Aruba's Island Grill--Hilton Hotel
1250 Lakeside Dr, Sunnyvale 408.738.0111
Hours: Daily 11am-midnight
Crowd Age: 21 and up
Music: Call ahead
Signature Drink: Aruba's Cooler
Ambience: If Jacques Cousteau ever went into the bar business, Aruba's might be the finished product. The Caribbean motif is further accented by the palm trees, seascape murals and scuba gear. On summer nights, the poolside patio opens to patrons for dancing the night away to live bands. Located inside the Hilton Sunnyvale.
Bathtub Gin and Blues
1131 Lawrence Expwy, Sunnyvale 408.734.2500
Hours: Daily 10am-2am
Crowd Age: Late 20s and up
Music: Live jazz and blues
Signature Drink: Red Dog
Games/Amenities: Juke box, TVs, darts and pool tables
Ambience: Regulars refer to this year-old bar as "The Tub." But first-timers can make friends easily by buying barstool neighbors house favorites. Ice breakin' drinks include Lemon Drops (served on fire) and the Red Dog, consisting of a shot of Jågermeister dropped into a glass of Red Bull (better drink it quick).
186 S. Murphy Ave, Sunnyvale 408.738.4523
Hours: Mon-Tue 6:30am-6pm, Wed-Thu 6:30am-9pm, Fri-Sat 6:30am-10:30pm, Sun 8am-5pm
Crowd Age: All ages
Music: Weekend live bands
Décor: Coffee shop comfy
Signature Drink: Espresso shots
Ambience: This coffeehouse is the top stop for moms and their mop-tops, intellectual types, even loners. Most who stop for beans also stop for the scene. The Bean Scene is the place to catch up with friends, read the newspaper or listen to live bands that play tunes on weekends. Nestled in Sunnyvale's quaint downtown, it has become somewhat of a staple for locals.
1028 W. Washington Ave, Sunnyvale, 408.736.7141
Hours: 8am-2am every day
Décor: Neighborhood dank
Music: No live music
Games/Amenities: Pool, pinball, lots of darts and smoking
Ambience: Perhaps the only place in Santa Clara County with a sign behind the bar that warns, "Sorry . . . We do not have a nonsmoking area." Because Beefy's is owner-operated, smoking is not only allowed, but is legal. And its patrons take full advantage of the privilege. It might not be the hippest joint, but the older crowd is friendly and welcoming.
1209 Wildwood Sunnyvale, 408.245.2800
Hours: Daily, 11am-2am
Ages: 30 plus
Style: Wayne and Garth's basement
Dancing: Not usually
Games/Amenities: Two pool tables, darts
Ambience: Located in a nondescript strip mall that is so nondescript, it's easy to drive by twice, maybe three times, before noticing. But finding Bogart's is like walking into Wayne and Garth's totally excellent basement to discover a bitchen new universe. The red ceiling lights are filtered through tie-dyed tapestries, and a large peace sign woven from strings of Christmas lights hangs in the corner. Impossible to miss is perhaps the only fully frontal nude mural (tastefully done) in a bar located in a strip mall in Sunnyvale. Bogart's clientele is family--take note of the large list of customer birthdays at the end of the bar--and, on some nights, the more musically inclined siblings bring their instruments to entertain.
927 E. Duane, Sunnyvale 408.736.3993
Hours: Tue-Sat noon-2am, Sun noon-midnight, Mon 11:30am-midnight
Ages: Upwards of 30-35
Style: Small hall bar
Music: DJ, some nights
Games/Amenities: Two pool tables, darts
Ambience: Bourbon One is a chameleon of sorts. Monday night means free salsa lessons, and if it's Thursday it's time to karaoke. Pool and dart leagues fill in Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and prime rib is for Fridays. Bourbon One's ol' Moose Lodge-like atmosphere (complete with Mom's plates and baskets high on the walls) keeps the environs down home, no matter what day of the week it is.
