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Top 10: Palo Alto Area Bars

So it’s Wednesday night, your readings are nowhere near done and your roommate’s lover is over for the night (awkward). You desperately need a Hump Day drink. Where do you go? Worry not — The Weekender’s got you covered.

10. The Old Pro:

The Lowdown: Not your typical sports bar, The Old Pro features a small but mind-bending bar menu — including wines on tap, kept fresh in their barrels with nitrogen.

The Tipple of Choice: Strange though it may sound, the 21st Amendment Hell or High Watermelon Wheat is a crisp, dry ale with a summery tinge of fresh watermelon flavor in each sip.

Stanford Daily File Photo

Renjie Wong provides the inside scoop on some of the area’s best places to whet your whistle. (Stanford Daily File Photo)

The Insider Tip: There’s a mechanical bull. We’d, you know, do the whole caveat emptor thing, but ah well. What’s a college night out without a cricked neck?

9. Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant:

The Lowdown: Chains may be mainstream, but chains are reliable — like the original branch of Gordon Biersch in Palo Alto, with its reasonably priced range of craft beers.

The Tipple of Choice: The Hefeweizen, a golden brew with strangely comforting notes of banana and clove.

The Insider Tip: Show up for happy hour — all day on game days — and proceed to slide those kobe beef sliders down your throat. You’ll thank us.

8.Café Renzo:

The Lowdown: An old school, oak-paneled bar set in an Italian restaurant, with an expansive Italian wine list and an innovative cocktail menu.

The Tipple of Choice: The Hendrick’s Fizz — Café Renzo’s rendition of the classic gin fizz — combines the floral depth of the Scottish gin with a citrusy crispness of lime.

The Insider Tip: Sit at the bar and ask for a cucumber ribbon to go with that Hendrick’s Fizz.

7. The Rose and Crown:

The Lowdown: This olde English pubbe is as tacky as they come, but between all those bangers and mash, you’ll find a heartily rotated list of international beers. How terribly spiffing!

 The Tipple of ChoiceOld Speckled Hen, the most English of English ales, is a beautifully creamy beer that’s smoother than any pick-up line you’ve ever tried.

The Insider Tip: Three-dollar Tuesday specials, a.k.a. how to muster up enough courage to ask for an extension on that damn reflection paper.

6. Vino Locale:

The Lowdown: Nestled in a deliciously rambling Victorian mansion, this wine bistro’s open secret is not so much its sun-drenched secret garden, but its brilliant Californian wine list.

The Tipple of Choice: The soft, cosseting floral bouquet of Johannisberg Riesling ’10 from Mann Vineyards (down the road in Santa Clara Valley) complements the ambience perfectly.

The Insider Tip: Can’t decide your poison of the day? The excellently curated wine flights feature tasting portions of four Californian vinos.

5.  Antonio’s Nut House:

The Lowdown: Among the diviest of dive bars the world has ever seen, the California Ave. watering hole manages to toe the kitsch line with a truly fail-proof array of our favorite boozes.

The Tipple of Choice: The rarely seen Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA packs a breathtakingly intense punch for hop lovers out there.

The Insider Tip: The ’70s arcade machines may be fun and all, but pay the mechanical gorilla a visit for a really nutty treat (peanut allergy sufferers might want to stay away).

4. The Bar at Il Fornaio:

The Lowdown: Possibly the best Happy Hour at possibly the best Italian restaurant in Palo Alto.

The Tipple of Choice: The cucumber martini is everything it should be: sharp, ice cold and providing just the perfect semblance of a healthy drink. Shhh, drink up.

The Insider Tip: Head from the bar to the adjoining restaurant, because nothing says classy like pre-gaming dinner with a glass of happy hour Trebbiano.

3. Gravity Bistro and Wine Bar:

The Lowdown: One of the few places in the area to pour up some serious cocktails, this joint is at once sophisticated and unpretentious.

The Tipple of Choice: The deceptively smooth Southern Ice Tea blends a smoky brew of black iced tea, mint, sugar and lemon that take the edge off the spirits (and your impending deadline).

The Insider Tip: Swing by at happy hour — or  les temps joyeux, as it is called here — and load up on both great drinks and truffle matchstick fries.

2. Joya Restaurant & Lounge:

The Lowdown: A sparkling jewel in the crown of Palo Alto’s dining strip, this University Ave. establishment marries swanky tapas lounge with classic Southern European libations.

The Tipple of Choice: Head straight for the Red Pineapple Sangria, a house-made concoction with fresh seasonal fruits and velvety lambrusco wine

The Insider Tip: For the perfect accompaniment to your  licor, order the surprisingly good-value Artisan Cheese Plate, which features such flavors as manchego, urgelia and black truffle honey.

1. The Dutch Goose

The Lowdown: Less college dive bar than treasured neighborhood gem, The Dutch Goose is the legendary golden egg of Menlo Park, serving up 33 beers and as many types of grub.

The Tipple of Choice: Crispin, a wonderfully refreshing Californian apple cider, pairs so well with the deviled eggs that you’d be hard boiled to not be blown away.

The Insider Tip: Make a beeline for The Duck Blind, the outdoor heated patio that transforms into a magical garden party by night: it is packed to the brim even in the frigid midwinter (the Bay Area version anyway). Me goose-ta.