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[whitespace] Bars, Clubs and Coffeehouses

Central San Jose

4th Street Bowl
1441 N. fourth St, San Jose 408.453.5555

Hours: Mon-Fri 11am-2am, Sat-Sun 6pm-2am
Crowd Age: 25-40
Music: Karaoke, DJ
Décor: Spiffy karaoke nightclub
Signature Drink: Miami Ice
Dancing: Yes
Games/Amenities: Darts
Ambience: Chicken throats stay home--the 4th Street Bowl is reserved for the more distinguished crooner, thank you very much. As the sign outside the door reads, "Collared Shirt Required, No Sports Attire, No Bulky Jackets or Coats"--and last but not least-- "No Caps, Skull Caps or Doo Rags." Once inside, the graceful bar and sizable dance floor afford respectables a clean, upstanding evening of karaoke or DJ dancin'.

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

Hours: Mon-Sat 11:30am-10pm
Crowd Age: 20-40
Music: Jazz CDs
Décor: Classy cool
Signature Drink: Premium wines, lemon drop
Games/Amenities: TVs
Ambience: This elegant restaurant and bar offers politicos and others attracted to the halls of power a place to meet for lunch or mingle later in the evening over cocktails and chardonnay. The classy-yet-comfortable spot offers patrons a chance to share some of the best insider gossip in town or just sit back and learn the art of elbow rubbing.

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
Décor: Casual
Signature Drink: Agenda Cosmopolitan (Lounge), Alabama Slammer (Cellar)
Dancing: Yes
Games/Amenities: Two billiard tables in the lounge
Ambience: Agenda's nighttime personality is always fresh and varied, thanks to its weekly events and tri-level interior. In the lounge every Sunday it's reggae; Tuesdays belong to house; Wednesdays boast salsa and salsa lessons, and Thursdays are hip-hop and soul nights. Though there's tablecloth dining on the ground floor, there's more gyrating downstairs in The Cellar, the underground dance club whose floors can get sticky with all the beer splashing around on Friday and Saturday nights.

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

Hours: Mon-Thu 11:30am-10:30pm, Fri 11:30am-11pm, Sat 5-11pm, Sun 5-9pm
Crowd Age: 30-40
Music: Live music
Décor: Updated American classic
Signature Drink: Lily pop
Ambience: A luminous yellow warmth envelops A.P. Stumps' interior, the result of modern light fixtures that hang on the ends of cords throughout the restaurant like glowing alien pods. The restaurant is located in the historic Masson-Lefranc building in downtown San Jose and has been beautifully maintained. Stumps' bar has a decidedly relaxed feel to it, and people seem drawn to the comfortable tables near the live jazz band that squeezes out some rather decent music.

372 S. First St, San Jose, 408.298.2529

Hours: Thu-Sat until 2am
Music: Hip-hop, R&B
Décor: Brick walls and wood floors
Signature Drink: Kamikazes
Games/Amenities: Pool tables
Ambience: For South Bay folk looking to dance all night to the area's best hip-hop DJs, the B-Hive is the only place to be. Kamikazes are $2 all night on Fridays for those who need a little liquid courage before raising the roof. The club fills up early, so don't wait 'til the fashionable hour of 11pm to hit this club. Be warned, the dress code is strictly enforced--no hats, sportswear, tennis shoes or white T-shirts. Bouncers will swiftly boot that ass out the door, where there is always a willing and eager B-Hive fan waiting to get in.

Bella Mia
58 S. First St, San Jose 408.280.1993

Hours: 11am-10pm
Crowd Age: 25-40
Music: Contemporary jazz, Muzak
Décor: Hotel library
Signature Drink: Martinis and Cosmopolitans
Dancing: This is a drinking establishment, thank you
Ambience: One thing must be done at this big, beautiful new bar: drinks must be drunk. Those who know this know the best way to frequent the Italian eatery is to step off light rail and glide on in, where mahogany, brass, high ceilings, plush chairs and a fireplace combine to create a cozy area for people who are waiting for tables or just hanging out at the bar. Bella Mia deviates from normal restaurant bars in that it has drink specials, which include Maker's Mark Manhattans, Stolichnaya Pepper Bloody Marys and Bone Dry Martinis. Meals can be eaten at the bar, although glimpsing one's own reflection while tossing down oysters may be slightly disconcerting.

