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

Hours: Open daily 9:30am-2am (except Thanksgiving and Christmas)
Crowd Age: During the day, old cronies; night has a younger crowd
Music: Jukebox--country to zydeco to rock
Decor: Discarded peanut shells all over the floor
Signature Drink: Purple Hooter
Dancing: Yes, but no dance floor
Games/Amenities: Five pool tables, two foosballs, three video games, two darts, two pinball machines, two cribbage boards, 11 big-screen TVs.

Antonio's is the Silicon Valley yuppie's anti-bar--no one gives a darn where you work, how much you rake in or when you got laid off. Casual is the operative word here. For your viewing pleasure: a caged mechanical gorilla, ceiling tiles decorated by patrons and Pee-wee Herman hanging behind the bar with his hands in his pants. Antonio's hands out 250 pounds of peanuts a week (which, naturally, end up floor-bound). The bar also serves Mexican food, except on Sundays.

If Your Bar Could Be Any Animal, What Would It Be?: Gorilla


Blue Chalk Cafe
630 Ramona St, Palo Alto 650.326.1020

Hours: Lunch Mon-Fri 11am-12:30pm, dinner Mon-Sat 5-10pm, bar open Mon-Sat 11am-1:30am
Crowd Age: Mid-20s-mid-30s
Music: Jukebox, mostly rock
Decor: Southern-style pub
Signature Drink: Grateful Dead (rum, vodka, sweet and sour, grenadine and curaçao)
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: Four pool tables, two shuffleboards, two dart boards, one birkball (English pinball)

The Blue Chalk Café is housed in a large, split-level 1927 building, a historic landmark with a grand staircase, two fireplaces and two skylights. The food is California-inspired Southern cuisine. There's a lot of room to mingle; and the billiard room gives players a chance to show their stuff. The club's name, by the way, refers to the blue chalk used for playing pool.

If Your Bar Could Be Any Animal, What Would It Be?: Rhinoceros


La Bodeguita del Medio
463 California Ave, Palo Alto 650.326.7762

Hours: Lunch Mon-Fri 11:30am-2pm, dinner Mon-Thu 5:30-9:30pm, Fri-Sat dinner until 10pm; bar open Mon-Sat 5pm-midnight, Mon-Wed 5-11pm
Crowd Age: 20s on up
Music: Background Cuban, occasional guest appearances by Cuban musicians
Decor: Casual, tropical Havana

Signature Drink: Mojito (rum, mint, sugar, fresh lemon, lime juice, splash of soda water)
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: Walk-in humidor and cigar shop in back

In Havana, La Bodeguita del Medio meant Ernest Hemingway (who frequented the bar for two decades), cigars and sugary cocktails. Its California sister has a light tropical atmosphere with original Cuban artwork, extensive alcohol offerings (including more than 50 premium, aged sipping rums) and a walk-in cigar humidor (or room) where patrons can fire up fat, hand-rolled cigars that can be purchased in back. Patrons can also enjoy a smoking lounge and an outdoor covered patio. The menu runs to coastal cuisine with a Cuban influence. The bar action picks up about 9pm.

If Your Bar Could Be Any Animal, What Would It Be?: Blue macaw


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

Hours: Daily 11am-2am, but depends on how busy it is
Crowd Age: 21-55
Music: Live music Wed-Sat
Decor: Upscale British antiques
Signature Drink: Mandarin Red Bowl
Dancing: Yes
Games/Amenities: Outdoor patio

Walk into the BBC, and you've entered a living facsimile of an old-fashioned British pub, with antique furniture, Tiffany lamps, stained-glass windows, mirrors, old couches and a huge early-1900s mahogany bar. (The upstairs sports an antique bar as well.) Watch out for the boars' heads and buffaloes peering out of the walls. Smokers can retire to the outdoor patio (a smoke shop is next door), while party types can enjoy the dance floor from Wednesday to Saturday nights, when the pub offers live music. On Wednesdays, the DJ spins hip-hop and house music; cover bands play Fridays and Saturdays.

