Bar
4141 El Camino Real, Palo Alto
650.493.9020
Formerly the Island, Dan Brown's is only in its second month under new management. According to owner Dan Brown, "It's been completely revamped." He made the front room into a retro-style lounge and kept the backroom a sports bar. Ten televisions, two pool tables, pinball, air-hockey, foosball, video golf and a smoking patio ensure that his guests will never get bored. Locals and occasional Stanford students comprise the clientele, and according to Brown, "We pour a lot of Cosmos." But the real liquid treat here is Brown's own '57 T-bird With Hawaiian Plates, made with vodka, Southern Comfort, Amaretto, Triple Sec and pineapple juice. (But shhh, the recipe's a secret.) Though the bar doesn't serve food yet, Brown is planning a deli-style menu. (AB)

The Edge
260 S. California Ave, Palo Alto
650.321.6464; www.edgepaloalto.com
This self-described "cigar patio restaurant/nightclub" now serves up lunch--so conceivably one could spend all day lounging to hip-hop while noshing on "topless sushi" ("topless" being a coy reference to how the sushi is served, not the server's attire) . The club has seen its share of trouble over the past year, but it remains the hip peninsula place to see live music, dance to DJs, and karaoke. (TV)

Empire Grill and Tap Room
651 Emerson St, Palo Alto
650.321.3030
"ETR," as the Empire Grill and Tap Room is sometimes called, is a digerati mecca. Moguls like Steve Jobs have been spotted at this upscale bar and restaurant. At its ultralong (45 feet!) brass-and-mahogany bar, friendly bartenders pour regional brews such as Red Hook ESB, Full Sail Amber, Sierra Nevada and Pete's. Some Pacific Northwest and import beers are also available, but bartenders also mix a killer Bloody Mary and a mean dirty Martini which customers can enjoy in oversized wood booths (if they can snag a seat, that is). (AB)

Fanny & Alexander Restaurant
412 Emerson St, Palo Alto
650.326.7183; www.fannyalexander.com
Named after director Ingmar Bergman's 1983 film of the same name, "F&A's," as Fanny and Alexander is locally known, offers DJs on Thursday and Saturday and live music on Friday. After 9pm on Friday and Saturday, there is a $5 cover charge, but admittance is free with dinner (the restaurant serves Asian fusion cuisine). For late-night snacking, order vegetable spring rolls, mozzarella sticks or nachos. Though attire is generally casual, Fanny and Alexander has a bit of an upscale feel to it. Its brick walls and light wood floors make for attractive décor, and the Cosmopolitans are unbeatable. (AB)

Gordon Biersch
640 Emerson St, Palo Alto
650.323.7723; www.gordonbiersch.com
The original outlet of the 16-restaurant chain (locations range from Honolulu to Washington, D.C.), Palo Alto's Gordon Biersch is simultaneously spacious and cozy. Beers are produced on-site using only malted barley, water, hops and yeast, but somehow there are always at least four specialty brews to choose from, such as pilsners, marzens, hefeweizens or lagers. Huge silver vats serve as proof that active beer-making is happening on premises. When diners are in for happy hour, they can nosh on garlic fries or try menu items prepared with beer as an ingredient while watching a game on one of four big-screen televisions. (AB)

Knuckle's Historical Sports Bar at Hyatt Rickey's
4219 El Camino Real, Palo Alto
650.843.2553
rickeys.hyatt.com/property/index.html

In the Hyatt Rickey's restaurant sits the all-American Knuckle's Historical Sports Bar, which is decorated with sports memorabilia of all kinds (Stanford's emblem is particularly visible). A whopping 13 televisions and satellite sports ensure that patrons are up to date on all the plays and scores. There are also two pool tables, video games and a jukebox. Appetizers, sandwiches and pizza can be enjoyed with beer or wine. (AB)

