More than a month after California’s reopening, nearly all of the South Bay’s nightlife spots are now either opening back up, opening for the first time, or preparing to open soon—and we’ve got your guide to the night’s happenings.
But before you head out, remember to charge your phone ahead of time—you might need it.
1 E San Fernando St, San Jose
Rec Room has been quickly making fans for its comfy atmosphere, well-curated music and tasty cocktails. Cozy downstairs and spacious above, the bar also includes the patio area from the former Gordon Biersch brewery, leaving plenty of room for dancing, lounging, or just sipping a Rec’t Juice, the house Hennessy sangria.
420 S First St., San Jose
San Jose’s newest home for truly dedicated gamers, Guildhouse provides explorers of all classes with glowing potions at affordable prices. Grab a house “anti-craft” cocktails (aka, a good drink without all the rigmarole) and play a round of just about any game there is, from console classics like Mario Party to tabletop revolutions like Settlers of Catan. Soft opening Friday.
83 S 2nd St, San Jose
The former Tres Gringos recently received a glow-up in the form of sleek new dance club Nova. Featuring regular DJ nights with notable local talent, like the Bangerz’s Goldenchyld, the lounge/club will fit the bill nicely for those looking for a new place to dress up, dance or get some bottle service downtown.
10 Topgolf Drive, San Jose
408-404-6436 | topgolf.com
Giving new meaning to the term “golf club,” the gigantic Top Golf entertainment center in Alviso is like a mix of driving range, arcade and club. No one’s saying you have to swing a 5 iron to have a good time here. Decked out in neon and packing some strong drinks, on a Friday night the bar is more hopping than a Titleist.
S Twenty Seven Ales
461 Perrymont Avenue, San Jose
408-599-BREW | s27ales.com
Tucked in a cloister at the end of Perrymont Ave, S Twenty Seven Ales is one San Jose’s newest breweries. Opened just two weeks before lockdown, the Franco-Belgian inspired alehouse slings a diverse selection of delicious and daring brews, from hefty Imperials and Double IPAs, to the crisp and refreshing Margarita Lager.
1887 S Bascom Ave, Campbell
408-963-2092 | besteaka.com
The much anticipated Be.Steak.A from Chefs Jeffrey Stout and Patrick Capurro’s is a masterclass on how a steakhouse should be done: oysters, caviar, koji-aged steak, handmade pasta—a menu that demands multiple visits. Beyond the stellar dinner offerings, the elegant bar has a selection of 100+ vintage amaro and spirits for those looking for an upscale drink.
14577 Big Basin Way, Saratoga
408-647-2727 | flowerssaratoga.com
Flowers’ opening in the middle of the first softening of dining restrictions proved it a hit addition to Saratoga. With a focus on visually striking elements—from their long tufted pink banquet, to their beautiful stone bar top—form and function meet with equally stunning food and cocktail presentation. Well worth the wait and a delight for multiple senses.
Out of the Barrel
201 Los Gatos Saratoga Rd, Los Gatos
408-827-4090 | outofthebarrelbeer.com
With its outdoor patio and prime location, Out of the Barrel is an ideal spot to meet with friends, or just post up alone and people watch. The 28 rotating taps boast a wide variety of beers brewed all around northern California, including multiple fruited beers perfect for summer sipping.
LVL Up San Jose
409 S 2nd St, San Jose
Opened just in time for the pandemic doldrums, LVL Up’s patio has quickly become one of San Jose’s go-to destinations for live hip hop, hardcore, EDM and a whole lot more. Inside, there’s arcade games, craft brews and house cocktails like the refreshing Aperol Spritz. Don’t forget to bring quarters.
469 E Campbell Ave, Campbell
408-796-7810 | strikebrewingco.com
Opened in Fall 2019, Strike Brewing’s second location in Campbell barely got a chance to get going before shutting due to the pandemic. Now really open, they’ve gotten back to slinging signature brews like the malty Colossus of Clout red, and the bitter and complex Double IPA.
The Emerald Hour
1625 N Shoreline Blvd, Mountain View
650-420-2600 | theemeraldhour.com
Situated poolside at the new Shashi Hotel a stone’s throw from Google, The Emerald Hour is all about luxury. Kick back and lounge with a high concept cocktail like the “Snap Pea on the Rock”—a gin and snap pea combo—which are made to pair with food from the michelin-starred chef.
439 S First Street, San Jose
In a recent collaboration with quickly growing barcade chain LVL Up, Uproar Brewing recently rebranded as LVL Uproar. Now, brewery patrons can enjoy the drama of 4-person Pac Man while sipping a First Street Drama, Uproar’s flagship Kolsch, or just go hard on carnival games like skee-ball and Down the Clown while everyone else compares IBUs.
