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840 North First
840 N. First St, San Jose 408.282.0840

Hours: Mon-Sat 11:30am-10pm
Crowd Age: 30-70
Music: Subtle jazz
Decor: Upscale Sopranos
Signature Drink: Chardonnay
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: TVs

Scuttlebutt, meet your maker. 840 North First is still where San Jose's movers and shakers mingle, drink and beef up their hand-shaking muscle with New American-style food. Elegant décor and comfortable booths enhance the plush effect.

If Your Bar Could Be Any Animal, What Would It Be?: A political animal


Agenda Lounge
399 S. First St, San Jose 408.287.3991

Hours: The Cellar Fri-Sat 9:30pm-2am; Agenda Lounge Tue-Fri 5pm-2am, Sat 8pm-2am, Sun 7pm-2am
Crowd Age: 21-35
Music: Live music, DJ
Decor: Casual
Signature Drink: Agenda Cosmopolitan (Lounge), Alabama Slammer (Cellar)
Dancing: Look up, look down
Games/Amenities: Two billiards tables in the Lounge

Depending on the level, tablecloths give way to table dancing at this schizophrenic First Street staple. Downstairs at the Cellar, dance music shakes the sidewalk, while at street level, Agenda serves up sophisticated dinners--but that's not all: There's an upstairs, too, where some of San Jose's friendliest bartenders mix drink specials, and salsa sometimes spices up the dance floor. Agenda's owner plans to expand this place even more, so stay tuned for updates

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


A.P. Stump's
163 W. Santa Clara St, San Jose 408.292.9928

Hours: Mon-Fri 11:30am-10pm, Sat 5-11pm, closed Sun
Crowd Age: 30-40
Music: No
Decor: Elegant contemporary
Signature Drink: none
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: Heated patio with waterfall, private dining rooms

A.P. Stump's is all about luxury. Taking its cue from the restored historic Masson-Lefranc building that houses it, the posh restaurant is rife with atmospheric little areas, like the Champagne Cellar private dining room, or the heated outdoor patio complete with waterfall. But though its setting may be all fancy-like, the bar itself has a casual feel, and the bartenders can whip up a vacation-worthy mixed drink.

If Your Bar Could Be Any Animal, What Would It Be?: Manager Stacey More says, "A lab--loyal and faithful."


B-Hive
372 S. First St, San Jose, 408.298.2529

Hours: Wed-Mon 9pm-2am
Crowd Age: 20-30
Music: Hip-hop, R&B
Decor: Dance-floor loft
Signature Drink: $2 Kamikazes
Games/Amenities: Pool tables

KMEL DJs set the mood at the B-Hive, and the mood is all about shakin' booty. Well-dressed booty, that is, because you won't get into the B-Hive wearin' your skanky sweatshirt and jeans--the dress code is strictly enforced. No hats, sportswear, tennis shoes or white T-shirts allowed. Once you're past the fashion patrol, however, the night is yours--so long as you've arrived well before 11pm, when the dance floor hits capacity. The B-Hive is one of the few places in the South Bay where, if the planets are aligned, you can get your hip-hop groove on all night long.

If Your Bar Could Be Any Animal, What Would It Be?: A killer bee


Bella Mia
58 S. First St, San Jose 408.280.1993

Hours: 11am-10pm
Crowd Age: 25-40
Music: Contemporary jazz, Muzak
Decor: Hotel library
Signature Drink: Martinis and Cosmopolitans
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: No

It's all about tradition at Bella Mia's bar, where mahogany, brass, high ceilings and a fireplace either make you feel like Clue's Colonel Mustard or one posh hot mama. Drink specials will help encourage the latter--Maker's Mark Manhattans, Bone Dry Martinis and peppery Blood Marys provide gourmet sipping alongside the gourmet eats (which, pleasantly, can be ordered at the bar, too).

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


Big Lil's Cabaret
157 W. San Fernando St, San Jose 408.295.7469

Hours: Fri-Sat doors open 6:30pm, shows start at 8pm
Crowd Age: Teenagers-ancient
Music: No
Decor: Dinner theater
Signature Drink: Beer
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: Theater

Big Lil's isn't cabaret as in "Wilkommen," it's cabaret as in "Watch out, that rubber chicken is about to land in your lap." Going on its second decade as a standup joint and dinner theater (BBQ catered by Tony Roma's), the cabaret is something like Saturday Night Live meets Whose Line Is It Anyway?, with a little dash of Hee Haw. Recently, Big Lil's has been trying for the big time, with Stand Up, It's Thursday Night! broadcast live from KRON 4's studios. Alcohol? Yep, beer and wine--and laughing loud and long enough will make you feel even woozier.

