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[whitespace] Bars, Clubs and Coffeehouses 2000


Antonio's Nut House
321 California Ave, Palo Alto 650.321.2550

Hours: Daily, 10am-2am
Crowd Age: 21-30
Music: Jukebox
Decor: Cartoons painted on ceiling, posters, beer lights
Signature Drink: Alabama Slammer
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: Pool tables, video games, pinball, darts
Ambience: Stop by Antonio's Nut House and be prepared for handfuls of free peanuts from a huge, mechanical gorilla. The late-night spot is a favorite for nearby college students who can't get enough of those Alabama Slammers; rumor has it the popular shot was invented at Antonio's. Check out the crazy cartoons painted on the walls and ceiling, but go early. Even Antonio has a hard time getting in the door on a busy Saturday night.

Blue Chalk Café
630 Ramona St, Palo Alto 650.326.1020

Hours: Daily, 11:30am-2pm and 5-10pm; closed Sun
Crowd Age: 25-35
Music: No
Decor: Wood and stone
Signature Drink: None
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: Pool tables
Ambience: Being across the street from City Hall helps mix up the crowd at Blue Chalk Cafe. The trendy spot draws attractive businessmen and -women who have slipped out of their stuffy suits for the evening. They're looking for a good time, and they're in luck. Until 10pm, patrons can sink their teeth into the cafe's tasty California cuisine or wander, drink in hand, throughout the two-story cafe. Check out the pool players at the four blue-felt-covered pool tables.

The British Bankers Club
1090 El Camino Real, Menlo Park 650.327.8769

Hours: Sat-Sun, 11am-2am
Crowd Age: 35-60
Music: Live music
Antique shop
Signature Drink:
Capt. Morgan and Coke
Cigar room
Ambiance: The BBC is an idealized British pub; it doesn't smell like urine and everyone has good teeth. There's so much antique furniture, burnished wood and authentic British bric-a-brac and signage that Sherlock Holmes would feel comfortable here. Silicon Valley's finest hit the dance floor on weekends to prove they're better at keeping VC funders happy than keeping a beat.

Cafe Borrone
1010 El Camino Real #110, Menlo Park 650.327.0830

Hours: Mon-Thu 7am-11pm, Fri 7am-midnight, Sat 8am-midnight, Sun 8am-5pm
Crowd Age: All ages
Music: Friday night live Dixieland jazz band or Latin guitar duet
Decor: Modern art from local artists, wood floors
Signature Drink: None
Dancing: Yes
Games/Amenities: None
Ambience: Afternoons Palo Alto businessmen and -women, dressed in casual dotcom wear, hold business meetings at Cafe Borrone. At night, though, things tend to get hopping when young ones pour through the doors to sip lattes and iced mochas. Friday nights, a Dixieland jazz band fills the art-decorated cafe with its music. A great summer spot under the stars is the cafe's outdoor patio, surrounded by brick pillars and featuring a running fountain.

Cafe Fino
544 Emerson St, Palo Alto 650.326.6082

Hours: Daily, 5:30-11pm
Crowd Age: 40-60
Music: Evening jazz Monday through Saturday
Decor: Bistro setting
Signature Drink: Wines
Dancing: Yes
Games/Amenities: No
Ambience: Cafe Fino offers some of the finer things in life: soft jazz music, wine in long-stemmed glasses and slow dances across the quaint dance floor. The fine dining cafe offers quite a selection of wines for the unknowing or knowledgeable wine connoisseur. The well-dressed crowd of adults also sip on drinks from the premium bar, Maddalena, including single-malt scotches and grappa. The bistro is dimly illuminated with a warm feeling. Perhaps it's the romance in the air.

518 Bryant St, Palo Alto 650.327.8954

Hours: Mon-Wed 7am-11pm, Thu 7am-midnight,
Fri-Sat 7am-1am
Crowd Age: 25-55
Music: Live local bands on weekends
Decor: Retro marble and oak bar
Signature Drink: Lemon Drop
Dancing: None
Games/Amenities: None
Ambience: The historic 1862 bar rests underneath a stained-glass dome in this two-story space tucked into a small alley. Owned by Starbucks, this upscale spot makes a hot pitch for downtown suits on weekdays and elegant boozehounds on weekends. A bevy of menus offer meals early and late along with the famous java.