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

Hours: Tues-Sat 11:30am-11pm
Crowd Age: Teenagers-ancient
Décor: Dinner theater
Games/Amenities: Theater
Ambience: Lunchtime vaudeville shows loaded with innuendo keep yupsters choking on their deli sandwiches at Big Lil's, and Thursday night's 21-and-over crowds cackle during the Saturday Night Live-y show. Office manager Darcie Grover says the Thursday act has been toned down from raunchy to PG-13 because the Cabaret is trying to pilot the show on television. People of all ages are welcome to the melodramas on Friday and Saturday nights, when dinner is catered by Tony Roma's.

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
Décor: Asian steak house
Signature Drink: Sharktini
Ambience: Blake's square bar sits at the entrance of the restaurant and serves as primo seating for guys who are there to watch sporting events and get a little rowdy, according to Chris the Bartender, who moonlights as the Server of All Things Alcoholic while red-rimming it as a marketer during the day. Chris lamented his gender, as men tend to tip female bartenders a little more, but said Silicon Valley chaps still tip generously, especially after they've stained their lips with the signature drink he whips up for Sharks games.

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
Décor: Go-go cages and social lounge
Dancing: Yes
Ambience: When serving the 18-and-over lot, expect the expected here at the Body Shop: girls dressing like Britney and guys posing like Nelly or Justin from 'N Sync. That said, this is a young, young crowd, but that doesn't mean they don't know how to get down like their older siblings. For those who are legal, there's a fully stocked bar, and ladies who arrive before 10pm with fliers receive free admission. Regular DJs Fabian and Remedy keep the party going Friday nights. Be sure to check the gear before cruising out, as there's a strict dress code: no sportswear, baseball hats or tennis shoes.

Cactus Club
417 S. First St, San Jose 408.280.0885

Hours: Sun-Thu 8:30pm-1:45am, Fri-Sat 7pm-1:45am
Crowd Age: 18 and over
Music: Wed-Sun music; DJs on Mon and Tue
Décor: Garage punk
Signature Drink: Beer
Dancing: Yes
Games/Amenities: Video games, darts and foosball
Ambience: The Cactus Club offers the live performances of a big-city club and the comfort of one's own basement. It's got that general lack of lighting to boot. It has played host to a wide variety of Bay Area and national bands, from the Pixies to San Francisco's Imperial Teen and San Jose favorite Stunt Monkey. The acoustics rock and there's always elbow room to get funky near the bands, generally without worrying about wearing that cosmo dancing nearby. While most of the live acts play for an 18-and-over crowd (some cater to 16+) there's a full-service bar for the 21-and-over crowd. And for late-night munchies, it's hard to beat the New York-style pizza sold by the slice outside.

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
Décor: Arty cafe
Signature Drink: Coffee
Games/Amenities: Couches, chess, books
Ambience: Cafe Matisse offers a hip alternative to the SoFA bars and clubs--and a refuge from the Valley's techie scene. The slightly more artsy crowd comes here to chat, play chess and get a different kind of buzz. When it comes to writing--from fiction to term papers--Cafe Matisse's mochas beat a muse any day.

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

Hours: Daily 6am-2am
Crowd Age: 30 and up
Music: Jukebox
Décor: Barfly chic
Games/Amenities: Pool table, video games
Ambience: One of San Jose's most beloved dive bars, The Caravan attracts a unique mixture of aging barflies and college-age curiosity seekers. The bar sells six-packs for those who need to go home but aren't done drinking. At the time of this writing, The Caravan had suspended its popular Thursday live shows until its owners obtain an entertainment permit from the city. Still, a great place to soak up the local color and a few Buds as well.

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

Hours: Daily 11am-1am
Crowd Age: 21-50
Music: Jazz and swing playing in the background
Décor: Just like the city grills from the '40s and '50s
Signature Drink: Chocolate Martini
Games/Amenities: Late-night menu at bar 10pm-midnight, three TVs
Ambience: Conventioneers and those on their way to the symphony or the Center for the Performing Arts make up a large part of the clientele. Though it's located inside the Hilton, don't neglect this downtown gem. There's an ample selection of cigars for relaxing outside in the patio area, and for Martini fans, a Martini menu. Try the Green Apple Martini, a house specialty alongside the Chocolate Martini. It's easy to relax here, especially with the plush mocha-colored Ottomans and pleasant staff.

Club 369
369 S. First St, San Jose 408.275.8828

Hours: Thu-Sat 9pm-2am
Crowd Age: Frisky twentysomethings
Music: DJ dancing, occasional live bands
Décor: Barbarella shags Austin Powers
Signature Drink: Raging Bull, Long Island
Dancing: Yes
Ambience: This is a place for all the hip young things who love the nightlife and got to boogie to shake it all night long to high-energy hip-hop and house music. The club is decked out like an intergalactic paradise with mirrors and neon, setting the mood to get your groove on. With a retro-futuristic attitude and plenty of sass 'n' ass, Club 369 has become a real hotspot. In fact, when Prince played the Event Center last December, the after-party was held here.