If Your Bar Could Be Any Animal, What Would It Be?: A talking horse


Blake's Steakhouse and Bar
17 N. San Pedro Square, San Jose 408.298.9221

Hours: Daily 11am-10pm
Crowd Age: Mid-30s
Music: Muzak
Decor: Asian steakhouse
Signature Drink: Sharktini
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: No

Sports and steaks are the name of the game at Blake's, where patrons get their game on with the Sharktini, a signature drink invented especially for Sharks games. The atmosphere here is high-class testosterone, with plush seats perfect for screening sporting events. You know where the priorities lie when the bar is situated at the entrance of the restaurant--in fact, to be really honest, Blake's should call itself a Bar and Steakhouse, but whattya gonna do.

If Your Bar Could Be Any Animal, What Would It Be?: One hungry shark


Body Shop at Club Tropicana
47 Notre Dame Ave, San Jose 408.279.3387

Hours: Fri 9pm-2am
Crowd Age: 18 and over
Music: Hip-hop and old school
Decor: Go-go cages and social lounge
Signature Drink: None
Dancing: Yes
Games/Amenities: No

It's all about the house party at Body Shop Club Tropicana, and there are several cribs to dig here. Friday night is Superstar, with house, hip-hop and club beats broadcast live on 102.5. These are budding superstars, too, 'cause the club lets in patrons 18 and over. Look for Shakira-ettes shaking it with Justin Timberlake wannabes. For those 21 and over, there's also Room, a fully stocked bar that features regular DJs. As you can probably tell from the name, Club Tropicana doesn't want your sports wear--dress code strictly enforced.

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


Britannia Arms Downtown
173 W. Santa Clara St, San Jose, 408.278.1400

Hours: Daily 11am-2am
Crowd: Displaced Brits, college students, Compaq Center preshow crowds, sports fans
Decor: English pub with projection TVs
Signature Drink: Malt scotch
Dancing: Yes
Games/Amenities: Darts, live music, live English and Scottish League soccer, Earthquakes after parties, NFL Sunday Ticket

Reluctant guys walking with their girls to Spiedo or Blake's will secretly wish they could duck into the Brit. Co-owned by Britannia Arms alumni John McKay, Mike North, John Conway and Sharks forward Owen Nolan, the Britannia Arms has expanded its proven pub, sports and music atmosphere from Cupertino to downtown. There are 14 beers on tap, 14 televisions and projection units, and single-malt scotches in the double digits. The building that once housed a Togo's eatery is now a significant addition to San Pedro Square. According to McKay, they've had their eye on downtown for 12 years. "More people live downtown now, and the SJPD have done a great job of cleaning it up," he says. "We want to be the local spot the concierges can recommend--that it's a friendly place and not a tourist trap." Amen to that. Look for the outdoors patio, with acoustic music, to open in the next month.

If Your Bar Could Be Any Animal, What Would It Be?: Half shark/half bulldog


Cafe Matisse
371 S. First St, San Jose 408.298.7788

Hours: Sun 8am-midnight, Mon-Thu 6:30am-midnight, Fri 6:30am-2am, Sat 7:30am-2am
Crowd Age: High school and up
Music: No
Decor: Urban Cafe
Signature Drink: Coffee
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: Couches, chess, books

Wedged between art galleries and a newsstand, Cafe Matisse provides a middle ground for patrons of both. A parade of edgy art covers the walls, and kids from punk to funk crowd the couches inside. Suitably brusque barista service adds to the sense of SF Mission meets SoFA.

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


The Caravan
98 S. Almaden Ave, San Jose, 408.995.6220

Hours: Daily 6am-2 am
Crowd Age: 25 and up
Music: Live music Thu
Decor: Barfly chic
Signature Drink: No
Dancing: Yes
Games/Amenities: Pool table, video games, jukebox

Located around the corner from the bus station, the Caravan is one of downtown San Jose's most beloved dives, attracting all shades of collars and every phylum of barflies. The Caravan's classic '70s signage is on a par with Frontier Village in classic kitsch. The jukebox is filled with drinking songs, except on Thursdays, when a band plugs and rocks out. Caravan's proximity to San Pedro Square and downtown makes for a not-so-quiet getaway from the office or a convenient escape when you can't put up with the supervisor's shit no more.

