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The Metro Bars & Clubs 2005 Guide
[ Intro | 20 Years of Bars and Clubs | Bartender Profiles | San Jose | Campbell | Cupertino | Los Altos | Los Gatos | Menlo Park | Mountain View | Palo Alto | Redwood City/Peninsula | Santa Clara | Saratoga | Sunnyvale ]

San Jose

358 Culture Lounge
358 N. White Road, San Jose
This new nightspot opened up on the East Side recently, catering to the discerning patron trolling for good times near Capitol and McKee. Wednesday is reggae. Thursday is open-mic night. Friday and Saturday are a mix of hip-hop, soul, house and oldies. They're just getting their legs so give them a look.

A.P. Stump's
163 W. Santa Clara St, San Jose
Rich woodwork, crown moldings, an extensive wine list and gorgeous presentations keep regulars returning to this posh restaurant and lounge. The menu changes daily, whether it's grilled foie gras in the lounge or a ravishing grilled rack of lamb with whole grain mustard spaetzle capped off with some almond mascarpone cheesecake.

Agenda Lounge
399 S. First St, San Jose
That brick building on the corner of South First and San Salvador has increased its bookings in the nightclub, with appearances by Dwele, DJ ?uestlove and Planet Asia. Downstairs on the street level, the restaurant offers a wide variety of activities, everything from cheap happy hour deals to live jazz on the heated patio to elegant contemporary cuisine inside.

Alex's 49er Inn
2214 Business Circle, San Jose
This dimly lit hideaway is not as sporty as the name implies. There is a TV and a pool table, but mostly Alex's caters to old-school drinkers who seek to socialize over the lubrication of double shots poured for the price of one.

Almaden Feed And Fuel
18950 Almaden Rd, San Jose
When the heightened demands of urban life get stale and you find yourself hankering for something rural and unrefined, consider this copper-top bar from the 1800s—one of the last remaining vestiges of Almaden's Wild West. It's got attitude and it's got Harley's, but fear not, they don't make the urbanites dance to "Tequila" on tabletops.

Ambassador's Lounge
175 N. San Pedro St, San Jose
Flava Flav, Trick Daddy and Trillville have visited this spot, owned by B-Hive proprieter Menassa and local celebrity E-40. The vibe is pure hip-hop and R&B, the premium place to get "hyphy" in the Bay Area.

Amber India
377 Santana Row #1140, San Jose
Amber India wows the after-work crowd with its dramatic lighting, artwork and cocktail menu high on creativity and flair. Try the Pink Elephant (Smirnoff vodka infused with lychees and Chamborg), Indian Rain (Whaler's Pineapple Rum, Hypnotiq and lime juice) or the Amber Cosmo (vodka infused with blood oranges, Cointreau, cranberry and lemon juices).

Aqui Cal-Mex Grill
5679 Snell Ave, San Jose; 408.362.3456
1145 Lincoln Ave, San Jose; 408.995.0381
All you need to know is this: 40 kinds of tequila. Never mind that the restaurant cranks out some of the best Cal-Mex-Asian combos anywhere. The Thai Burritos are especially dynamite. But the bar can be a chic hangout as well. Suits pour in after work. Nuclear families from Willow Glen infiltrate on the weekends.

100 W. San Carlos St, San Jose
Thanks to "Lost in Translation," there's a certain transient je ne sais quoi about hotel bars. It's the same reason why airport bars are the greatest places to drink. But Arcadia gets a lot of business from the street aside from the hotel guests. Their Market Street Mojito has zing. Of course, Arcadia is primarily a restaurant rather than a bar, and you'd never even know it was there, but the bar area carries just that certain isolated relaxation. So waltz in, order a Cable Car and in sink into the seats.

Back Bar at Zoë
418 S. Market St., San Jose
Zoë Nightclub's back patio area is an open-air space with a beautiful mahogany wood bar, wicker ceiling fans, pool tables, overhangs, an outdoor margarita station, Italian cypress trees, heat lamps, stained concrete and a sound system. It serves as a chill-out space to the darker and louder Zoë. A doorway separates the two clubs, but guests can travel back and forth between venues. Back Bar can also be used for private parties.

Bamboo Lounge/Island Grill
1355 N. Fourth St, San Jose
Bamboo's tropically themed bar is like a wedding reception that never ends. There's jazz and blues on Wednesday and Thursday, lounge music with Jerry Sauceda on Friday and rotating fun on Saturday.

Blake's Steakhouse And Bar
17 N. San Pedro Square, San Jose
One of San Jose's best steakhouses, Blake's is jammed before HP Pavilion events. The bar is situated in the middle of the restaurant and there are plenty of tables—outside and inside—from which to scope out the action in San Pedro Square. Upscale while still casual and refined, Blake's is a perfect place to begin a night on the town.

Blank Club
44 S. Almaden Ave, San Jose
The last punk rock bastion left in this town, the Blank Club hosts a parade of local and national noisemakers and spittle flickers like Unsane, the Lovemakers, the Phenomenauts and Punk Rock Karaoke.

