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Barfly: Bluz By-You Brings Bayou Flavor to Silicon Valley

In Culture, Music

It was a dark and stormy night. The road, slick with rain, reflected back the light from my headlights as I traveled down a lonely stretch of Coleman Avenue. It was the perfect night to stay home, yet there I was, driving to Bluz By-You, eager to escape the dreary Santa Clara weather with a taste of New Orleans.

The restaurant was easy to find: a sign towers over the building, proclaiming “Bluz By-You’ in large purple letters next to the silhouette of a saxophone player. The place occupies a squat wood-and-brick building with steeply sloped roof, eaves projecting far over the sidewalk; it looks like a shack one might find in the middle of the bayou. Once I stepped through the wooden door, however, I was whisked from the swamp and thrown into the middle of a different world—a romanticized nighttime street cafe in the French Quarter with lavender walls surrounding an expansive dining area. The walls, with their uniform lavender color and decals—a yellow crescent moon and glowing street lamps—give the illusion of a twilight sky. The vines hanging from the ceiling, though fake, seemed a natural touch to complete the illusion.

As I moved through the restaurant, I quickly forgot the horrible weather outside, because Bluz By-You is a warm and inviting place: the hustle and bustle of the restaurant, from the blues music playing over the sound system to the chatter of the patrons, drowned out the patter of the rain, while the heat from the fire roaring in the brick fireplace warmed my cold, wet clothes. Though the restaurant was filled to near capacity, the staff was attentive.

I pored over the menu—pages of salads, sandwiches and entrees, all with a Cajun or Creole twist. I settled on the hot link po’ boy, a quintessential Louisiana dish, with Cajun-style fries. To drink, I had a Abita, Bluz’s flagship draft brew. As I ate, I watched the crowd—predominately older men and women out for dinner, drinks and music with their significant others. The club’s primary attraction is its live music: blues, jazz and Zydeco bands Tuesday through Saturday with no cover charge. When the band began its main act, conversation became impossible. The guitar riffs and vocals were deafening even in the very back of the restaurant.

The stage was alive. In the rear, a drummer pounded a solid beat while a bassist strummed in the corner, eyes closed and rocking his head. In the front three saxophonists and a trumpeter crowded two microphones, arching their backs and blasting out their notes, while the blues guitarist and singer, the frontman, stole the show with his riffs and improvised solos. The crowd waved their hands and erupted into applause and whistles at the end of every song. As the show wrapped up, I left slightly deaf in my right ear and determined to return.

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