The Dutch Goose
3567 Alameda de las Pulgas, Menlo Park 650.854.3245

Hours: Sun-Tue 11am-midnight, Wed-Sat 11am-2am
Crowd Age: 21-40
Music: No live music
Decor: Spartan
Signature Drink:
Pinball and pool
Ambiance: A bare-bones watering hole that lacks all pretension and isn't ashamed of a little beer--OK, a lot of beer--getting spilled on the floor. Stanford kids love the place, and so do alumni and locals, including Joe Montana, who show up on occasion. The jukebox is loud and the crowds can get thick, but that doesn't stop anyone from playing pool at the lone table near the back wall.

Empire Grill and Tap Room
651 Emerson St, Palo Alto 650.321.3030

Hours: Mon-Fri 11:30am-10pm, Sat 11am-10pm,
Sun 11am-9:30pm
Crowd Age: 25-40
Music: Jazz CDs
Decor: Long oak bar, dim lighting, paintings on wall, elegant patio
Signature Drink: No
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: No
Ambience: At relaxing Empire Grill, couples sip wine together, dressed elegantly for a night on the town. Jazz music plays softly in the background as people walk by paintings of small towns like Venice on their way out to an outside patio. The dimly lit taproom is for the refined diner--not for the diner on a tight budget.

Fanny & Alexander's
412 Emerson St, Palo Alto 650.326.7183

Hours: Tue-Sat 4pm-1am, closed Sun-Mon
Crowd Age: Mixed
Music: Live cover bands
Decor: Fanny & Alexander movie posters, outdoor patio
Signature Drink: No
Dancing: Yes
Games/Amenities: No
Ambience: Fanny & Alexander's has that post-work sort of feeling. During summer months, the outdoor patio is a casual and comfortable enough place to meet up with friends after work and catch up on all the gossip over a Guinness or Sierra Nevada. As the sun sets, things heat up and live cover bands play inside. College students flock to the bar, where bartenders are super-friendly. It's a nice place to work on establishing regular-customer status.

Gordon Biersch
640 Emerson St, Palo Alto 650.323.7723

Hours: Sun-Thu 11:30am-10:30pm, Fri-Sat 11:30am-midnight
Crowd Age: 25-45
Music: No
Decor: Framed pictures of beers, high wooden ceilings, dark oak
Signature Drink: Märzen
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: No
Ambience: Gordon Biersch. Saying the name alone can make a thirsty mouth water. The original Gordon Biersch Restaurant and Bar in Palo Alto is a great place to hang out with friends or that someone special. Order a pint of the famous Märzen beer, but stay off the tasty garlic-topped fries if you're on a date. The place is classic: elegant enough for the ritzy and casual enough for the local college crowd.

Il Fornaio Cafe
Garden City Hotel 520 Cowper St, Palo Alto 650.853.3888

Hours: Daily, 7:30am-10pm
Crowd Age: 21-90
Music: No
Decor: Coffee and cocktail bar, stools
Signature Drink: Cosmopolitan
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: No
Ambience: The small cafe and bar serves cocktails and cappuccino simultaneously, dawn to dusk. It's known for its award-winning baked goodies, like butter cookies and pumpkin muffins. The dining and sipping area leads to outdoor seating surrounded by trees and flowers. The cafe boasts a long list of liqueurs and coffees and is well known for its superb Cosmopolitan. Early risers tired of white mochas can order Cosmos instead.

The Island
4141 El Camino Real, Palo Alto 650.493.9020

Hours: Sat-Sun, 7am-1:30am
Crowd Age: 35-55
Music: No live music
Decor: Corner bar
Signature Drink: Beer
Dancing: None
Games/Amenities: Jukebox
Ambiance: This is no theme bar. It's not trendy, so regular ol' mustaches outnumber goatees. It's not a spot to network, so cell phones won't be competing with the music. And it's not a place to get smart drinks, so a customer longing for a fennel and cilantro martini is out of luck. Instead, The Island offers a quiet, laid-back place to get a drink, hang out, and have a conversation with another person there for the same reason. And no, they don't serve tapas.