If Your Bar Could Be Any Animal, What Would It Be?: Gazelle


Cafe Borrone
1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park 650.327.0830

Hours: Mon-Thu 7am-11pm, Fri 7am-midnight, Sat 8am-midnight, Sun 8am-5pm
Crowd Age: Varies
Music: Live music by Dixieland jazz band
Decor: Hardwood floors, local art
Signature Drink: Frosted Mocha; beer and wine
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: No

With its spacious outdoor patio and bustling interior, Café Borrone is an ideal place for lounging, reading, working, talking and eating mouthwatering cakes and pastries, great salads, soups and sandwiches (all the food is house-made). Eye-catching local artwork adorns the walls. Most Fridays, from 8 to 11pm, you can enjoy live Dixieland jazz by the Clint Baker New Orleans Jazz Band. Café Borrone, which turns 12 this October, is situated right next to Kepler's Books, and there's plenty of underground parking.

If Your Bar Could Be Any Animal, What Would It Be?: Ostrich


Cafe Fino
544 Emerson St, Palo Alto 650.326.6082

Hours: Lunch Tue-Fri 11:30am-2am, dinner Mon-Sat 5:30-11:30pm, closed Sun
Crowd Age: Mid-20s and up, but not a college hangout
Music: Live music four days a week
Decor: White tablecloths and Art Deco
Signature Drink: The Fancy Clancy
Dancing: Yes, on a tiled dance floor
Games/Amenities: No

Justin, Cafe Fino's wine buyer and banquet director, calls this elegant, Old World supper club "a natural psychotropic for whatever ails you." Owner Fred Maddelena, formerly of Club Indigo, the Toronto club he once ran with Bugsy Siegel's nephew Al, is a star himself, charming and smooth, greeting guests with his trademark ease. The restaurant is full-service continental with Italian roots (Cafe Fino adjoins Maddelena's, a restaurant also owned by the proprietor). With its classic movie posters, on loan from a cafe regular and Stanford theater operator David Packard, single-malt scotches and jazz offerings, the place says class. Wednesday evenings, a jazz trio plays alongside singer Margie Baker, who belts out Ella Fitzgerald hits; Thursdays feature Italian cabaret singer Pasquale. On Fridays and Saturdays, Nancy Gilliland and her trio play Cole Porter and George Gershwin standards. There's a pantheon of stars on the walls posing with Maddelena in Club Indigo's golden days, including Harry Belafonte, Tony Bennett, Mel Torme, Rita Hayworth and former Indigo emcee Bob Newhart. Cafe Fino also has five private dining rooms.

If Your Bar Could Be Any Animal, What Would It Be?: Silver fox


The Dutch Goose
3567 Alameda De Las Pulgas, Menlo Park 650.854.3245

Hours: Sun-Tue 11am-midnight, Wed-Sat 11am-2am; food served 11am-11pm
Crowd Age: 21 and up
Music: Jukebox, classic rock to Britney Spears
Decor: Old time
Signature Drink: Sierra Nevada
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: One pool table, two video games, three pinball machines

The Dutch Goose isn't a trendy bar, and it probably hasn't changed much in 20 or 30 years. The grill offers burgers, steamed clams, sausages and chicken sandwiches--and peanut shells are strewn all over the floor. It boasts outdoor and indoor patios, and has hosted all kinds of local luminaries, including Joe Montana and other former football players (it's right next to Atherton), and titans of local industry like Jerry Yang.

If Your Bar Could Be Any Animal, What Would It Be?: Goose


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

Hours: Mon-Fri 11am-11:30pm, Sat 11am-10:30pm, Sun 11am-9:30pm, but will stay open later if business is good
Crowd Age: 25 and older
Music: Jazz CDs
Decor: Traditional New York elegance
Signature Drink: Martinis, Manhattans
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: Two TVs

The Empire Grill and Tap Room feels like a classy, big-city bar. Inside, look for a 45-foot-long mahogany bar and several straight-backed wood booths. The menu features a mix of California, French and Italian dishes with regional influences, and there's a weekend a la carte brunch. There are also 16 beers on tap. While the inside beckons with cozy and elegant surroundings, the garden patio is especially inviting, replete with ivy-covered walls, wisteria and other foliage, a gurgling fountain and twinkling Christmas lights. Heat lamps make it hospitable during those chilly winter evenings.

