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102 S. Santa Cruz Ave, Los Gatos 408.354.4303
Hours: Tue-Fri 3pm-2am, Sat 8pm-2am
Crowd Age: Generation X to boomers
Music: Live rock, blues
Décor: Log cabin with a kiss of Maxfield Parrish
Signature Drink: Slammin' Screw
Dancing: And lots of it
Ambience: Located one floor up, south of Los Gatos' main drag, the cozy redwood lodge rocks with a happy clientele and boogie-down music. Wall-to-wall bodies pack in for the down-home atmosphere and neighborly feel of this stalwart drinking and dancing establishment. The dance floor may be small, but the crowd doesn't seem to mind. When it gets too sweaty, take a breather out on the wraparound deck.
15043 Los Gatos Blvd, Los Gatos 408.358.0774
Hours: Daily 10am-2am
Crowd Age: 21-50s
Music: Live music on Fridays
Décor: Dive chic
Signature Drink: Yagermikey
Games/Amenities: Jukebox, pool table, video games, big-screen TV
Ambience: The Boulevard Tavern's mix of dive bar comfort and hardwood floors attracts an eclectic crowd of local neighbors, businessmen, college students and couples. This bar fills up at happy hour, and the drinks always pack a punch. While the pool table is never lonely, people-watching is a popular sport as well.
Old Town, 50 University Ave, Los Gatos 408.354.8118
Hours: Mon-Thu 11:30am-10pm, Fri-Sat 11:30am-10:30pm, Sun 10:30am-9:30pm
Crowd Age: 30-50
Music: Live music
Décor: Classic elegance
Signature Drink: Extensive wine list
Games/Amenities: Outdoor heated patio
Ambience: Fireplaces, cherrywood and white tablecloths adorn this classy yet comfortable restaurant and bar. In other words, a hangout for heavy drinkers on a fixed income, it ain't. But for the lucky few who survived the dotcom crash, California Cafe is a prime place to plot a new business strategy over gourmet California cuisine and a wine list that's as long as the line over at the unemployment office.
Santa Cruz Ave #8, Los Gatos, 408.354.1771
Hours: Daily, noon-2am
Ages: 21 and up
Style: Small town pub
Ambience: If the dream is to walk into a bar and shout, "A round on me!", then the dream is best fulfilled at Carrie Nation's. Those generous souls are remembered forever in brass on the back wall of this happy-go-lucky pub. Perhaps they were persuaded by the charming barkeeps, or the scent of immortality--or maybe it was the stone logic from drinking 12 Budweisers on a Sunday afternoon inside this place, one of the original fern bars. No matter their reasons: hang out long enough inside Carrie Nation's and the dream will be realized.
17533 Santa Cruz Highway, Los Gatos 408.354.4020
Hours: Tue-Sun 4:30pm-midnight
Crowd Age: 30s-40s
Music: Live music Tue-Sat
Décor: The only roadhouse that feels like home
Ambience: As Highway 17 starts carving its way up into the mountains, about a mile south of downtown Los Gatos, commuters stuck in traffic can catch a whiff of barbecue right near the two big stone kitties. Once a stagecoach stop in the 19th century, The Cats restaurant has been a mountain area gathering place since 1967 and still boasts a warm, welcoming atmosphere that's as perfect for Sunday evening dinners in summer as it is a place to duck out of the traffic when the going on 17 just isn't. The wood walls in the bar boast photos of owner Diane Ogilvie, a former San Francisco singer, whose daughter, Terrie Ogilvie, runs the place, and whose granddaughters occasionally help wait tables. A lot of the customers have been coming in for years. Dinners (steaks, ribs, chicken, fish) are huge. There's live music in the bar just about every night of the week, and the stage boasts all kinds of sounds by local musicians, from solo guitar and blues to piano.