Blowfish Sushi To Die For
335 Santana Row, Suite 1010, San Jose
Television screens broadcast PG-13 anime. Black-lacquer tables surround plush banquettes caressed with throw pillows. The sleek and sexy sushi bar has a sake lounge with rice wines broken down by categories: dryness, unfiltered, cedar aged, even "unusual." Sake cocktails take the frat-boy element out of sake consumption. The closest kin to a dreaded "sake bomb" is the Red Baron—house sake and Rock Star energy drink. Thursday-Saturday, DJs spin similarly pumping music until 2am.

Blue Monkey
1 E. San Fernando St, San Jose
The Blue Monkey blends Far Eastern décor, mood lighting and bottle service to create a twist on the martini lounge. DJs are featured Wednesday through Friday. The lounge serves as a refuge for diners who frequent P.F. Chang's and Stratta.

Branham Lounge
1116 Branham Lane, San Jose
The venerable Cambrian old lady bar near OSH and Taco Bell is in the process of a face-lift. Plasma screens have been added, five new beer taps were installed (bringing BL from bottled to kegs, a first), a Thursday karaoke night has proved popular and the jukebox was updated. Any worries that the spot will become trendy should be dashed, says the manager. The place will always remain neighborhood friendly and the fireplace will continue to burn.

Britannia Arms
5027 Almaden Expwy, San Jose; 408.266.0550
173 W. Santa Clara St, San Jose; 408.278.1400
Live bands, darts, dominos, karaoke, sports, fish and chips, bangers and mash—when it comes to the prototypical pub, the Brit is the real deal. The downtown location features a stylish patio and bar out back, an excellent addition to the local scene.

98 S. Almaden Ave, San Jose
The Caravan calls itself San Jose's best dive bar and it's probably right. Only a few folks are old enough to remember when it was actually located inside the Greyhound station. Nowadays, lubricated barflies pound beers and play pool. At Caravan the age range is 21 to 121.

Cardinal Lounge
3197 Meridian Ave., San Jose
The dimly lit small club, which is decorated with mirrored walls and plenty of neon beer signs, is famous for its spicy Bloody Mary. Happy hour lasts from noon to 7pm and features a different drink special daily. Once everyone is happy, the club rolls out the cheap test-tube-style shooters filled with such sweet sensations as Cosmos or Purple Hooters at night. On Monday through Wednesday, karaoke draws a goodly amount of San Jose State kids who embarrass one another with hits from the '80s and '90s. Expect to hear at least one frat boy warbling Garth Brooks' "Friends in Low Places" on a regular basis.

18 S. Almaden Ave, San Jose
Left at Albuquerque gets a lot of play for its tequila selection, but did you know that Chacho's has them beat? The humble Mexican food spot near Blank Club owns 90 different tequilas and 15 types of mezcal.

Checkered Flag Bar & Grill
803 Lincoln Ave, San Jose
Just in time for San Jose Grand Prix, the race-themed Checkered Flag Bar & Grill opens in the space that was once Foxes Den. They'll be up soon so check back.

69 E. San Fernando St, San Jose
The Cinebar continues to rock from 6am until 2am. Several different crowds filter in throughout that entire span, but what's important is the free pool on Tuesdays and the stellar jukebox. You've got everything from New Order to David Allan Coe. The punk night on Wednesdays draws Pabst-swilling lunatics and pool sharks. Regulars tend to crowd around the video game in the corner, trying to beat each other's high scores. Being one of the oldest continuously operated bars in all of San Jose, it would be a damn shame if some stingy landlord swooped in and nuked the place.

City Bar and Grill
Hilton Hotel, 300 Almaden Blvd, San Jose
The convention crowd slips in to get plastered on its expense accounts. Soft jazz emanates from the speakers and drinkers contemplate the classic American grill atmosphere. The Hilton itself doesn't represent the most attractive architecture, but this bar pleasantly improves the overall hotel-convention-center complex.

1300 First St #A, Gilroy
For most of the day, this comfy, well-stocked Irish pub named for the Claddagh ring of love and friendship is a family establishment. After 9pm, the 21-and-over crowd turns out for dancing and live music of all genres. On the third Sunday of each month, the Claddagh spotlights Irish musical acts at 6pm.

Club Caribe
1001 S. First St, San Jose
A hugely popular Latino dance joint, Caribe rocks on the weekends. Dancin' folk line up around the corner to get in. Cowboy hats abound. The Coronas flow. People show off on the dance floor with the gals dressed in scant attire. Yet another great place to sweat amid the tropical environs.

Club Max
Doubletree Hotel, 2050 Gateway Pl, San Jose
On Friday and Saturday nights, fashionable attire is required. The rest of the week, slide in and play pool, watch sports, gorge on appetizers or fashionably consume Long Island Iced Tea specials. Happy hour begins at 4:30pm and folks pile in for the after-work nacho bar and drink specials. A slick entertainment lounge whether you're staying at the hotel or not.