If Your Bar Could Be Any Animal, What Would It Be?: Reindeer


Fanny and Alexander
412 Emerson St, Palo Alto 650.326.7183

Hours: Tue-Sat 4pm-last call, closed Sun-Mon
Crowd Age: 25-35
Music: DJ and live cover bands Thu-Sat 10pm-1:15am
Decor: Casual
Signature Drink: Kiss My Ass (Malibu rum, orange vodka, cranberry and pineapple juice)
Dancing: Yes
Games/Amenities: Big-screen TVs

Fanny and Alexander is a bar/nightclub that offers Euroasian food and a party-down good time. Thursday nights, a DJ spins discs and Friday and Saturday nights, cover bands play '70s, '80s and '90s disco and funk (regular bands include Getting Even, Uncle Melvin and Hollywood) on the stage next to the front window. The place gets crowded and loud, but there's a patio and bar out back for those needing a little air. Ironically, given the club's get-down, partying atmosphere, Swedish co-owner Doni Malaise named his restaurant for Ingmar Bergman's elegant film Fanny and Alexander.

If Your Bar Could Be Any Animal, What Would It Be?: Tiger


Gordon Biersch
640 Emerson St, Palo Alto 650.323.7723

Hours: Sun-Thu 11:30am-10:30pm, Fri-Sat 11:30am-midnight
Crowd Age: Late 20s to 30s
Music: No live music
Decor: Spacious brewery and restaurant
Signature Drink: Seasonal beer: mid-July's special is Hefeweisen; most popular is the Marzon
Dancing: No

Games/Amenities: Four big-screen TVs

Palo Alto has the distinction of being home to the first Gordon Biersch (there are now 16 in the United States), which opened its doors back in 1988. Gordon Biersch brews its own lagers on site, with four beers available at all times; five times a year they offer a special one-time brew. The laid-back atmosphere is devoid of pretense; it's a relaxed place to drink great local beer and eat good food. Co-owner Dan Gordon (who is said to be a living, breathing embodiment of Norm from Cheers) went to brewery college in Germany; Dean Biersch is the restaurateur. Don't miss the upcoming big 15th anniversary celebration THIS SATURDAY, 7/20!

If Your Bar Could Be Any Animal, What Would It Be?: Hippopotamus


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

Hours: Mon-Thu 7am-11pm, Fri 7am-midnight, Sat 8am-midnight, Sun 8am-11pm
Crowd Age: All ages
Music: Background Italian
Decor: Marble and stainless-steel elegant
Signature Drink: Bellini (Prosecco and peach juice in a champagne flute) and Mimosa
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: No

Il Fornaio, which means "the baker" in Italian, was founded in Milan in the 1970s (there are 2,500 restaurants in Europe). The Palo Alto restaurant has the classy and elegant Il Fornaio signature look: light and inviting, with marble, stainless steel, mirrors and oversized plants. The menu changes seasonally, and there's outdoor seating in the covered, heated patio courtyard, as well as a glassed-in landscaped patio and bar fronting Cowper Street. There are also two private dining rooms.

If Your Bar Could Be Any Animal, What Animal Would It Be?: Dolphin


The Island
4141 El Camino Real, Palo Alto 650.493.9020

Hours: Daily 7pm-2am
Crowd Age: 40s and up in the day, 20s and 30s at night
Music: Jukebox (oldies), occasional informal live band
Decor: 1930s saloon
Signature Drink: Budweiser
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: Two pool tables, three video games, two dart boards

This comfortable bar is a throwback to older days, with a distinctly Midwestern feel. Faux wood paneling gives the Island a '70s rec-room feel; the bar cuts a wide arc along the wall and has cushy padding for sore elbows. You can get a $2.50 beer or a $2.75 cocktail, and they can microwave up some corn dogs if you're hungry. Need to experience the great outdoors? Try the patio in the back.

If Your Bar Could Be Any Animal, What Animal Would It Be?: Old dog


Left at Albuquerque
445 Emerson St, Palo Alto 650.326.1011

Hours: Lunch daily 11am-4pm, dinner Sun-Thu 4-10pm, Fri-Sat 4-11pm; bar open until midnight, except Thu-Sat at 11:30pm; happy hour Mon-Fri 4-7pm
Crowd Age: 25-35
Music: Jukebox and background music
Decor: Southwestern
Signature Drink: Drifter Margarita, Albuquerque Rocks
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: No

This grill and tequila bar is a weekend hot spot for young yuppies and a fun place to let loose with co-workers during lunch or after that long hard day. Sporting a Southern roadhouse theme, Left at Albuquerque's atmosphere is festive, with colorful plates, large Margaritas and a California-type grill and Mexican cuisine. With an open ceiling and large wooden beams, it's got a town-hall feel and a steady buzz. There's also a new express menu at lunch, and don't forget the 50-cent Margarita special 5-5:05pm every day.

