Central San Jose
4th Street Bowl
1441 N. fourth St, San Jose 408.453.5555
Hours: Mon-Fri 11am-2am, Sat-Sun 6pm-2am
Crowd Age: 25-40
Music: Karaoke, DJ
Décor: Spiffy karaoke nightclub
Signature Drink: Miami Ice
Ambience: Chicken throats stay home--the 4th Street Bowl is reserved for the more distinguished crooner, thank you very much. As the sign outside the door reads, "Collared Shirt Required, No Sports Attire, No Bulky Jackets or Coats"--and last but not least-- "No Caps, Skull Caps or Doo Rags." Once inside, the graceful bar and sizable dance floor afford respectables a clean, upstanding evening of karaoke or DJ dancin'.
840 North First
840 N. First St, San Jose 408.282.0840
Hours: Mon-Sat 11:30am-10pm
Crowd Age: 20-40
Music: Jazz CDs
Décor: Classy cool
Signature Drink: Premium wines, lemon drop
Ambience: This elegant restaurant and bar offers politicos and others attracted to the halls of power a place to meet for lunch or mingle later in the evening over cocktails and chardonnay. The classy-yet-comfortable spot offers patrons a chance to share some of the best insider gossip in town or just sit back and learn the art of elbow rubbing.
399 S. First St, San Jose 408.287.3991
Hours: The Cellar Fri-Sat 9:30pm-2am; Agenda Lounge Tue-Fri 5pm-2am, Sat 8pm-2am, Sun 7pm-2am
Crowd Age: 21-35
Music: Live music, DJ
Signature Drink: Agenda Cosmopolitan (Lounge), Alabama Slammer (Cellar)
Games/Amenities: Two billiard tables in the lounge
Ambience: Agenda's nighttime personality is always fresh and varied, thanks to its weekly events and tri-level interior. In the lounge every Sunday it's reggae; Tuesdays belong to house; Wednesdays boast salsa and salsa lessons, and Thursdays are hip-hop and soul nights. Though there's tablecloth dining on the ground floor, there's more gyrating downstairs in The Cellar, the underground dance club whose floors can get sticky with all the beer splashing around on Friday and Saturday nights.
163 W. Santa Clara St, San Jose 408.292.9928
Hours: Mon-Thu 11:30am-10:30pm, Fri 11:30am-11pm, Sat 5-11pm, Sun 5-9pm
Crowd Age: 30-40
Music: Live music
Décor: Updated American classic
Signature Drink: Lily pop
Ambience: A luminous yellow warmth envelops A.P. Stumps' interior, the result of modern light fixtures that hang on the ends of cords throughout the restaurant like glowing alien pods. The restaurant is located in the historic Masson-Lefranc building in downtown San Jose and has been beautifully maintained. Stumps' bar has a decidedly relaxed feel to it, and people seem drawn to the comfortable tables near the live jazz band that squeezes out some rather decent music.
372 S. First St, San Jose, 408.298.2529
Hours: Thu-Sat until 2am
Music: Hip-hop, R&B
Décor: Brick walls and wood floors
Signature Drink: Kamikazes
Games/Amenities: Pool tables
Ambience: For South Bay folk looking to dance all night to the area's best hip-hop DJs, the B-Hive is the only place to be. Kamikazes are $2 all night on Fridays for those who need a little liquid courage before raising the roof. The club fills up early, so don't wait 'til the fashionable hour of 11pm to hit this club. Be warned, the dress code is strictly enforced--no hats, sportswear, tennis shoes or white T-shirts. Bouncers will swiftly boot that ass out the door, where there is always a willing and eager B-Hive fan waiting to get in.
