Best of Silicon Valley 2004
Arts & Culture
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Editor's Short List
Best Esoteric Jukebox
Now, everyone has different musical tastes, so it would be pointless to say which bar has the best jukebox, but at Cinebar you'll find a pretty darn esoteric conglomeration of stuff. Half the CDs are stuck in the machine with only the front cover showing. The song titles are scribbled in by hand on binder paper. One even hilariously misspells Barry White, "Berry White." Also, the 30-minute live version of Meat Loaf's "Bat Out of Hell" will either empty the place or cause everyone to drink more. Throw in a bunch of local bands, Nancy Sinatra and Head East, and you've got pure dive-bar esotericism. Since the machine has two Pogues CDs, visitors will inevitably witness the following scenario: a drunk person lying on the floor, face up, spread-eagle, who is so smashed he doesn't even know where he is, but he can still sing every single word of "If I Should Fall From Grace From God." 69 E. San Fernando St., San Jose. 408.292.9562. (GS)
Best Bank in Which to Throw Money Around
The Vault Ultralounge
With low rates on CDs and saving accounts, no one is really making any money by keeping their stash in banks these days. So why not just face reality and go to a bank with the intention of spending your loot? Club-goers will get a pretty good return on investment at the newly opened Vault in downtown San Jose. This hot dance club, housed in reportedly one of the first savings and loan buildings in California, embraces its legacy with a décor that is both modern and historic. Dancers can shake their groove thangs under the large blue stained-glass ceiling decorated with American eagles and then cool off by sipping some cold ones near the two original vaults. Choose your groove from killer tunes dished out on two different dance floors. The front room features DJs spinning house and classic '80s tracks and the backroom takes a more down-tempo and R&B direction. 81 W. Santa Clara St., San Jose. 408.298.1112; www.vaultlounge.com. (JH)
Best Way to Get Friendly With a Primate
Monkey Kiss at Blue Monkey
It goes down like an ounce or so of Kool-Aid, but it's as addictive as Lay's potato chips. It's the Monkey Kiss, a deceptively friendly sounding drink served at the new Blue Monkey nightclub in downtown San Jose. This concoction of mango, rum, Bacardi 151 and other inebriants will definitely help you make new acquaintances at this chimp-chic lounge decorated with sunken leather couches, comfy deep chairs, flower arrangements, Zen-like knickknacks and numerous throw pillows. You'll wish that you had this recipe back in high school ...that hot cheerleader, or conversely that cool quarterback, could have been yours. The Monkey Kiss was created by bartender Michele Kelley, which should guarantee her job security for the foreseeable future. 1 E. San Fernando St., San Jose. 408.275.6006. (JH)
Best Salsa, Merengue, Cumbia and Rock en Español
Alberto's Salsa Studio and Nightclub
It's all about spin at Alberto's: the quality DJ spin, and the dance instructors' ability to spin you around the dance floor. Beginners stumble in for lessons around 7:30pm, and the experienced public swarms in two hours later. DJs and live musicians rack up the popular salsa, merengue and cumbia beats and Spanish-language rock tunes. Thursday evenings begin with salsa dance lessons from popular dance instructor Gabriel Romero. Friday evenings feature the popular "Viva Rock" show under the direction of DJ Adrian Gonzales. On Saturdays, the live bands break it outmost often Ruido Azul, fronted by Jaime Bello, who plays electric guitar and sings well-known Latin rock tunes from popular bands like Enanitos Verdes, Mana, Juanes, Shakira and others. Admission is $6-$10, dance lessons included. Women admitted free Fridays before 10:30pm. 736 W. Dana St., Mountain View. 650.968.3007; www.albertos.com. (SS)
Best Late-Night Martini
Martini Hour at Stratta
Wouldn't it be great if bars extended happy hours to when people really warm up? Stratta is way ahead of the pack with its solution to premature lubrication. From Thursday to Saturday, happy hour at the downtown bar and grill begins at 10pm and goes to midnight. During this window of opportunity, all martinis are half price. Appletinis, Manhattans, Dirties, Classics, Cosmos and Ruby Reds go for chump change. And with its prime locationnear the Rep, Improv and California TheatreStratta makes a cozy, walkable place to rehash all the great performances while the martinis make not-so-great performances easier to forget. 71 E. San Fernando St., San Jose. 408.293.1121. (TI)
