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June 20-26, 2007

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Nola

There's always a Party Vibe at Nola in Palo Alto.

Silicon Valley Bars & Clubs 2007

Palo Alto


Silicon Valley Bars & Clubs 2007:
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Antonio's Nut House
321 S. California Ave, Palo Alto; 650.321.2550
Probably the most down to earth and casual bar in the otherwise tony digs of Palo Alto, Antonio's Nut House—so called, we assume, because peanuts are served at the bar and you've got to wade through the sea of shells on the floor to get there—has been serving the beer and booze swilling neighborhood regulars for years. With five pool tables and a blessed pinball machine, Antonio's Nut House neighborhood bar is a classic rock, come-as-you-are, decidedly blue-collar haven done up in the most random décor you're likely to find anywhere.

Blue Chalk Cafe
630 Ramona St, Palo Alto; 650.325.1020
Blue Chalk Café, Palo Alto's happening billiards bar, gets packed nightly with Stanford kids playing at being pool sharks or just chilling out in Blue Chalk's comfy lounge. During the day this bilevel establishment serves up generous portions of Tex-Mex grub to satiate your hunger, but food really isn't on people's minds when the crowds start rolling in. A word to the wise: on some nights the Blue Chalk Café has a drink minimum (usually in the $15 range), but that doesn't seem to bother the locals that frequent this Palo Alto restaurant and bar.

Cafe Niebaum-Coppola
473 University Ave, Palo Alto; 650.752.0350
The wine list is extensive at this Palo Alto restaurant and lounge, with liberal selections from the winery of Niebaum-Coppola as you might have guessed. The cafe itself serves a variety of Mediterranean-style dishes in its sumptuous dark wooded space and, as an added bonus, all of the wines can be purchased to go for at-home consumption.

Cibo Bar and Grill
3401 El Camino Real, Palo Alto; 650.493.2411, 800.492.7335
Located inside Palo Alto's Creekside Inn, Cibo Bar and Grill does a fantastic menu of Mediterranean- and California-infused cuisine to satisfy your hunger pangs, and also has an extensive and well-developed drink list to satisfy, well—your other pangs. At Cibo, all of the restaurant's cuisine is available in their chic lounge, which is a true blessing.

Cocktail Lounge at Palo Alto Bowl
4329 El Camino Real, Palo Alto; 650.948.1031
If you've never drunk at a bowling alley bar, then you're certainly missing out on a staple of the American diet. Perhaps you should check out this cultural adventure in the Cocktail Lounge at Palo Alto Bowl where you can get blazingly drunk and are actually encouraged to try to knock things down. Besides the abject retro coolness and the stiff cocktails, there's an arcade here with pool tables and video games if your diversionary tastes don't include bowling, but seriously, they should. Palo Alto Bowl also changes up your normal gut-overhanging, Miller-swilling bowling alley atmosphere by offering theme nights that include DJs and karaoke.

Dan Brown's Lounge and Sports Bar
4141 El Camino Real, Palo Alto; 650.493.9020
A tale of two bars in one, Dan Brown's Lounge and Sports Bar in Palo Alto is also like a modern mullet: a retro styled chill out lounge in the front and a raucously partying sports bar, complete with 10 televisions, in the back. Further amenities in the back sports bar include pool tables, foosball, pinball and air hockey, so diversions are no problem at Brown's Lounge for the die-hard group of local bar regulars and the occasional light smattering of Stanford students.

Empire Grill and Tap Room
651 Emerson St, Palo Alto; 650.321.3030
The Empire Grill and Tap Room restaurant in Palo Alto is continually packed, and with good reason. Their beer selection (on tap, of course) is comprised mainly of regional microbrew favorites with some imports thrown in for flavor, and if your tastes don't run toward beer, Empire's bartenders can fix you up one of the best Bloody Marys around or pour you anything else you could possibly desire. But don't think that this is just a swank Palo Alto local bar—the grill offers reimagined, contemporary pub food and other stylish dishes that the chic clientele downs as fast as the kitchen can pump them out.

Evvia Estiatorio
420 Emerson St, Palo Alto; 650.326.0983
Reminiscent of an outdoor Greek taverna (even though the restaurant is indoors), Evvia in Palo Alto serves California inspired Greek cuisine to chic Silicon Valley socialites who dine in the airy confines or lounge in the sophisticated bar. The wine list at Evvia is incredibly well developed as well, sampling a little bit of everything form around California and the Mediterranean that pairs excellently with their cuisine.

