Best Bars in Silicon Valley
Atlas Tap Room. This intimate spot on Mission Street, open Monday to Friday, may not seem like a traditional sports bar. But the beer- and wine-only spot with over-the-bar TVs streams every weekday game. Choose how you imbibe from the daily changing chalk-written menu listing options by the glass, bottle, or carafe. Sip Italian Pinot Grigio or Belgium Strong Ale before trying to score one of the limited tables to test their gourmet bar bites, like dill-topped devil eggs with bacon and chives. 606 Mission St.; 415/872-9278.
Benjamin Cooper. The Union Square bar is stirring up quite the mix-tery. Dynamic duo Brian Felley and Mo Hodges of Big are back together, continuing to craft made-to-order cocktails from local and seasonal ingredients. This venture is a tribute to the enigmatic and larger-than-life Benjamin Cooper. Read about him over a spicy Salt & Smoke with salted orange-chili oil or the coffee-laced Swarthy Gentleman before toasting him and his legacy. 398 Geary St; benjamincoopersf.com.
Harper & Rye. Blood may be thicker than water, but what about cocktails? The classy Nob Hill establishment seems to ask that question from behind its rustic wood walls. The two-story, loft-style bar marries its love of family with its love of really good drinks, naming everything, including the bar itself, after a family member or friend. Pucker-worthy Tom & Diane made with local gin and lemon gets top billing along with The Great Aunt Dixie, a shandy composed of local honey, saison, and Americano apertivo. 1695 Polk St.; harperandrye.com.
Brewcade. San Francisco’s first drink-and-game bar boasts a rotating roster of 21 retro arcade games and 25 craft beers. Find circa-’80s classics like PacMan or rock icon Kiss-themed pinball to go with your Berkeley Shoreline IPA. If analog games are more your speed, there is a healthy selection, like Uno and Fighting Robots, that you can bring right to your table, along with a filling barrel-aged stout. 2200 Market St; brewcadesf.com.
Barrelhouse. South of SFO, the Peninsula town of Burlingame is cultivating a name for itself. Helping it do so is cozy Barrelhouse, a hip bar in the thick of downtown. Triads of Edison bulbs cast amber light off the in-laid penny bar, while across the way, a smattering of tall tables hug the wood-lined wall for guests who want more intimacy. Either seating situation offers full menu service—including the top-shelf flights featuring Highland Park Scotch aged 12, 15, and 18 years—and views of the flat screens for game time. 305 California Dr.; barrelhouseburlingame.com.
Jack Rose Libation House. Los Gatos lets its patrons channel their inner John Steinbeck at Jack Rose Libation House, named after the Salinas-raised author’s drink of choice. Packed bookshelves circle overstuffed leather seats giving the large space a cozy, living room feel. The charm goes beyond décor, with an impressive cocktail list combining handmade syrups and rare spirits. The punny Figtitous Manhattan is hand shaken with house made fig jam, whereas the ever-popular House Gin and Tonic is perfectly mixed year-round. 18840 Saratoga Los Gatos Rd.; jackrosebar.com.
Orchard City Kitchen. Michelin-starred chef Jeffrey Stout placed Orchard City Kitchen’s ingredient-driven menu on the map. However, good food is not the only impressive thing about the Campbell restaurant. Bar director Perry Hewitt has compiled a drink list with the same care and dedication expected of O.C.K. Inventions like chai-spiced tequila in The Heartbreak Kid, or the exotic Diamond Cutter with saffron, cardamom, quince, and gin have turned the brushed-metal bar into the most coveted place in the house. 1875 S. Bascom Ave.; orchardcitykitchen.com.
Paper Plane. Flying high is San Jose’s Paper Plane in the up-and-coming SoFA district. The illuminated bar is stacked high and wide with hundreds of liquor bottles. But the exposed brick wall of booze is only the beginning of this spacious bar’s offerings—three-month aged batches of cocktails in barrels, seasonal alcoholic punches in draught kegs, as well as a small selection of bottled beers. Acknowledging their overwhelming menu, Planes provides a graph detailing the drinkability of each beverage, ranging from easy sipping to bold and adventurous. 72 S. 1st St; paperplanesj.com.
Haberdasher. The snaking lines into downtown San Jose’s Singlebarrel are a thing of the past. But the vintage basement dwelling and carefully selected drinks are still intact with this newer venture by same owner Cache Bouren. The spot has kept the speakeasy vibe of its predecessor, but ditched the pretense and added a thoughtful menu focusing on fresh-made and well-balanced cocktails. If you crave more individualized attention, there is a Made-To-Measure option where bartenders will craft a drink specific to your unique tastes. 43 West San Salvador; haberdashersj.com.
Seabright Brewery. There are no frills in these swills. The easy-going beach brewery in Santa Cruz believes in only the basics—water, malt, yeast, and hops—when making their flavorful ales, brewed on the premises. The eponymous Amber is a seriously hoppy red while the fan favorite Pelican Pale offers a smoother, more balanced note. Both finish strong with the bar’s unpretentious selection of pub grub, like spicy buffalo wings with tangy blue cheese dip. 519 Seabright Ave.; seabrightbrewery.com.