167 E Taylor St, San Jose
408-287-5225 | jacksbar.com/
Small but mighty, Jack’s has been the local for locals north of downtown since long before its current owners bought it in 2007. And with its newly redesigned patio space, outdoor bar and new QR menus, visitors would be forgiven for thinking it a recent addition to Japantown. Either way, Jack’s is now more spacious and accommodating than ever.
55 S 1st St, San Jose
Always known to keep the party going, 55 South has made the most out of their modestly-sized corner cocktail bar. When outdoor seating was allowed and Post St. was closed to traffic, the little bar began fabricating a giant wooden ship outside. The patio was a labor of love which exemplifies what 55 South does best: keep the party going.
Original Gravity Public House
66 S 1st St, San Jose
408-915-BEER | originalgravitypub.com
With their nine year anniversary coming up, Original Gravity prides themselves on change. Originally offering bratwurst, they’ve shifted to smash burgers and fries, and switched to table service with QR code menus to keep guests feeling safe and comfortable. They do however still offering 20 rotating taps—plus an expanded bottle and can list.
718 S 1st St, San Jose
408-352-5331 | caminobrewing.com
Dreamed up on a cycling trip through Spain, four years later, Camino is still trekking ahead with a taproom full of fresh beer and food from local vendors open six days a week. Enjoy a beverage in their new beer garden, with tents and twinkly lights set up among the socially-distanced tables.
O’Malley’s Sports Pub
2135 Old Middlefield Way, Mountain View
Described by one reviewer as “very Cheers-y, even when everybody doesn’t know your name,” O’Malley’s on Old Middlefield has long been a divey delight for pool, jukebox dancing and karaoke. Now with a new front patio area and food trucks slinging grub, they’re showing that making your way in the world today doesn’t have to take all you got.
980 S. 1st St, San Jose
408-520-0220 | clandestinebrewing.com/
Clandestine responded to the pandemic by taking personal space seriously, removing communal tables and giving beer-lovers added elbow room at the bar. That’s good, because with two Finnish Sahtis and a Juicy IPA made with no juice (it’s the hops), Clandestine has some of the most unique brews in the city.
Willow Den Public House
803 Lincoln Ave, San Jose
Since remodeling with an all caps suffix (PUBLIC HOUSE), Willow Den has upped their game in a number of ways—though thankfully not all. Pool tables, cheap drinks and XL Jenga all still reside in the Den, joined now by an updated stage for bands nights and karaoke, and not one but two patios.
173 W Santa Clara St, San Jose
(408) 278-1400 | thebritsj.com/
Under new management and very recently redesigned (we’re talking late June), The Brit is a complete overhaul of the downtown staple on Santa Clara St featuring new menu, interior redesign and brand new back patio. More comfortable than ever, the new Brit will have visitors new and old alike asking: “What’s all this, then?”
650-940-9838 | fredsplace.tv
From the outside, Fred’s on Old Middlefield might look small and unassuming, but inside it is packed with all kinds of good times, from Monday night trivia, to Thursday karaoke, to week-long pool tables, pinball and more. With its new back patio and food trucks, Fred’s remains the perfect place to post up for a round after work.
65 Post St, San Jose
splashsj.com | 408-292-2222
One thing sorely missed during the pandemic was dancing in a crowded club, but miss no more! San Jose’s premiere gay bar has roared into 2021 with tons of events, including Drag Race viewing parties, Wednesday Latin Nights, and Power Hour Monday deals. Come for the dancing, stay for the complete joy that this space brings to the community.
236 Castro St, Mountain View
There aren’t many left like Mervyn’s Lounge. A step into Merv’s is a step into the glory days of the dives of yesteryear. Gone are $18 drinks featuring Amontillado Sherry, whole eggs and locally sourced herb essences. In their place are cold beers, hefty pours, and all the questionable camaraderie that comes with a proper drinking establishment.
39 Post St, San Jose
Mac’s may be small in square footage, but its impact is immeasurable for the local LGBTQIA community. The oldest gay bar in the south San Francisco Bay Area, Mac’s provides its regulars and newcomers alike the chance to kick back and enjoy a warm summer night in a friendly, open space—now including more patio seating in the parklets on Post St.
460 Lincoln Ave #90, San Jose
114 S. Santa Cruz Ave, Los Gatos
With roomy (and comfy!) warehouse spaces in both San Jose and Los Gatos, Hapa’s lets visitors dip back into social life like the last two years were all a dream. Some long wait times are worth it for a hearty beer flight, corn hole on the back patio, food trucks and some furry friends.