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


City Bar and Grill
Hilton Hotel 300 Almaden Blvd, San Jose, 408.947.4444

Hours: Daily 11am-midnight
Crowd: Age: 30-40
Music: Jazz and swing playing in the background
Decor: American classic, lots of wood
Signature Drink: Cosmopolitan
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: Late-night menu at bar 10pm-midnight, three TVs

Whether filled with local conventioneers maxing their expense accounts or local couples toasting a rare evening out, City Bar and Grill is a classy but unstuffy oasis located inside what many consider to be the city's ugliest hotel facade. The City Bar & Grill improves its resale value, draped in wood and polished glass--almost like the classic American grills from decades past--Bogie and Dietrich would feel at home here.

If Your Bar Could Be Any Animal, What Would It Be?: Platypus and dragon


Club Caribe
1001 S. First St, San Jose 408.297.7272

Hours: Fri-Sun 5pm-1:30am
Crowd Age: 25 and up
Music: Regional Mexican
Decor: Tropical
Signature Drink: Margarita, Tequila shot
Dancing: Claro que sí
Games/Amenities: No

Every weekend, the line of women in tight dresses trailed by caballeros in tighter jeans stretches down the sidewalk. Those put off by the trendy scenes at other Latin clubs swear by Club Caribe and its dance-first atmosphere. The club specializes in cumbia, banda and ranchera music--not too heavy on the salsa. Cowboy hats, snakeskin boots and big belt buckles are the norm here. When you get tired getting spun around, retire to the tropicalia-themed bar for a breather before getting yanked back on the floor for another turn.

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


Club Miami
177 W. Santa Clara St, San Jose 408.279.3670

Hours: Tue-Sat 8pm-1:30am
Crowd Age: 20-30
Music: Latin
Decor: Space-age tropics
Signature Drink: Top Shelf Margarita
Dancing: Yes
Games/Amenities: Free salsa lessons Thu-Sat 7-9pm, Señora Emma's taqueria downstairs

Once the site of an Original Crab House back in the day, Club Miami has endured as downtown's premier salsa and merengue dance club. As befits the name, Club Miami has a South Beach gloss to it, with long-legged honeys and Rico Suaves mingling. It's either dress up or go home--the dress code is strictly enforced. Sample the latest in cologne, wiggle your way through the crowd and get ready to be asked to dance. For wallflowers, salsa is taught to beginners from 7 to 9pm. Or just take a seat. Someone will be by in no time to show you how it's done.

If Your Bar Could Be Any Animal, What Would It Be?: Long-legged gazelle and atomic dogs


Coconut Willie's Cocktail Lounge
1099 W. San Carlos St, San Jose 408.971.1737

Hours: Mon-Thu noon-2am, Fri-Sun 10am-2am
Crowd Age: 21 and up
Music: Jukebox with everything from Frank Sinatra to rap
Decor: Tropical
Signature Drink: Fresh beer
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: Pool, karaoke, fashion shows

Since changing ownership in March 2002, Coconut Willie's has made significant improvements to its tropical cocktail theme. There are four new beer taps with fresh ales aflowing. They've installed two pool tables and begun tournaments on Mondays and Wednesdays. On Tuesdays, they turn the keys over to karaoke hams. Thursdays are reserved for fashion shows featuring lingerie to evening wear from 5 to 7pm. With all these changes, Coconut Willie's positions itself as a new player in the cocktail game without sacrificing its core audience of everyday Kramdens and Nortons.

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


The Den, at Fourth Street Bowl
1441 N. Fourth St, San Jose 408.453.5555

Hours: Bowling alley: Daily 9am-2am; Bar: Mon-Fri 11:15pm-2am, Sat-Sun 6pm-2am
Crowd Age: 25-40
Music: Karaoke seven days a week
Decor: Spiffy karaoke nightclub
Signature Drink: Miami Ice
Dancing: Yes
Games/Amenities: Karaoke, darts

Have you ever noticed that bowling alleys have the most competitive karaoke bars? Fourth Street Bowl is no exception. You'd better have your voice box set to professional when you take the stage here--those high notes in the "Flashdance" theme will reverberate through the whole damn dance floor. And it's a sizable dance floor, too. Karaoke jockeys (that's KJs to those in the know) keep things moving, and the bar is just spacious enough to match.

If Your Bar Could Be Any Animal, What Would It Be?: Glenn, the manager, says, "A fox. We used to be called the Red Fox Den, then we shorted it to the Den."


