Mr. Harada and I have been exploring watering holes in the South Bay and beyond for a long while now. It’s been just over a decade since our first merry toast, and we’ve been going strong ever since. As the years pass, we’ve become wiser, plumper and our tastes have developed.
Certain prohibitionists, pragmatists and/or doctors would argue that we search for more complex flavor profiles because years of drinking alcohol have stripped our sensitive taste buds down into taste-stumps, but those people are wrong. You see, the barfly’s journey is very much like that of a philosopher, and our taste buds have developed like the minds of Plato, Machiavelli and Tupac.
Keeping in line with our refined tastes, we recently visited a drinking establishment befitting our elevated standing. The Hedley Club at the Hotel De Anza is as cultured as it gets, and I’m not just talking about San Jose; The Hedley is a world-class joint. The De Anza opened its doors at the height of the Great Depression, in 1931. It was built by Carl Swenson, and rebuilt by his son Barry nearly 60 years later. The hotel opened during Prohibition, so it probably didn’t include The Hedley Club from the start, but I have a feeling the place was nonetheless as wet as a catfish during the rainy season.
Today, it’s a dimly lit oasis at the end of a luxurious hotel lobby. It has a Masonic spirit. It’s a place that the Scottish Rite members would find familiar. The bar is tucked against the port-side wall, and it features a selection of fine booze. Across the room is a stage, which usually features live jazz, which never gets any “boos.”
On the night that Mr. Harada and I visited, we started with Templeton Rye. It seems that this particular whiskey is poised to take over the market. Even though it’s been around since Al Capone made a name for himself, Templeton Rye is recently on everyone’s mind and in everyone’s gullet. I’m not sure if the stuff made it out this far West during the dry years, but I’m glad it’s being shipped today.
From there we did the responsible thing and sampled a variety of the Boulevard Smokestack Series beers. You know the old saying, “beer after liquor will make you stronger and quicker.” Well, if you haven’t heard that one before, it’s probably because I just made it up. It’s the truth, though, or at least it seems like it. The Smokestack Series features very bold brews. We enjoyed The Sixth Glass, a Belgian strong dark ale, and settled comfortably into the glow slowly pouring from the bar in a room otherwise locked into dusk.
The room began to fill with hotel guests and locals ready for a comfortable night out. In no time we had an accomplice who pulled up a seat and engaged us in jovial conversation about music and guitars (two of my favorite topics). A jazz band started up and when we turned around to watch, nearly every seat in the room was occupied by guests that looked like they knew their way around Monte Carlo and Hong Kong.
The Hedley is a place where you want to wear a suit and tie, even if you came in wearing jeans. It’s a very California type of place. It makes no apologies for its refined atmosphere, and it doesn’t care to judge, as long as you’re willing to have a good time.
Where should the Barfly go next? Leave your suggestions in the comments section.