160 Persian Dr, Sunnyvale 408.734.1454
Hours: 10am-2am every day
Crowd Age: Early 20s-early 30s
Signature Drink: Lazer Beam (flaming drink)
Dancing: By the dancers
Games/Amenities: Six pool tables, big screen TVs, full bar
Ambience: The Rail is one of the noisier venues around, which is understandable considering it has more stages than any strip club in the South Bay (four). Dancers don't take it all off in real-time (otherwise the club couldn't sell booze), but a video of the dancer sans bra accompanies the live entertainment. There is a modest $2 cover charge after 6pm.
156 S. Murphy Ave, Sunnyvale 408.749.8373
Hours: Daily 11:30am-2am
Crowd Age: 21-45
Music: Live band Friday and Saturday nights
Décor: Irish pub
Signature Drink: Fibbar's Irish Cooler, Bailey's Irish Whiskey, Irish Kiss
Games/Amenities: Pool table, dartboard
Ambience: What's green and green and green all over? This pub is a celebration of the motherland, with its Irish drinks, Irish manager and Irish bartender. There's a bar menu stocked with things like bangers and chips, available until 10pm nightly.
948 W. El Camino Real, Sunnyvale, 408.736.8585
Hours: 11am-2 am every day
Crowd Age: Mid-20s-late 30s
Music: No live music
Décor: Go-go with two stages
Games/Amenities: Pool, pinball
Ambience: After their numbers, the dancers circulate around the bar area, collect their tips and chat with customers (sometimes without even charging extra). This gives the Hiphugger a laid-back, chatty charm missing in most strip clubs. Off-duty dancers have been known to show up at the club and shoot pool with the boys every once in a while. No cover charge.
Jungle Bar and Restaurant
155 S. Murphy Ave, Sunnyvale 408.720.1535
Hours: Thu-Sat 9pm-2am. No cover before 10:30pm
Crowd Age: 21-30
Music: DJ nightly. DJ showcase Thursday nights
Décor: Plastic vines lining the walls
Games/Amenities: Video games, foosball, pool table, air hockey
Ambience: Formerly Full Throttle Sports Cafe, Jungle has a different nighttime personality altogether. A restaurant during the day, Jungle goes wild with young people getting freaky and shaking booty on the two dance floors. Upstairs the vibe is more mellow and less sweaty, and boasts a second DJ doing progressive house and trance weekend nights. Smokers can exhale outside on the balcony which overlooks South Murphy. All ladies get two drinks for the price of one on Ladies Night Thursdays. There is a dress code: for men, no baseball hats or shorts. The mantra for girls here is more pleather, more pleasure.
Kit Kat Club
907 E. Arques Ave, Sunnyvale 408.733.2628
Hours: Sun 6pm-1:30am; Mon-Sat 11am-2am
Crowd Age: 18 and up
Music: DJ nightly, but the music's for the strippers
Décor: Cathedral ceiling and wood panels
Signature Drink: None. Alcohol is not served
Dancing: Pole and catwalk
Games/Amenities: Video games, TVs and ATM
Ambience: Unlike some of its competitors, Kit Kat kittens take it all off. There's only one center stage where the girls do their squatting, thrusting and humping under black lights, strobe lights and a spinning disco ball. For more private affairs, Kit Kat offers a couch dance or table dance, which is not included in the admission price, which ranges from $12 to $20, depending on the day and time. More bang for the buck: a free buffet lunch of beef, chicken, turkey and salad from 11:30am to 3pm Monday to Friday.
Lion and Compass
1023 N. Fair Oaks Ave, Sunnyvale 408.745.1260
Hours: Lunch Mon-Fri 11:30am-2pm; dinner nightly 5:30pm-9pm. Closed Sun
Demographic: pre-dotcom Silicon Valley executive
Décor: Stained glass and lamppost
Signature Drink: Brazilian daiquiri
Dancing: Don't be silly
Games/Amenities: NYSE stock ticker
Ambience: A Silicon Valley power spot long before its slew of imitators, Lion and Compass still manages to reel them in. Founded by Atari founder Nolan Bushnell, it's a haven from the corporate drama--there's even a separate library room. There's also a full bar and private banquet rooms adjacent to the five-star restaurant serving up Pacific rim cuisine.
