Roy's Guide to Fun in Silicon Valley
7/12/2012 by: Roy Taylor
Silicon Valley is notorious for being "boring". As covered in the previous article, Silicon Valley has a problem with boredom. We hope after this guide, you'll feel different.
One can only imagine the conversation at the family gathering. "So Randi your brother started a social network and is worth a bazillion dollars, so what are YOU going to do?" Poor Randi Zuckerberg. What was she to do? Well making a reality TV series about Silicon Valley probably seemed a good start.
The show is incurring the wrath of the good, the great and the boring in Silicon Valley. According to Kevin Rose (he's a serial entrepreneur and Venture Partner at Google Ventures) in a tweet "reality shows can stay in LA". A little harsh considering what goes on up there. Now at this stage I need to make a confession. A few of my friends in Los Gatos (the beating heart of all that's good in Silicon Valley if you ask me) actually suggested me to go on the show. They put my name to one of those looking for 'talent' for it. The 'scout' never called me, I assume because I am too old and they wanted someone single. A pity because it's taking a very long time to get discovered here in Hollywood.
With all this fuss being made about the TV show I thought I would make up this little guide to where to go. It's for all those poor souls who have to visit for sales and customer meetings, etc. Because believe it or not - there is actually a lot of fun to be had there… if you know where to go.
Let's start at stating what Silicon Valley is because unless you are in a helicopter you won't actually be able to see a 'valley'. Because it is enormous. So much so that when you are in it you cannot see it. As per the map (shown on the right), Silicon Valley starts from Burlingame and ends at Los Gatos. If you have to go or move there - do not stay anywhere north of Palo Alto because you will literally die of boredom. I used to have to visit EA in Redwood Shores and in all my many visits I found ONE good restaurant between Palo Alto and SF. It's called Mistral and has a nice view of the water.
The famous city where Steve Jobs lived and died plays home to numerous small start-ups. Downtown Palo Alto is good. Except for like nearly everywhere in the valley it starts closing at 10pm and is shut down and locked up by midnight. Ugh. OK very best place to eat and drink is Nola. My friend Steve Loynds and I actually saw a girl hoist herself up on to the bar, pull up her top and give tequila shots off her tummy. That's lively. Next door is a good sports bar called The Old Pro (which would mean an aging hooker in England). During a big sports game it can get quite good and the range of beers is good. These two though are it for Palo Alto. There are other bars and places but they are all 'quaint' and built for the locals who go to bed at 10PM and get up at 6AM. So let's move on.
If you have to come here in the evening I have bad news. It has one bar worthy of your attention. That's it. One. But it's good. I once led a conga line out of Mervyn's Lounge and back in again and managed to get a big part of the bar dancing. It was a good night.
Santa Clara. Sunnyvale. Los Altos. Under no circumstances spend an evening here unless you like reading a good book in your room and views of highway 101. Nothing more to say… unless you receive an invitation to a house party in the Los Altos Hills. The people there are among Silicon Valley's very richest. So a house party, if the host is fun, should be a good prospect.
It's a surprise to many to find out how small San Francisco is (population 750K) and how big San José is (population 2M). But that does not mean that San José is fun. It's not. There are some great restaurants and hotels. The bar in the Fairmont reception can be very good. I once saw some NVIDIA engineers dance there in a most entertaining display. But as for bars I only ever found one, that had a crowd out for a craic and that is the Firehouse. Don't linger, close by its get better.
Santana Row e.g. The Row
Now we are talking. Located across the street from the Winchester Mystery House on the map above, Santana Row is a shopping complex with bars and restaurants. It is always lively day and night and very popular. Also although most places do shut early it has an Irish bar, Rosie McCann's that is FUN and stays open late. I have had a great many good nights here. There is a karaoke night, a DJ night and the mix of boys and girls is good. Also in 'The Row' as it's called is Straits and a garden Tequila bar called El Jardin.
Campbell, First Town with a Nightclub South of San Francisco
Ignore Yelps low score. The only town with a club south of SF Campbell has its very own late night place, The Spot. With two floors and plenty of parking this place attracts every person out for fun for a very wide area. So it's packed. If you are expecting something on the level found in SF or LA, forget it. This is a town nightclub but if you are in Silicon Valley - this is a fun place. A little grimy at times but also good on the right night is the Cardiff Lounge and this is also open late. I also like the Irish bar Katie Blooms which has its own DJ. Probably the best surprise is a place that looks boring from the outside but is terrific. Aqui is a Mexican restaurant but it serves 'swirls' and attracts the best kind of party people.
Me with some friends in DoubleD's Bar.
Los Gatos. The Southernmost Town in the Valley keeps the Best to Last
It is famous locally for some of its best bars which have become legends. Starting with Tommy's, a total dive bar for locals. The colorful ones. Yes, it's that kind which can make a place interesting. Start there. Then walk south and stop at DoubleD's. I have lost count of the stories and parties that have taken place there. Then keep walking south and cross the road to CB Hannigans. From the clock with the wrong time to napkins that invite you to share your phone number CB's is wonderful. Ask for Shaun. Then drop into Scottish bar 'The Black Watch' and drink a pint of kamikaze (yes they sell pints). If you are still standing, try to make it into the LGBG (Los Gatos Bar & Grill) which is actually a full on nightclub and very good indeed. Make no mistake LGBG can match anything I have been to anywhere. It has good DJ's, (house music) a great crowd and the people are good-looking. It is Silicon Valley's 'don't miss' fun spot. Next to it is 'Mountain Charlies', a kind of hip hop equivalent for the down'n'dirty people who like that kind of thing.
Finally if you like older people and live music the last bar in the town and the last before the mountains is #1 Broadway. Be warned however. When I went there and started dancing an 1860 put $5 in my back pants pocket.
That's it. I hope this is helpful. By the way an 1860 is a woman who from the rear looks 18 but when she turns around is actually 60 years old. Have fun.
Updates: Following the original draft of the article, I received a few other comments about places so there it is:
Miyake's on Thursday and Friday night early in the Stanford Quarters when they have Sake Bombs and Disco Sushi until fairly late…ps. Oh…also the member's only bar during the 1st and second intermission at a Sharks Game is one heck of a crowd.
pps. Adding the Mountain Winery when one of the acts goes way long and a bunch of people start watching then dancing from the edges with big glasses of XXX in their hands. (The Smokey Robinson concert lasted 4 hours last summer.)
ppps. Still doesn't come close to any decent European City unfortunately…
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