Metro's Best of Silicon Valley 2002

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[whitespace] Editors Picks: The See and Be Seen Scene

Mission City Coffee Roasting Co.
Hey Baby, Wanna See My Habeas Corpus? Budding law students caffeinate, study and flirt at Mission Coffee House.

Best Place to Encounter Would-Be Lawyers in Their Natural Habitat

Mission City Coffee Roasting Co.
2221 The Alameda, Santa Clara 408.261.2221

Mission City Coffeehouse is a fine place to see the lawyers of the future before they are coarsened by the rigors of their much-maligned profession. Law students from Santa Clara University flock to this cozy caffeine haven in great numbers. They flirt. They drink coffee. They study constitutional law. They highlight sentences in thick books. They have heated conversations about the Supreme Court stealing the presidential election. They make jokes about a fictional course titled "Legal Ethics." They seem almost human--far from the hard-edged personas they will adopt after graduation. The strange breed that is attracted to lawyers will find this an ideal setting for potential courtship and mating.

Best Place to Watch Real People's Court

Superior Court--Palo Alto Courthouse
270 Grant Ave., Palo Alto

Last year's notorious Kenneth Fitzhugh murder trial (guilty, guilty, guilty) saw throngs of legal voyeurs jostling daily for the several dozen courtside squats reserved for members of the public. Seats are far more plentiful and the crowds less thick post-Fitzhugh, making the courthouse once again a great place to gape at a typical fare of drunk-driving cases, criminal trials and often-riveting small-claims disputes. After all, what could be more fun than watching a security-deposit-grubbing landlord take a hot one in the shorts (it happens!)? The games begin around 10am and end near 4pm, with at least a one-hour break during which spectators can find cheap chomps at nearby California Avenue's trendy eateries. If spectators get there early, before 8:30am, there's a chance they'll catch the daily parade of cuffed, orange-jumpsuited prisoners being transported from the jail to their court appearances. Just stand outside near the underground tunnel for the best viewing. But don't stand too close. And don't wear orange.

Best Place to Spot Depressed Venture Capitalists

The Sundeck
3000 Sand Hill Rd., Menlo Park 650.854.2119

The Germans call it schadenfreude, which loosely translates into taking pleasure in someone else's misfortune. Truly coldhearted types can always get a dose of that odd tonic at the local unemployment office. But if you like your victims to be less sympathetic, there's no better roost than the Sundeck lunch spot on Sand Hill Road, near the offices of more than a dozen top venture capital firms. The signs of rot are evident in the parking lot, where more than a few Beemers and Benzes now sport dents that would have been fixed in better times. But the real action unfolds inside the dining room, where the air was once filled with blustery secondary offerings, insider IPO share allocations and pledges of "I'll buy yours, if you buy mine." Plop down next to a bunch of bisque-sipping suits these days, and you're more likely to overhear worried mumbles about SEC investigations, delisted stocks and forensic accounting strategies. To make them weep, simply interrupt the money guys and remind them how Webvan was financed. It's a cruel world. (Open weekdays, 7:30-9:30am and 11am-2:30pm.)

Best Place to Practice Your Eagle Eye

Palo Alto Baylands in November
Exit Highway 101 at Embarcadero East and follow until it dead-ends, then turn left toward the bay

November is party time for raptors at the Palo Alto Baylands--1,500 acres of wetlands, marshes, mud flats, levees and boardwalks along the bay. More than 150 species of birds can be seen here, including a large residential population of flappers as well as those winging in on their migratory stopover on the Pacific Flyway. Each winter sees visits by several species of carnivorous airborne creatures, such as ospreys, northern harriers, red-tailed hawks, golden eagles, merlins, peregrine falcons and even the occasional rare red-shouldered, broad-winged hawk. It's also the place to spot the dwindling salt marsh harvest mouse, which, if you see one, will no doubt be running for its life. Look also for the elusive black rail and the endangered California clapper rail, which sometimes hangs out among the sharp-tailed sparrows. If you can't tell your raptors from your pigeons, just look for one of the many binocular-carrying birders who flock to the area. He or she will be glad to fill you in and might even share whatever they have in their thermos.

Tireless contributors to this year's editor's picks included Corinne Asturias, Michael Gant, Allie Gottlieb, Todd Inoue, Gary Singh, Sarah Quelland, Loren Stein and Gordon Young

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From the October 10-16, 2002 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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