58 S. First St, San Jose 408.280.1993
Crowd Age: 25-40
Music: Contemporary jazz, Muzak
Décor: Hotel library
Signature Drink: Martinis and Cosmopolitans
Dancing: This is a drinking establishment, thank you
Ambience: One thing must be done at this big, beautiful new bar: drinks must be drunk. Those who know this know the best way to frequent the Italian eatery is to step off light rail and glide on in, where mahogany, brass, high ceilings, plush chairs and a fireplace combine to create a cozy area for people who are waiting for tables or just hanging out at the bar. Bella Mia deviates from normal restaurant bars in that it has drink specials, which include Maker's Mark Manhattans, Stolichnaya Pepper Bloody Marys and Bone Dry Martinis. Meals can be eaten at the bar, although glimpsing one's own reflection while tossing down oysters may be slightly disconcerting.
Big Lil's Cabaret
157 W. San Fernando St, San Jose 408.295.7469
Hours: Tues-Sat 11:30am-11pm
Crowd Age: Teenagers-ancient
Décor: Dinner theater
Ambience: Lunchtime vaudeville shows loaded with innuendo keep yupsters choking on their deli sandwiches at Big Lil's, and Thursday night's 21-and-over crowds cackle during the Saturday Night Live-y show. Office manager Darcie Grover says the Thursday act has been toned down from raunchy to PG-13 because the Cabaret is trying to pilot the show on television. People of all ages are welcome to the melodramas on Friday and Saturday nights, when dinner is catered by Tony Roma's.
Blake's Steakhouse and Bar
17 N. San Pedro Square, San Jose 408.298.9221
Hours: Daily 11am-10pm
Crowd Age: Mid-30s
Décor: Asian steak house
Signature Drink: Sharktini
Ambience: Blake's square bar sits at the entrance of the restaurant and serves as primo seating for guys who are there to watch sporting events and get a little rowdy, according to Chris the Bartender, who moonlights as the Server of All Things Alcoholic while red-rimming it as a marketer during the day. Chris lamented his gender, as men tend to tip female bartenders a little more, but said Silicon Valley chaps still tip generously, especially after they've stained their lips with the signature drink he whips up for Sharks games.
Body Shop at Club Tropicana
47 Notre Dame Ave, San Jose 408.279.3387
Hours: Fri 9pm-2am
Crowd Age: 18 and over
Music: Hip-hop and old school
Décor: Go-go cages and social lounge
Ambience: When serving the 18-and-over lot, expect the expected here at the Body Shop: girls dressing like Britney and guys posing like Nelly or Justin from 'N Sync. That said, this is a young, young crowd, but that doesn't mean they don't know how to get down like their older siblings. For those who are legal, there's a fully stocked bar, and ladies who arrive before 10pm with fliers receive free admission. Regular DJs Fabian and Remedy keep the party going Friday nights. Be sure to check the gear before cruising out, as there's a strict dress code: no sportswear, baseball hats or tennis shoes.
417 S. First St, San Jose 408.280.0885
Hours: Sun-Thu 8:30pm-1:45am, Fri-Sat 7pm-1:45am
Crowd Age: 18 and over
Music: Wed-Sun music; DJs on Mon and Tue
Décor: Garage punk
Signature Drink: Beer
Games/Amenities: Video games, darts and foosball
Ambience: The Cactus Club offers the live performances of a big-city club and the comfort of one's own basement. It's got that general lack of lighting to boot. It has played host to a wide variety of Bay Area and national bands, from the Pixies to San Francisco's Imperial Teen and San Jose favorite Stunt Monkey. The acoustics rock and there's always elbow room to get funky near the bands, generally without worrying about wearing that cosmo dancing nearby. While most of the live acts play for an 18-and-over crowd (some cater to 16+) there's a full-service bar for the 21-and-over crowd. And for late-night munchies, it's hard to beat the New York-style pizza sold by the slice outside.
371 S. First St, San Jose 408.298.7788
Hours: Sun 8am-midnight, Mon-Thu 6:30am-midnight, Fri 6:30am-2am, Sat 7:30am-2am
Crowd Age: High school and up
Décor: Arty cafe
Signature Drink: Coffee
Games/Amenities: Couches, chess, books
Ambience: Cafe Matisse offers a hip alternative to the SoFA bars and clubs--and a refuge from the Valley's techie scene. The slightly more artsy crowd comes here to chat, play chess and get a different kind of buzz. When it comes to writing--from fiction to term papers--Cafe Matisse's mochas beat a muse any day.
