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BarFly: An Epic Silicon Valley Pub Crawl to Find VC Funding

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Antonio’s Nut House has a sense of humor and beer to appreciate. Illustration by Jeremiah Harada.

Antonio’s Nut House has a sense of humor and beer to appreciate. Illustration by Jeremiah Harada.

I waited for Mr. Harada in my lair located deep within the old New Almaden mine complex. The Quicksilver mines, as most people know it, arguably produced the region’s first outrageous fortunes (and superfund sites). The collection of San Jose mines was the most profitable outfit to come out of the Gold Rush. No other operation raked in more cash.

Some say there are intergalactic ley-lines that intersect the Bay Area, creating its unparalleled ability to generate economic boom after boom. Some say it’s the weather. Mr. Harada and I believe it’s the bars, especially the dives, that keep places like New York, Tokyo and Paris always trailing behind on those “top cities to …” lists.

Mr. Harada lowered himself into my subterranean abode. I greeted him with a flaccid handshake and a pint of Fernet, as is customary in our secret fraternal organization. We decided that evening/morning/day—it really is hard to tell at the bottom of a mine shaft—that fortune favors the bold and it was time to suckle the teat of the valley’s economic boom: Mr. Harada and I would create a hawt new app.

Now we just needed a small cash injection for development, branding, marketing, a new office building, a few private residences in Woodside and, of course, a monument. We prepared rucksacks, scrambled out of the mine shaft and made our way to Diridon Station. Here we would begin our journey to mecca, or Palo Alto.

We detrained with steadfast confidence and repeated the holy ABCs—“Always Be Closing!” The first stop on our map listed The Rosewood, but the name seemed pretentious and fabricated. It must have been a test. Who would consider such a place to speak seriously about the future? Bah!

Mr. Harada suggested Antonio’s Nut House, and I agreed for reasons I won’t say—but trust that they were more numerous than the fact that the bar was within walking distance.

Antonio’s Nut House
We entered from a side door. A sign reading “Hippies Use Other Door” hinted at the kind of characters running the place. They obviously have an elevated sense of humor.

A gorgeous facility where Stanford grads have adorned the ceiling with grotesque drawings on acoustic panels, Antonio’s is one part dive, one part taqueria. The place was covered in peanut shells and a dusty collection of bras hung above the end of the bar. Now we would only have to wait for the tech bros.

Mr. Harada and I sat down at a table covered with a piece of faux alligator that may have been an unfinished cosplay project. We sipped pints of Ballast Point Sculpin, on tap, and scanned the bar for potential investors. A bookish gentleman swayed at a table next to us. His untucked floral-pattern shirt, frayed khaki shorts and sensibly padded sneakers marked him as a heavy hitter.

I approached and introduced. “Hello, sir.” Before I could finish, the man expelled a burp that shattered my concentration. He was indeed a heavy hitter. I needed fresh air to regroup.

Back outside, Mr. Harada and I agreed to move on. Two multicolored bicycles leaned against a nearby telephone pole. Fortune was smiling upon us. Mr. Harada and I picked the locks and were off, through the charming neighborhoods, and onto the city on the hill: Mountain View!

Mervyn’s Lounge
After a pleasant ride, we realized that Mervyn’s is located in the back of a tea shop that faces the street. Patrons can also head down the alley to the back of the building and enter through the front door, which is the back door.

The bar is small and intimate—a perfect place to venture and capitalize. We ordered bottles of beer since there are none on tap. The padded edge of the bar lets visitors rest their weary elbows, and a couple of extra worn-in spots exposed a layer of vinyl upholstery underneath. Dive bar archeologists live all their lives pining for such a discovery.

The prices were Central Valley low, so we took advantage of the happy hour deals and stole glances to make sure no one was on to us. Back on the bikes, we ventured to Sunnyvale, where we were sure to have more success.

Fibbar MaGees
Murphy Street is a place to relax, enjoy a drink, get noticed and get funded. So we thought.

Fibbar MaGees, an Irish-themed bar built in the ’70s, was packed with techies, faces glowing from their phone screens. Mr. Harada and I ordered a couple of stouts and sat down at a table to survey the scene, but we quickly realized this was not the place. Rather than finding funders on the floor, we had, in fact, stumbled into a wasps’ nest of competition!

We decided to move on before anyone stole our idea.

Murphy’s Law
We found sanctuary across the street at Murphy’s Law, a bar’s bar and unpretentious place to seize the day.

We found a handful of blue-collar fellows enjoying an after-work pint and struck up a hearty conversation about ’90s cinema. At one point, while trying to remember “Bronson Pinchot,” one of us may have attempted to look up the information on our phone. (Mr. Harada and I share a phone and there’s nothing weird about that.) We were politely asked by the barkeep to refrain from using technology to assist in the answer. We were, after all, there to enjoy each other’s company and not to search the internet for obscure facts. He received no argument from us.

After a couple of frosty drafts, we shook hands with the men and petted a Yorkie on the way out. We mounted our bicycles with renewed vigor. Success would be just a short stroll down El Camino, and Mr. Harada and I reveled in the wind in our faces as the sun began to sink.

Halford
As we approached Santa Clara’s Koreatown, Mr. Harada took the lead and signaled me to pull over. An unhealthy stench was emanating from my rucksack.

My heart sank into my wool socks. The app had gone bad over the course of the day and we hadn’t even presented it to anyone. Who would now invest in our balsamic-tarragon infused tako sashimi breaded cutlet served on a bed of gluten-free nasturtium pollen? No one, that’s who.

There we were, our world-saving, game-changing appetizer rotten in my rucksack, our stomachs gurgling for food, the street lights blinking, the roar of cars speeding down the street: the world is too much sometimes. And then we sighted a beacon of hope.

The Halford, potentially named after the lead singer of Judas Priest, is a modern brewpub. A large, rotating selection of craft brews accompanies a California-influenced menu. Traditionalists may balk at the strip mall location, or the well-lit interior, and that’s fine. There are plenty of dim dives and old-world themed bars to satisfy these curmudgeons.

Mr. Harada and I shared an order of shoestring fries that came paired with an excellent spicy orange sauce. The beer was nourishing.

Our app failed to get funded, but it is the journey that matters. Especially if one catches all the happy hour deals.

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