208 Bachman Ave, Los Gatos 408.395.1233
Hours: Daily 11:30am-2am
Crowd Age: Gets younger as the day goes on
Décor: Rich old wood and dark lighting
Signature Drink: Chillum, single malt whiskey
Games/Amenities: Management kindly refrains from giving customers anything sharper than a rubber ball
Ambience: Cluttered and funky with an Irish motif, this neighborhood bar attracts locals and regulars with its award-winning menu of close to 100 single malt whiskeys, nice wine list and generous selection of draft and bottled beers. The tantalizing aroma of sizzling comfort food greets patrons at the door, and the bar serves up a full menu complete with fish and chips, burgers, spicy chicken wings, pizzas, soups and sandwiches, along with yummy nightly specials including traditional fare like corned beef and cabbage.
115 N. Santa Cruz Ave, Los Gatos 408.354.1737
Hours: Sun-Thu -9pm, Fri-Sat 5-10pm
Crowd Age: 30-70
Décor: Yacht club
Signature Drink: Sapphire and tonic
Ambience: Serving mainly as a waiting area for the posh Chart House restaurant, there's plenty of room at the bar toward the later hours. The place lives up to its name with prints of classy ships in full sail adorning the wall. The wicker furniture furthers the yachty sensibilities of the place. The best seat for nursing a drink may be outside on the patio, where a decent view of Los Gatos' hopping Santa Cruz Avenue could sate even the most curious of people watchers on a weekend night. Surrounded by a plush lawn and garden, even the patio retains the cloistered feel that dominates the Chart House.
Clocktower Bar & Grill
Tollhouse Hotel 140 S. Santa Cruz Ave, Los Gatos 408.395.7070
Hours: Daily 4-11pm
Crowd Age: 35 and up
Décor: Modern hotel lounge
Signature Drink: White Russian
Dancing: Only if you waltz
Ambience: Clocktower is mainly patronized by guests staying upstairs in the Tollhouse Hotel, so it's common to run into techies from the Midwest taking a respite from a grueling day of "next wave" discussions. The hotel also hosts many of the musicians who play the nearby Mountain Winery in Saratoga, and the lounge walls are lined with scores of autographed pictures from visiting jazz and classic rock legends like Wynton Marsalis and the Doobie Brothers. A couple of years ago, Marsalis tickled the ivories at the Clocktower, and word is, on a lucky night, other talented guests will do the same. All this in the comfort of what--with fireplace and couches--feels like a Martha Stewart living room.
Double D's Sports Grille
354 N. Santa Cruz Ave, Los Gatos 408.395.6882
Hours: Mon-Tue 11am-10pm, Wed-Thu 11am-11pm, Fri 11am-midnight, Sat 9:30am-midnight, Sun 9:30am-10:30pm
Crowd Age: Everyone young enough and old enough to love sports
Décor: Hockey sticks and jock pics
Signature Drink: Light beer with tequila shots
Games/Amenities: Sports TV and more sports TV
Ambience: The attached family-style restaurant lends a wholesome atmosphere to the small bar that's always crowded with sports fans catching events from around the world dished-in to one of the 20-something screens scattered throughout the establishment. It's also handy when the hungries settle in with that third beer. When local teams play--be it Sharks, Giants, 49ers or As--figure on getting in early before the crush of diehard sportsniks invades.
Great Bear Coffee
19 N. Santa Cruz Ave, Los Gatos 408.395.8607
Hours: Mon-Thu 6am-9:30pm, Fri-Sat 7am-11pm, Sun 7am-9pm
Crowd Age: 15-60
Music: Open mic, some live shows
Décor: Industrial loft
Signature Drink: Chocolate Coffee Cream w/whipped cream
Games/Amenities: Local art
Ambience: The Great Bear attracts Los Gatos' funkiest bunch, and they always seem to turn out in flying colors at the regular Saturday night open mic. During a recent comedy act, a man reached around and appeared to pull a rubber chicken out of his butt. "There's been some weird shit going on lately," said one staffer. Mostly the comedy acts are a bit more tame, and they're joined on the bill by the staple acoustic guitar sets. On mellower nights, Great Bear's a hangout for those who want to wax philosophic, inhale the aroma of fresh-roasted coffee beans or check out the latest paintings and photos from some talented locals. And the Bear will serve up a "real drink," Guinness or a glass of Ravenswood red.
