The goal of any good bar crawl should be to enjoy a variety of drinks in a variety of different bars with a variety of people, and make it home safely without needing to actually crawl. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case.
Many good men and women succumb to the toll that a bar crawl invariably demands, assuming the participants are drinking more than Zima or O’Doul’s. (Side note: Never trust a drink with two apostrophes or a “Z”—the latter tends to include the word “zombie,” and, really, who the hell would really like to look or feel like a zombie after a night of drinking?)
You’ll find other lists in this week’s Bars and Clubs issue that could make for a more eclectic bar crawl mix with the right combination of designated driver, light rail, cabs and Caltrain. But the bar crawl diary you’re about to read focuses on themes designed to shock the system, ping-ponging from sports bars and cocktail lounges to dive bars and bars where the women dive down poles for cash. It starts in the heart of Silicon Valley, downtown San Jose, as the San Jose Sharks were on their way to winning the final game of their season.
If there is a better place to pre-game for the Sharks, I don’t know about it. For the first hour before and after every home game at HP Pavilion, young and old fans congregate indoors and on the massive back outdoor patio. On this day, my comrades—a local bar manager, a rent-a-car salesman, an unemployed salesman, a local emcee who sells marijuana to collectives on the side and a green intern—stayed out of the sun and drank a blue elixir called Sharkaritas, which are basically margaritas with curacao. I had hoped to start at Johnny V’s or Freddie J’s, but the consonant brothers didn’t open their doors before 5pm.
Every time I order a Moscow Mule, a refreshing mix of vodka and ginger beer, with a squeeze of lime, I’m reminded of the time I brought my mother to the Hedley and a drunk guy tried to fight me for her. Things looked grim until he and his boys gave up on waiting for me to leave. But not before one of them said to me, “You got lucky tonight,” and then proceeded to trip and nearly fall over a chair. (If you’re reading this, guy, my mom thinks you’re a douchebag.) This time on the back patio, a couple got married as the staff and I gawked from inside the window. It was lovely.
98 S. Almaden Ave., San Jose. Few bars are as lovingly divey as Caravan, with its no-nonsense staff, heavy pours, cheap jukebox and live music. Rounds of Jack Daniels, Guinness and Miller High Life line the bar. Located next to the Greyhound bus station, it’s not unusual to see one or two gentlemen slumped outside on nearby benches. One of the worst Yelp reviews Caravan has received—and they were mostly very positive—was from a lady named Lisa B. “I used to wait outside here in my youth for someone to pick me up,” she wrote. And yet she was somehow more upset they didn’t accept her passport and allow her to relive those memories. Unbelievable. Viva la Caravan!
Myth Taverna and Lounge
A massive day party leaves the outdoor patio filled to the brim. The song “Everyday People” plays on the speakers. Coincidentally, the first CD I ever bought was by Arrested Development. We take shots of Jameson and acknowledge that the ’90s were awesome.
The bouncer tells me that it doesn’t matter if this is a bar crawl for Metro, we’ll have to wait in line like everyone else. There were 10 people in line. There’s no way I was waiting an hour. That’s not an exaggeration. I once waited 45 minutes in line only to find out upon entry that there were six people inside the joint. We look for other options.
The Swinging Hookah
386 S. First St., San Jose. I’ve never been much of a hookah guy, but the flavored tobacco known as Ambrosia—a tasty fruit berry with a hint of lime—gave me a body high I won’t soon forget. They also have the same black leather couch that I bought for my office. My friends told me they are actually faux leather, but I refuse to believe them. Those couches are comfortable, and I love my couch. After the Single Barrel experience, it was nice to be greeted with a smile and a place to sit and relax.
San Jose Bar and Grill
I was told this is a college bar. It took me nearly seven years to graduate from college. Having already put in my time, we settled on one shot of Hornitos tequila for cheap.
I really can’t stop talking about how much I love this bar. Great ambience with the low-lit candles and corkboards blocking out the evening sun. A band played covers of Jay-Z and Kanye’s “Watch the Throne,” as well as Frank Ocean, and it sounded amazing. One of the owners, Paul, had Jameson shots and beers ready almost as soon as we walked in the door. I wish I didn’t have to leave.
Splash Video Dance Bar
Junior the bartender wouldn’t tell me everything that is in the signature cocktail, but it seems to be a mix of grapefruit juice, vodka, cherry and something else. Everyone is amazingly nice, but I won’t source that to some clichŽ about gay bars and straight dudes. Maybe it’s just because Splash is a great place
to dance and drink. And, hands down, there isn’t a better patio in downtown than the third floor overlooking Post Street.
AJ’s Restaurant and Bar
See what I did here? I went from a gay bar to a bar where women dance in bikinis for dollars. See that I didn’t go full nude. See that this mechanism is getting tiresome. My intern has been a trouper this entire time, but now he seems to be a guppy out of water. It’s his first strip club, or maybe “adult bar” is better terminology, since the ladies don’t actually strip. We order beers. Almost to the home stretch, I take the rest of my intern’s singles when he’s not looking and shove them into a dancer’s hands. It’s getting late, and the crawl is coming to a crawl.
We did sports bar. We did cocktail lounge. We did dive bar. We did day party. We did a bar where none shall pass. We did a hookah bar. We did a college bar. We did my favorite bar, which had live music. We did a gay bar. We did an adult bar. Now we do the only acceptable thing: karaoke. Red Stag is one of the few places where you can get your fix every night of the week. I sign in for my go-to song, Ray Charles’ “I Got a Woman,” and what do you know—my woman just walked into the place. She looks uneasy, as if she expects the real tab to be written later that night all over the bathroom floor and sink.
I throw back what’s left of a Rolling Rock and tell her I love her. I sing. The place goes nuts. At least I’m pretty sure that’s how it went down. No matter. We live to karaoke another day. Everyone says their goodbyes and crawls into separate cabs. I suppose that last act was unavoidable, but there’s no shame.
I never drank an O’Doul’s, and it was only in the morning that I hit real zombie mode. Viva la bar crawl!