135 S. Murphy Ave, Sunnyvale 408.736.3822
Hours: Mon-Fri noon-1:30am, Sat-Sun 10am-2am
Crowd Age: 30-50
Music: Live music
Décor: Bar Design 101
Signature Drink: Hurricane
Games/Amenities: Video games
Ambience: What Murphy's Law lacks in design creativity--its long bar, rows of tables and captain's chairs and room-length mirrors have all the comfiness of a dance studio--it makes up for with the richness of its regulars. There's Maxx Cabello, a young guitarist from Gilroy who brings his band north several times a month to adeptly cover the best classic rockers; Sunnyvale's most notorious drinker, who provides a little comic relief on some nights; and the guy at the bar who knows everyone's name (there are dozens of them) and has the main players pegged. Speaking of Cabello: "He wails." And of the town drunk in the midst of a scuffle: "Mostly he just hits on women, not men." Some of Murphy's gregarious customers flow out onto the sidewalk, where they talk shop over each other's new hogs.
Paul & Harvey's
130 S. Murphy Ave, Sunnyvale 408.736.5770
Hours: Daily 6am-2am
Crowd Age: 20-50
Signature Drink: Beer by the bottle
Games/Amenities: Pool tables
Ambience: Those wishing to dive should dive into Paul and Harvey's, where leather-clad bikers, cell phone-toting yuppies and college kids in baseball caps all rub shoulders on the way for another brewsky. It's a quirky little joint with a wind chime collection hanging along the bar and, on certain nights, a bartender whose leather pants zip all the way from her front waistline under to her back waistline. This is the type of place that suffered when California pushed smoking outdoors--its shady corners were designed to be smoke enshrouded. But it's still easy to slip in and out of Paul and Harvey's and, in between, to feel at home in the bar's cozy confines.
1214 Apollo Way, Sunnyvale 408.732.2110
Hours: Daily, 10:30am-2am
Crowd Age: Young
Music: Live music every night
Décor: This is where the rock starts.
Signature Drink: Beer
Games/Amenities: pool, darts, shuffleboard, foosball.
Ambience: The Quarter Note is a good, clean, down-home music joint stocked with a positive vibe. With a well-lit stage tucked in the corner, patrons can rawk hard up front, or hold a shout-free conversation in the back. Plenty of heads bounce and jive to whoever is on stage. The show-me-what-you got attitude that fills in some live venues is absent here; everyone who comes to The Quarter Note comes for fun.
Roadhouse Blues and Rock Café
1102 W. Evelyn, Sunnyvale 408.739.7939
Hours: Daily 11am-2am
Crowd Age: 30s and up
Music: Live blues and rock
Games/Amenities: Darts, pool tables, video games
Ambience: This somewhat hard-to-find bar can pack 'em in after the nine-to-fivers call it a day. A thirtysomething-and-up crowd dresses casual and, in general, seems to just be looking for a good time. Weekends, live blues and rock bands turn drinkers into dancers.
Rooster T. Feathers
157 W. El Camino Real, Sunnyvale 408.736.0921
Hours: Wed and Thu shows at 8pm; Fri and Sat shows at 8pm and 10:30pm
Crowd: 21 and up
Décor: Small standup club
Ambience: Until The Improv opens its doors in downtown San Jose in the not-too-distant future, Rooster T's remains the South Bay's only stand-up comedy club. There are at least two acts per show. Admission is $12 plus a two-purchase minimum. Parties of six or more must make reservations in advance. The club offers VIP memberships that allow patrons to skip lines and the admission for regular shows ($45 for a six-month membership, $80 for one year).