331 W Hacienda Ave, Campbell
http://effiesrestaurantandbar.com | 408-374-3400
If scanning a QR code sounds painfully modern for your karaoke experience, Effie’s in Campbell hosts karaoke five nights a week (and offers bottomless mimosas on weekends), remaining a classic option for a night out with friends—or a comfy place to drown your sorrows and let it all out to “Unbreak My Heart.”
4475 Stevens Creek Blvd., Santa Clara
twitter.com/woodhamslounge | 408-244-2899
Despite its updated facade, the interior of Woodham’s Lounge on Stevens Creek has remained blissfully untouched by development in recent years. From its nearly-hidden door, to its lone, no-frills pool table (currently no-charge, as well), the cozy lounge has preserved all its charming and trademark lack of pretension.
265 N 1st St., San Jose
408-947-0497 | trialspub.com
The grand reopening of Trials Pub in June was a sigh of relief to their loyal regulars. While general upkeep and cosmetic fixes were made, the pub feels comfortably unchanged. Nearly the entire staff is back, handwriting tabs and giving the pleasant service they’re known for. And as they build momentum, features like their Monday night Trivia are a promised and welcome return.
255 N 1st St, San Jose
408-292-0291 | teskes-germania.com
Guests can now come back inside the family-owned Teske’s to enjoy a wide selection of German beers and schnapps, as well as some hearty Germanic cuisine. Behind the bar guests will find the same friendly faces. Later in the evening, when Rush blasts in the background over a round of Jägertees, it’ll feel as if the last year and a half was all an illusion.
River Rock Taproom
155 S Murphy Ave, Sunnyvale
408-830-9837 | riverrocktaproom.com
One of the more recent classics on the list, the River Rock Taproom bakes social distancing into the pie by having all beer self-poured. All beers are charged by the ounce, and visitors can try as many of the 35 taps as they like, building their own self-guided brewery tour.
98 Almaden Ave, San Jose
For many, there is no watering hole in San Jose more classic than the Caravan. Once a hotel bar, and now home-away-from-home for many, the Caravan is no-frills in the best way possible, from the PBR tallboys, to the stage-less stage for music. Welcome back to the Caravan.
8 N Santa Cruz Ave, Los Gatos
Founded by the creator of the Pet Rock and ironically named after the leader of the Temperance Movement, Carry Nations is a true dive classic in Los Gatos. Post pandemic, they’ve implemented exactly zero QR codes, touchless ordering systems or rebrandings. Come in for a beer and shot—and leave happy.
349 S 1st St, San Jose
408-982-3461 | thecontinentalbar.com
House music, dancing and disco lights: these are the ingredients that make for a night out at The Continental. Since reopening, the SoFA District lounge has gotten right back to what they do best, filling the weekends with music from great local DJs, and filling thirty patrons with mixological magic all night.
20990 Homestead Blvd, Cupertino
408-255-5700 | homesteadbowl.com/the-x-bar
Located in the front of Homestead Bowl, The X-Bar is one of the South Bay’s best and most unlikely homes for live music. And since upgrading their stage a few years back, shows here look better than ever. The bar, meanwhile, has remained refreshingly non-trendy. How about a Budweiser?
1072 Lincoln Ave, San Jose
For many in Willow Glen, Goosetown isn’t a bar: it’s a way of life. On weekends, the sound of revelers singing karaoke is often audible down the block, and during the week it’s a bit of a shelter from the workaday world. Like the movie says: “Forget it Jake, it’s Goosetown.”
141 N Santa Cruz Ave, Los Gatos
There is Los Gatos, and then there is the Black Watch. Inserted between a boutique and another boutique, this affordable, dimly-lit saloon has remained pleasantly untouched by the area’s surrounding affluence for generations. Renowned for the kamikazes and loved for the atmosphere, the Black Watch is a divey respite from the world.
1116 Branham Ln, San Jose
408-445-1716 | https://thebranham.com
Hidden in a strip mall off Almaden, the Branham Lounge has long been juicing the South San Jose suburbs with hefty pours, great karaoke nights and unexpected performances from hip hop legends like Andre Nickatina. Cozy and comfy, the Branham has been leaning into the “Lounge” in its title since 1969.
Poor House Bistro
91 S Autumn St, San Jose
408-292-5837 | poorhousebistro.com
San Jose’s home of blues music and cajun cooking, Poor House Bistro’s iconic location on Autumn St is about to pick up stakes and come with them on their move to nearby Little Italy. In the meantime, they’re back open, serving up Po’ Boys, Hurricanes and great live music five nights a week.