Club Miami
177 W. Santa Clara St, San Jose
It's lights—and tons of them—camera, action. The best place to sweat in downtown San Jose. Don Johnson meets four $6 Coronas and snakeskin shoes. Hot, sweaty salsa dancing all the time. Both gals and guys dress to impress and the faux palm trees watch from the background.

Consuelo Mexican Bistro
377 Santana Row #1125, San Jose
With its soaring, red-tile ceiling, blue-and-yellow painted walls and wood and leather booths, Consuelo's feels like stepping into a grand restaurant in Oaxaca or Guadalajara. Style points include heavy iron chandeliers, colorful blue-and-white-patterned plates and those thick Mexican glasses with a band of color around the rim. If you squint your eyes a bit while dining on Consuelo's patio and blur the shopping-bag-toting masses, you could be in Oaxaca, dining alfresco on the city's zócolo. A few selections from the extensive drink menu (margaritas and martinis are big here) coax this illusion along.

72 N. Almaden Ave, San Jose
Cuccini is the best place in downtown to revive Franco-Arabic roots. Wolf down Middle Eastern stew, listen to Arabic beats and slurp Pernod at 1 in the afternoon. At nighttime, the place converts into a thumping hipster club, with a "high class" clientele. DJs spin Middle Eastern house music inside and the patio outside packs 'em in. Hookah smoking is allowed.

Cuetopia Billiards Café
4700 Almaden Expwy, San Jose
When searching for a pool hall with the utmost in accommodations, look no further. Cuetopia boasts 25 pool tables, four foosball tables, seven TVs, a sofa lounge, over 100 varieties of beer and a cafe with an espresso bar and the best darn Chicago style hotdogs in San Jose.

Dave & Busters
940 Great Mall Drive, Milpitas
The adult version of Chuck E. Cheese assaults the senses with a clanging midway stuffed wall-to-wall with video and interactive games, quenching stations and try-your-luck activities. The geniuses at D&B's marketing must be applauded for launching in Milpitas—a land rife with tech geeks and gamers.

87 N. San Pedro St, San Jose
Deep takes the lounge concept beneath the depths with aquariums, projection screens, plasma TVs, an Adamson Pro Audio system and a kitchen serving upscale seafood a la Crustacean. The club has three separate dance areas and a 500-capacity patio area. DJs spin Top 40 and hip-hop on Thursdays. On Fridays, three rooms blast hip-hop, '80s and house. Saturdays are dedicated to Latin house, reggaeton and salsa with the smaller lounges for hip-hop and Top 40.

The Den, at Fourth Street Bowl
1441 N. Fourth St, San Jose
Regulars crowd around the half-circle bar while brave souls torture the crowds on the karaoke stage. Plenty of beers are available at this well-worn but well-lit-up place. The faux fireplace and the giant fox-hunt mural give the place a feel unlike most bowling alley bars. A hidden, unexploited karaoke heaven (or hell, depending on your tolerance for amateur singing).

Dive Bar
78 E. Santa Clara St, San Jose
Despite the name, this bar definitely isn't a dive. Located in a high-profile spot on Santa Clara between Second and Third, Dive is an attractive drinking establishment highlighted by red-leather booths and a vintage 36-foot-long mahogany bar. As one would expect, the main draw is the cocktail. Dive specializes in both classics (think vodka martini) and contemporary creations (chocolate martini, anyone?). There's also a DJ booth in place to fuel dance nights and a pool table just aching for some nine ball.

E&O Trading Company
96 S. First St, San Jose
E&O is a perfect place to take in the great weather while sitting outside on the sidewalk watching the dead buildings go by. Exquisite handcrafted beers go great with exotic specialties from the East. Suits pack the place after work and the bar is overflowing sometimes. Drinks like the Mangopolitan and the Pomegranate Margarita are advertised out on the street, luring in potential happy hour drinkers. Chinese coins are embedded in the bar and Southeast Asian décor abounds.

The Escape
2942 S. Bascom Ave, San Jose
Pool, pizza and motorcycles reign supreme at this legendary suburban joint on Bascom Avenue where San Jose and Campbell fade into one other. Locals, bikers and construction workers swill drinks served by buxom bartenders. Note the designated "Harley Parking" outside.

Espresso Garden and Cafe
814 S. Bascom Ave, San Jose
Espresso Garden is the little club with big aspirations. Its niche is folk, Americana and bluegrass. and along with booking company Fiddling Cricket they cater to a loyal fan base. This combination allows Espresso Garden to book a diverse lineup of national and international acts including Asylum Street Spankers, Trailer Park Troubadours and the Duhks. The intimacy afforded by the cafe makes for memorable exchanges between fan, club and musician.

374 S. First St, San Jose
The opera and symphony folks will meander in before and after shows. Of the many possible choices these two might suffice: crouch at the bar over a 12-year-old Macallan or sit down and feast on cashew encrusted seared salmon with butterfinger potatoes and lemon beurre.

Evergreen Inn and Pub
3273 S. White Road, San Jose
Located on the East Side, Evergreen Inn and Pub is a late night destination. Sip a Fat Tire ale, watch some televised sports, nosh on a steak and enter the pub's pool tournament on Monday nights. Open until 2am on weekends.

