Best of Silicon Valley 2001 - Readers' Picks

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[whitespace] Black Watch bartender
Pour Me: Patrons enjoy the Black Watch décor, which hasn't changed in over 40 years.

Readers' Choice:
Belly Up

Best Dive Bar

Black Watch
141 1/2 N. Santa Cruz Ave., Los Gatos; 408.354.2200

ON A RECENT Thursday night, seven women crowded inside the back room of the Black Watch to celebrate a bachelorette party. No limousines parked out front marked their arrival. They carried no obnoxious gag gifts. They hoisted no blowup dolls. Just seven women, a table full of bottles, and one very large, penis-shaped, chocolate cake.

"You know," said one woman, gurgling her words between sips of Bud Light, "we were going to hop around the neighborhood all night long. But this place is pretty comfortable. So we may just stay here for awhile."

Residents of the South Bay have found the Black Watch a perfectly respectable place to park it since it opened in 1959. The bar's initial décor, notably, was that of an elite gentleman's club. Local men of money met inside the Black Watch to play cards, chomp on cigars, and feast on plates of fresh lobster at the lofty price of $3.50.

As men's clubs gradually lost appeal, and the Los Gatos strip went the way of the fern bar (and later the triple latte) the tiny Black Watch kept its doors open to anyone. The dimly lit watering hole slowly became the perfect meeting place for a uniquely mixed crowd: motorcyclists bearing down Highway 9 and the Santa Cruz mountains; college kids hoping to slide a fake ID past a grizzled barman; local residents who wanted a stiff drink without the umbrella.

"I think it's been considered a dive bar only because the inside is exactly the same as it was when it opened," says Gregory Milstein, bartender. "Nothing's changed."

Almost. Today's Black Watch is still dark, tight and cozy. But it's decorated by neon beer signs, a sheet of American flags, and a few good dart boards.

With such a diverse crowd to cater to, bartenders unified taste buds by creating what every Black Watch customer can relate to: the pint-sized kamikaze.

Ordering the drink is done by many, Milstein says, but pouring the drink properly is done by few. "The trick is to put the sherry glass underneath the pint glass, and tilt the pint glass only a little, so the kamikaze dribbles down the side of the pint glass and into the sherry glass. That way, you won't spill a drop."

During the recent bachelorette party, a few kamikazes had been drained in the proper fashion. A few of the revelers were set to leave, and others wanted to stay for one more round. The where-do-you-want-to-go? argument ensued.

"Nowhere," blurted one. "This place is great." JB

Best of Silicon Valley 2001 Table of Contents

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From the October 18-24, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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

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