Club Caribe
1001 S. First St, San Jose 408.297.7272

Hours: Fri-Sun 8pm-1:30am
Crowd Age: 20-30
Music: Regional Mexican
Décor: Media-cized dance club
Dancing: Yes
Ambience: Club Caribe beams in various television broadcasts over 10 televisions while four projectors flash images on the walls of the club. The owners present live circuit events through these abundant TVs for boxing and soccer events. Live bands play traditional Mexican music for the throngs who gather here on the weekends, and while most of the dancers seemed to enjoy cutting the rug, one patron who would identify herself only as Karla curled her lip and declared that the music was a bit "ranchero" and too many men were wearing hats for her liking. Nonetheless, it's hard to go wrong with three fully stocked bars--hot sellers are piña coladas, margaritas and Coronas.

Club Ibex
55 Market Street, San Jose, 408.971.4239

Hours: Daily 9pm-1:30am
Crowd Age: 21-up
Music: Definitely
Décor: Glass and tubular steel
Signature Drink: Caribbean rum and Coke
Dancing: Yes
Games/Amenities: Jazz in all its forms
Ambience: This aquarium-sized and mostly unadorned club, lodged in the base of the gold-windowed tower on Market Street, is serious about its music. It hosts acts both international and local; some recent draws include Chucho Valdez, pianists Smith Dobson and Dave Mathews, and vibraphonists Joe Locke. Everything from Brazilian jazz to flamenco to reggae has shown up in this eclectic downtown nightclub.

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

Hours: Thu-Sun 8pm-1:30am
Crowd Age: 20-30
Music: Latin
Décor: Neon Studio 54
Dancing: Salsa
Games/Amenities: Free salsa lessons Thursday through Saturday
Ambience: Just walking into Club Miami can be a little intimidating, what with the strict dress code--no hats, tennis shoes, sportswear or gang colors--and once in the door, it's not easy to decide which way to go, as whichever direction is chosen, it's going to involve pushing one's way through a horde of nylon-clad bodies. Corona and tequila shots flow like milk and honey in this Latin dancer's paradise, where the pink glow of neon palm trees flashes in every corner. Expect to find an abundance of Latin men who aren't afraid to take a girl's hand and salsa the night away.

Coconut Willie's Cocktail Lounge
1099 W. San Carlos St, San Jose 408.947.9619

Hours: Fri-Sun 10am-2am, Mon-Thu noon-2am
Crowd Age: 30-50
Music: Impressive jukebox
Décor: Tropical truck stop
Signature Drink: Anything with whiskey
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: Pool, pinball, dice games
Ambience: Wandering into Coconut Willie's feels like stepping into an airbrushed painting on the side of a '70s van. Tropical touches like a palm-tree-embossed mirror behind the bar, bamboo wall coverings and scattered hula girls blend with the pragmatic Lotto tickets and microwave popcorn to create a working man's drinking paradise. Here, Wild Turkey is displayed proudly on the top shelf, men still proudly sport feathered hair and the regulars could teach dice games professionally.

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

Hours: Daily 6am-1:45am
Crowd Age: "Barely 21 all the way up to 98"
Music: Jukebox
Décor: Casual
Signature Drink: Beer
Dancing: No.
Games/Amenities: Darts, pool
Ambience: This is where people come to drink, talk and drink some more. Regulars stock the casual bar by the pound, and there's always room for one more happy-go-lucky patron. If conversation about the neighborhood doesn't suit your mood, pick up a pool stick or some darts. A good moment can be had here.

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

Hours: Mon-Fri 11:30am-11pm, Sat 5pm-11pm
Crowd Age: 21-45
Décor: Paper lanterns and silk drapes
Signature Drink: Pomegranate margarita or martini
Ambience: A new kid on the block, E&O is gaining a reputation for its cheery and sophisticated happy-hour scene. Bar patrons can sit on comfortable stools and tall tables dining on E&O's delectable appetizers, including beef satay and Chinese chicken salad. For those on the drinking instead of dining crusade, try an Absolut Mandarin Cosmo or chocolate martini.

374 S. First St, San Jose 408.280.6161

Hours: Tue-Sat 5:30-10pm, Sun 4:30-9pm
Crowd Age: Youthful postgrads
Décor: Distressed brick, high-ceilings and tasteful art
Signature Drink: Sour Apple Martini
Ambience: With a quiet, refined atmosphere, Eulipia offers a perfect place to warm up--or cool off--before attending one of the many downtown movies or live theatres nearby. The burnished bar also invites hungry diners to whet their appetite before diving into one of the restaurant's delicious entrees or appetizers.