La Bodeguita Del Medio
463 California Ave, Palo Alto
650.326.7762; www.labodeguita.com
Named after a bar in Havana that served as Ernest Hemingway's Cuban haunt, La Bodeguita del Medio is the only Bay Area bar that serves Le Grand Cerveza de Cuba (The Great Beer of Cuba). Mojitos and Hemingway Cocktails are also favorites, as is the impressive collection of aged rums (try the Guatemalan Zacapa Centenario, aged 23 years). At the Cigar Divan, La Bodeguita's cigar lounge, patrons can savor can hand-rolled cigars of the finest imported brands such as La Gloria Cubana, Graycliff, Partagas and Macanudo. Authentic Cuban art hangs on the walls, lending an even more exotic feel to the already-unique eatery. (AB)

Lavanda Restaurant & Wine Bar
185 University Ave, Palo Alto
650.321.3514
www.lavandarestaurant.com
Simultaneously minimalist and glamorous, this relatively new French-Mediterranean bistro sports a granite bar over which more than 600 wines (30 can be bought by the glass) and tapas are served (try the deep-fried artichokes). This prime location also features bamboo flooring and dark wood furnishings. Lavanda tends to draw an upscale older crowd. (AB)

Luna Lounge at the Westin
675 El Camino Real, Palo Alto
650.321.4422
Martini fans will be in heaven as they sip their cocktail by the Westin's heated pool; indoors or out, the Luna Lounge's atmosphere is comfortably luxurious. A Mediterranean snack can be followed by an aperitif or cordial, or by one of the many selections on Luna Lounge's California wine list. Though not a nightlife spot, the Luna Lounge can be a kickoff spot for a classy night out on the town. (AB)

MacArthur Park
27 University Ave, Palo Alto
650.321.9990; www.macpark.com
This Palo Alto fixture, located slightly off the beaten track (the Caltrain track, that is), was designed by famous architect Julia Morgan, so its bar has an aura of warmth (or was that just the whiskey sampling?). With more than 200 California wines to choose from and several microbrews on tap, MacArthur Park has happy hour covered (Monday-Friday, 5-7pm). Though its food menu lists upscale American meals, the atmosphere is casual, and the portions are generous. Diners can also eat on the outdoor patio or sign up for cooking classes. (AB)

Maddalena's Café Fino
544 Emerson St, Palo Alto
650.326.6082
www.maddalenasrestaurant.com
A mature crowd gathers at Café Fino to enjoy 1920s-style jazz and cabaret. Sporting a grand piano and art deco furnishings, Café Fino has music nightly. For a more intimate experience, share a Martini in one of the bar's private rooms for two. The ceiling is interestingly painted, and on the walls hang movie posters that used to grace the nearby Stanford Theater. Silicon Valley lore has it that the two Steves (Wozniak and Jobs, that is) met at Café Fino. (AB)

Miyake
140 University Ave, Palo Alto
650.323.9449; www.miyake-usa.com
On Friday nights, Miyake's rotating, multicolored lights and pulsing technobeats can be seen and heard from half a block away. By day, Miyake is a modest sushi joint, but by evening, it turns into a sake-bomb-downing party. The mostly Asian crowd here is college-aged. (AB)

Nola
535 Ramona St, Palo Alto
650.328.2722; www.nola.com
More than anything else, Nola's décor makes it unique; motley examples of folk art grace the walls; funky furniture is well-placed throughout the restaurant; and multihued string lights top it all off. Though inspired by New Orleans, Nola feels more refined than a typical Bourbon Street joint. Well-dressed Stanford students and young professionals mingle in one of two lounges or in an open-air courtyard while sipping on Hurricanes and Mojitos. (AB)

Old Pro
2865 El Camino Real, Palo Alto
650.325.2070
At Old Pro, the sign posted at the door quotes Yogi Berra: "No one goes there anymore. It's too crowded." It's the Old Pro in a nutshell; the clients of this bus-depot-turned-classic-sports-bar are numerous and laid-back, and chances are they're obsessed with sports. Which is good, since ESPN blares nonstop and athletic artifacts serve as decoration. Customers might even glimpse a 49er as they gulp down their beer. The restaurant also has a snazzier second location at 541 Ramona St. in downtown Palo Alto. (AB)