187 S. Murphy Ave, Sunnyvale 408.735.7394
Hours: Daily 11am-1:30am
Crowd Age: Late 20s-50s
Music: Live; acoustic and rock
Signature Drink: Beer
Games/Amenities: Dartboard, pool tables, uptop smoking patio
Ambience: Elbows are attracted to the varnished bar top here most evenings, when bands pick up instruments and patrons kick up their feet on the dance floor. On Friday nights, Celtic music plays. Perhaps there is a little something musicwise for everyone. Acoustic bands strum steel string guitars into the wee hours, other nights various rock bands jam while house bands frequent the Murph, too. Most any evening, a handsome crowd is disbursed throughout the Irish bar sipping on beers in pint glasses and drinking gin 'n' tonics.
Shooters Bar and Grill
769 N. Mathilda Ave, Sunnyvale 408.738.2787
Hours: Mon-Sun 10am-2am
Crowd Age: Late 20s and up
Signature Drink: Shots, shots, more shots
Games/Amenities: Patio, pool tables, darts, jukebox, big-screen TV
Ambience: To a certain point, the name of this establishment seems to speak for itself. Besides throwing back spirits in tiny glasses, this bar is great for sports fans who want to watch the big screen without too much hollering or hoopla. Its walls are doused with sports memorabilia and there's plenty to do during the sports fans' inevitable worst enemy--half-time--like play darts, enjoy a smoke on the patio with buddies or even with friendly strangers who frequent the bar. Or, as the name suggests, have a shot, or two or three.
1160 N. Fair Oaks Ave, Sunnyvale 408.745.7827
Hours: Open Thu-Sun. Times vary, so call ahead.
Crowd Age: Middle age
Décor: Huge dance floor, raised platform, tables to the side
Signature Drink: None. Alcohol is not served.
Games/Amenities: Ballroom shoes are sold here
Ambience: Don't know left from right? Refine that white man's overbite with a lesson from the pros at Starlite. Pay the price of admission (usually between $10 to $12) and earn a one-and-a-half to two-hour dance instruction. Don't worry, the instructor breaks everything down so the whole joint is doing the cha-cha and tango with panache and ease. Following the lesson, the joint turns into a nightclub so everyone can test their new dance steps.
111 S. Murphy Ave, Sunnyvale 408.733.7824
Hours: Sun-Thu 11am-10pm, Fri-Sat 11am-11pm
Crowd Age: 30 and up
Music: Live guitar
Décor: Standard brewpub
Signature Drink: Home-brewed Pale Ale
Ambience: Stoddard's is a shiny new brewpub that doesn't feel like a giant warehouse. It has plenty of space to eat and drink inside, but crafty use of support pilings, stairwells and the wide bar scale it down to a more inviting level. The patio out back caters to those who favor their fresh frothwagons under the stars. To tempt beer connoisseurs, the obligatory brewing tanks sit behind the bar. Stoddard's isn't for night owls or late munchers (the kitchen doesn't serve past 10pm on any night), but it is an option to Sunnyvalers who don't consider a jukebox essential to the Saturday night experience.
Tao Tao Cafe
175 S. Murphy Ave, Sunnyvale 408.736.3731
Hours: Mon-Fri 11am-2pm, Sun-Mon 4pm-9pm, Tue-Thu 4pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 4pm-10:30pm
Crowd Age: 20s, 30s, 40s
Décor: Modern Asian
Signature Drink: Mai Tai
Games/Amenities: Televisions for sports
Ambience: Like so many Asian beauties before it, Tao Tao has gone blonde. Not in a cheap, platinum way, but in beautiful, honey-colored wood. Gone is the dark, supernaturally alluring, cave-like atmosphere of yesteryear. The new Tao Tao is open, airy and facing Murphy Avenue. That means the bar is in the front and the banquet rooms are in the back. Though it's lost some of its night dream appeal, Tao Tao remains a high-quality place with skilled staff. The mai tais--made with the right rums and juices, and wielding a substantial pineapple spear--are worth the trip. A great and fashionable place to drink, talk loud, and order food when the aromas from the dining room become irresistible. Tao Tao was always kind of a backdoor place, the secret side of Sunnyvale, a place not to see and be seen in, back in the days of high-tech hangouts like the Wagon Wheel. Those days are gone, and Tao Tao remains.