Fairmont Lounge
170 S. Market St, San Jose 408.998.1900

Hours: Sun-Thu 11am-11pm, Fri-Sat 11 am-12:30am
Crowd Age: 21-up
Music: Soothing and almost inaudible
Décor: Marble halls
Signature Drink: Expense account cocktails
Games/Amenities: That magic, clean, posh-hotel smell, fresh greenery after a summer rain.
Ambience: When this hotel was built in the late 1980s it had one of the only air-conditioned bars in downtown; locals would go in after work for a martini on the hottest days. Today most of the patrons are travelers waiting for someone to show. Recessed into the ground floor of the Fairmont, this lounge invites the visitor to flow down into it, crunch down a few goldfish crackers and discuss business.

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

Hours: Tue-Fri 11:30am-1:30am, Sat and Mon 5pm-1:30am
Crowd Age: 20-30
Music: No live bands, but loud jukebox
Décor: Basic brick wall and metal charm, fireplace
Signature Drink: Beer (also offers an oatmeal cookie cocktail)
Games/Amenities: Darts, TV with closed-captioning
Ambience: Pigs will fly before anybody describes this pub as quiet, spacious or a great place for intimate conversation. And devoted pub patrons wouldn't have it any other way. Here the crowd is loud, the jukebox blasts (everything from Michael Jackson to Sublime) and bar hoppers usually have to pack into this narrow downtown spot. Everyone from frat boys to professionals regularly flocks to the pub to grab a pint, throw some darts and delve into the chicken-wing-heavy menu. Hard drinkers can use the locale to their advantage--the pub is just next to the tracks--and smokers often take refuge at the Pig's outdoor tables, making the Flying Pig one of the most vice-friendly spots in town.

The Foxtail
551 W. Julian St, San Jose 408.286.4388

Hours: Tue-Sun, 3pm-2am, closed Monday
Crowd Age: 21 to mid-40s
Music: Jukebox, live DJ
Décor: Wooden floors and U-shaped bar
Signature Drink: Long Island Iced Tea
Dancing: Yes
Games/Amenities: Video games
Ambience: While it's touted as a gay bar and dance club, Richard the bartender says the Foxtail is open to every color, sex and sexual orientation in the rainbow. The place feels like a saloon, offering a wide-open space for dancing. Alongside the dance floor is a smaller bar with cushion-backed stools. Not a dancer? Head outside to the patio area and relax there, being sure to take in all the gay photography on the walls. Weekend nights are the busiest nights for DJ dancing, but Sunday is the real draw with the 11pm drag show.

44 Almaden Ave, San Jose 408.295.7374

Hours: Mon-Fri 8am-2am, Sat-Sun 4pm-2am
Crowd Age: 25-35
Music: Live music and DJs
Décor: 1930s-'40s retro
Signature Drink: Martinis, Lemon Drops and the Blue Light Special
Dancing: Yes, but limited space
Ambience: Set on a quiet corner on Almaden Avenue near San Pedro Square, this airy European-style cafe and bar gives the sense of being far removed from the hustle and bustle of downtown San Jose. The rich mahogany bar, simple light wood furnishings, huge open windows and a mural of a 1930s map of the world painted on the ceiling set the stage for Fuel's global musical tastes. The club has built a solid reputation for booking a wide variety of roots-rock, Latin, rockabilly, funk and jazz fusion performers, along with pretty near any eclectic modern artist that musically paints outside the lines. Along with a fully stocked bar, Fuel offers a light menu and various high-octane coffee drinks.

Gordon Biersch
33 E. San Fernando St, San Jose 408.294.6785

Hours: Sun-Wed 11:30am-midnight, Thu-Sat 11:30am-1am
Crowd Age: 21-50
Music: No
Décor: White tablecloths and high ceilings
Signature Drink: House lagers
Ambience: There's nothing like a basket of garlic fries to seal the end of the day. At Gordon Biersch, the fries have a devout following that likes to put down a few Märzens or Hefeweizens to complete the meal. The restaurant is the perfect downtown meeting place for techies and SJSU students, and an even nicer spot for relaxing during the balmy summer days. Past the black steel gates at the entrance is an alleyway leading to the breezy, Parisian-like patio area with tables and chairs for dining and listening to jazz Thursday through Saturday.

