Best Live Music Club
44 S. Almaden Ave., San Jose. Whether it’s a showcase of new bands from the chip-music craze or the upcoming X show, this is still the black-lined, dimly lit heart of the local rock scene.
JJ’s Blues 3439 Stevens Creek Blvd., San Jose
Poor House Bistro 91 S. Autumn St., San Jose
Best Dance Club
44 S. Almaden Ave., San Jose. This really ought to be the most competitive nightlife category in our reader’s poll, and yet Blank Club—known best for winning the Best Live Music category—runs away with it every year. It shouldn’t be a surprise anymore, since dance nights have actually been the Blank’s most popular offerings for some time now. Both the venerable Atomic Night and the newer Adult Dance Party are anchored by Basura, one of the South Bay’s most respected DJs, and Vitus and Kevin have brought their own style to the New Wave Proms.
Cardiff Lounge 260 E. Campbell Ave., Campbell
The Saddle Rack 42011 Boscell Road, Fremont
Best Latin Music Club
71 E. San Fernando St., San Jose. The downtown club has cornered the market on Latin rhythms with a full slate of live acts ThursdaySunday, salsa lessons and bilingual karaoke. It doesn’t hurt that Azucar’s menu and mojitos consistently rate high in the readers’ polling.
Miami Beach Club/Beso 417 S. First St., San Jose
Agenda Lounge 399 S. First St., San Jose
Alberto’s Nightclub 736 W. Dana St., Mountain View
Best Underground Music Spot
37 S. First St., San Jose. At last year’s Left Coast Live, the Good Karma underground showcase was always packed. Just as Good Karma has carefully established the palette of dishes on its vegan menu, so has it cultivated a distinctive identity for its miniscene, something people in the South Bay have been craving for years. Good Karma continues to celebrate the most personal and idiosyncratic corners of the music underground.
X-Bar Homestead Lanes , 20990 Homestead Road, Cupertino
Nickel City 1711 Branham Lane, San Jose
Best Gay or Lesbian Bar
349 S. First St., San Jose Brix pretty much owns this category annually because it’s the most fun spot for LGBT nightlife, having taken over where Hunter’s left off with an organic, casual vibe. Even the guys at the door are fun here—gay or straight, who doesn’t want to go?
Splash Video Dance Bar 65 Post St., San Jose
A Tinker’s Damn 46 N. Saratoga Ave., Santa Clara
Best Hotel Bar or Restaurant
Hotel De Anza, 233 W. Santa Clara St., San Jose. No one thinks of jazz as a growth industry, unless they’ve been to the Hedley over the last few months. Those Wednesday live shows are killing it, adding a new elbow-to-elbow layer of hipness to the Hedley’s vintage vibe. V Bar Hotel Valencia, 355 Santana Row, San Jose
Pagoda Lounge, Fairmont Hotel, 170 S. Market St., San Jose
Best Jazz/Blues Club
3439 Stevens Creek Blvd., San Jose. To hear the awe still in the voice of Bay Area blues icon Tommy Castro when he talks about JJ’s is a testament to the towering influence the club has had on the scene over the last few decades. Growing up in San Jose, Castro saw Albert King, Buddy Guy and Junior Wells there, and his first band, Nite Cry, came out of his time at J.J.’s. Now multiply Castro’s memories by every blues player in the Bay Area scene—every one of whom seems to have a J.J.’s story—and it’s easy to understand this club’s enduring power.
Poor House Bistro 91 S. Autumn St., San Jose
Hedley Club at Hotel De Anza, 233 W. Santa Clara St., San Jose
Best Place to Play Pool
South First Billiards
420 S. First St., San Jose. South First is more than just a pool hall. It added some clubby swank a while back and continues to book popular underground bands. At this point, South First Billiards is pretty much a legit nightlife spot that also happens to have great specials on pool. Santa Clara Billiards 4525 Stevens Creek Blvd., Santa Clara
California Billiard Club 881 E. El Camino Real, Mountain View
Best Freestyling Club Night
Johnny V’s, 31 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose. Has any weekly club event ever so audaciously flaunted the established rules of the dance night, and become a breakout success doing it? Ben Bremer and DJ Clint Westwood saw an opening on Tuesdays and filled it with their own warped vision for a club night. Where other nights stick to a specific theme or genre to build an audience, they careen wildly between styles, week in and week out. What audiences have responded to on Terrible Tuesdays is the rule-breaking itself, the liberating spontaneity and the ingenious mix of live bands and Westwood’s DJ mixes with each theme.
Best Gentlemen’s Club
328 S. Bascom Ave., San Jose. San Jose’s undisputed champion of gentlemen’s bars is of course, the Pink Poodle, which opened shop in the early ’60s and continues to attract customers with its roster of nude dancers.
Brass Rail 160 Persian Dr., Sunnyvale
Cheetah’s Gentleman’s Club 907 E. Arques Ave., Sunnyvale