If Your Bar Could Be Any Animal, What Would It Be?: Coyote


Left Bank
635 Santa Cruz Ave, Menlo Park 650.473.6543

Hours: Tue-Sat 11:30am-11pm, Sun-Mon 11:30am-10pm, prix fixe lunch 11:30am-3pm (dinner starts at 5pm but will serve food all day)
Crowd Age: 30-50
Music: Background
Decor: Sophisticated French cafe
Signature drink: Martinis, Rive Gauche Cosmopolitan, Louis Malle (vodka, Alizet and French lemonade)
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: Outdoor seating, bar area seating, private dining

This lovely French bistro delivers a taste of Paris with a large dining room, inviting bar and French windows that open up in the summer. The waiters, in fact, serve food through the windows to customers dining outside. The Left Bank has a casually elegant and sophisticated atmosphere with white tablecloths and vintage French posters.

If Your Bar Could Be Any Animal, What Would It Be?: Pig


Miyake
140 University Ave, Palo Alto 650.323.9449

Hours: Daily 11:30am-10pm
Crowd Age: 21-40, families during the daytime
Music: Japanese house music
Decor: Spunky retro sushi bar
Signature Drink: Sake Bomb
Dancing: On chairs
Games/Amenities: Waiters do sake bombs with customers; birthday customers get a complimentary Tower of Death drink

Flashing lights, fashionable smoke and floating sushi make this wild university hangout a haven for overconsumption, kamikaze-style. Grab your sushi from a little boat drifting on the moat surrounding the sushi bar and then run yelling to an empty chair, climb on top of it, drop a shot of sake in half a glass of beer and slam it.

If Your Bar Could Be Any Animal, What Would It Be?: Tasmanian devil


The Oasis
241 El Camino Real, Menlo Park 650.326.8896

Hours: Daily 11am-2am
Crowd Age: 5-75
Music: No
Decor: Low-key pizza joint

Signature Drink: Beer
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: Video games and four TVs

The Oasis has a varied clientele of "everyday people" and is often packed with families and kids. Sports fans, softball teams and business people frequent this casual hangout for pizza and burgers. Worn wooden tables lend to a homey atmosphere.

If Your Bar Could Be Any Animal, What Would It Be?: Old elephant


The Old Pro
2865 El Camino Real, Palo Alto 650.325.2070

Hours: Mon-Fri 11am-11:30pm, Sat-Sun 9am-11:30pm (open at 9:30am on weekdays during football season and World Cup soccer)
Crowd Age: 18-40
Music: Regular variety from DSS satellite
Decor: Sports memorabilia
Signature Drink: Pitcher of beer
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: Video games, foosball and 23 TVs

A classic sports bar slathered with issues of Sports Illustrated, the Old Pro is situated in an old metal Quonset hut in the middle of Palo Alto. It keeps true to its sports-bar status by painting football game schedules on the outside walls for passersby to take note of. The bar also hosts large parties and banquets any day of the week.

If Your Bar Could Be Any Animal, What Would It Be?: A dog, "loyal, rambunctious and happy"


Printer's Inc. Cafe
320 California Ave, Palo Alto 650.323.3347

Hours: Mon-Fri 7am-10:30pm, Sat-Sun 8am-10:30pm
Crowd Age: 18-65
Music: Occasional live jazz
Decor: Airy interior, outside patio
Signature Drink: Frosty mocha made with ice cream
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: Wireless Internet connection

Printer's Inc. classifies as a cat for its down-to-earth, artsy, diverse character. Diners enjoy chicken enchiladas, sandwiches, salads, soups and pastries under hip fluorescent cone lights. The cafe serves more than food; customers still flock to read, write, paint and visit the new art gallery, which features black-and-white photography, ceramics, paintings and glass sculptures produced by local artists. Printer's Inc also offers freshly roasted coffee beans, which are delivered daily.

If Your Bar Could Be Any Animal, What Would It Be?: Cat


Q Cafe and Billiards
529 Alma St, Palo Alto 650.322.3311

Hours: Daily 11:30-2am
Crowd Age: 21-35
Music: DJ beats, Top 40 and house
Decor: Old brick warehouse
Signature Drink: California Sunset
Dancing: Yes, seven days a week
Games/Amenities: Six pool tables and four TVs

Be sure to dress to impress if you want to get lucky at this nightclub/restaurant. A live DJ keeps the dance floor hot and steamy every night of the week except for Monday. Q Café is hopping on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights and serves up continental/California cuisine for lunch and dinner.