5th Quarter
1373B Kooser Road, San Jose
As its name implies, the 5th Quarter goes into overtime as a lively destination for sports fanatics—especially during football season. The addition of live music on the weekends and Monday night karaoke has broadened the target clientele by putting it in touch with Gen-X and boomer-aged booty shakers.

Fahrenheit Ultra Lounge
99 San Fernando St, San Jose
Fahrenheit is in the middle of everything. The interior is "classic modern" with warm colors, granite bar tops and sumptuous couches. The modern component comes in the color-changing ceiling lighting, multitiered seating and an emphasis on rounded motifs including a circular dance floor. At 4,000 square feet, Fahrenheit is open and spacious without sacrificing intimacy. A sample of the small-plate menu includes ginger-poached chicken, grilled satays and samosas, while its specialty drinks are similarly exotic: a Thai chile and lemon-grass martini and a cucumber rose cosmo. All these elements create an ambience similar to swank supper clubs in Miami, New York or Las Vegas.

Fairmont Lounge
Fairmont Hotel, 170 S. Market St, San Jose
The faux marble bar looks real. The plush couches are inviting. The drinks ain't cheap. Pianists tickle the ivories on the weekends. Exquisite floral arrangements abound, HDTV's flank the walls and hotel guests mix with the theater crowds to imbibe with richness.

Final Score Sports Bar
1126 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
As its name suggests, this establishment is all about sports. There are five television screens that broadcast games, so one can buy a $2.50 burrito and follow a favorite team or even sport. On the recreational sports side, there's pool and shuffleboard tables as well as electronic dartboards and a stand-alone golf video game. A CD jukebox provides the tunes, and the bar staff seems friendly and down-to-earth—as does the clientele.

Garden City Casino
360 Saratoga Ave, San Jose
More than just an annex for the card sharks, Garden City's lounge/restaurant has won the Wine Spectator award for "One of the most outstanding restaurant wine-lists in the world" 12 times. During dinner hour, the bar remains tame and sophisticated—being sure not to disturb the distinguished dining atmosphere—but in the later hours, after a few hands of Texas Hold 'Em have been won, the energy can elevate into a rather rowdy celebration of fortune.

Gecko Grill
855 N. 13th St, San Jose
A tropical oasis right smack in the middle of a somewhat undesirable stretch of 13th Street, Gecko is lit up in orange décor and—you guessed it—geckos. The grill cranks out fresh Mexican food and the bar serves up Mexican beer and custom hot-rodded margaritas. Out on the patio, folks chill underneath potted palms and awnings.

Giza Hookah Lounge
18 N. First St, San Jose
The lights are dim. Couples sit on pillows in the corner and smoke tar-free, low-nicotine flavored tobacco from hookahs—ancient water pipes from some place like Turkey or Greece. DJs spin chill-out tunes and people chill out. All that's missing are a few snake charmers.

396 S. First St, San Jose
Glo is modeled on suave metropolitan clubs, with a sleek, contemporary décor, several dance floors and bottle service at tables. Thursdays through Saturdays, DJs rotate blends of upscale hip-hop, house and R&B. Appropriate attire required.

GoodFellas Bar & Grill
69 N. San Pedro St, San Jose
The perfect place to contemplate how everything you ever needed to know about life, you learned from the Rat Pack. Photos of Ol' Blue Eyes, Dino, Bogey and Al Pacino adorn the walls. Tony Soprano would feel at home in the place. The hamburgers are great and 22-ounce drafts are available.

Goosetown Lounge
1072 Lincoln Ave, San Jose
Every inch of space is well utilized at Willow Glen's designated rock & roll karaoke bar. Though roughly the size of a large living room, this little place is endowed with a bar, a fireplace, two big screen TVs, a stage, a dance floor, tables, and chairs. However, don't be misled by the cozy appearance—this secluded hangout is very popular amongst locals, and often becomes the meeting ground for some of San Jose's wildest party animals.

Gordon Biersch
33 E. San Fernando St, San Jose
Lagers reign supreme at GB and the place continues to bring 'em in. Whether it's a light lunch with beer or a long expensive dinner with three beers, GB continues to be a success. You've got corporate types, yuppies, nuclear families from the suburbs, wealthy drunks, lawyers, stockbrokers and convention attendees—fertile ground for eavesdropping on other peoples' conversations over a Blonde Bock or three.

Grill on the Alley
172 S. Market St., San Jose
The spot inside the Fairmont Hotel opened up an outdoor patio last year. Speaking of that patio, martini-night Thursdays bring in all sorts of suits, convention delegates, politicians and even a stray journalist on assignment. Especially now that Music in the Park is ready to launch, the Grill's patio will kick into action.

Hedley Club
Inside Hotel De Anza
233 W. Santa Clara St, San Jose
408.286.1000; www.hoteldeanza.com
If you could smoke in California bars, this would be a primo jazz club. The atmosphere's all there: Lush sofas. Exotic plants. Mahogany tables. A luxurious hand-painted ceiling. Whether it's a piano/cello duet or a lounge singer, Hedley is a relaxing place to sip a few drinks while the music emanates from the far corner.