98 S. Almaden Ave, San Jose, 408.995.6220
Hours: Daily 6am-2am
Crowd Age: 30 and up
Décor: Barfly chic
Games/Amenities: Pool table, video games
Ambience: One of San Jose's most beloved dive bars, The Caravan attracts a unique mixture of aging barflies and college-age curiosity seekers. The bar sells six-packs for those who need to go home but aren't done drinking. At the time of this writing, The Caravan had suspended its popular Thursday live shows until its owners obtain an entertainment permit from the city. Still, a great place to soak up the local color and a few Buds as well.
City Bar and Grill
Hilton Hotel 300 Almaden Blvd, San Jose 408.947.4444
Hours: Daily 11am-1am
Crowd Age: 21-50
Music: Jazz and swing playing in the background
Décor: Just like the city grills from the '40s and '50s
Signature Drink: Chocolate Martini
Games/Amenities: Late-night menu at bar 10pm-midnight, three TVs
Ambience: Conventioneers and those on their way to the symphony or the Center for the Performing Arts make up a large part of the clientele. Though it's located inside the Hilton, don't neglect this downtown gem. There's an ample selection of cigars for relaxing outside in the patio area, and for Martini fans, a Martini menu. Try the Green Apple Martini, a house specialty alongside the Chocolate Martini. It's easy to relax here, especially with the plush mocha-colored Ottomans and pleasant staff.
369 S. First St, San Jose 408.275.8828
Hours: Thu-Sat 9pm-2am
Crowd Age: Frisky twentysomethings
Music: DJ dancing, occasional live bands
Décor: Barbarella shags Austin Powers
Signature Drink: Raging Bull, Long Island
Ambience: This is a place for all the hip young things who love the nightlife and got to boogie to shake it all night long to high-energy hip-hop and house music. The club is decked out like an intergalactic paradise with mirrors and neon, setting the mood to get your groove on. With a retro-futuristic attitude and plenty of sass 'n' ass, Club 369 has become a real hotspot. In fact, when Prince played the Event Center last December, the after-party was held here.
1001 S. First St, San Jose 408.297.7272
Hours: Fri-Sun 8pm-1:30am
Crowd Age: 20-30
Music: Regional Mexican
Décor: Media-cized dance club
Ambience: Club Caribe beams in various television broadcasts over 10 televisions while four projectors flash images on the walls of the club. The owners present live circuit events through these abundant TVs for boxing and soccer events. Live bands play traditional Mexican music for the throngs who gather here on the weekends, and while most of the dancers seemed to enjoy cutting the rug, one patron who would identify herself only as Karla curled her lip and declared that the music was a bit "ranchero" and too many men were wearing hats for her liking. Nonetheless, it's hard to go wrong with three fully stocked bars--hot sellers are piña coladas, margaritas and Coronas.
55 Market Street, San Jose, 408.971.4239
Hours: Daily 9pm-1:30am
Crowd Age: 21-up
Décor: Glass and tubular steel
Signature Drink: Caribbean rum and Coke
Games/Amenities: Jazz in all its forms
Ambience: This aquarium-sized and mostly unadorned club, lodged in the base of the gold-windowed tower on Market Street, is serious about its music. It hosts acts both international and local; some recent draws include Chucho Valdez, pianists Smith Dobson and Dave Mathews, and vibraphonists Joe Locke. Everything from Brazilian jazz to flamenco to reggae has shown up in this eclectic downtown nightclub.