La Bodeguita del Medio
463 California Ave, Palo Alto 650.326.7762

Hours: Mon-Thu 5-11pm, Fri-Sat 5pm-midnight
Crowd Age: Mixed
Music: Cuban music plays in background
Decor: Tropical (palm trees and Cuban art)
Signature Drink: Mojito
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: Cigar bar
Ambience: It has all the elegance, fashion, fun and drama of the Copacabana. While Cuban music plays in the background at La Bodeguita, patrons munch down on tasty Cuban cuisine. Surrounded by palm trees and Cuban art, everybody at La Bodeguita orders the Mojito. Those really looking to get in the Cuban mood can visit La Bodeguita's cigar lounge and enjoy a few puffs out on the smoking patio.

Left at Albuquerque
445 Emerson St, Palo Alto 650.326.1011

Hours: Daily, 11:30am-1:30am
Crowd Age: 25 & up
Music: No
Decor: Tex-Mex
Signature Drink: Margarita
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: No
Ambience: There's no need to vacation in Mexico to taste the best margaritas. Go to Left at Albuquerque in Palo Alto, order up a frosty glass full of that intoxicating mix, and those taste buds will be licking lips in gratitude. Be sure to fill up with Tex-Mex style appetizers before indulging in any of the bar's 125 tequilas. They don't call it ta-kill-ya for nothing.

Left Bank
635 Santa Cruz Ave, Menlo Park 650.473.6543

Hours: Sun-Thu 11:30am-11pm, Fri-Sat 11:30am-midnight
Crowd Age: 30 and up
Music: No
Decor: French café style, huge window, vintage French posters
Signature Drink: French martini
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: No
Ambience: Go to the bank and then go to Left Bank. The designer French restaurant and bar is lit by turn-of-the-century lamps and decorated with vintage French advertisements. Huge windows opening up to the street give the feeling one is nearby the Eiffel Tower. Under the high ceilings, patrons stroll in for casual and elegant dining and order the bar's famous French martini. For the ultimate French experience, dine on the café-style patio.

Los Altos Bar & Grill
169 Main St, Los Altos 650.948.4332

Hours: Daily, 10am-10pm
Crowd Age: Mixed
Music: Live cover bands Wed-Sat at 8:30pm
Decor: Lots of wood and sports stuff
Signature Drink: None
Dancing: Yes
Games/Amenities: Pool table, jukebox, darts
Ambience: The type of place where regulars flow in the door like beer, Los Altos Bar & Grill offers a haven where one can meet friends, make new ones, and maybe even try out a few pickup lines. On Wednesday through Saturday nights, cover bands rock the bar and get everybody up and dancing.

Mackie's Supper Club
541 Ramona St, Palo Alto 650.326.1446

Hours: Daily, 11:30am-11pm
Crowd Age: 30-45
Music: No
Decor: '50s
Signature Drink: Martini
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: No
Ambience: Relax, kick back and choose from a menu full of mouthwatering steaks and martinis at Mackie's. While everything from Dean Martin to Macy Gray hits play in the background, the thirty- and fortysomething crowd chats and drinks at the bar. Pictures of Audrey Hepburn, the Godfather, the Rat Pack and James Bond help establish the fun 1950s theme throughout the bar, and it seems like everyone is having a good old time.

Nola Restaurant and Bar
535 Ramona St, Palo Alto 650.328.2722

Hours: Daily, 11:30am to last call
Crowd Age: Mixed crowd
Music: No
Decor: Iron gate, voodoo art on walls, New Orleans theme
Signature Drink: Hurricane
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: None
Ambience: It's always Mardi Gras at Nola. Everyone is smiling and laughing while gulping down the bar's famous Hurricane concoction. (They need something to cool their mouths after indulging in the spicy, lip-licking Cajun appetizers.) Surrounded by wrought-iron gates, one can't help getting into the Big Easy mood and piling on the Mardi Gras beads.

The Oasis
241 El Camino Real, Menlo Park 650.326.8896

Hours: Sun-Sat, 11am-2am
Crowd Age: 5-75
Music: No live music
Decor: Low-key pizza place
Signature Drink: Beer
Dancing: None
Games/Amenities: Video games
Ambiance: Many people act like kids when they hit the bar. The Oasis counts a healthy number of real kids among its clientele; they like the great pizza and the video games. The youngsters help create a playful atmosphere, mixing well with the students intent on carving their initials into the aging wood tables, softball teams celebrating after a game, and sports fans catching the action on TV.