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

Hours: Mon-Thu 11:30am-10pm, Fri 11:30am-11pm, Sat-Sun 11am-2am
Crowd Age: 21-50
Music: Saint Etienne doing Neil Young's "Only Love Can Break Your Heart"
Décor: Manly-man Eastern seaboard grill
Signature Drink: Dirty Ketel Martini: Ketel One Vodka, Dry Vermouth, Old South Tomolives
Games/Amenities: Brass cauldron the size of an orchestra's tympani, bristling with bottles of premium vodka and gins on ice
Ambience: The working model for this bar, adjacent to the Fairmont Hotel, seems to be the famous Oak Room at the Plaza Hotel in New York, where Cary Grant stood up at the wrong moment and got mistaken for Irving Kaplan in North By Northwest. Nowadays that wouldn't happen; the clientele bring their cell phones right to the bar. Despite the dark wood, the urban location (right across from the fountains at Cesar Chavez Plaza), the emphasis on single-malt scotches (15 poured here) and specialty martinis, there are California touches. The Grill on the Alley has a fine wine list and the heavy wooden louvered blinds filter the harsh valley sun.

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

Hours: Sun-Tue 12pm-10pm, Wed-Thu 12pm-11:30pm, Fri-Sat 12pm-1:30am
Crowd Age: Distinguished older
Music: Live jazz, Wed-Sat
Décor: Understated elegance
Signature Drink: Ruby Red (Stoli Raspberry, Chambord, Champagne)
Dancing: Yes
Ambience: With muted carpeting, tastefully appointed artwork and plump sofas to disappear into, the Fairmont Hotel's bar is the place to go for quiet conversation, not raucous laughter. Besides plenty of travelers passing through its doors, the Hedley Club sees its fair share of Silicon Valley VCs and CEOs, as well as local downtown business folks needing a break.

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

Hours: Tue-Fri 11:30am-11pm, Sat 4-11pm, Sun 4-10pm
Crowd Age: 30-50
Music: None
Décor: Country Barbeque
Ambience: Only two blocks from the San Jose Arena, the Hi-Life has earned a reputation as the place to be right before arena events. Sharks games draw especially large crowds and hungry people are invariably spilling out of the door. Henry's bar boasts beer galore, California wines and champagne, but most of the meat-eaters who frequent the restaurant are ready for a slab of ribs.

Il Fornaio
302 S. San Carlos St, San Jose 408.271.3366

Hours: Mon-Thu 7am-11pm, Fri 7am-midnight, Sat 8am-midnight, Sun 8am-11pm
Crowd Age: All ages
Music: Vivaldi
Décor: Italian trattoria
Signature Drink: Quality Chianti
Games/Amenities: Watching the dazed conventioneers through the windows
Ambience: In the lobby of the landmark Hyatt Sainte Claire, built in 1926, is the local installation of a statewide chain. The restaurant is in two parts: first, the bakery, where a croissant, a biscotti or a loaf of fresh-baked Italian bread can be had. The second is the main room, where white-coated waiters bring in delicacies from the Cucina Italiana. In one corner is a small, clublike bar area much like the tiny neighborhood watering holes in Little Italy or San Francisco's North Beach. Doesn't it seem that only Italian bars have round tables? Too often, bars presume that people wouldn't want to talk to each other while they are having a glass of wine.

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

Hours: Daily, 11am-2am
Crowd Age: 21-40
Music: Jukebox
Décor: Irish pub
Signature Drink: Guinness
Ambience: Katie Bloom's is for those who like keeping a low profile when pubbing downtown. The dim lights and the near-obnoxious loud music are perfect excuses for leaning in closer for a quick bar peck or better ogling of the opposite sex. For every single gal, there are probably two single guys up for a pint of Guinness and conversation that doesn't revolve around this weekend's convention.

Kleidon's Lounge
152 Post St, San Jose 408.293.2461

Hours: Sat--Sun, 11am--2am
Crowd Age: 21 and up
Music: Jukebox
Décor: Brick 'n' hardwoods
Dancing: Yes
Ambience: The old-timers around downtown will recall when Kleidon's was Kat's Alley, a shotgun-sized karoke bar packed with San Jose State fraternity crowds. Now, under new management, Kleidon's has cleaned up the joint, and positioned its snazzy Victorian-style bar to host large parties and meetings for dotcommers. The space is elegant, and the deck of slick hardwood floors will inspire more than a few young Tom Cruise wannabes to kick off their shoes and get down with that Ol' Time a' Rock & Roll.