The Derby
399 N. 13th St, San Jose, 408.287.5399

Hours: Daily 6am-2am
Crowd Age: 45-80
Music: Jukebox
Decor: Casual
Signature Drink: Midori Sour
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: Darts, pool

Plopped on the corner of a central San Jose neighborhood, the Derby is distinguished from the other houses on the block by the jolly green hat sign and the logo "Where friends meet." It's a neighborhood bar in the truest sense. It caters to the local folks and late shifters, so the mood is different from the rowdier bars. The Derby maintains a quiet dignity (though it can get loud on weekends) and is one of those spots where fathers take their sons the day they turn 21.

If Your Bar Could Be Any Animal, What Would It Be?: An Irish setter


E&O Trading Company
96 S. First St, San Jose 408.938.4100

Hours: Mon-Th 11:30am-10pm; Fri-Sat 11:30am-10:30pm; Closed Sun
Crowd Age: 21-45
Music: No
Decor: Southeast Asian
Signature Drink: Mangopolitan and Pomegranate Margarita
Dancing: No
Game/Amenities: Microbrews on premises

With all manner of South Asian decorative touches, E&O has succeeded in planting its fusion concept roots downtown. The handcrafted beers--stout, pale ale, golden ale and the Dragon's Breath--are a nice break from Gordon Biersch next door. Dragon's Breath is especially tasty, with hints of spice and caramel. E&O has three or four infused vodkas that snazz up the standard Screwdriver and kick up the usual Bloody Mary. The only bummer is the carpet rolls up early on weekends, so get there before the 11pm last call.

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


Eulipia
374 S. First St, San Jose 408.280.6161

Hours: Tue-Sat 5:30-10pm, Sun 4:30-9pm
Crowd Age: Youthful postgrads
Music: No
Decor: Distressed brick, high-ceilings and tasteful art
Signature Drink: Sour Apple Martini
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: No

While hip-hop and R&B rages on upstairs at the unrelated B-Hive, little do the Prada-wearing customers know that the Eulipia was named after a Rahsaan Roland Kirk tune, "Theme for the Eulipians"--"eulipia" meaning music euphoria. The bar/restaurant maintains the even keel that comes with being a downtown hot spot for more than 25 years. The small but spectacular bar is the primo meeting space for pre- or post-activities along the South First corridor.

If Your Bar Could Be Any Animal, What Would It Be?: Koala ("cuddly and friendly," says owner Steve Borkenhagen)


The Fairmont Lounge
Fairmont Hotel 170 S. Market St, San Jose 408.998.1900

Hours: Mon-Fri 1-11pm, Sat 4-11pm
Crowd Age: 25-50
Music: Piano music Thu-Sat
Decor: Upscale Hotel
Signature Drink: Fairmont Platinum Martini (Orange vodka, strawberry schnapps and other secret ingredients)
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: Greenery, tinkly piano, snack bowls quickly replenished

The Fairmont is the classic place for prom dates and blind dates or for whenever you need a quiet oasis to talk things over. The sunken lounge is surrounded with plush greenery, and piano music tinkles near the bar, affording a luxuriant feel. And when nature calls, rest assured that the Fairmont's facilities are repeatedly voted Best Bathroom in Metro reader polls.

If Your Bar Could Be Any Animal, What Would It Be?: Cheetah ("Classy, smooth and graceful," says bartender Justin)


Flying Pig Pub
78 S. First St, San Jose 408.298.6710

Hours: Tue-Fri 11am-1:30am, Mon and Sat 5pm-1:30am
Crowd Age: 21-40
Music: Loud-ass jukebox on 11
Decor: Ski lodge comfort complete with fireplace
Signature Drink: Jack Daniels
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: Lunch/dinner menu, TVs, fireplace

During peak times, the Flying Pig Pub resembles those screwy beer and wine-cooler commercials with Andrew W.K. blaring in the background, a raucous house party gone full tilt. The brick walls, television sets and blaring jukebox makes intimate conversations needless. The best time to come here is the calm before the storm--5-9pm, when tables are open, and you can actually speak to people without generous hand and facial gestures. Decent selection of lunchtime options--chili, nachos, fish and chips--gives this pig wings.

