Friday, August 31, 2018

Silicon Valley After Dark - Best places to Shop and Dine

Tired of traffic, jammed freeways and crowded parking lots during commute hours?

Let me share some tips on where to shop, dine and enjoy Silicon Valley after dark, long after the commute traffic has subsided.

Silicon Valley at Night - Photo by Kidder Mathews
(If you are interested on taking off weight due to indulging in the many ubiquitous yet delicious ethnic, pizza, hamburger and BBQ spots in the Valley for lunch, after sitting at a desk all afternoon, shopping after dark gets you off the sofa and on your feet, burning calories while walking and enjoying the relative quiet of night time in the Valley.)

I've chosen these spots not only for their value and late hours, but because they can be reached by multiple side roads from many Silicon Valley cities.They are accessible for bike and public transportation riders, as well as drivers.

Okay, since I mentioned food, let's start there.

If you are like me and have already lost the 40 lbs. needed to get your BMI back in the safe zone (since becoming taller was not an option), here are some ideas on where to find some of the best late night hearty (or healthy) meals and drinks, at a reasonable cost and in family and singles-friendly venues:

Best destination for hearty late night food:

Harry's Hofbrau on Saratoga Avenue in San Jose:
At Harry's, which is essentially a huge British Pub with a long bar, well drinks, wines and multiple beers on tap serving guests seated in large sectioned dining areas, you can enjoy everything from a "real" home-style hot turkey dinner overflowing with meat, gravy, mashed potatoes, cooked veggies and stuffing for about $12, a turkey enchilada dinner (with what seems like 8 oz. of shredded turkey thigh meat) plus beans and rice, also around $12, plus a host of other hot entrees with the same modest prices. (I don't know how they do it. Seriously.)

Harry's Hofbrau - Bar area - San Jose
The portions are huge, the staff is friendly and the food is consistently excellent. (The portions are so massive, staff are waiting at the cashier desk to help you carry your laden tray and large-sized drink, which is the only size they sell, to your table.)

Truckers love Harry's, so you will see many semi's parked along the curb while their drivers refuel inside this cherished San Jose iconic establishment. Likewise, you may see some owners of Silicon Valley fine dining establishments eating a huge hot turkey dinner at Harry's. (No, I will not name names. They know who they are.) This place is just that good. If you grew up in the U.S. or landed here at some point and miss large family meals with kith and kin, this is the place to go. Harry's is open on many holidays and children are always welcomed.

For vegetarians, there is a heaped dinner plate called a Super Salad for around $10 with tax, which includes five choices from the many mixed vegetable salads, fruits and greens offered at Harry's salad bar.

Harry's Salad Bar - Just a few of the many, many choices

If you love roast turkey legs or turkey wings, prime rib, corned beef, bratwurst, old-style spaghetti and meatballs, spareribs, lasagna, various entree specials and a host of other hearty American and ethnic foods, plus huge slices of cakes, pies, puddings and ice creams in a friendly neighborhood pub atmosphere, this may be your personal oasis. And it seems safe and family-friendly. (On a tired night recently I left my mobile device at my table, as I went to find a to-go container. When I got back to my table after a lengthy chat with a few folks in the dining area, my device was still there, near my half-eaten entree.)

The Peninsula Banjo Band

For the true Harry's experience, arrive every Wednesday after 7 p.m. (yet before 8:30 p.m.), then get in line for your meal. You will hear the happy, traditional standards and dixieland sounds of the Peninsula Banjo Band during their free, weekly 90-minute practice session in the rear of Harry's large bar area. This large group of about 20 musicians began as the Cupertino Banjo Band in 1963. They perform at SF Bay Area venues and private parties to raise money for charitable causes, so make sure to leave a large tip in the jar on their stand, where they also place booklets of song lyrics which you can borrow so you can sing along. Did I say the PBB are great people? You can bet your train whistle they deliver a great time for all ages.

Photo by Don Abel, SBTJS - Charleston Parasol Strut

If you enjoyed the traditional jazz and dixieland music you heard at Harry's, you may want to to know that some of the Peninsula Banjo Band musicians are among the fabulous intermission "Jammers" who play between sets of big-name groups, like Don Neely's Rhythm Aces, Clint Baker and Friends, Bob Shultz and Pat Yankee, plus many other stellar Bay Area traditional and dixieland jazz bands, at the monthly South Bay Traditional Jazz Society historic dance and music parties. These monthly dances take place at the Elks Lodge in Sunnyvale, where, for only $10, you can listen, drink, eat and practice your Balboa, Charleston and Lindy moves on a huge dance floor for four hours, on the fourth Sunday of every month from 1 to 5 p.m. A full bar and inexpensive foods are available, all provided by Elks Lodge volunteers.

Best late night food shopping and contemporary lounge for coffees, deserts, beer and wine on tap, plus farm to table food--oh, and you can do your grocery shopping there daily until 10 p.m.:

Whole Foods (and the Whole Foods Hot Bar and Tap Room) Santa Clara:
The dessert and hot bar buffet at this classy Whole Foods location is legendary, with ethnic, vegetarian and meat entrees, plus salmon, soups, many salads and hot side dishes, seemingly a cut above other Valley Whole Foods locations. The store and parking area is large and easily accessible off Scott Blvd. from Central Expressway, Hwy 101, Bowers and San Thomas Expressway, on Augustine Drive. Here are some photos from Yelp! reviewers:

Santa Clara Whole Foods Tap Room photo by Tiffany S.on Yelp!
Santa Clara Whole Foods Tap Room menu bites and flights, photo by J.B. on Yelp!

Need to buy some practical items during your Silicon Valley, night-hawk adventures?

Best late night general shopping with coffee or tea breaks: My vote is the Target store in Sunnyvale on West McKinley Avenue. During my year of robust weight loss efforts I could be found here at night pushing a cart filled with heavy products (think gallons of water) around the outer perimeter of the store's interior, after dinner. (Hey, it's cheaper than a gym membership and I did actually buy a few things on each visit, just not chocolate. Rich, creamy, Guittard Organic 72% Semisweet Baking Chocolate is sold at Target. Don't get me started.)

The Starbucks in this Target location has been recently remodeled on the large, 2nd floor mezzanine, providing a range of coffees, teas and blended fare, with nuts, protein bars, cakes, cookies and a few sandwiches, in a generous and comfortable lounge-like atmosphere with large ceiling to floor windows. You may automatically exhale and unwind, just by entering this lovely spot. Chamomile tea optional.

Yelp! Photo by RJ.S. of the new Starbucks lounge area at Target in Sunnyvale

You can shop at this Target location until 11:59 p.m., every day of the week, however, the Starbucks closes at 9 p.m. Be warned, this Starbucks does not make decaf coffee in the afternoons or evenings, however they may offer to make you a decaf Americano, if you really need your beauty sleep.

Best late night place to go when something breaks and you want expert advice, like, "What's a sodium vapor light?" or "What's a flapper valve?"

Lowe's Home Improvement on East Arques Avenue in Sunnyvale
Best place to enjoy the smell of fresh cut lumber, to pretend you are in the redwoods and to enjoy all things home and garden-related, while walking around this huge store being schooled in home and yard maintenance topics. Their garden area is also open until closing at 10 p.m., which is a real treat.

While visiting this particular Lowe's, you can also view the new, circular, glass-walled Apple Central and Wolfe Campus across the street on Arques, which is beautiful when lit up at night.

Apple's new Central and Wolfe Campus in Sunnyvale
Happy moonlit trails,
The Silicon Valley Librarian