Pavilion Bar at Spago Palo Alto
265 Lytton Ave, Palo Alto; 650.833.1000; www.wolfgangpuck.com
Wolfgang Puck's renowned Spago, designed by acclaimed architect Adam Tihany (who also designed the King David, a historic Jerusalem hotel), maintains an upscale atmosphere and a world-class bar. Though the bar occupies its own separate area, bar patrons can order any of the innovative Asian-Mediterranean dishes from the main restaurant's menu. There is also a bar menu featuring more snacklike foods. Wines are likely to be the order of the day, since the list comprises interesting choices such as a 1997 Andrew Will Cabernet or a 1998 Napa Pinot Grigio. (AB)

Q Cafe & Billiards
529 Alma St, Palo Alto
650.322.3311; www.qcafe.com
Around the corner from University Avenues's main drag, Q Café occupies a fairly large warehouse-style facility on Alma Street. Every night is different at Q Café: Mondays are billiards nights, Tuesdays are good for appetizer and drink specials (try the artichoke spinach dip) and Wednesdays and Sundays call for live music. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday, the place really turns into a nightclub, complete with DJs, a well-dressed crowd, and a variety of dance music. Drinkers seeking a bang for their buck should order the Stanford Zombie. (AB)

Rose and Crown Pub
547 Emerson St, Palo Alto
650.327.7673
www.theroseandcrownpub.net
The Rose and Crown has a true British feel; even its exterior is cleverly painted like an old Victorian abode. With more than 10 beers on tap (among the more interesting imports are Strongbow English Dry Hard Cider and Boddingtons Pub Ale), this tiny pub can get remarkably social. On Mondays, standup comedians perform. Tuesdays feature a trivia quiz (winners get free beer) and Sundays mean live jazz. Friday nights, a younger crowd stops in to enjoy the pub's darts, jukebox and upbeat ambience. (AB)

Rudy's Pub at Elbe Restaurant
117 University Ave, Palo Alto
650.321.3319; www.elbe-restaurant.com
With a plethora of ales, lagers, ciders and stouts, Rudy's is a haven for fans of European imports. The dark but cozy bar occupies a hard-to find nook on University Ave. Thursday, Friday and Saturday a DJ spins house and hip-hop music. On the other days, patrons can watch sports on a large-screen television, play dominoes or darts, or try a liter of Franziskaner Hefeweissbier or Erdinger Weissbier Dark. Before the real dancing starts on Fridays and Saturdays, an accordion player entertains the crowd. (AB)

Stoa Restaurant and Wine Bar
3750 Fabian Way, Palo Alto
650.424.3900; www.stoarestaurant.com
This relatively new restaurant has an elegant lounge adorned with hardwood floors, inviting couches and modern art. Though the sophisticated Mediterranean vegetarian food here is pricey, it's worth it, especially since there aren't many other late-night dining options in the vicinity. Though the bar offers beer and mixed drinks, the wine selection is so vast that it would behoove aficionados to try one of Stoa's California zinfandels or European reds. On Tuesday and Friday nights, the restaurant invites a variety of jazz performers to entertain the clientele. (AB)

Trader Vic's at Dinah's Garden Hotel
4269 El Camino Real, Palo Alto
650.849.9800; www.tradervicspaloalto.com
The 22nd location in an Oakland-based chain, the Palo Alto Trader Vic's is located in Dinah's Garden Hotel. Its Polynesian-themed bar certainly lives up to Trader Vic's world-class reputation. The chain's founder, Victor Bergeron, is said to have invented the Mai Tai, but there are other drinks to try here: the Scorpion Bowl, for example, blends exotic rums, juices and brandy into a bowl for four. The typical Trader Vic's crowd usually consists of classy people in their mid-30s. (AB)

Zibibbo Restaurant
430 Kipling St, Palo Alto; 650.328.6722
www.restaurantzibibbo.com
This distinguished Mediterranean restaurant, named after a wine grape, has not one but two bars, each with its own ambience. The main bar is made of dark mahogany wood and has dramatic lighting. Zibibbo's birch wood garden bar, however, is light and airy. It features an always-warm fireplace, a pond and patio seating overlooking Waverley Street. Starting at 5pm, the restaurant hosts "Bar Bites," small gatherings featuring the chef's favorite hors d'oeuvres paired with one of the restaurant's 60 wines available by the glass. (More than 500 more are available by the bottle.) As an alternative to wine, have a generously sized Cosmopolitan. (AB)


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From the June 16-22, 2004 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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