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[whitespace] Saratoga

The Bank
14421 Big Basin Way, Saratoga 408.867.5155

Hours: Mon-Thu 1pm-midnight, Fri-Sat 1pm-2am, Sun 3pm-midnight
Crowd Age: 25-35
Music: Jukebox with a big, up-to-date selection; live music once a month, including George Heagerty
Decor: Unpretentious Irish bar that kind of feels like an antique shop
Signature Drink: Cosmopolitan, Irish Coffee
Dancing: You can dance if you want; they have a license
Games/Amenities: Darts, trivia

If it's not the best bar in Saratoga, it's the homiest. The historic building on Big Basin Way in the Village was the city's first bank when it opened in 1913, but for the last 31 years it's been a watering hole for locals that's really unparalleled in the West Valley. It's comfortable, with couches set up around the fireplace that make the club feel like a friendly saloon. A great place to meet for a few quiet drinks after work. Even the bar itself is historic: it came around the horn on a sailing ship.

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

The Basin
14572 Big Basin Way, Saratoga 408.867.1906

Hours: Mon-Sat 5pm-midnight
Crowd Age: 25-65
Music: Just piped-in music
Decor: Warm and contemporary, with a bit of a high-tech feel
Signature Drink: Known for the Martinis, especially the Lemon Drop, and the Mojitos
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: Forty-inch TV for sports

The Basin is a swanky bistro, sophisticated yet relaxing in a way that kind of says you're not hanging out at a brewpubs anymore--brewpubs don't serve 180 wines from nearby and all over the world. The Basin opened three years ago at the height of the disposable-income market, but it's still going strong. The menu offers American fare with ethnic influences. There's the Atomic Lounge for business meetings with up to 30 seats, and a cool patio for gossiping with old friends as the sun goes down on a summer evening.

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

Big Basin Bistro
14480 Big Basin Way, Saratoga 408.867.1764

Hours: Wed-Sat 1-11pm
Crowd Age: 20-40
Music: No
Decor: Casual comfort
Signature Drink: Wines for the tasting
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: No

With tables on the sidewalk, the Big Basin Bistro looks like a decidedly casual spot, but don't be deceived. They've also got lots of microbrews on tap, and pints are just $2 at happy hour. Big Basin Bistro also offer a great wine selection and also hosts wine tastings regularly. A recent tasting showcased 99 chardonnays, giving new meaning to the "99 Bottles" song. The menu revolves mostly around oysters and tapas (the latter go well with the sangria). Coffee and espresso? Of course.

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

International Coffee Exchange
14471 Big Basin Way, Saratoga 408.741.1185

Hours: Mon-Fri 6:30am-6pm, Sat 7am-6pm, Sun 7am-4pm
Crowd Age: All ages
Music: No
Decor: Hardwood floors, tables
Signature Drink: Caramel Latte
Dancing: No
Games/Amenities: No

If the Village in Saratoga did have hustle and bustle, the International Coffee Exchange, tucked in between downtown and busy shops and eateries, would be the place to escape from it. Locals and tourists sip iced coffee and take a break from shopping, or talk business in this cozy coffeehouse decorated with vintage poster prints. Lemon bars, brownies and pastries satisfy the sweet tooth, while sandwiches, salads and wraps make for a more substantial meal.

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

The Plumed Horse
14555 Big Basin Way, Saratoga 408.867.4711

Hours: Mon-Thu 5-11pm, Fri-Sat 4pm-1am
Crowd Age: 30-60
Music: Live piano and jazz, Thu-Sat
Decor: Classy country cabin
Signature Drink: Black Martini
Dancing: The small dance floor sees action on the weekends
Games/Amenities: TV

With its cozy rock fireplace and log cabin-inspired décor, the Plumed Horse makes going out for cocktails feel like a quick vacation to a mountain lodge. This lodge, however, features a pianist on Thursdays who plays jazz and takes requests; on the weekends, a three-piece jazz band belts out Louis Armstrong. This joint is known for its French cuisine, but what's really worth checking out is the Black Martini (that's vodka, Kahlua, espresso and whipped cream). Consider also the Saratoga Rose, the bar's own version of the Cosmo.

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

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

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