Best New York Nightlife in San Jose
7/Seven Restaurant and Lounge
It's not just the sleek industrial design, the cutting edge culinary approach or the DJ spinning on the weekends that make Seven so very NYCthat stuff is easily imitated. It's the vibe. Anyone who has ever experienced, say, Lotus, APT or Soho House would recognize it right away: Seven's got that high style with an air of exclusivity, but it's friendly. Energetic, yet relaxed. Who would have thought that right on The Alameda, through revolving front doors, there could exist nightlife of an evolved mentality and the beautifully hip who keep it that way? 754 The Alameda, San Jose. 408.280.1644. (AR)
Best Menu Serving Innuendo
Beavers Bar and Grill
It would take one hell of a tall dam to hold back the steady stream of sexual innuendo and silly puns flowing at Beavers Bar and Grill. With the cocky slogan "Something is always up at Beavers Bar and Grill," this Sports & Recreation-theme bar in Willow Glen makes Hooters look restrained. Watching the servers waltz around the place in sweats that read "Beavers" across their butts, it's hard to believe that this is the same space that once housed the distinguished Glen restaurant. The menu offers quesadillas, hot wings, nachos and other bar fare. But mainly it offers innuendo. Try the Beaver Dip (spinach and artichoke) or the Beaver Spread (barbecued buffalo wings and other appetizers). Complement your nudge-nudge meal with some wink-wink cocktailsperhaps a Buttery Beaver or a Captain Beaver. Of course, us Willow Glen gangstas prefer the Beavers Gin and Juice. 1180 Lincoln Ave., San Jose. 408.288.9422. (JH)
Best Sushi and Jazz, Southside
Club Elite at Hama Sushi
This entry is the equivalent of the "bye" in tournament competition, as there really aren't any other local options. The jazz-and-sushi model for the United Statesand probably the worldis Yoshi's in Oakland's Jack London Square. (Ironically, Blue Note's chain of clubs in Japan specializes in continental cuisine.) But Club Elite saves South Bay residents the Saturday-night drive up 880 by transforming its Monday through Friday karaoke bar into a jazz venue featuring local and occasional nationally touring talent. The blacks and greens of the club and the nightclub lighting contrast with the light-wood tones of the restaurant, giving it a metropolitan streets of Tokyo, skyscrapers of Hong Kong vibe. 20030 Stevens Creek Blvd., Cupertino. 408.446.HAMA. (YK)
Best Pre-Shoreline Stop
Fiesta Del Mar
Local Parrot Heads, those shark-fin-wearing followers of Jimmy Buffett, know the scoop. They've long worshipped the frozen concoctions and spicy seafood dishes at Fiesta Del Mar. But you don't have to be dressed like a 6-foot margarita or a Silicon Valley pirate to take advantage of this Mexican restaurant's proximity to Shoreline Amphitheatre. Fiesta Del Mar is becoming an increasingly popular pre-concert dining-and-drinking destination for fans of anyone from Dave Matthews and Neil Young to Toby Keith and Tim McGraw. People sit in the covered patio area, hit the lengthy tequila list, fuel up on dishes like the fiery Camarones Charlie and then avoid the parking frenzy by simply making the short walk (about 10-15 minutes) over to the venue. It's not exactly Margaritaville, but by Silicon Valley standards it's close. 1005 N. Shoreline Blvd., Mountain View. 650.965.9354 (JH)
Best-Sounding Musical Venue
Campbell Recital Hall
I'm a music ho and see roughly 200 concerts a year. But the shows never sound better, no matter who is playing, than at Campbell Recital Hall at Stanford University. It might be hard for a Cal fan to accept that anything at Stanford is the very best in the Bay Area, but there's no denying your earsand this intimate, roughly 200-seat venue hidden in the middle of Leland's farm is nothing less than an acoustical marvel. There are no troublesome nooks to avoid or sweet spots that only locals know about. The sound is perfect no matter where one sits. And the result is the same whether the music is electric or acoustic, blues or jazz, instrumental or vocal. The Stanford Jazz Workshop hosts several concerts at Campbell, usually with headliner-caliber entertainers, throughout the year. For more information, check out www.stanfordjazz.org. (JH)
Best New Booze
Jago's Vodka Cream Liqueur