18840 Saratoga/Los Gatos Rd, Los Gatos 408.354.8118
Hours: Daily 11am-1am
Crowd Age: 40-60
Music: Live music Fridays and Saturdays
Décor: 1940s manor
Signature Drink: Vodka and soda
Games/Amenities: Heated patio and happy hour treats
Ambience: Visiting La Hacienda is comforting in a visiting grandma and grandpa sort of way. The sign outside the elegant '40s-style manor reads: "Through this portal pass the nicest people in the world--our customers." The regular crowd sits on green velvet chairs, underneath crystal chandeliers, and catch up on old times, laugh and offer advice. A few more subdued clients nurse white wine and martinis outside on the covered patio. Everyone, including the bartender, knows each other by first name, and the scent of aftershave and cigarettes lingers.
Los Gatos Bar & Grill
15 1/2 N. Santa Cruz Ave, Los Gatos 408.399.5424
Hours: Daily 5pm-midnight
Crowd Age: 20-40
Décor: Brewery with ballroom touches
Signature Drink: Liquid Love
Dancing: Not much
Games/Amenities: Pool, video games
Ambience: The 3-year-old LG Bar & Grill has a decent following of the young and fast West Valley set and a layout to match. Two pool tables, several video games, an auxiliary bar, scattered jugs of gummy worms and a sprawling room ensure everybody's smiling. The bartenders serve up plenty of wild shots in twisted-stem glasses. The checkerboard and faux-brick walls, combined with chandeliers and standard barstool-and-table setup, give the place some clashing character. But don't wait around for the latest trip-hop to come over the speakers. Heard around the jukebox: "Do you remember the name of the cool Foo Fighters song?"
Los Gatos Brewing Company
130 N. Santa Cruz Ave, Los Gatos 408.395.9929
Hours: Fri-Sat 11:30am-midnight, Sun-Thu 11:30am-10pm
Crowd Age: 20s and 30s
Music: No live music
Décor: Sleek, classy pub
Signature Drink: Local microbrews
Games/Amenities: TV watching
Ambience: Anyone who still thinks of beer as a working-class beverage has never gone for a pint at this spiffy brewery. Here the beer is micro-brewed to perfection, the people are beautiful and there's nary a wife-beater undershirt in sight--the dress code doesn't take kindly to tank tops, and will provide shoulder coverings if necessary. There's no dance floor, pool table or live music, but with all of the friendly strangers and tasty food, the tanned and toned regulars are hardly complaining.
Los Gatos Lodge
50 Los Gatos/Saratoga Rd, Los Gatos 408.354.3300
Hours: Sun-Thu 10:30am-midnight, Fri-Sat 10:30am-1:30am
Crowd Age: 40-60
Music: Live music Fridays and Saturdays
Décor: Rustic resort
Signature Drink: "Anything you want it to be!"
Games/Amenities: Happy hour treats
Ambience: Los Gatos Lodge looks like a cross between a cabin in the woods and a '50s lounge. A wood-burning fireplace with fake rocks shares the space with a green Naugahyde bar and plum-colored barstools. A crowd of regulars mingles at the bar, downing stiff drinks and rolling dice, while Chuck, a white-haired bartender with eyes that would've made Frank Sinatra green with envy, serves up another round.
