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777 Lawrence Expwy, Santa Clara 408.241.0777
Hours: Wed-Fri 5:30pm-2am, Sat 7pm-2am, Sun 5pm-2am
Crowd Age: 25-40
Décor: Velvet walls and hues of blue and gold
Games/Amenities: Gourmet buffet served nightly
Ambience: Within the last year, BackBeat has gone from nightclub to mini concert venue, featuring acts such as Keanu Reeves' band, Dogstar, and English Beat. At its very core, BackBeat is a DJ showcase, featuring international, local and regional DJs spinning everything from Top 40 to trip-hop, house and drum 'n' bass. For those who can't make it north to SF, BackBeat is a local alternative with plenty of seating in the bar and an expansive dance floor.
3955 Freedom Circle, Santa Clara 408.980.6400
Hours: Mon-Fri 11:30am-11pm, Sat-Sun 5pm-11pm
Crowd Age: Late 20s-early 50s
Décor: Upscale, business chic
Signature Drink: Martini
Ambience: With its sleek wooden bar, brown leather booths, marble floors and glass shelves stocked with single-malt scotches and martini makings, Birk's simple elegance makes it a favorite after-work hangout for Silicon Valley's high-tech crowd. Birk's sees its share of out-of-town business folks, too, and Happy Hours Tuesdays through Thursdays always draw a crowd.
Blinky's Can't Say
1031 Monroe St, Santa Clara 408.980.4600
Hours: Daily 10am-2am
Crowd Age: College students and up
Décor: '60s lounge meets sports bar
Games/Amenities: Jukebox, darts, pool, arcade games
Ambience: Formerly the Cypress Bar, a favorite of Santa Clara University students and local old-timers alike, Dick "Blinky" Aregger, the blind ex-proprietor of Blinky's Sports Cafe, renamed and reopened Cypress on New Year's Day 1999. The clean neighborhood bar is adorned with sports mementos, and still caters to some college students as well as regulars in their 40s and 50s.
Blinky's Sports Cafe
3145 El Camino Real, Santa Clara 408.241.3933
Hours: Daily 6am-2am
Music: Live music on Fridays
Crowd Age: 30s-50s
Décor: Dark with lots of cherry wood
Signature Drink: Vodka and soda
Games/Amenities: Shuffleboard, pool, darts, big-screen TV, karaoke, Keno
Ambience: Don't be fooled by the fresh wood on the doors--Blinky's Sports Cafe is alive and kicking. Beyond the closed doors lies a friendly neighborhood bar where sports are big and so is karaoke on Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Live bands play on Saturday nights, and the local Blinky's crowd is known to cut a rug or two out on the dance floor.
4565 Stevens Creek Blvd, Santa Clara, 408.248.6244
Hours: Sun-Tue 11am-10pm, Wed-Thu 11am-11pm, Fri-Sat 11am-midnight
Crowd Age: "Everyone rubs shoulders here"
Signature Drink: By-Th-Bucket margarita in an 18 ounce glass
Ambience: Bay Area sports fans have a home here, thanks to countless mementos on the walls, like the signed jerseys of Joe Montana and others. Like the restaurant clientele, By-Th-Bucket has a local following that enjoys the restaurant's pasta alfredo and the bar-side view of the large, rectangular aquarium.
City Espresso Roasting Co.
5237 Stevens Creek Blvd, Santa Clara 408.248.4500
Hours: Mon-Sat 7am-10pm, Sun 8am-10pm
Crowd Age: Old enough to shop
Décor: Formica and linoleum
Signature Drink: Mocha Freeze
Games/Amenities: Seven terminals for Internet access
Ambience: Although it doesn't offer the faux living room atmo that some coffeehouses are proud of, City Espresso still promises a little oasis of caffeine in the heart of Outlet Land. With a Bed, Bath and Beyond, Linens n' Things and Marshall's all within a shopping cart's radius, power spenders need a place to re-up their energy. And if they need a second opinion, price comparison or diversion from shopping (another great diversion), they jump on one of the terminals and log in for only $3.45 for the entire day.
City Lights Espresso
1171 Homestead Rd, Santa Clara 408.296.0415
Hours: Mon-Fri 6:30am-9pm, Sat 8am-5pm, Sun 9am-3pm
Crowd Age: Varies
Music: Thursday is open-mic night
Décor: Student art and comfy couches
Signature Drink: Lattes and mochas
Games/Amenities: Outdoor seating
Ambience: City Lights, which is under new management, is cozy, comfortable and quiet--all the things that make difficult work a little less trying. It's a popular place with the Santa Clara University crowd, as well as the locals who live and breathe by the sandwiches, salads and Peach Delight smoothies. The staff is knowledgeable and more than personable because chances are they've been here a long, long time. Don't forget to indulge in the homemade soups, a popular choice among the lunch crowd. Try the minestrone.