Mac's Club
39 Post St, San Jose 408.288.8221

Hours: 12pm-2am
Crowd Age: Everything above 21
Music: DJ plays requests
Décor: Tavern
Signature Drink: Daily drink specials
Games/Amenities: Dartboard
Ambience: Nestled into its snug space on cozy Post Street, Mac's is the cutest little gay bar ever. Owner Gail Croll emphasized that the bar is open 365 days a year. Even on Christmas? Especially on Christmas. Gay and straight alike are made to feel comfortable here, where most music requests are oldies but goodies--Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made for Walking," for example. "It's just a festive little group," Croll said. "I was going to say gay, but I'll just say festive."

Maria's Club
728 N. 13th St, San Jose 408.298.2913

Hours: 12-12
Crowd Age: Mid-20s and up
Music: Banda, ranchero, rock en espanol Fri.-Sun.
Décor: Neon beer signs
Signature Drink: Modelo beer
Dancing: Yes
Games/Amenities: Pool, darts, video games
Ambience: Chubby bartenders in red skirts and white blouses with the shirt tails knotted at their solar plexus pour Coronas and Modelos for a crowd that sports cowboy hats and baseball caps. Maria's is an honest cantina that entertains its crowd with traditional music and rock en espanol. On the Saturday night we dropped in, a mulleted electric pianist was playing Santana's "Oye Como Va" as a diminutive, mustachioed, middle-aged guy boogied like mad beside the bar. We love this place--ever since a transvestite made eyes at us from the far side of the bar, and had us fooled for a moment, a flattering interlude shattered by a fellow cerveza drinker's cautionary advice: "Es un hombre." It's that kind of place where anything can happen.

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

Hours: Daily 11am-2am
Crowd Age: 35 and under
Music: Jukebox
Décor: Brick, brass and beer
Signature Drink: 24 beers on tap
Games/Amenities: Pool
Ambience: The Mission Ale House is the great mixed bag of downtown; it's not a steamy dance club, yet there's plenty of hoochie-mamas and studs on parade; it's not a well-worn neighborhood pub, yet its easy décor and friendly staff make it cozy and warm; it's not a sports bar, but the game is always on. The Mission Ale House has something for everyone, depending on your bag, baby.

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

Hours: Daily 11:30am-1:30am
Crowd Age: 25-65
Music: No live music
Décor: Old-school lounge
Signature Drink: Sidecar
Games/Amenities: Are you kidding?
Ambience: The lounge in Original Joe's isn't filled with fake antiques and the bartenders don't refer to patrons as "guy" or "dude." The place has an air of respect, and visitors are expected to behave themselves. People don't high-five each other here or whoop it up. That kind of behavior is likely to get you tossed. It's a refreshing atmosphere, given the valley's preponderance of sports bars and drinking establishments touting tacky specialty drinks with names like "Sex on the Beach" or "Silicon Spritzer."

333 W. San Carlos, San Jose 408.294.2558

Hours: Mon-Fri 11am-10pm, Sat-5:30pm-10pm
Crowd Age: 21-up
Music: Classical, when there is music
Décor: White-linen elegance
Signature Drink: Tiny cordial glass of grappa
Games/Amenities: The food; location, location, location
Ambience: For the most part, the architects of San Jose turned their backs on the Guadalupe River, never noticing it except when it flooded. Paolo's is one restaurant that's made the most of the riverside locale. The restaurant serves some of the most elegant Italian cuisine in the county, while pouring single malts, wines and other premium drinks from a small bar separate from the dining area, which has a few outdoor tables, much contended for by the traders from Smith Barney and Morgan Stanley. Get there a little early--say 4pm--and there's a chance for an outdoor cocktail that wouldn't be interfered with by either the heat or the powerful prevailing winds from the Golden Gate.

Shark & Rose
69 N. San Pedro St, San Jose 408.287.6969

Hours: Mon-Fri 11am-2am, Sat-Sun 4pm-2am
Crowd Age: 20s-30s
Décor: British pub
Signature Drink: Guinness
Games/Amenities: Piano
Ambience: No pretenses here. Straightforward and simple in the midst of downtown Silicon Valley's high-tech mecca, The Shark and Rose offers a refreshingly authentic, cozy watering-hole feel--and a great beer selection to boot. And where else in downtown San Jose does a mounted rhino head stand watch over the doorway? With 13 beers on tap, a reasonably priced menu and friendly bartenders quick to serve up another round, it's far too easy to keep putting 'em down. No worries at the Shark & Rose--like the sign behind the bar says, "Free Beer Tomorrow!"

