As Tommy, one of Howl at the Moon’s piano players, explains on the club’s website, “Every night…we try and throw a party, regardless of whether it’s a Tuesday night or a Saturday night.” The bar’s trademark dueling pianos serve as the epicenter of these nightly celebrations; patrons submit their favorite songs on slips of paper for the pianists and backing musicians to recreate. If the website’s playlist is any indication, the bands can handle popular songs from all genres and eras, from Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” to Kanye West’s “All of the Lights.” The performances are spirited: colorful lights splash upon a stage where servers, guests, and chairs that have somehow developed mobility all dance along to the music.
Fueling the celebration is the bar’s indulgent selection of drinks. Servers stand over patrons to plunge jello injectors into their mouths, and revelers grab colorful straws to help drain 86-ounce booze buckets filled with sangria or other fruity libations. Pomegranate liqueur and honey-infused whiskey sweeten specialty cocktails, and local beers add depth to coolers stocked with Stella Artois and Dos Equis.
At Jillian's, a nightclub ambiance pairs with modern décor and ample entertainment to host parties, catching the eye of Justin Bieber, who filmed the music video for Baby inside the colorful, 10-lane alley. An onsite restaurant and full bar sates between-set hunger pains with a menu of American eats such as hot wings, burgers, and pizzas. On Fridays and Saturdays, Jillian's hosts club nights, during which a dance floor pumps music to let patrons perfect their strike-celebration dances, Thursdays host karaoke for amateurs to take the stage and croon their favorite tunes. Between songs or bowling frames, four billiard tables draw pool sharks, and an arcade of electronic games gets virtual adrenaline pumping. For birthday parties or interventions with a friend who refuses to give up granny-style bowling, a private suite hosts up to 50 people who can play Wii games on a giant projector screen.
Since 1992, California Canteen has bridged the culinary and cultural gap between Californians and Francophiles with its tasty twist on French bistro Mediterranean fare. French favorites populate the menu. Sample the nicoise salad with tuna steak ($14), beef bourguignon ($17.50), or lamb shank osso bucco ($18.25). Meanwhile, enterprising diners and triumvirates can customize comestibles in the three-course dinner ($20.50 4 p.m.–7 p.m., Sunday-Thursday). Alternately, the lunch menu spins a lighter, two-course remix of the prix fixe ($12.95).
At Timmy Nolan's Tavern & Grill, chefs whip up a menu of Irish-inspired fare amid exposed brick walls, a wooden bar, 11 flat-screen TVs, and private booths. Beer flights allow sippers to sample four draught barley pops from a roster of 22, including Guinness Stout, Lost Coast Downtown Brown, and Harp Lager. Each selection comes in a 5-ounce glass, great for whetting the taste buds and convincing friends that they've become giants. While patrons are sipping, the cultural dichotomy of irish nachos fills stomachs with quartered and deep-fried potatoes that wear a sombrero of cheese, irish stew, peppers, onions, and bacon. Spicy buffalo wings grace tongues with homemade blue-cheese dressing, and traditional beans on buttered toast pair with steak fries, malt vinegar, and a mouthful of James Joyce quotes.
English pubs were designed to be a neighborhood meeting spot, a tradition that the The Fox And Hounds holds dear. The clientele is a mix of British ex-pats, young locals, and the out of town visitor who drop in for steaming plates of favorites such as fish and chips, steak and ale pie, and bangers and mash served with the potent Coleman's mustard. And to further the community feeling, the pub hosts a nightly roster of events that bring neighbors together. Guests can throw darts as they sip on imported beer, or catch the day's English or American games on the restaurant's 11 HDTVs. Twice a week they can test their knowledge with a pub quiz or by guessing the bartender's birth weight. Stop in on the weekends for live music or lounge on the patio.
Sardo's pacifies yelping stomachs with a menu of delectably pubbish fare while fostering intradiner friendliness with a suite of entertaining distractions. Guests can feel free to feast eyes on sports-related imagery projected on one of seven large-screen LCD TVs, or donate their pipes to the restaurant’s award-winning karaoke. The appetizer platter, like the feel-good final scenes of cafeteria coming-of-age films, lets its popular chicken tenders go to prom with nerdy yet attractive mozzarella sticks and onion rings ($8). Meanwhile, the lunch menu features a hearty sandwich list ($5.25–$8) and providential pasta possibilities, such as the penne pomodoro, featuring penne rigate tossed with fresh garlic, basil, and extra-virgin olive oil ($6.25). Nocturnal nibblers can nosh nighttime-only entrees, such as fried chicken ($9) and sirloin steak ($14), as well as libations from the ornate, amply stocked bar.