[Best of the Santa Clara Valley 1997]

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Best of Mountain View

Best Place to Drink in High-Tech History
Nowadays, Silicon Valley deals are made over decaf lattes and bran muffins, but the high-tech industry was once dominated by a unique species of hard-drinking workaholic rarely seen today. That animal's watering hole of choice was Walker's Wagon Wheel. Now called the Wagon Wheel Casino (since it secured a card-room license in 1995), this restaurant/ bar was once the unofficial office of Don Hoefler, the editor of Microelectronics News credited with coining the term Silicon Valley. This is probably where Fairchild's Bill Shockley cried in his beer about "the traitorous eight" who left his company and spawned the valley's semiconductor industry. This is where ideas that would change the world were scrawled on cocktail napkins and startups took root. In short: Geek Central. It's worth a visit just to sip a cold one where the giants once puked drunkenly into their pocket protectors.
282 E. Middlefield Road, Mountain View (650/967-1244)

Best Place to Catch Venture Capitalists Sunny Side Up
They used to hang out at the Wagon Wheel (see above) and make deals over boilermakers and beer nuts; now the Silicon Valley's high-tech entrepreneurs gather for healthier fare at the original Hobee's--at least that's what they claimed in Business Week. Celeb watchers who linger long enough at the Mountain View flagship restaurant of the Bay Area chain might catch a glimpse of such regulars as Netscape's Marc Andreesen, Niners QB Steve Young or venture capitalist Jeffrey Yang. (Michelle Pfeiffer also reportedly dined there.)
2312 Central Expwy., Mountain View (650/968-6050)

Best UFO Sightings
Back in 1947, pizza was virtually unknown in this country. Today, it's a food group. Part of the credit for this culinary revolution must go to one Rocky DiAugustino, who opened what may have been the first pizzeria between L.A. and San Francisco. Rocky later sold out to Frank D'Ambrosio, who, along with brother John and their paesano Louie, hung out a shingle and began making pies.

The restaurant changed hands a few more times, but John's sons, Frank and John Jr., eventually bought it back. The restaurant, called Frankie Johnnie and Luigi Too, now offers a full menu of Southern Italian food, but the reason to go there is still the pizza--and not just to eat it. Patrons can watch the cooks hand toss the crusts. "You gotta toss it," explains John D'Ambrosio. "If you roll it, you squeeze out the air and it won't rise." If you toss it, it will rise.
939 El Camino Real, Mountain View (650/967-5384)

Best Place to Park a Dirigible
Easily the most recognizable structure in the South Bay, Hangar One at Moffett Field is 198 feet high and could contain 10 football fields. (The Niners have actually practiced there.) It was built in 1932 to house a dirigible called the Macon, and it can be sealed off with 500-ton hydraulic "orange-peel" doors. Today, the Moffett Field Museum and the Navy Reserve's C-130 squadron share the hangar. The museum displays hundreds of aircraft models and artifacts, and an actual P3 and P2 out on the tarmac. Admission is free (open Wed.-Sat., 10am-2pm), but visitors must call ahead. So what's the difference between a dirigible and a blimp? Museum director Carol Henderson says that a dirigible is a rigid airship with a metal frame. "A blimp," she explains, "is just a gas bag." Ah, the politicians of the aviation world.
Hangar One at Moffett Field, Mountain View (650/603-9827)

Best Place to Learn to Beat
Someone to a Bloody Pulp
In the world of Ultimate Fighting Championships (basically, pay-per-view events pitting different fighting styles against each other), the Gracie family comprises a hallowed dynasty. As purveyors of Brazilian jujitsu, the Ralph Gracie Jiu Jitsu Academy has developed fighters Carley and Rickson Gracie and student champ Vitor Belfort, who are tested warriors of the UFC Octagon. Gracie son Ralph (pronounced "Halph") opened up this academy to teach the Gracies' deadly style of streetfighting. Gracie fighting academies have a longstanding tradition of "open challenge"--one can walk into any Gracie Academy and challenge anyone to a fight. Good luck, and remember us in your will.
1495 W. El Camino Real, Unit A, Mountain View (650/964-3121)

Best Place to Pick Up an Engineer
On a particularly glorious day in 1987, our wise fathers and mothers in Sacramento passed the so-called Tied House Laws, which permitted the production and serving of beer at the same location. A chorus of joyous voices arose throughout the Golden State, and the Tied House opened its doors in Mountain View. Established in an old laundry building near downtown, the homey restaurant/pub features four house brews and a menu that includes "game burgers," such as buffalo, elk and ostrich. The place is open for lunch and dinner, and draws a loyal cadre of high-tech regulars.
954 Villa St., Mountain View (650/965-2739)

Best Urban-Enveloped Nature Strip
For Peninsula dwellers sick of Bay Area sprawl, the Stevens Creek Trail offers a modest oasis in a concrete desert. Okay, it's paved too, but that's really beside the point. Winding from the wetlands to Whisman School on Easy Street just off Middlefield Road, the three-mile Mountain View section will eventually be part of the Bay Ridge Trail.

On the weekends, this Class One bike trail is populated by a stream of bikers, skaters, joggers and baby buggies. On weekdays, commuters to the North Bayshore Business Park use it as a transportation alternative. It also connects to the trails meandering though Shoreline. Mother Nature--you can't keep a good trail down.
Starts at Shoreline Park wetlands, Mountain View

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From the Sept. 18-24, 1997 issue of Metro.

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