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

Hours: Daily 4pm-2am
Crowd Age: 21-50
Music: Bartender's choice
Décor: Upscale and laid-back
Signature Drink: Vodka infusion
Games/Amenities: Pool, darts, pinball, video games, big-screen TV
Ambience: One of the highlights of downtown San Jose's SoFA district is this warehouse-size pool hall, which includes 29 tables and a full-service bar where the most popular drinks are cosmos and vodka infusions. For those who work in or near SoFA, South First is perfect for that late-afternoon, post-work drink; it's almost empty and quiet, save for a big-screen TV showing SportsCenter highlights. At night, the place is packed and the diverse crowd ranges from SJSU students to KNTV weekend anchorpersons.

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

Hours: Mon-Sat 11:30am-2:30pm Mon-Sun 4:30-10:30pm
Crowd Age: 40-50
Music: Live music Thursday through Saturday, 7-11pm.
Décor: Ritzy lounge
Ambience: A lounge singer croons about the San Juan Islands while people-watchers stare at life carrying on in fast-forward through the sliding floor-to-ceiling windows that characterize Spiedo Ristorante. This is one of those peculiar restaurants where some of the servers and bartenders are the same ethnicity as the cuisine--in this case, Italian, although specifically, it's Mediterranean. Chianti is served with a flourish here and plates of pasta are carefully set down before patrons like fragile china dolls.

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

Hours: Lunch Mon-Fri 11:30am-2pm; nightly dinner, 5pm-10pm
Crowd Age: 21-45
Music: Salsa, bossa nova CD compilations
Décor: neo classical, with wood and terra-cotta colored walls
Signature Drink: California wine
Games/Amenities: Late night dining Thu-Sat, 10pm-12am
Ambience: Casual and refined, Stratta is the stop for San Jose Repertory customers and conventioneers. While the week is jammed with theater-going diners, Friday and Saturday night the crowd gets younger, thanks in part to John, Stratta's bartender and East Coast native. He's the one that created the East Coast Cosmo, a blend of Ketel One, lime and cranberry juices and Grand Marnier. More intoxicating and infamous than his signature drink are his charismatic stylings. "He's a sweetheart," said one Stratta employee. "We love him and so the do the women who come around here."

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: 92.3 KSJO
Décor: German pub
Ambience: Teske's bar is the kind of place one might expect to stumble upon while strolling some cobblestone lane in Germany. Its antique appearance and open door beckon anyone who might be interested in a mug of something with the word "Oktoberfest" in it. The people who go to this bar are pretty hip, although most of them dress in black. After a couple of lagers, they don't seem scary anymore.

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
Décor: Casual
Signature Drink: Maibock Ale
Games/Amenities: Several TVs
Ambience: Perfect for a pre-Sharks dinner or post-Sharks celebration, Tied House is also known for its selection of ales. There are also well drinks and a beer garden out back, as well as patio dining out front. Lunchtime draws the business crowd, the techies and the lawyers, while the dinner hour enfolds twentysomething diners and young families in green-cushioned booths. Don't miss sampling the Cascade Amber Ale, one of Tied House's specialty brews. Those needing a puff can purchase cigars at the bar, priced between $8.50 and $15.

52 E. Santa Clara St, San Jose 408.292.7464

Hours: Daily 7pm-2am
Crowd Age: College
Music: Live bands, DJs
Décor: Playground-chic
Signature Drink: 50-cent beers and $1 drink specials
Dancing: Yes
Games/Amenities: Pool tables, arcade, darts
Ambience: Toon's is one giant playroom for Silicon Valley's twentysomething crowd. Featuring live music, cheap drink specials and an evenly matched guy-girl ratio, Toon's is the ideal place to drink, dance and meet a potential hookup, all on a college budget. There's never a cover for college students--or for crafty reporters still hanging on to outdated university ID cards. Uncle Melvin headlines every Thursday and other local bands and DJs keep the dance floor jumping the rest of the week.

Trials Pub
265 N. First St, San Jose 408.947.0497

Hours: Thu-Sat 5pm-2am, Sun-Wed 5pm-midnight
Crowd Age: 25-50
Music: Live music only on special occasions
Décor: Victorian living room meets neon beer lights
Signature Drink: Guinness, imported beers
Games/Amenities: Darts, comfy chairs, dart coaching
Ambience: Kicking back at Trials feels just like relaxing at home, except for the neon beer lights and friendly bartenders, who make sure no patron's glass is ever empty. The cool wallpaper and comfy Victorian chairs help beer lovers unwind after a day on the job, or following a trip to the nearby courthouse. The Guinness, Black & Tans, imported British and Irish beers, and liquors help too. The British couple who own the place have even been known to help Trials' groupies work on their dart toss.

