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Bars & Clubs

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Country & Western

Almaden Feed and Fuel
18950 Almaden Road, San Jose (408/268-8950)
Unlike North Santa Cruz Avenue in Los Gatos, the south-bound lanes of Almaden Expressway are not associated with "a night out." But when the road splits, bear right, then make a quick left into the Feed and Fuel parking lot. The "feed" is the grilled fare (steaks and chicken) and the "fuel," presumably, is provided by the microbrews, small-batch bourbons and single-malt scotches. An Almaden Valley voice of rebellion lives on Fridays and Saturdays with live blues, country and rock & roll bands plugging in from 9:30pm to 1:30am. A blues jam happens on Sundays around 5:30pm.

685 E. El Camino Real, Sunnyvale (408/749-1288)
Just because some folks hung up their line-dancing boots five years ago doesn't mean country music has faded away. Every Tuesday night, Vince Gill fans (ages 18 and over) pack themselves into Cheers for some "hot country" action--the kind of fun LeAnn Rimes would love were she old enough to get in. Featuring live DJs, a large dance floor, two bars and a kitchen that stays open until midnight, Cheers is a very open place with lots of windows and plenty of space to kick up your spurs on country nights and shake your booty to rock & roll and dance music on other evenings. Cover varies. Open 6:30pm­2am weeknights and 7pm­midnight weekends.

2175 Monroe St., Santa Clara (408/554-1772)
The owner's name really is Donna, but the "Dukes" refers to her idol, John Wayne. In fact, the walls of Donna Dukes (as it is also known) are adorned with the star's image, and Big John memorabilia crowds the back bar. Tucked into a corner of the Oriental Gardens mall, this neighborhood joint jumps with personality. The place is clean, the bartenders are friendly, and the jukebox fills the air with contemporary and classic country music. Patrons will find several pool tables, dart boards and electronic games of chance. There's also a modest dance floor and live music (no cover) on Fridays and Saturdays. Open 10am­2am seven days a week.

The Echo
1579 Miramonte Ave., Los Altos (415/967-0969)
Any place that wears a cocked martini glass on its sign can't be all bad. And the Echo of Los Altos shows the staying power of the 1940s, like the photos on the wall of Bob Hope and Mickey Rooney with former owner John Bikakis. There's no shouting at the Echo, not counting occasional outbursts to Wheel of Fortune. There's a tasty snack mix made by longtime patron Lucy, and at 8pm, live piano. Sunday is C&W night, with a modest line-dancing scene. ("But the men are too old for you," Lucy appraises honestly.) With decent drinks by bartender Gilley and stained-glass depictions of wild birds, the Echo is a place to pretend that life is still simple and believe it for a few hours. Open for lunch and dinner.

15043 Los Gatos Blvd., Los Gatos (408/358-7852)
If there is a no-nonsense '60s musical meeting place in Los Gatos, Friends is it. No college kids, no phonies, no umbrella drinks. Live bands play blues, rock and country Thursdays through Saturdays (no cover). The place draws everybody from leathered longhairs to sheared yuppies getting back to their musical roots. On Wednesdays, drinks are $1 for women. In the meantime, try the pool table, darts and video games. Microbrews, single-malt scotch and small-batch bourbons are available. Open 10am­2am, Monday­Thursday; 8am­2am, Friday­Saturday.

Gaslighter Music Hall
7430 Monterey Road, Gilroy (408/848-3488)
Operated by the venerable Gaslighter in Campbell (see below), this multi-purpose South County venue books a variety of events inside its Old West­style premises. Some nights feature children's theater (a run of The Little Princess just ended); others have line dancing (on Fridays, starting June 20) or live music. Beer and soft drinks available; no smoking inside the air-conditioned rooms. Schedule varies; call 408/866-1408 (the Campbell theater) for details.

Gasthaus Adler
1380 S. Main St., Milpitas (408/946-6141)
The odd kinks in the road give Gasthaus Adler, a sprawling ranch-style establishment, a timeless, immovable feel. The dark wood interior, Bavarian styled, is worn smooth in spots, and the staff exudes a veteran easy confidence. On most nights, a blue-collar crowd mixes with a few suits around three billiard tables while the jukebox pumps out country tunes. It is a place where men like to take their bockwurst and Spaten at the cushioned bar and parry wits with a sassy barmaid.

Rank and File: The patrons at the Horseshoe get spurred on for line dancing.

Horseshoe Club
2655 El Camino Real, Santa Clara (408/248-4100)
Wanted: Big-buckled, blue-jeaned, booted babe into line dancing; must like circular bars, live music six days a week, sports on TV, pool and darts. Prefer small hat and big herd to all-hat, no-cattle type. What's wrong with an American brew? C&W wannabes or karaoke-singing fools need not respond. Smokers OK. Those who would rather eat cow dung than pay a cover fee are also encouraged. Apply at the Horseshoe Club seven days a week, 2pm­2am. Free dance lessons Tuesdays through Thursdays at 7pm. "Forward, back, cha, cha, cha."

The Saddle Rack
1310 Auzerais Ave., San Jose (408/286-3393)
The Saddle Rack has updated its Urban Cowboy image because most of the weekend goat-ropers sprouted ponytails and cell phones. Just as country music isn't just for country folk, the Rack isn't just for cowboys anymore. The immense club now incorporates other kinds of music--swing, for instance--but it remains the spot to learn how to two-step, boot-scoot or cowboy cha-cha. When not swarming the dance floor, the more adventurous mount the electronic bull or load up in the margarita chair. Wild at Heart and the California Cowboys play Wednesday through Saturday. REO Speedwagon backed out of an appearance here last month--probably couldn't face the bull. Music, 9pm till nearly 2am.

South Side Cafe
7028 Santa Teresa Blvd., San Jose (408/226-5424)
This local favorite in Almaden Valley provides karaoke on Thursday nights and live country music on weekends. Dimly lighted booths accompanied with red tinted candles gives this lounge bar a '70s hangout style. The bar is fully stocked, complete with a variety of wines and domestic beers. Open 10am­2am.

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From the June 12-18, 1997 issue of Metro.

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