Henry's World-Famous Hi Life
301 W. St. John St, San Jose
A great American steakhouse and barbecue joint if there ever was one, Henry's has been cranking out slabs and racks of meat for over 60 years. It is indeed a carnivore's paradise right behind the HP Pavilion. Henry's opens early on football sundays for some steak and eggs. Later on in the day, the barflies roll in to bask in the beer signs and sports memorabilia.

Hookah Nites Café
371 S. First St, San Jose
This cafe is a great spot for both veteran smokers and newcomers to this increasingly popular Bay Area trend. Hookah Nites offers a wide range of subtly flavored tobacco, from apple and peach to mango and coconut.

The Huddle
5289D Prospect Rd, San Jose
The game is always on at the Huddle. Dressed up in the regular assortment of colorful sports memorabilia, this casual neighborhood bar attracts a very local, very loyal, crowd of Bud-drinking, pool-playing sports fans who can recite such trivia as who played quarterback for the 49ers before Joe Montana.

230 Jackson St, San Jose
Why get smashed on Bud when you get loaded on Hula Girls and Wicked Wahines? Sure, the hangover from these potent cocktails will hurt just as bad (maybe worse), but everything else about the experience will be decidedly sunnier. Hukilau is awash in Polynesian party spirit, from its intentionally cheesy beachside décor to the outdoor tiki bar. This friendly bar offers live Hawaiian music on Fridays and Saturdays.

The Improv
62 S. Second St, San Jose
The joke is on those South Bay folks who still drive up to the Punch Line and Cobb's in San Francisco to get their laughs. The valley has its own world-class comedy club drawing comedians like D.L. Hughley, Carlos Mencia, Lewis Black and Bobby Slayton.

JJ's Blues
3439 Stevens Creek Blvd, San Jose
Last November, June Stanley passed the keys off to one of her customers, Johnnie Perkins. He's left it the way it was: a cozy blues venue that outlived numerous musical trends. It's open every day and cover charges apply to bigger weekend shows.

Johnny V's
31 E. Santa Clara St, San Jose
Johnny V's looks like a pub, but it feels like a club. Call it a pub-club—and a really fine one at that. Music is the big draw here for SJSU students and other locals with discerning ears. The DJ is king at V's, spinning everything from deep dub and reggae to house music and hip-hop. And there's nothing like 2-for-1 Kamikaze shots, offered nightly, to help you get in the mood to boogie.

Lido's Nightclub
30 S. First St, San Jose
Only in San Jose would you find an establishment that's a dive Mexican bar on the street level and a Vietnamese dance club upstairs. That's the premier live venue for internationally known Vietnamese performers. While they might get an occasional stray from the Transient Mall right out in front, most of the clientele are working class folk. On any given night, you'll hear banda music blasting out of the place. There's a stage and even retro booths in the back. But on weekends, well-dressed Vietnamese from all over the Bay Area come to the upscale dance nights upstairs. On Mondays and Wednesdays, the upstairs stage gives way to the Latin community's version of "La Cage Aux Folles."

Lou's Village
146 W. San Carlos St, San Jose
It's last call for San Jose's great seafood restaurant and sports bar. It will close at the end of the year. Longtime customers have one more chance to snap up the lobsters, clams and calamari and admire the walls filled with framed pics of entertainers who played there since the late '40s.

Mac's Club
39 Post St, San Jose
Called "the Grand Dame of San Jose Gay Bars," Mac's is the type of neighborly joint where everyone—gays, straights and, well, others—can feel comfortable. A bit rundown, but in a good way, Mac's offers video games, darts and an open-air patio.

Melting Pot
72 S. First St, San Jose
Indulge in ultrahip fondue dishes and super-designer drinks, including the $10 yin-yang special, a gorgeous concoction of Vanilla Stoli and a few things from the Melting Pot lab. It's served in a large martini glass and the entire top of the drink is made to look like a yin-yang symbol, with chocolate flakes forming the black part of it. A great drink to share with a potential score.

Mexico Lindo Restaurant & Cantina
11 Race St, San Jose
Karaoke draws big weekend crowds as college kids turn out to test their lungs against other margarita-fueled locals in a battle of who sounds the most like Garth Brooks or Gloria Gaynor. DJs spin a variety of tunes, from pop hits to dance standards, on Friday nights at this surprisingly modern looking bar.

Mission Ale House
97 E. Santa Clara St, San Jose
This updated version of a traditional ale house is known for being the first, and, often, last stop of the night. Young partygoers drop by for a few brews before an evening of clubbing—and then they often end up here after failing to score, drowning their sorrow with a selection of 32 beers on tap. With its newly added beer garden area, Mission Ale House also does big business with the after-work crowd.