The Usual
400 S. First St, San Jose 408.535.0330

Hours: Wed-Sat 9pm-2am
Crowd Age: 21-35
Music: Live music and dance nights
Décor: Dark and mysterious
Signature Drink: The Usual, but more thrifty (or thirsty) patrons sometimes slum it with Hamm's in a can
Dancing: Yes
Games/Amenities: Small snack bar
Ambience: With two fully stocked bars (one in the front room, one in the main room) and a trippy black-lit lounge area complete with comfy couches, this nightclub is one of the hippest on the SoFA music scene. The three-tiered main room boasts a raised platform with bench seating stretching along the back wall for a full view of the stage, and long bars stretch along the walkways from the second level to the dance floor. This club offers a wide variety of music with quality DJ dance nights and live national, regional and local rock and hip-hop bands. The Usual also brings in popular party favorites the Cheeseballs and Super Diamond to pack the place on a regular basis.

Voodoo Lounge
14 S. Second St, San Jose 408.286.8636

Hours: Tue-Sat 8pm-2am, Sun 9pm-2am
Crowd Age: 20s
Music: DJs offer up modern '70s and '80s tunes
Décor: Retro chic
Signature Drink: The Lava Lamp
Dancing: Yes
Games/Amenities: Pool table
Ambience: One of the swankiest dance clubs in town, the Voodoo offers a perfect spot for beautiful twentysomethings to gather and sip cocktails on retro couches, then start freaking on the dance floor. Those wishing to bask in the club's Lava lamp-lit ambience should arrive early, as the waiting line stretches down the block later in the evening.

Waves Smokehouse & Saloon
65 Post St, San Jose 408.885.9283

Hours: Mon-Fri 11am-2am, Sat-Sun 12pm-2am
Crowd Age: 21-35
Music: Live bands, house, reggae
Décor: Hardwood tables, floors
Signature Drink: Cosmopolitan
Dancing: Yes
Games/Amenities: Patio, big-screen TV
Ambience: Clint Eastwood might have stridden in here looking for the next unforgiven scoundrel. Waves has that ol' Western feel, partly because the place was built in 1873 and is San Jose's oldest commercial building. Today Waves is a haven for local music fans. Reggae is Wednesday and Sunday nights, and on Saturday there's reggae and a live DJ. Thursday night is reserved for the Velvet Shop, a venue that boasts house DJ regulars Marc Johns and M3. The upstairs terrace is open to a third, usually guest, DJ. Friday is house night.

Wine Galleria
377 N. First St, San Jose 408.298.1386

Hours: Tue-Sat, 5pm-midnight
Crowd: Mature
Music: CD of choice
Décor: Distinguished
Signature Drink: Fruit of the vine
Games/ Amenities: None
Ambience: Well, the cheese plate is no longer complimentary but costs $5.95, and the wine sampler has jumped up a couple of bucks to $10.25 since this place first opened. But still, the Wine Galleria remains a popular enclave for folks who like to hold normal volume conversations in a clean, well-lit spot, while enjoying fabulous wines-by-the-glass. Amid light wood, high-ceilings, and a beautiful handcrafted bar, patrons can peruse the night's offerings as listed on the chalkboard. Many choose to sign up for the sampler, picking a small pour of their three favorites.

Listings by Geographical Location:
Campbell | Cupertino | Los Gatos | Mtn. View | Peninsula | Central San Jose | San Jose 'Burbs | Santa Clara | Saratoga | South County | Sunnyvale | South County | Bar and Club Locator

Light's On, Door's Open: What makes a bar a favorite hangout the world over? One writer aims to find out.

I'll Have What She's Having...: What's new and what's cool when it comes to the latest cocktail twists.

Senoritas and Margaritas: Left at Albuquerque--blame it all on Route 66.

Scene Stealer: All the animals come out at night... to the Camera Cafe.

Saddle Up: Sangria Restaurant, where sitting at the bar is a gripping experience.

Retro Groovin': At the DancePlex. partygoers relive the '70s, '80s and... this morning!

Flash and Dash: Mardi Gras and other surprises at Nola Restaurant and Bar.

Knight Dreams: Black Watch--where swords cross and Stoli freezes over.

United Nations: Lido's Nightclub, where world beat has a whole new meaning.

Taste the Music: The Icon Supperclub is the new incarnation of the Edge.

Mineral Wealth: Mining for meaning under the Cinebar's disco ball .

In the Pink: All in a dogone day's work at the Pink Poodle.

Rod's Roadstop: Britannia Arms at Almaden wears it well.

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From the June 21-27, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.