If Your Bar Could Be Any Animal, What Would It Be?: Tiger, for "fast and fierce service"


Rose and Crown
547 Emerson St, Palo Alto 650.327.7673

Hours: Mon-Fri 11:30am-2am, Sat 11:30am-2am, Sun noon-2am
Crowd Age: 21-40
Music: Jukebox, rock
Decor: Classic English pub
Signature Drink: Pint of Guinness, Snakebite (cider and lager)
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: Live comedy on Monday nights, pub quiz trivia on Tuesday nights (as in U.K.)

Worn plaid carpeting, a wild boar's head, a bear-skinned rug and new stained-glass windows contribute to the truly British experience of the Rose and Crown. Framed Guinness posters and mirrors deck the walls. People play dice with the bartender at the long bar hung with traditional bar towels and try their hand at darts. Besides drinking, a favorite pastime is watching soccer, which you can do on two TV screens and a large-screen projector. Patrons can also bring their pints outside onto the patio area, sit under umbrellas and smoke a few fags. The Rose and Crown offers a fish-and-chips special and is open late for World Cup soccer.

If Your Bar Could Be Any Animal, What Would It Be?: Bear


Rudy's Pub
117 University Ave, Palo Alto 650.329.0922

Hours: Mon-Fri 11:30am-1:30am, Sat-Sun 2pm-1:30am
Crowd Age: 35-55
Music: DJ Fri-Sat, house and dance music
Decor: Dimly lit lounge
Signature Drink: Rum and Coke
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: Dart boards, five TVs

Some describe Rudy's Pub as a peaceful, home-style bar, but during peak weekend hours, it can get pretty rowdy. Padded benches line the walls of this unpretentious establishment, where customers can fearlessly venture to kick back and watch baseball on TV.

If Your Bar Could Be Any Animal, What Would It Be?: Three-toothed sloth


Spago
265 Lytton Ave, Palo Alto 650.833.1000

Hours: Lunch Mon-Fri 11:30am-2pm, dinner Mon-Thu 5:30-9pm, Fri-Sat 5:30-10pm; Sun closed; bar open Mon-Fri 11:30am-10pm, Fri-Sat 11:30am-11pm
Crowd Age: Mid-30s to mid-50s
Music: Background (contemporary in bar, or occasional live music)
Decor: Euro-elegance
Signature Drink: Spago Martini (raspberry and orange vodkas, cherry syrup, squirt of lime juice with a cinnamon/sugar rim and a cherry)
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: Private banquet room, courtyard seating

Spago (which means "noodle" in Italian) is the creation of world-renowned celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck, who opened Spago Palo Alto in 1997 after Jeremiah Tower's Stars failed to dazzle. Elegant yet warm, the restaurant serves up contemporary, American-based cuisine with Mediterranean and Asian influences. Spago is a magnet for Silicon Valley professionals and Palo Alto trendsetters, who enjoy the fine food, attentive service and elegant, light dining room, decorated in contemporary modern with a Rauschenberg on the wall, Adam Tihany interior and bold primary colors. Walking through the garden courtyard, you see three buildings: on the right is the Pavilion, an open, casual bar area with a full bar, patio tables and its own menu; to the left is the main dining room; there's also a small, Spanish-tiled private dining room to your right. Diners can also sit in the open courtyard. Puck, who owns 21 restaurants, visits four times a year (the next is this July). Spago has a great wine list with a strong selection of well-known brands and small wineries.

If Your Bar Could Be Any Animal, What Would It Be?: Cat


Straits Cafe
3295 El Camino Real, Palo Alto 650.494.7168

Hours: Mon-Thu 11:30am-2:30pm, 5:30-9:30pm, Fri 11:30am-2:30pm, 5-10:30pm, Sat 5:30-10:30pm, Sun 5:30-9:30pm
Crowd Age: 30-50
Music: Soft jazz, Asian music
Decor: Cozy and simple
Signature Drink: Singapore Sling (gin, cherry brandy and fruit juice)
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: Outdoor patio with fountain

Many open-minded Caucasian professionals frequent this exotic cafe, which serves Singapore cuisine suffused with Chinese, Indian, Malay and Indonesian flavors. Hot sellers on the menu include Kari Kambing (lamb curry with a pastry topping), pepper crab and chili lobster.

If Your Bar Could Be Any Animal, What Would It Be?: Lion, because Singapore means "land of the lions"


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From the July 18-24, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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