Fanny & Alexander Restaurant
412 Emerson St, Palo Alto; 650.326.7183
The hot spot to hang out at in Palo Alto, Fanny & Alexander takes care of its teeming masses with some nights devoted to DJ dancing while others showcase live music, but the heavy drinks are always flowing here. Also, the excellent cuisine is the ever popular Asian-Californian fusion variety, and the kitchen stays open late so you can sober up a bit before you hoof it home. Even if there was no outside entertainment hosted at "FnA's" (as the locals and nearly everybody else, except possibly their accountants, call it) it's still a must on the bar crawl list because it seems that for some Stanford coeds, black-out-inducing drunkenness is a major at the university—or perhaps that was just our major.

Gordon Biersch
640 Emerson St, Palo Alto; 650.323.7723
The Gordon Biersch in Palo Alto is the local bar and brewery that started it all off for the two enterprising, beer loving owners and is still going extremely strong today. You can come in and sit under the reflective gaze of the huge silver beer tanks that tell you the beer is produced on-site and sample one of their classic, German inspired microbrews or seasonal specialty beers. Also, the Gordon Biersch kitchen still pumps out really good grub, most of which has beer as an ingredient, and they usually serve food until an hour before closing. If you're just rolling through the area, or call the Bay Area your home, you've got to check out this local Palo Alto bar and brewery that made the nation raise a pint and bellow "Prost!"

Hukilau
624 Ramona St, Palo Alto; 650.329.9533
A Hawaiian island oasis right in downtown Palo Alto, Hukilau aims to please ex-island dwellers, or just anyone looking for some liquid escapism from their everyday routine at this tropical local bar. But, it's not just the drinks that transport you to paradise, because the kitchen serves up truly authentic Hawaiian food like spam musubi, the loco moco and ahi poke. Hukilau also sports indoor and outdoor seating and a friendly staff, and the overall atmosphere would lead you to believe that Don Ho is going to start belting out some classic Hawaiian love songs at any moment—well, Don Ho might not show up, but this Palo Alto restaurant and bar does host some live island sounds on the weekends and whenever there's a special occasion.

La Bodeguita Del Medio
463 California Ave, Palo Alto; 650.326.7762
Probably the only place in the Bay Area where you can sip on aged Cuban rum while puffing away on a cigar is La Bodeguita Del Medio in Palo Alto, a Cuban inspired lounge, restaurant and all around hangout spot. The main drink list is, of course, derived from the best of what our little socialist island neighbor to the south has to offer, and their mojitos are some of the best around. Plus, any bar that allows you to smoke imported cigars indoors while you sip on your drink makes it straight to the top of our list in smoker-unfriendly California.

Lavanda Restaurant & Wine Bar
185 University Ave, Palo Alto; 650.321.3514
The upscale older set in Palo Alto wines and dines at Lavanda, a French-Mediterranean bistro style restaurant that boasts over 600 wines (30 of which can be ordered by the glass) for your drinking pleasure, and their tapas menu certainly hits the gastronomic mark. This sophisticated Palo Alto restaurant and lounge is a must for any wine aficionado; you caught that little 600 wines tidbit earlier, right?

Luna Lounge
The Westin, 675 El Camino Real, Palo Alto; 650.321.4422
The perfect place to kick off a classy night out on the town is the Luna Lounge in Palo Alto, where you can sip on some classic martinis by the Westin's heated pool or enjoy the comfortably chic ambiance indoors. The kitchen serves up light Mediterranean-inspired fare, and the Luna Lounge's extensive California wine list features the best of what our viticulturists have to offer.

MacArthur Park 27 University Ave, Palo Alto; 650.321.9990
MacArthur Park has been a Palo Alto bar and restaurant institution for years, serving upscale, insanely generous portions of American cuisine while maintaining its ever-casual charm. Carrying more than 200 California wines and a decent selection of tap microbrews certainly doesn't hurt MacArthur Park's efforts at winning over drinkers and diners alike. Also adding to this already stellar combination of phenomenal food and wine is one of the finest whiskey and scotch selections we have ever seen, inspiring us to become regulars at this excellent Palo Alto bar and restaurant.

Maddalena's Cafe Fino
544 Emerson St, Palo Alto; 650.326.6082
Maddalena's Cafe Fino in Palo Alto provides the more mature set with a place where they can kick back, listen to some cool live jazz stylings and sip on some of the finest martinis we have ever had. This 1920s art deco cafe also has cabaret acts roll through on occasion to tickle the ivories of Maddalena's grand piano. This Palo Alto lounge and live music club is a throwback to a more stylish bygone era and a welcomed drinking diversion from today's clubs whose musical selections usually only span the DJ spectrum.

Miyake
140 University Ave, Palo Alto; 650.323.9449
Miyake is Palo Alto's partying sushi bar where anyone who enjoys those two activities goes to dine on some of the freshest offerings around and down sake bombs till they're falling out of their chairs. It really is a cool sight to see, especially on Friday nights when slick techno beats are matched with a multicolored light show, when everybody—and we do mean everybody—in a restaurant is having a great night out eating and partying, but anyone whose been here knows that's exactly what Miyake's of Palo Alto is known for.