1251 Franklin Mall, Santa Clara 408.296.9558
Hours: Daily 10am-2am
Crowd Age: 21-55 (dewy-eyed collegians after 11pm)
Music: Jukebox; karaoke, DJ
Décor: Naugahyde sports den with brick accent
Dancing: Thu and Sat 9pm-1am, to karaoke and DJ
Games/Amenities: Occasional pool and dart tournaments, TVs
Ambience: Changes from a neighborhood bar staffed with loyal regulars to a college crowd around 11pm. Once known as Reynaldo's, it carries a 1960s panache that includes brown Naugahyde semibooths running the length of the back wall--up to a Playboy Mansion-styled fireplace. It features an especially user-friendly wood-edged Formica bar for elbow leaning and foot resting. And if the nighttime manager, Angie, is any indication of service and pulchritude, there is little more to ask for.
3200 The Alameda, Santa Clara 408.296.6024
Hours: Daily 1pm-2am
Crowd Age: 21-55
Music: No live music
Décor: Corner bar
Signature Drink: Beer, beer, beer
Games/Amenities: Pool table
Ambience: In many ways, the Hut is Santa Clara University's private watering hole. Practically located on campus, enough students and Jesuit priests have passed through here over the years to have it designated an auxiliary Catholic Mission. When graduation time rolls around, seniors and their fathers line up for a traditional shot before the ceremony. The patrons are generally well behaved, but things can get loud on weekend nights.
1828 Main St, Santa Clara 408.243.7976
Hours: Daily 6am-2am
Crowd Age: 21-80
Décor: Pool hall
Signature Drink: Cocksucker or Buttery Nipple (guys, ask for it by the latter name)
Games/Amenities: Pool table, darts, pinball, table shuffleboard, Keno
Ambience: Call ahead for directions, because Martin's isn't visible from El Camino Real. In fact, the T-shirts that Martin's sells read, "Where the hell is Martin's?" After locating it, sit down and take a load off, because this is that kind of bar. Uncomplicated bar service and cheery regulars light up this decades-old establishment. Celebrating a birthday in June? Make sure the bar staff knows. All birthday celebrants who are regulars receive a party potluck thrown at the bar. Cheers to Roxi, a bartender with dry wit and a sincere ear, even at 1 in the morning.
Mission City Coffee Roasting Co.
2221 The Alameda, Santa Clara 408.261.2221
Hours: Mon-Fri 6:30am-11pm, Sat 6:30am-12pm, Sun 7am-11pm
Crowd Age: 21-75
Music: Occasional live music
Décor: Brick and wood coffeehouse
Signature Drink: Latte
Ambience: A friendly, laid-back coffeehouse with good food at lunchtime. There's a great mix of professionals and slackers hanging out at all hours. Santa Clara University law students seem to love the place, perhaps because the brick walls make them feel like they're in a scene from The Paper Chase.
2909 Lakeside Drive, Santa Clara 408.988.3282
Hours: Daily 6am-2am
Crowd Age: 21-30
Music: Satellite music system--from Billy Joel to Sugar Ray
Décor: Reno lounge
Signature Drink: Cadillac Margarita
Games/Amenities: Complimentary hors d'oeuvres Mon-Fri 4pm-9pm
Ambience: Relive a night at the Playboy Mansion at Peppermill's Fireside Lounge. In the middle of the room, a kerosene flame rises out of a circular pool of bubbling water. Patrons can sit around the flame on fuzzy pink and mauve-colored couches, sipping Mai Tais. The lounge is a '70s throwback, especially with the hazy lighting, sunken bar and the recessed, half-circle booths that separate different parties a la Studio 54. The waitresses wear sequined ties and halter tops, black tuxedo bolero jackets and black tap pants. It's kitsch and it's fabulous, dahling. Arrive before 11pm Friday and Saturday nights or risk missing Hef and his bunnies.
46 N. Saratoga Ave, Santa Clara 408.243.4595
Hours: Mon-Fri 3pm-2am, Sat-Sun 1pm-2am
Crowd Age: 21-35
Décor: Red, glowy gay club
Signature Drink: Long Island Iced Tea
Games/Amenities: Pool, pinball machine
Ambience: Nothing is straight inside this quaint men's club--not even the bar. On weekends the cover charge is a doable three bucks, so the dance floor gets good 'n' crowded, and steamy. For those who can't get a groove on, or don't want to, there's a pool table up front--bring the A-game, though. There are plenty of seats for people to watch the matches and a sizable peanut gallery to call the shots.
4475 Stevens Creek Blvd, Santa Clara 408.296.9810
Hours: Mon-Fri 1pm-2am, Sat-Sun noon-2am
Crowd Age: 30s-50s with an occasional college crowd
Décor: Cozy and dark
Signature Drink: Anything stiff
Games/Amenities: Pool, jukebox, darts, shuffleboard
Ambience: The quintessential neighborhood bar, Woodham caters to a middle-aged crowd where everybody is on a first-name basis. Later in the evening, it's a popular hangout among the college kids from the surrounding neighborhood that have discovered the well-kept secret under the neon martini glasses. A smoke-friendly environment, the room is dark and hazy, and the drinks are stiff, yet tasty.
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.