Although you'll have to wait a while before it hits the West Coast, Jago's is the world's first and only vodka cream liqueur. The drink already has a cult following in its native Scotland, and Jago's just hit the eastern United States last month. It tastes like alcoholic ice cream. You get this velvety weird and sophisticated smooth vodka vanilla-dessert combo unlike any other spirit. Cream from Shetland cows in the north of Scotland and vanilla from Madagascar give Jago's its distinct flavor. The concoction is the creation of Tom Jago, who was also instrumental in the birth of Malibu and Bailey's, so he knows his stuff. Imported by Star Industries in New York, the liqueur will slide into nationwide distribution throughout the next six months. (GS)
Best Baby-Sitting Option
Diaper Days at Camera 7
For new parents, going out to the movies often becomes as rare an occurrence as sexwith each other. Finding a baby-sitter can be difficult and pricey. But the other optiontaking the kids with youcan be worse. Nobody wants to be the parent of that noisy crying kid disturbing everyone else in the theater during a Meryl Streep movie. Luckily, the Camera 7 has come up with another alternative. The popular Pruneyard cinema hosts Diaper Days, a weekly film screening catering to parents and their kids, at 10:30am on Wednesdays. So grab the kids, leave the trepidation and guilt at home and pick from a selection of four first-run films. Changing tables and baby-safe lights and sound levels are provided. Tickets are $6 (kids under 4 admitted free). Pruneyard Shopping Center, 1875 S. Bascom Ave., Campbell. 408.559.6900; www.cameracinemas.com. (JH)
Best Cheap Date
Milpitas Cinema Saver 10
Missed that big Hollywood hit when it was hot? Got a date? Want to save some bills? Then it's all about Milpitas Cinema Saver 10, which charges $3.50 for second-run movies for any seat of any show. That is, unless it's Tuesday, when shows are onlyget this$1.50. One in a chain of CineLux Theaters, Milpitas Cinema Saver 10 has Dolby Surround Sound and state-of-the-art picture technology in each theater, so it ain't cheatin' ya. Since crowds can get a bit large, arrive early to get a good seat. (Hint: Go online to print coupons for free soda with the purchase of popcornthough the theater's huge pretzels are just as good a snack for 75 cents.) 577 E. Calaveras Blvd., in the Milpitas Town Center. 408.942.SAVE; www.cineluxtheatres.com/theatres/cinemasaver10.html. (AB)
Best Place to Watch the Game Without Actually Being There
The Old Pro
49ers and other local professional athletes frequent Palo Alto's Old Pro. This Sports & Recreation bar used to be a bus depot, yet its old-time feel lingers. You'd be hard-pressed to miss any game broadcast by ESPN while dining here; televisions showing all the day's matchups line the wall. Menu items include well-topped burgers, garlic fries and an array of on-tap beers. The eatery's down-to-earth décor consists of Sports & Recreation memorabilia galore. The original Old Pro is on El Camino across the street from Stanford, but a second (more upscale) Old Pro has recently opened for business on Ramona Street in downtown Palo Alto. 2865 El Camino Real and 541 Ramona St., Palo Alto. 650.325.2070. (AB)
Best New Bar/Club: Club Gl-o, S.J. Runner-up: The Vault Ultralounge, S.J.
Best Happy Hour: Ugly's, Mtn. View Runner-up: Mission Ale House, S.J.
Best Dance Club: Club Gl-o, S.J. Runner-up: Zoë, S.J.
Best Sports & Recreation Bar: Double D's Sports & Recreation Grille, Los Gatos Runner-up: Sharkey's, S.J.
Best DJ Club: Johnny V's, S.J. Runner-up: Blank Club, S.J.
Best Karaoke: 7 Bamboo Karaoke Lounge, S.J. Runner-up: Mountain Charlie's, Los Gatos
Best Pre-Sharks Game Spot: Britannia Arms, S.J. Runner-up: Henry's Hi-Life, S.J.
Best Jazz/Blues Club: JJ's Blues, S.J. Runner-up: Agenda, S.J.
Best Latin/Salsa Club: Club Miami, S.J. Runner-up: Pete Escovedo's, S.J.
Best Brewpub: Rock Bottom Brewery, Campbell Runner-up: Gordon Biersch Brewery, S.J.
Best Cocktail Lounge: Cardinal Lounge, S.J. Runner-up: Agenda, S.J.
Best Live Music Club: The Blank Club, S.J. Runner-up: Agenda, S.J.
Best Gay/Lesbian Bar: Tinker's Dam, Santa Clara Runner-up: Club Savoy, Santa Clara
Best Mojito: Straits Restaurant, S.J., Palo Alto Runner-up: La Bodeguita Del Medio, Palo Alto
Best Place to Play Pool: South First Billiards, S.J. Runner-up: CueTopia Billiard Cafe, S.J.
Best Dive Bar: The Caravan, S.J. Runner-up: Ugly's, Mtn. View
Best Strip Club: The Pink Poodle, S.J. Runner-up: Kit Kat Club, S.J.
Best Place to Throw a Bachelorette Party: Kit Kat Club, S.J. Runner-up: Club Glo, S.J.
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