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Isabel Flores and Priscilla Ozuna
Going on Trials: Spinner Lopez and Brandon La-Nar. enjoy a beer at Trials on North First Street in San Jose.

Guilty As Charged

Best place to make friends with a publican

By Heather Zimmerman

Trials Pub
265 N. First St, San Jose 408.947.0497

MY SKILL AT DARTS is almost lethal, and not in the good way--we're talking deadly inaccuracy here. Darts, I've discovered, can fly surprisingly far, even after caroming off the intended target. So, on a recent evening at Trials Pub, it could have been merely concern for patrons' safety that prompted owner Robert McVeigh to come out from behind the bar to give me a lesson in the proper way to throw a dart, but I chalk it up to the publican's congeniality.

It's true that most public houses tend to be neighborly gathering places, but Trials has uncommon personality, thanks to its brusquely affectionate British proprietors, Robert and his wife, Tracy. The couple sets the tone for the place with plenty of lively wit and lots of mock-gruff kidding with the customers; the atmosphere is downright familial (but better--you won't dread seeing these folks at holidays). Of course, the homey assortment of old furniture, some of it seemingly relics from a Victorian living room, and a fireplace add quite a bit to the cozy atmosphere. And not a telly to be found anywhere.

Chances are Rob or Tracy may strike up a chat if you pop in for a pint, but they've also organized a number of activities to keep the family feeling going strong, such as Monday Trivia, Drink More Beer Nite and Cheap Liquor Nite. In addition, Trials has its own soccer team, the Mosquitoes. On Wednesdays, guest bartender night, patrons can try their hands at pouring that perfect pint of Guinness. And lest it all seem to be about demon liquor, Trials also serves up some truly tasty pub grub that's not a bit grubby (the Stilton and pear salad is my current favorite).

A bar where "everybody knows your name" is a cringe-worthy cliché these days. But Trials Pub and the McVeighs really earn the well-worn descriptor: They offer the kind of perfect familiarity among strangers that makes for the good company on both sides of the bar--and that's what keeps me coming back. Plus, there's an Around the World darts game to finish up: I'll keep going to Trials until I hit that 2. Despite Rob's heroic educational efforts, that's going to be a while.

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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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