Friday, August 31, 2018

Silicon Valley After Dark & Tribute to Harry's Hofbrau - 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:

Just lost - The best destination for hearty late night food:

Harry's Hofbrau on Saratoga Avenue in San Jose:

Harry's lost their lease on January 8, 2019. We have lost a community gathering spot in Silicon Valley which hosted meetings for many employee and nonprofit groups at no cost, provided attendees purchased a meal. You just don't see that type of generosity and community spirit at other venues here in the Valley.

When the sudden news was posted about Harry's lease and the sudden closing, lines formed around the building to have one last meal at this wonderful establishment soon to be lost to developers and more bland multistory housing cubicles.

The article below has been edited to become a tribute to Harry's Hofbrau, with thanks to the owners and staff for their generosity to many of us over the years.

At Harry's, which was 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, we enjoyed 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 seemed 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 did it. Seriously.)

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

Truckers loved Harry's so many semi's were parked along the curb while their drivers refueled inside this cherished and iconic, now lost San Jose establishment. Likewise, some owners of Silicon Valley fine dining establishments could be found eating a huge hot turkey dinner at Harry's. (No, I will not name names. They know who they are.) This place was just that good. If you grew up in the U.S. or landed here at some point and missed large family meals with kith and kin, this was the place to go. Harry's was open on many holidays and children were always welcomed, making it a mecca for both singles and families, plus those who wanted to eat a great meal while watching sports in the huge bar area.

For vegetarians, there was a heaped dinner plate called a Super Salad for around $10 with tax, which included 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 loved 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 would have been your personal oasis. And it seemed safe and family-friendly. (On a tired night a few months ago 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, folks would arrive every Wednesday after 7 p.m. (yet before 8:30 p.m.), then get in line for their meal. They heard 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 and still perform at SF Bay Area venues and private parties to raise money for charitable causes. They provided a large tip jar on a music stand at Harry's, for contributions to those charitable causes, where they also placed booklets of song lyrics so attendees could sing along. Did I say the PBB are great people? You can bet your train whistle they are, and they deliver a great time for all ages.

There are two remaining Harry's Hofbrau locations operating near Silicon Valley:
Harry's Hofbrau: 1909 El Camino Real, Redwood City
Harry's Hofbrau: 14900 East 14th Street, San Leandro

For a high-quality, affordable, plentiful meal and a warm, classic, family pub atmosphere, hat's off to the owner's and staff of Harry's Hofbrau, in all of their locations.

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