Mountain Charley's Saloon
15 N. Santa Cruz Ave, Los Gatos 408.395.8880
Hours: Wed-Sat Noon-2am
Crowd Age: 25-40
Music: Live music three nights a week
Décor: Dark rock & roll saloon
Signature Drink: Nightly drink specials, including the Purple Hooter
Games/Amenities: Darts, TV, pinball
Ambience: This rockhouse saloon focuses on the timeless rather than the trendy, with live music throughout the week and bargain nightly drink specials. Whether watching pierced punk bands, pounding tasty Purple Hooters, watching the overhead TV--often tuned to fine television shows like Hollywood Scandals--or just chatting with the ordained minister/bartender, Charley's patrons can rest assured that they have discovered one of the edgiest spots in Los Gatos. The self-proclaimed "premier nightclub of the South Bay" also features karaoke every Wednesday night.
Pedro's Cabo Grill
316 N. Santa Cruz Ave, Los Gatos 408.354.7570
Hours: Mon-Thu 11am-10pm, Sat-Sun 11am-11pm
Crowd Age: 20s and up
Décor: Mexican cantina
Signature Drink: Margarita
Ambience: The list of margaritas and top-notch Mexican grill explain the line, often spilling out past the iron gates and onto Santa Cruz Avenue. The brightly splashed wall décor, cabana-style bar and yes, the tequila, transport the voracious crowd to south of the border and keep 'em coming back for more.
31 University Ave, Los Gatos 408.395.2722
Hours: Fri-Sat 11:30am-11pm, Sun-Thu 11:30am-10pm
Crowd Age: 25-45
Music: No live music
Décor: Upscale grillhouse
Signature Drink: 12 different flavored martinis
Games/Amenities: Watching the Beautiful People
Ambience: Those with decision-making difficulties beware. Steamer's bartenders don't just dabble in the flavored martini craze, they devote a huge portion of their evenings to perfecting it. With a dozen sweet and savory martinis and an impressive grill menu to choose from, Steamer's patrons should just be thankful that the grill offers lunch, appetizers and dinner--it could take an entire day just to decide on, much less sample, some of the martini madness. Thursday nights feature the valley's most voracious 30+ singles scene.
160 W. Main St, Los Gatos 408.354.8108
Hours: Mon-Sat 5pm-midnight, Sun 5pm-10pm
Crowd Age: 20-50
Décor: Classy bistro
Signature Drink: Anything made by Danielle
Ambience: The swanky décor in Valeriano's is so elegant that the bar/restaurant could easily feel like a stiff gathering spot, if it weren't for its amazing staff--arguably the friendliest in the South Bay. Danielle, clearly a seasoned professional, created the best Mai Tai any in our group had tasted, and even served up an impressive pint-size margarita. Recently bought by the owners of downtown's Eulipia, Valeriano's masters the art of excellent drinks and food served by exceptional people.
Listings by Geographical Location:
Campbell | Cupertino | Los Gatos | Mtn. View | Peninsula | Central San Jose | San Jose 'Burbs | Santa Clara | Saratoga | South County | Sunnyvale | South County | Bar and Club Locator
Light's On, Door's Open: What makes a bar a favorite hangout the world over? One writer aims to find out.
I'll Have What She's Having...: What's new and what's cool when it comes to the latest cocktail twists.
Senoritas and Margaritas: Left at Albuquerque--blame it all on Route 66.
Scene Stealer: All the animals come out at night... to the Camera Cafe.
Saddle Up: Sangria Restaurant, where sitting at the bar is a gripping experience.
Retro Groovin': At the DancePlex. partygoers relive the '70s, '80s and... this morning!
Flash and Dash: Mardi Gras and other surprises at Nola Restaurant and Bar.
Knight Dreams: Black Watch--where swords cross and Stoli freezes over.
United Nations: Lido's Nightclub, where world beat has a whole new meaning.
Taste the Music: The Icon Supperclub is the new incarnation of the Edge.
Mineral Wealth: Mining for meaning under the Cinebar's disco ball .
In the Pink: All in a dogone day's work at the Pink Poodle.
Rod's Roadstop: Britannia Arms at Almaden wears it well.
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From the June 21-27, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.
Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.
For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.