If Your Bar Could Be Any Animal, What Would It Be?: A pig (preferably one that flies)


Gordon Biersch
33 E. San Fernando, San Jose 408.294.6785

Hours: Tue-Fri 11:30am-1:30am, Mon and Sat 5pm-1:30am
Crowd Age: 21-40
Music: Live jazz
Decor: European biergarten
Signature Drink: Marzen
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: TV, live jazz Thu-Sat

The local success story of handcrafted beers, based in San Jose Japantown, the brewpub has expanded to other states but hasn't lost one drop of quality. Its beers are consistently tasty, and the garlic fries make stomachs growl in ballparks nationwide. The first--and best--Gordon Biersch does a brisk trade in food and beer, and happy hours are more like ecstasy hours. The inside can get noisy--God forbid you ever eat upstairs in the brick loft--so the outside patio becomes a welcome respite with live jazz Thursday-Saturday. Marzen, Blonde Bock, Dunkels and Export are always ready, plus a seasonal pour. They usually welcome in the new beer on the block with a quarterly tasting session, so watch for fliers as the seasons change.

If Your Bar Could Be Any Animal, What Would It Be?: A St. Bernard with barrel


Grill on the Alley
172 S. Market St, San Jose 408.294.2244

Hours: Sun-Thu 11:30am-10pm, Fri-Sat 11:30am-11pm
Crowd Age: 30-50
Music: DMX light jazz
Decor: Manly-man Eastern seaboard grill
Signature Drink: Green Apple Martini
Games/Amenities: Brass cauldron brimming with bottles of premium vodka and gins on ice; TV

This is a great place to run up an expense account. Out-of-town professionals on business trips staying at the adjacent Fairmont Hotel frequent this testosterone-induced no-nonsense urban bar. A dark-wood interior and heavy wooden blinds filter the sunlight and provide an escape from the all-too-familiar valley heat.

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


Hedley Club
Hotel De Anza
233 W. Santa Clara St, San Jose 408.286.1000

Hours: Sun-Tue noon-10pm, Wed-Thu noon-11:30pm, Fri-Sat noon-1:30am
Crowd Age: 30-70
Music: Live Jazz, Wed-Sat
Decor: Understated elegance
Signature Drink: Ruby Red (Stoli Raspberry, Chambord, champagne)
Dancing: Fri-Sat
Games/Amenities: No

With plush couches beckoning you to sink into them, this library-quiet hotel bar may seem like a mild stop for hotel guests, but with the recent addition of a patio the Hedley has emerged as a surprisingly hip jazz hangout. White-collar and red-dressed patrons alike crowd the place to hear regulars like Rob Reardon, Sue Crosman, Rick Vandivier, Wally Schnalle and Steve Czarnecki. Shows are on Wed-Thu at 7pm and Fri-Sat at 8:30pm--and there's no admission charge.

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


Henry's World-Famous Hi-Life
301 W. St. John St, San Jose 408.295.5414

Hours: Tue-Fri 11:30am-9pm, Sat-Sun 4-9pm
Crowd Age: 30-50
Music: None
Decor: Casual sports bar
Signature Drink: Margarita
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: TVs, jukebox, darts

The floodwaters came and went, and Henry's still stands as a Guadalupe River Park fixture. With vintage wooden tables and historical tokens of San Jose dotting the walls, the Hi-Life is home base for many longtime rascals. Known as a favorite of downtown San Jose's movers (as opposed to shakers, because there's not a lotta shaking going on lately), this classic sports bar feeds the famished during the week and gets especially busy before Sharks games. More than one season-ticket holder has watched a game or two from here, just for the ambience. A full-service bar and BBQ specialties (a big sign states: "Steak, Ribs and Chicken") satisfy the carnivores.

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


Il Fornaio
150 S. First St, San Jose 408.271.3366

Hours: Mon-Thu 7am-11pm, Fri 7am-midnight, Sat 8am-midnight, Sun 8am-11pm
Crowd Age: 21 and up
Music: Hotel classical
Decor: Italian trattoria
Signature Drink: Chianti, Grappa
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: No

The official bar, inside the trattoria, is tiny, but here's a secret: spun off to the side of the lobby, Il Fornaio's Palm Room is a much nicer and more refined place to drink. It's laid out like a well-heeled matron's living room or library, and you can spread out here and relax in grand majesty. Sip a glass of Pinot Grigio or twirl the swizzle stick in a cocktail as you lounge in the comforts of a room filled with couches and stuffed chairs seemingly transported from another era. Mediterranean touches abound, and you wonder if Roberto Benigni might pop out from behind a curtain.