The Old Pro
2865 El Camino Real, Palo Alto 650.325.2070

Hours: Mon-Fri 11am-11:30pm, Sat-Sun 9am-11:30pm
Crowd Age: 21-40
Music: None
Decor: Sportsy
Signature Drink:
Pitcher of beer
Dancing: None
Widescreen television
Ambiance: Many sports bars are less than enticing, even if you like sports. They have lots of TVs, lots of beer, lots of neon and lots of testosterone. The Old Pro breaks the mold. It's in an old metal Quonset hut, which gives it the utilitarian feel of an old Army barracks. Inside, it's clean, comfortable and cozy. The food is simple and well prepared. Best of all, women's sports are not neglected here.

Printers Inc.
320 California Ave, Palo Alto 650.323.3347

Hours: Mon-Fri 7am-10:30pm, Sat-Sun 8am-10:30pm
Crowd Age: 18 and up
Music: Sometimes live musicians
Decor: Art exhibits, shady outdoor patio
Signature Drink: None
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: None
Ambience: Don't bring a friend to gossip with; instead, bring a good book to Printers Inc. Cafe in Palo Alto. The trendy ones gather here. Latte cups on the tables of young women are marked with lip gloss. Young men carry cell phones and wear pagers on belt buckles. But all that will seem a million miles away once one tastes the cafe's tummy-satisfying soups, salads and sandwiches.

Q Cafe and Billiards
529 Alma St, Palo Alto 650.322.3311

Hours: Daily, 11am-2am
Crowd Age: 21-35
Music: DJs
Decor: Historic red brick building, mahogany
Signature Drink: 12 microbrews on tap
Dancing: Yes
Games/Amenities: Dartboards, pool tables, two huge TVs
Ambience: An upscale kind of crowd packs inside Q Cafe and Billiards. Recent college graduates mingle with the uptown yuppies and play pool while sipping microbrewed pints of ales. The DJ helps pack 'em in, and it's just a matter of time before people are strewn all over the dance floor. During the day, the historic red building is a great place to catch a game on one of two huge-screen TVs.

The Rose and Crown English Food and Ale House
547 Emerson St, Palo Alto 650.327.7673

Hours: Mon-Fri 11:30am-1:30am, Sat noon-1:30am,
Sun 1pm-1:30am
Crowd Age: 21-40
Music: No live music
Decor: English pub
Signature Drink: Beer
Jukebox, darts
Ambiance: Any bar crazy enough to advertise an oxymoron like "English food" must have something else going for it. The Rose and Crown has a great draft beer selection, a great jukebox and a staff that seems to genuinely enjoy its customers (and they know how to pour a draft Guinness). The crowd is friendly, even when it gets too packed to move.

Rudy's Pub
117 University Ave, Palo Alto 650.329.0922

Hours: Sat-Sun, 11:30am-1:30am
Crowd Age: 35-55
Music: No live music
Dimly lit lounge
Signature Drink: Rum and Coke
Ambiance: In a land of yuppie overkill, Rudy's remains a pretty basic watering hole in an age of theme bars, networking Meccas masquerading as drinking establishments, and restaurants, restaurants, restaurants. It's dark; it's small; it's quiet; it's unpretentious ... and it's just what University Avenue needs.

Straits Café
3295 El Camino Real, Palo Alto 650.497.7168

Hours: Daily, 5-10:30pm
Crowd Age: 21 and up
Music: Jazz bands
Decor: Wooden floors, booths, patio with heat lamps and palm trees
Signature Drink: Mango or ginger martinis
Dancing: None
Games/Amenities: No
Ambience: Singapore Sling? Ginger or mango martini? Straits Cafe has 12 fabulous-sounding specialty drinks that will have one swaying to the live jazz in no time. Relax on the open patio and keep warm with the heat lamps, among palm trees and friendly faces. The sleek cafe offers fine dining accompanied by a long list of California wines.

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From the June 22-28, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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