Nola
535 Ramona St, Palo Alto; 650.328.2722
A little more refined than the Bourbon Street juke joints by which it was inspired, Nola restaurant in Palo Alto serves the Stanford masses classic New Orleans grub in a funky setting that makes you want to linger for hours in one of its two lounges or out on the open-air patio, and Nola makes it incredibly easy to do just that. We've actually spent entire days at this local Palo Alto restaurant and bar. Nola's always delivers with its Creole-style grub and dangerous Hurricanes.

Old Pro
2865 El Camino Real, Palo Alto; 650.325.2070
541 Ramona St, Palo Alto; 650.326.1446
Palo Alto's classic sports bar the Old Pro gets packed to capacity whenever there's a game on, but especially when Stanford is playing. Even though the joint is crowded, the feel is totally laid-back and the friendly service is quick at the Old Pro. The two locations differ slightly in clientele and ambiance, with the downtown one (on Ramona Street) being the snazzier of the two, but we prefer the original one because it totally reminds us of a bus depot bar, which you just can't seem to find among the otherwise posh Palo Alto establishments.

Rose and Crown Pub
547 Emerson St, Palo Alto; 650.327.7673
A great British-style pub in downtown Palo Alto, the Rose and Crown Pub relies heavily on its extensive selection of imported beer, sporting about 20 on tap (there are some domestics in there as well, but you can drink those anywhere—come here for the imports) and the scene here is like a beer drenched family gathering—well, one where you actually like your family. For entertainment, the Rose and Crown Pub features standup comedians on Mondays while Sundays are reserved for live jazz acts, but any day or night of the week, you can just kick back in the comfy confines of this Palo Alto local bar, shoot some darts and swill some fine beer with all of your new friends.

Rudy's Pub at Elbe Restaurant
117 University Ave, Palo Alto; 650.321.3319
Rudy's Pub in Palo Alto is a local bar haven for lovers of imported European beer featuring some beers that even our well-traveled liver hasn't sampled. This dark and cozy corner bar also sports DJ dancing on the weekends and, before that fun begins, has an accordion player warming up the crowd, but with a beer selection this good they could be playing Gregorian chant and we'd still booze there. Also, Rudy's Pub has dominoes to occupy your time, a perfect drinking game that not too many local bars have, because after your sixth European beer, with their high alcohol content and all, adding up points in multiples of five gets a wee bit challenging.

Sundance the Steakhouse
1921 El Camino Real, Palo Alto; 650.321.6798
Sundance the Steakhouse's low-key rustic bar in Palo Alto is a great place to start or end an evening out, with a friendly, knowledgeable staff who can also pour a killer martini that goes perfectly with their American steakhouse fare. The beer selection at this local Palo Alto restaurant and bar is slim, but if your gastronomic inclinations lean more toward the red meat variety, you'll always be better off with some of Sundance's fine wines or liquors to wash down the beefy goodness.

Tamarine
546 University Ave, Palo Alto; 650.325.8500
Tamarine, Palo Alto's premier Vietnamese restaurant, is also home to one of the hippest bar scenes downtown. Maybe it's because of their excellent small plate Vietnamese cuisine that can be ordered in the bar, or maybe it's because they're known for their exotic martini menu that tastefully infuses unusual flavors, or perhaps it's continually packed because the walls of this Palo Alto restaurant and lounge are adorned with a rotating array of fascinating works by hip Vietnamese artists, turning Tamarine into a cutting-edge gallery. Whatever the reason, you have to check out Tamarine, you and your date will thank us.

Trader Vic's
4269 El Camino Real, Palo Alto; 650.849.9800
Located in Dinah's Garden Hotel in Palo Alto, Trader Vic's drinks and food instantly transport you to some undiscovered Polynesian island where, legend has it, the founder of this worldwide restaurant and bar chain was inspired—probably by too much liquor served in fresh coconut shells—to bring the South Seas to the masses. If you've ever drunk and dined at Trader Vic's you're probably eternally grateful for whatever his inspiration was, as evidenced by the classy crowds that pack the Palo Alto location of this bar and restaurant chain.

Zibibbo
430 Kipling St, Palo Alto; 650.328.6722
With two bars and some truly inspired Mediterranean style cuisine, Zibibbo restaurant in Palo Alto has made a name for itself as a chic eatery and bar that has a lively energy about it. The main bar is a dark wood and dramatically lighted showpiece, while the outdoor area is like your friend's back porch, but with much better food, drinks and company. Also, happy hour at Zibibbo consists of appetizer selections specially prepared by the chef and expertly paired with selections from their staggering wine menu.


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