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


Katie Bloom's
150 S. First St, San Jose 408.294.4408

Hours: Mon-Fri 11am-2am, Sat-Sun 2pm-2am
Crowd Age: 21-40
Music: Jukebox
Decor: Irish Pub
Signature Drink: Black & Tan
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: Tabletop video games, TVs, karaoke

As one of the old-school Pavilion inhabitants that outdrank the bad times and economic busts, Katie Bloom's has earned its stripes as a supreme redevelopment survivor. The downtown pub attracts a loyal lunchtime following. They park their cheeks on a stool to eat Cornish pies and catch up on game scores. Its proximity to the Fairmont and Knight Ridder building brings in a fair amount of conventioneers and post-work imbibers. The deep cherry-wood bar and booths give it a warm authenticity lacking in other pubs. But don't drink and walk--the northbound light rail train passes directly in front of the door (every 15-20 minutes during the day). Look both ways before exiting the pub.

If Your Bar Could Be Any Animal, What Would It Be?: An Irish setter


Mac's Club
39 Post St, San Jose 408.288.8221

Hours: Noon-2am
Crowd Age: Early 30s and up
Music: DJs Fri
Decor: Shabby tavern
Signature Drink: Cosmopolitan
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: Darts, touch-screen games

Since moving from South First Street to Post Street, this cozy spot (now neighboring a Chinese restaurant and pawnshop) has endured as a gay bar that doesn't require Gaydar as an entrance requirement. Everyone is welcome at Mac's. When asked for an animal, the bartender was stumped. "It would have to be a mixed animal because we have such a mixed crowd," he said.

If Your Bar Could Be Any Animal, What Would It Be?: Lion and trout mix


Mission Ale House
97 E. Santa Clara St, San Jose 408.292.4058

Hours: Daily 11am-2am, 365 days a year
Crowd Age: 21-35
Music: Dueling jukeboxes
Decor: Brick and brass.
Signature Drink: Ales, 32 on tap
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: Pool table, video games, TVs

The shiny apple of beer distributors and hetero guys valleywide, Mission Ale House is a loud and lively space halfway between San Jose State University and the soon-to-be-renamed Compaq Center. It caters to the young, clean-cut Ambercrombie & Fitch crowd with beer, babes and bootylicious bartenders. The Monday College Nights--where a college ID gets $2 drafts, well drinks and Margaritas--is an enduring tribute to overconsumption. A patio takes the party outside. Still, the big draws are the hot chicks and buff dudes. If there were a bar version of Maxim, Mission Ale House just might be it.

If Your Bar Could Be Any Animal, What Would It Be?: Fox ("No coyotes, just foxes," says bartender Kelly)


Original Joe's
301 S. First St, San Jose 408.292.7030

Hours: Daily 11am-1:30am
Crowd age: 25 and up
Music: No live music
Decor: Lounge-riffic
Signature Drink: Sidecar
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: Fireplace, dark corners

It's funny to watch the bartender's face twist up when someone orders a Virgin Daiquiri or a Sloe Comfortable Screw. The guys tending bar know how to make these but won't, just out of pride alone. Original Joe's is for liquor lovers who like their drinks stiff and without fuzzy umbrellas. The booths are plush, the bar is cloaked in darkness, even in the afternoon, which gives it an underworld charm. Whether waiting for your table to be called or waiting for your blind date to show, the Original Joe's bar has a bar stool or plush banquette waiting for you.

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


Paolo's
333 W. San Carlos, San Jose 408.294.2558

Hours: Mon-Fri 11am-2:30pm and 4-10pm, Sat 5:30-10pm
Crowd age: 30-plus
Music: Mostly Mozart
Decor: white-linen elegance
Signature drink: A glass of Ombretta di Paolo
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: The food; location, location, location

Paolo's may be the only business in San Jose to make the Guadalupe River scenic. Perched ambitiously on its riverside plot, the restaurant/bar continues to serve some of the most elegant Italian cuisine around. Several single-malt scotches, wines and other premium drinks are available for your opulent enjoyment. A few outdoor tables are fought over by the regular crowd of stockbrokers from upstairs. If you saunter in around 4pm, you might be able to nab an outdoor seat, a perfect place to sip on a cocktail while taking in the weather and the prevailing winds that frequent the area.