Moorpark Hotel
4241 Moorpark Avenue, San Jose
The Valencia and De Anza aren't the only hotels to have the sophisticated nightspot atmosphere thing on lock. Just down the street, the Moorpark Hotel is quietly building a reputation as a sleek sophisticated place to enjoy a cocktail. The Moorpark stuns with contemporary design and architectural touches that appeal to those sick of corporate hotels. Moorpark serves up sexy hors d'oeuvres, signature cocktails and music during its upcoming Delux promotion on Thursdays starting soon.

Original Joe's
301 S. First St, San Jose
Original Joe's fills the role of Denny's in the SoFA district but with waaaay better food and ambience. Late-night comments like "Dude, I need to get something to eat" are often met with "Let's go to OJ's." Serving up mountain-sized pastas and other gigantic entrees well past midnight, OJ's has saved countless partiers from terrible morning-after hangovers. But, be warned, Joe's also serves some of the deadliest cocktails downtown. The heavy hand seems to be the only one Joe pours with.

333 W. San Carlos St, San Jose
For nearly 50 years, Paolo's has been the place to wine in downtown. Sommelier Jalil Samavarchian is known for his excellent taste and, as a result, Paolo's is a consistent recipient of Wine Spectator's prestigious Best of Excellence award. Besides the ample by-the-glass selection, this upscale old-school spot offers a goodly variety of ports and scotch. Make sure to try the signature Ombretta Di Paolo, a twisted, yet tasty, take on the champagne cocktail featuring a mixture of sparkling Italian wine, tangerine vodka and Italian artichoke liqueur.

211 S. First St, San Jose
They make vodka in Jamaica? Yes, Paragon boasts over 100 different vodkas behind the bar and won't hesitate to talk about them. Housed in the Montgomery Hotel downtown, Paragon says it's not a hotel restaurant. It's a bar with a hotel upstairs. About 90 percent of their clientele comes from the street and not the hotel itself. The bar area features a shiny gunmetal bar, several drink specials and food from the restaurant itself. House music plays in the background and folks chat about vodka from Belarus.

Patty's Inn
102 S. Montgomery St, San Jose
Just a short stumble from the main Caltrain station, this sports-friendly bar is a haven for commuters looking for a beer and a shot after work. It also does big business before and after Sharks games. Plus, this corner bar is incredibly easy to find—located directly across the street from one of Silicon Valley's most-beloved landmarks, Stephen's Meat Products' dancing pig.

Pink Poodle
328 S. Bascom Ave, San Jose
Since 1963, this proud member of the San Jose Chamber of Commerce has been offering horny locals, bachelor partiers and dirty old men plenty of gyrating entertainment. Well-endowed ladies take the stage barely clad in lingerie and quickly lose the brightly colored bras and panties while grooving to Kid Rock, Aerosmith and other testosterone-fueled rockers. Somehow I don't think this place needs any added testosterone.

The Place
1058 S. First St, San Jose
There is no other place like this place so this must be The Place. At least that's what the steady cast of regulars who turn out to drink beers and play pool at this neighborly joint seems to believe. They also believe size matters, but in terms of length, not width. The Place proudly boasts the longest bar in town, extending all the way from First to Second.

Plaza Inn
1182 Lincoln Ave, San Jose
Cozy up in one of the bar's plush booths, after enjoying a big dish of enchiladas in the restaurant, and repeat: "Margarita, por favor!" With or without salt, this cozy inn serves some of the best tequila-laced frozen concoctions in town. And you don't have to worry about hearing Jimmy Buffett while drinking them, just cool Mexican tunes blasting from the jukebox.

Red Stag Lounge
1711 W. San Carlos St, San Jose
Located in a strip mall on the north side of San Carlos Street, the Red Stag is arguably the best place to grab an early-morning drink, since few pubs in San Jose open as early Jack Higgins' lounge. Happy hour weekdays from 4 to 7pm.

Rosie McCann's Irish Pub
355 Santana Row #1060, San Jose
An Irish pub that serves mango mojitos and organic green salads may seem like a disgrace to bar stool philosophers, but consider the location. Rosie McCann's expanded from Santa Cruz to San Jose's Santana Row. Pub fans may scoff at some fruity menu items, but will positively swoon at the 19th-century interior designed by architect Mark Stevens and Eugene Anthony. Order a temp-controlled stout at its 30foot handmade bar by Wallace and Hines.

Saddle Rack
42011 Boscell Road, Fremont
Longtime local cowpokes will rip yarns about getting busy in their truck cabs while parked in the mammoth lot outside the old Rack. The younger sect of the Wranglers-wearing nation are more focused on creating their own memories at the new Rack, which opened in Fremont in 2003. You certainly don't have to know how to ride a bull to have a good time at this joint. Accountants in Stetsons join engineers in Tony Lamas on the dance floor for a little two-step action. Tim McGraw wannabes hunt their own versions of Faith Hill while listening to the house bands, Wild at Heart and Appaloosa. And, of course, it wouldn't be the Saddle Rack without that darn bull. Even after all these years, it's still more than a match for even the most macho urban cowboy.

