SP2 Communal Bar and Lounge | Courtesy of SP2 Communal Bar and Lounge
A night at the bars in San Jose means you’re going to be downtown around 1st and San Pedro Streets. The area has an eclectic selection of bars, and you’ll surely find one that fits the type of environment you’re seeking. Here’s a list of the 10 best bars in downtown San Jose.
55 South Courtesy of Jennifer Francisco
Bar, Cocktail Bar, American, Cocktails, Wine, Beer, $$$
There are plenty of leather benches for big groups and stools around 55 South’s long, L-shaped bar area. Because this place is on the corner of 1st and Post Streets, there is a lot of space so that you don’t have elbow too many people out of your way to order a signature drink like the Moscow Mule or Old Fashioned. The windows are covered, and the entire place is kept dimly lit, so the mood is intimate. Prepare for a packed house at 55 South on most Friday and Saturday nights.
One of the new kids on the block, Paper Plane has made a name for itself since it opened in 2014. Local twenty-somethings consider it a favorite spot for craft cocktails. Make your way to the front of the crowd and find a mixologist who can suggest something new. There isn’t a lot of seating, but Paper Plane has a lot of standing room, and it’s a fun place to grab a drink and mingle.
Feeling gutsy? 7 Bamboo is the place for karaoke lovers to take to the stage — usually after downing a shot of liquid courage. The lighting is dark, drawing eyes to the lit stage. Sign yourself up and wait for your name to be called, but be prepared to stay for up to an hour, as the sign-up sheet becomes more popular as the brave get blurry-eyed.
Bar, Cocktail Bar, Cocktails, Beer, Wine, Pub Grub, American, $$$
P2 Communal Bar and Lounge | Courtesy of SP2 Communal Bar and Lounge
Nomikai is known for flavorful food and cocktails. The ‘Mugi Mule’ is a popular drink to pair with the signature flatbread pizza. Nomikai offers Whiskey Wednesdays, which means special prices on whiskey. It also serves punch bowls, but only on Thursdays. Friends that want to catch up during happy hour from 5:30-8:30 pm will get a more laid-back experience, but Friday and Saturday nights are for live music.
Bar, Restaurant, American, Beer, Wine, Cocktails, Pub Grub, Vegetarian, $$$
This modern venue strikes an impressive balance between intimate and spacious. The first thing you’ll notice is the heated outdoor lounge that faces the San Pedro Market Square. Expect to sink into relaxation on one of the soft couches — a craft cocktail in hand, of course. For those who prefer indoor dining and a more traditional bar experience, there are large, communal tables that accommodate groups of all sizes. Situate yourself anywhere at SP2, and you’re bound to strike up a conversation.
Bar, Beer, Wine, Cocktails, Pub Grub, American, $$$
The Old Wagon Saloon and Grill | Courtesy of Jennifer Francisco
There is no cover charge to enter Temple Bar and Lounge, despite this venue’s club-like vibe. The dress code ranges from casual to dressy, but think of the packed dance floor before you decide to wear too many layers. For a lively crowd, come at around 11 pm. Temple isn’t the place to catch up over cocktails, so don’t expect to sit down. It’s a place to be on your feet with a group of friends.
Whether you’re a college student or you just feel like reliving your beer pong days, then Old Wagon is the place to do so while you chug from one of the over-sized mugs. TheOld Wagon’s beer garden fills up pretty quickly on the weekends, but come Sunday through Wednesday, and you’ll be able to find a seat. Happy hour is everyday from 3pm to 6pm. Head to the fire pits to cozy up next to the heat, especially if you’re coming from a Sharks game.
Original Gravity takes beer seriously. Customers can choose from 35 rotating taps of craft beers that are carefully chosen. Sausages, poutine, and duck fat fries are the highlights of the menu, but there are vegan options as well. Make sure to ask what exotic sausage is available if you feel like trying something out of the ordinary; otherwise, you can’t go wrong with any of the gourmet sausages.
Bars don’t always have to mean beers.Vino Vino is the place to go when the majority of your group feels like indulging in reds and whites. Not sure what kind of wine suits your fancy? Ask your server for a few samples before committing to one. The inside has a cozy ambiance, and the inviting wooden decor on the outdoor patio will actually have you considering braving the cold, Bay Area weather just to sit under the stars. It’s perfect for a laid-back outing with friends over a cheese and meat platter.
Firehouse No. 1 delivers quality food along the lines of bone marrow and pork belly, so count on it being packed by ravenous foodies. It’s also known for the stoplight drinks — yes, red, yellow, and green. The space between the bar stools and the walkway is narrow, so try to grab a seat instead of standing.