177 W. Santa Clara St, San Jose 408.279.3670
Hours: Thu-Sun 8pm-1:30am
Crowd Age: 20-30
Décor: Neon Studio 54
Games/Amenities: Free salsa lessons Thursday through Saturday
Ambience: Just walking into Club Miami can be a little intimidating, what with the strict dress code--no hats, tennis shoes, sportswear or gang colors--and once in the door, it's not easy to decide which way to go, as whichever direction is chosen, it's going to involve pushing one's way through a horde of nylon-clad bodies. Corona and tequila shots flow like milk and honey in this Latin dancer's paradise, where the pink glow of neon palm trees flashes in every corner. Expect to find an abundance of Latin men who aren't afraid to take a girl's hand and salsa the night away.
Coconut Willie's Cocktail Lounge
1099 W. San Carlos St, San Jose 408.947.9619
Hours: Fri-Sun 10am-2am, Mon-Thu noon-2am
Crowd Age: 30-50
Music: Impressive jukebox
Décor: Tropical truck stop
Signature Drink: Anything with whiskey
Games/Amenities: Pool, pinball, dice games
Ambience: Wandering into Coconut Willie's feels like stepping into an airbrushed painting on the side of a '70s van. Tropical touches like a palm-tree-embossed mirror behind the bar, bamboo wall coverings and scattered hula girls blend with the pragmatic Lotto tickets and microwave popcorn to create a working man's drinking paradise. Here, Wild Turkey is displayed proudly on the top shelf, men still proudly sport feathered hair and the regulars could teach dice games professionally.
399 N. 13th St, San Jose, 408.287.5399
Hours: Daily 6am-1:45am
Crowd Age: "Barely 21 all the way up to 98"
Signature Drink: Beer
Games/Amenities: Darts, pool
Ambience: This is where people come to drink, talk and drink some more. Regulars stock the casual bar by the pound, and there's always room for one more happy-go-lucky patron. If conversation about the neighborhood doesn't suit your mood, pick up a pool stick or some darts. A good moment can be had here.
E&O Trading Company
96 S. First St, San Jose 408.938.4100
Hours: Mon-Fri 11:30am-11pm, Sat 5pm-11pm
Crowd Age: 21-45
Décor: Paper lanterns and silk drapes
Signature Drink: Pomegranate margarita or martini
Ambience: A new kid on the block, E&O is gaining a reputation for its cheery and sophisticated happy-hour scene. Bar patrons can sit on comfortable stools and tall tables dining on E&O's delectable appetizers, including beef satay and Chinese chicken salad. For those on the drinking instead of dining crusade, try an Absolut Mandarin Cosmo or chocolate martini.
374 S. First St, San Jose 408.280.6161
Hours: Tue-Sat 5:30-10pm, Sun 4:30-9pm
Crowd Age: Youthful postgrads
Décor: Distressed brick, high-ceilings and tasteful art
Signature Drink: Sour Apple Martini
Ambience: With a quiet, refined atmosphere, Eulipia offers a perfect place to warm up--or cool off--before attending one of the many downtown movies or live theatres nearby. The burnished bar also invites hungry diners to whet their appetite before diving into one of the restaurant's delicious entrees or appetizers.
170 S. Market St, San Jose 408.998.1900
Hours: Sun-Thu 11am-11pm, Fri-Sat 11 am-12:30am
Crowd Age: 21-up
Music: Soothing and almost inaudible
Décor: Marble halls
Signature Drink: Expense account cocktails
Games/Amenities: That magic, clean, posh-hotel smell, fresh greenery after a summer rain.
Ambience: When this hotel was built in the late 1980s it had one of the only air-conditioned bars in downtown; locals would go in after work for a martini on the hottest days. Today most of the patrons are travelers waiting for someone to show. Recessed into the ground floor of the Fairmont, this lounge invites the visitor to flow down into it, crunch down a few goldfish crackers and discuss business.
Flying Pig Pub
78 S. First St, San Jose 408.298.6710
Hours: Tue-Fri 11:30am-1:30am, Sat and Mon 5pm-1:30am
Crowd Age: 20-30
Music: No live bands, but loud jukebox
Décor: Basic brick wall and metal charm, fireplace
Signature Drink: Beer (also offers an oatmeal cookie cocktail)