Sangria Restaurant
721 Willow St, San Jose
Owner Javier Ponce imported Sangria's famous bar stool saddles from Mexico after he saw something similar there and got jealous, says his daughter Trini. An expansive room makes the restaurant perfect for wedding rehearsals or other group events.

San Jose Bar & Grill
85 S. Second St, San Jose
If an economist came downtown and saw the party scene at San Jose Bar & Grill, he might think the crash had never happened. Not quite a sports bar, not quite a corner bar, the San Jose Bar & Grill is loud and raucous, just like its patrons. A new promotion is Wingy Tango Wednesday with the Trailer Park Bistro (25 cent chicken wings, $1 Hamms, $1 corn dogs, $2 tater tots, sloppy joe sliders, twinkies and cupcakes).

Seven Bamboo
162 Jackson St, San Jose
The Japantown institution gets its share of girls gone wild but also a regular stream of Japanese who sing traditional songs. In business for over 25 years, the 'Boo added video-streaming connection so friends and voyeurs can watch from home. In fact, the entire karaoke system has been digitized so that entertainers jumping up and down onstage don't make CDs skip. It's often the first step out of the shower for karaoke beginners, which makes for endless entertainment value.

Seven Restaurant and Lounge
754 The Alameda, San Jose
Due to its sleek, industrial design, and French-fused culinary sculptures, Seven has quickly become the crème de la crème for those seeking the hippest and most cosmopolitan of urban lounging. Immersed in glamour and youthful energy, Seven's gorgeous and devoted patrons eagerly submit to Seven's numerous charms, including DJ music on weekends.

When He Pours, He Reigns: David Brenner unleashes a load of Bull at SoFa.

Sofa Lounge
374 S. First St, San Jose
Co-owners Tim Littlefield and Eulipia's Mike Borkenhagen opened the Sofa Lounge with an eye on the building's past as Ajax Lounge, as well as on the future. To that end, they've added handsome microfiber sectional seating areas. They blend live music and DJ nights, including an open mic where sessions can be recorded and emailed back to the participants. It's a place where California Theatre ticket holders, Rep patrons and cinéastes—or anyone looking for a good conversation and a drink—can warm up or cool down.

South First Billiards and Elixir Ultra Lounge
420 S. First St, San Jose
A remodeled bar area gives South First an upscale look, including refelted pool tables to match the new earth tones. $10 pool all night Monday, DJs weekend nights, and $10 margarita pitchers Sunday nights round out some of the perks. The menu has expanded and there's Unsigned Sunday—live local bands every first and last Sunday of the month.

South Side Cafe
7028 Santa Teresa Blvd, San Jose
A blue-collar bar miles from downtown, South Side is the kind of place where you hang loose, eat lunch, throw darts and play pool. Décor is mainly dark signs and beer signs—including Budweiser, Bud Light, Michelob, Heineken, etc. Live music is—what else?—straight ahead all-American rock & roll. (DH)

Splash Bar & Grill
65 Post St, San Jose
Splash aims to be the premier gay nightlife destination in the South Bay. Splash also houses a real meat market—a restaurant with a menu of American favorites like steak, meatloaf, spaghetti and meatballs. Happy Hour attracts a mixed crowd with nights dedicated to Latin, house, '80s, karaoke and hip-hop.

Straits Restaurant
333 Santana Row, Suite 100, San Jose
Upscale restaurant serves pan-Asian cuisine and doubles as a chi-chi nightclub weekend nights, with DJ music so loud it's difficult to talk. Even so, Straits tends to attract the young and the wealthy, who spill onto the sidewalk when they need to take a break from the action inside.

Hey, We Know Them: Marti Brosco and Jamie Whitmire at Studio 8.

Studio 8
8 S. First St, San Jose
The owners did a great job at retaining the original architecture of the place while adding their own L.A.-style disco-Dionysian twist. The gothic columns and plush ornate mirrors only add to the upscale in-your-face panache of the entire establishment. Up on the second level, private areas abound, fully complete with polished vintage couches. Upstairs you can get a drink from one of the million bars in the place while leaning over the railing and gazing down at the dance floor below—perfect if you're not the boogieing type. Fans are installed everywhere to prevent the club from becoming too sweaty and steamy once the gyrating commences.

T's Club Four
514 S. Bascom Ave, San Jose
The lovely ladies from T's Cabaret have moved in and you can check out exotic dancing on a regular basis. They're even open in the daytime. No, the gals don't get naked—you can go down the street for that—but for a wide variety of goods, T's delivers. You just gotta love the Burbank district. God Bless America.

Temple Lounge
52 S. First St, San Jose
Open Monday through Wednesday starting at 4pm, with happy hour every weekday from 4pm to 8pm, the Temple offers a sacred respite from after-work boredom. Plus, this plush lounge serves up a religious devotion to live music, Thursdays through Sundays—jazz, Afro-Cuban, samba, blues and more.

T-Bar Lounge
Inside Theatre on San Pedro Square
29 N. San Pedro, San Jose
The former site of the Last Laugh located behind Peggy Sue's upstairs in San Pedro Square is a sleek and classy theater/lounge with a beautiful bar, delicious food and impressive layout that any artist of any discipline could appreciate.