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


Plant 51
44 S. Almaden Ave, San Jose, 408.297.5151

Hours: Mon-Sat 11am-2am, Sun closed
Crowd: Diverse
Decor: European coffeehouse, art deco
Signature Drink: Cosmopolitan
Dancing: Yes
Games/Amenities: Live music Thu-Sat, sushi happy hour Thu-Fri 4-8pm

Since Fuel was taken over by new owners this year, the club has been searching for its groove. The stylish cafe still has live music and the striking map of the world on the ceiling. It serves sushi and bistro food. What is known is that Plant 51 is picking up the slack after Cactus Club closed. The music has been a confluence of styles--from M. Headphone to Hell's Belles to Lisa Dewey to Los Olvidados. The folks from I Need More recently moved its operation from the Lido to Plant 51 and have been holding regular roots and punk shows. What the future of Plant 51 holds remains to be seen.

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


South First Billiards
420 S. First St, San Jose 408.294.7800

Hours: Daily 4pm-2am
Crowd age: 21-50
Music: Bartender's choice
Decor: Upscale and laid-back
Signature drink: Birthday flaming Dr. Pepper
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: Pool, darts, pinball, video games, big-screen TV

An upscale stylish pool hall is something you don't find just anywhere, and South First Billiards is one of the highlights of downtown's SoFA district. It's also a favorite after-work haunt for neighborhood employees. At night, the place fills up with a diverse crowd, ranging from younger twentysomethings to older pool freaks, many of whom bring their own pool cues to play on any of the 29 tables in the establishment. A popular place for corporate parties and get-togethers, tables here are $12 per hour except on Wednesdays, when they have a special $10 student rate. The selection of alcohol is not bad, with 15 beers on tap and several top-shelf liquors. And the bartenders are dynamite.

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


Spiedo Ristorante
151 W. Santa Clara St, San Jose 408.971.6096

Hours: Mon-Sat 11:30am-2:30pm, Mon-Sun 5:30-10:30pm
Crowd Age: 30-50
Music: Live music Thu-Sat 7-11pm.
Decor: Ritzy lounge
Signature Drink: No
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: No

Characterized by floor-to-ceiling windows, this sleek Mediterranean Restaurant is a bright spacious place to dine among 20th-century art, crooning lounge singers and cherry-wood décor. Featured are the gorgeous exhibition kitchens, including the wood-burning pizza oven and mesquite-fired Rotisserie and Grill. Grab a seat upstairs, where you can overlook San Pedro Square while sampling homemade pasta and cracking open a bottle from their extensive wine list.

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


Stratta Grill and Cafe
71 E. San Fernando St, San Jose 408.293.1121

Hours: Dinner Sun-Wed 5-10pm, Thu-Sat 5pm-midnight
Crowd Age: 21-45
Music: Salsa, bossa nova CD compilations
Decor: Wood and terra-cotta-colored walls
Signature Drink: East Coast Cosmopolitan
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: Late-night dining Thu-Sat 10pm-midnight

This elegant eatery picks up an assortment of upscale patrons. Opera and theatergoers jam the place during the week, while younger folk come in on the weekends. Even the mayor and his entourage can be seen here on a semiregular basis. Barkeep John is famous for his East Coast Cosmopolitan, a concoction of Grand Mariner, Kettel One, lime and cranberry juices. A charming place with European-style ambience.

If Your Bar Could Be Any Animal, What Would It Be?: A bald eagle


Teske's Germania
255 N. First St, San Jose 408.292.0291

Hours: Lunch Tue-Fri 11am-2pm, dinner Tue-Sat 5-9:30pm
Crowd Age: 20-30
Music: Canned German tunes before 10pm, KSJO after 10pm
Decor: German pub
Signature Drink: none
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: No

Teske's is the kind of place one might expect to stumble upon while strolling through some cobblestone lane in Germany. Its antique rustic interior, full selection of German beers and comical barkeeps draw a wide variety of drinkers. Postal workers and attorneys haunt the place after work and then filter out before a variety of twenty- and thirtysomethings take over at nighttime. Everyone is welcome here, whether you're sporting a tuxedo or a trench coat. Foodwise, you can gorge on authentic German cuisine in either the Bavarian room, the Victorian room or the beer garden, which opens up in the summertime.

If Your Bar Could Be Any Animal, What Would It Be?: A happy bear


Tied House
65 N. San Pedro St, San Jose 408.295.2739

Hours: Sun-Tue 11:30am-9pm, Wed-Sat 11:30am-10pm
Crowd Age: 21-50
Music: CD mix
Decor: Casual
Signature Drink: Maibock Ale
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: Several TVs

With a 2,000-square-foot beer garden in the back and a loud dining room in the front, the Tide House makes for a great spot to down some good microbrews and watch a game. You can even sit out front on the sidewalk and people watch if you want. Beers brewed in house include the Cascade Amber, Ironwood Dark, New World Wheat and the strong IPA (recommended). A perfect hangout before a Sharks game, this place is jammed with hockey fans getting liquored up before the match. Check out their brand-new Happy Hour Monday Through Thursday with $2.75 pints and half-off all appetizers.