Teske's Germania
255 N. First St, San Jose
Ajax Lounge and Fuel 44 vets Chris Esparza, Brendan Rawson and Louis Silva have been scoping out German restaurant Teske's as a potential night-life spot for a while. They signed the lease last week and are planning to bring classy, top flight Ajax/Fuel-style entertainment to downtown. Keep watching this space as things develop.

Thea Mediterranean
3090 Olsen Dr, San Jose
Check out this new place to explore the culinary delights of Athens, Instanbul, Spain or Italy. The restaurant features wines from all those regions, but whether they feature Tsikoudia, that notorious Cretan firewater, remains to be seen. Named after the Greek goddess and mother of Helios, Eos and Selene (the sun, the dawn and the moon), the spot provides an after-dark oasis with chill-out DJ music.

Tied House
65 N. San Pedro Ave, San Jose
For some San Pedro Square barkeeps, the cancellation of the hockey season had an adverse effect. The perpetually busy Tied House doesn't appear to be one of them—with guests from conventions, local hotels, Adobe and Sabercats fans keeping the eight taps clear.

52 E. Santa Clara St, San Jose
408.292.7464; www.toonsnightclub.com
College students may age, but Toons has the formula for eternal youth: seven nights a week of crowd-pleasing music. Reggae, hip-hop, house and the occasional live band—not to mention the two bars—keep things flowing. Those too exhausted to dance find their way to the pool tables and video arcades. (TV)

Touchdown Tommy's
5837 Camden Ave., San Jose
Tommy's is decorated with football and sports memorabilia, some of which reflect the owner's short career as an NFL referee. Tommy's serves more frozen tequila shots than any other drink except beer. They keep the Cuervo in the freezer and pull it out at a rapid rate for those looking for some icy liquid courage. The bar draws a friendly collection of regular customers, many of whom have been coming to the place for a good 16 years since it opened.

Tres Gringos
83 S. Second St., San Jose
Modeled after the owners' favorite resort-town bars, Tres Gringos opens to the sidewalk and invites passersby in with its sunny, convivial colors. The kitchen serves up ceviche cocktails, tacos and tortilla soup, and the bar doles out Scorpion Bay Margaritas, La Paz Daiquiris and the ever-popular Frozen Sombrero (vodka, Kahlua and ice cream). ¡Caramba!

The Hand-Off: Rob Van Der Molen at Trials is there for you. With a beer, no less.

Trials Pub
265 N. First St, San Jose
A person can always count on a welcome, a warm Shepherd's Pie, and a cushy armchair at Trials Pub. Run by British expats, this is the place to find a bloody astonishing selection of imported beers and get a few dart-playing tips while you're at it.

The Vault Ultra Lounge
81 W. Santa Clara St, San Jose
The Vault reigns as the new hot spot for DJ dancing in the South Bay. The club is located in an old savings and loan building, reportedly one of the first such establishments to open in California. Suitably, the Vault has embraced its legacy in the design, fitting the renovation around the history. Club kids sip apple martinis near the two original vaults and dance to the latest in Top 40 tunes under the large blue stained-glass ceiling decorated with American eagles.

The Vbar
Hotel Valencia, Third Floor
355 Santana Row, San Jose
The Vbar is the chic, cosmopolitan in-spot for the young social networkers who prefer F2Fs to IMs. Set apart by rows of beaded dividers, the 155-capacity lounge is dramatically sexy and splurgy with dark wood columns, fabric and leather couches and chairs, marble-tiled tables and an impressive selection of elixirs, wine and bubbly, including Veuve Clicquot, Cristal and Cristallino. Tapas from the hotel's Citrus restaurant are available. The sound system pipes in house music; the speakers are built into the ceiling or tucked discreetly away. An open-air courtyard and balcony overlooking Santana Row make it possible to grab an intimate conversation.

Voodoo Lounge
14 S. Second St, San Jose
The Voodoo Lounge creates a little magic with the help of low lights, lava lamps and a loungy DJ vibe. This longtime favorite downtown dance club keeps a low-but-chic profile; there's a VIP room that's reservation-only, and kitschy cocktails like the I Dream of Jeannie Tini, a cosmopolitan with raspberry Smirnoff, help hipster patrons do that voodoo they do so well.

Zoë Nightclub
417 S. First St, San Jose
Zoë has become a favorite spot for local radio station shows—hosting Vertical Horizon, the Donnas and others. They also experiment with club nights from ramen cooking to mixed martial arts. But with all the strangeness, at its base Zoë is exactly what it set out to be—an elegant but unpretentious, comfortable urban nightclub.

Zyng Asian Grill
200 S. First St, San Jose
Mayor Ron Gonzales himself christened the opening of this new Asian grill restaurant recently. Housed in the Twohy building where Casa Castillo used to be, Zyng is the one of the only places downtown where you can swill cold sake at 11:30am. Going with San Jose's plan to outdoor patio-ize downtown, Zyng delivers.

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From the June 22-28, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2005 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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