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


Toon's
52 E. Santa Clara St, San Jose 408.292.7464

Hours: Daily 7pm-2am
Crowd Age: College
Music: Live bands, DJs
Decor: playground chic
Signature Drink: Fifty-cent beers and $1 drink specials
Dancing: Yes
Games/Amenities: Pool tables, arcade, darts

It's hard to fathom that Toon's first opened as a Piano Bar all those years ago, with dueling noodlers howling '70s rock tunes while pounding the ivories. Nowadays, it's a mecca for the college crowd, featuring live cover bands, dancing and an evenly matched guy-to-gal ratio. An ideal place for cutting the rug, getting hammered and (with a little luck) going home with someone you won't remember the next morning--all on a college budget. There's no cover for students, and the 50-cent beer deals until 10pm can't be beat. Uncle Melvin plays every Wednesday.

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


Trial's Pub
265 N. First St, San Jose 408.947.0497

Hours: Thu-Sat 5pm-2am, Sun-Wed 5pm-midnight
Crowd Age: 25 and up
Music: Live music only on special occasions
Decor: Victorian living room meets neon beer lights
Signature Drink: Guinness, imported beers
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: Darts, comfy chairs, dart coaching

Kicking back at Trial's feels like relaxing somewhere in Britain, and the bartenders will go out of their way to make sure no one's glass is ever empty. With several British and Irish beers on tap, as well as top-shelf liquors, the place is a comfortable after-work hangout. Stop by and take in the Victorian décor and the neon beer signs while pounding a few pints. The friendly British couple who run the joint have also been known to help the regulars with their dart toss.

If Your Bar Could Be Any Animal, What Would It Be?: A British bulldog


The Usual
400 S. First St, San Jose 408.535.0330

Hours: Tue-Sat 9pm-2am, sometimes Sun for special shows or events
Crowd Age: 21-35
Music: Live music and dance nights
Decor: Dark and mysterious
Signature Drink: Sweet Piece of Ass (hey, now!)
Dancing: Yes
Games/Amenities: Small snack bar

One of the hippest nightclubs in San Jose, the Usual has undergone a recent facelift, prompting club-goers to ask several questions about its future, but it continues to be a hot spot for quality DJ dancing and live shows. No more draft beer in the front bar, but there is indeed a hefty selection of bottled beers. Inside, you can choose from several locations to down your booze: the black-lit lounge area, the raised floor in the middle or even the slick front bar. Popular party bands the Cheesballs and Super Diamond pack the place on a regular basis.

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


Voodoo Lounge
14 S. Second St, San Jose 408.286.8636

Hours: Thu-Sat 9pm-2am
Crowd Age: 20s
Music: DJs plays modern, '70s and '80s tunes
Decor: Retro chic
Signature Drink: The Lava Lamp
Dancing: Yes
Games/Amenities: Pool table

Dress to impress when you visit this swank bar and lounge in downtown San Jose. When it comes to pure lava lamp-lit ambience, the Voodoo Lounge takes the cake. Twentysomethings can be found swilling cocktails on the retro couches before they tear it up on the dance floor. DJs crank out the best music four nights a week, and folks line up around the corner to get in. A serious dress code is strenuously enforced, so don't waste your energy donning sports material or tank tops. Zebra-striped pants, however, are definitely allowed.

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


Waves Smokehouse & Saloon
65 Post St, San Jose 408.885.9283

Hours: Mon-Fri 11am-2am, Sat-Sun noon-2am
Crowd Age: 21-35
Music: Live bands, house, reggae
Decor: Tropical Old West
Signature Drink: Cosmopolitan
Dancing: Yes
Games/Amenities: Patio, big-screen TV

Housed in a former brothel, Waves Smokehouse and Saloon is an affordable Caribbean-influenced Texas-style barbecue joint and a great place for ribs, burgers, smokehouse platters and the like. They have 24 beers on tap, several single-malt scotches and a variety of good cigars. The décor will bring you right back to the Old West. You'll hear the spurs jingling and jangling, and you'll long for the cowpokes of yesteryear. Dating back to 1873, this is San Jose's oldest commercial building.

If Your Bar Could Be Any Animal, What Would It Be?: A buckin' bronco


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

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

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