Food & Drink

The best bar near every single Caltrain stop

Published On 04/23/2014 Published On 04/23/2014
Joe Starkey

If you live in the city and work in the Peninsula (or vice versa), you'll end up taking the Caltrain at some point. And that's where this will come in handy. Introducing: the Caltrain Drinking Guide, a stop-by-stop breakdown of the best bar in walking distance from every Caltrain depot.

Joe Starkey

The Stop: King St Station
The Bar: Victory Hall and Parlor (click here for address and info)
Open at noon, Victory's only about a block from the station -- just head East on Townsend, duck down the Ritch St alley, and head for the frying pan signboard. That's Little Skillet, and two doors down is this gargantuan, club-turned-bar that'll let you bring in food during the day, or order it from the counter in the back at night.

Joe Starkey

If you like free beer, order a PBR bottle: the night-time bartenders'll give it to you on the house if you can guess which of the 52 playing cards is printed under the bottle cap.

Joe Starkey

If you're thinking about turning this into a Caltrain Bar Crawl (and you should be), fortify with a fried chicken po' boy with remoulade & cayenne pepper potato chips from Little Skil.

Joe Starkey

The Stop: 22nd St
The Bar: Dogpatch Saloon (click here for address and info)
When you head up the stairs, there'll be a tiny little spot to your left called La Stazione (Italian for "the station") that'll sell you a branded mug to drink your beer out of, but DON'T GO IN THERE. Turn right instead, walk a couple blocks into the Dogpatch, and park it at Dogpatch Saloon. Having been a bar in some form or another for more than a century, this recently renovated place has all the charm of a neighborhood pub, combined with a cocktail program from the 83 Proof guys, a piano stage, and a working fireplace.

Joe Starkey

The Stop: Bayshore
The Bar: The Caltrain
Stay on the train and drink the perfectly legal-to-drink-on-the-train-up-until-9pm 40 you brought! Oh right, bring a 40.

Joe Starkey

The Stop: South San Francisco
The Bar: Topper (click here for address and info)
This one takes some serious effort to get to. You have to head up the iron staircase, past a freeway onramp, through the tunnel under 101, and a couple blocks into San Bruno. Phew. This one is also totally worth the serious effort, though. Topper has been a family owned establishment since 1945, and has the wall memorabilia to prove it, including a badass framed letter from former Niners owner Eddie J. DeBartolo, Jr. There's also free (or at least, we think it was?) Costco pizza, a leather couch-filled 49ers nook with a fireplace, a bartender who would hit you for ordering craft beer, and old people discussing the history of the Protestant Reformation (incorrectly, one might add).

Joe Starkey

The Stop: San Bruno
The Bar: Celia's (click here for address and info)
Artichoke Joe's Casino is only a half-mile away, but that half-mile involves a walk along the freeway. In San Bruno. So yeah... instead, head to this about-as-far Mexican restaurant adorned with giant, inflatable Dos Equis bottles hanging from the ceiling, daytime soap operas (that aren't Spanish??) on every TV, and free (/tasty!) chips and salsa. We highly recommend the 20oz Grande Cadillac marg with a floater of Grand Marnier, and highly-er recommend the 20oz "Henny-chata" -- a self-pouring Hennessy-and-horchata that we swear is what Heaven tastes like.

Joe Starkey

The Stop: Millbrae
The Bar: Fiddler's Green (click here for address and info)
About a Mission-block-and-a-half from the Caltrain station, this Irish pub has awesomely poured pints of Guinness, has rugby on TV, and trophies behind the bar for... we're not sure what, plus (!!!) a nightmarish leprechaun window etching. Who doesn't love scary window etchings??

Runner UpAmerican Bull Bar & Grill (click here for address and info)
Equidistant the other direction, this bar 1) is in a strip mall, 2) has blacked-out windows, 3) looks super-sketchy because of the 1) and 2), and 4) totally isn't at all! It's actually a super-legit sports bar with one of the best Sunday football watching setups in maybe the entire Bay.

Barrel House

The Stop: Burlingame
The Bar: Barrel House (click here for address and info)
This super-legit, Downtown Burl bar has more craft beer than you're gonna find at a lot of our other stops. Happy hour is $2 off beers and house cocktails (Mon-Fri from 4-7pm), you can get a Four Roses Bourbon flight, and there're rotating $6 bar bites (from nearby Straight), like pork sliders or chicken lollipops that're as awesome as they sound.


The Stop: San Mateo
The Bar: Under Attic (click here for address and info)
An attic-sized bar that's underneath, um, Attic, this secret-feeling drinkery is sort of a happy hour goldmine, considering their HH lasts until 10pm. Well drinks're only $5, specialty cocktails're only $9, plus, they have sweet potato fries with banana ketchup. Like every bar should.

Joe Starkey

The Stop: Hayward Park
The Bar: Bucky's (click here for address and info)
Resist the urge to go to Big K-Mart (or don't, it's your life), and head across the tracks to Bucky's, which opens at 6am (!!) and offers pretty much anything you could reasonably ask a dive bar to offer... like an old-school quarter candy machine, a pool room, a hunchback bar back, Golden Tee (does anyone NOT have Golden Tee??), and just two beers on draft: Miller High Life and Bud. Even better? They've also got a bunch of stuff you wouldn't even think to ask for, like coffee, Aspirin, a giant Hot Wheels collection (??), NASCAR hats, and, if you ask nicely, the bartender'll give you dice to play with.

Joe Starkey

The Stop: Hillsdale
The Bar: Steamie's (click here for address and info)
You've seen this place and its awesome neon sign from the Caltrain window a zillion times, and thought about just getting off and spending all day there. Well, we're here to tell you you should actually do that. This place is teeming with legit-ness: it's been open since 1951, they've got a pool table, working fireplace, popcorn dispenser, memorabilia like a plate that says "F***er", a Pope Francis bobble head, and a sign that lists excuses they're willing to give if someone calls the bar looking for you.

Joe Starkey

Looks familiar, doesn't it? The name apparently throws a lot of people off. In the past, people have come in asking for both 1) steamed clams, and 2) steam cleanings.

Joe Starkey

They offer neither. Oh, and don't leave before asking TJ the bartender to tell you the fun story behind this ceiling decoration.

Joe Starkey

The Stop: Belmont
The Bar: McGraw's (click here for address and info)
This Irish pub's got a huge space with, wow, Golden Tee... again (what is it with that game?), plus a full kitchen, a self-service condiments station, a model train hanging up above, foosball, and shuffleboard. Oh, and stick with their beer list. The cocktails are, well, yeah. Just stick with their beer list.

Joe Starkey

The Stop: San Carlos
The Bar: Orchid Room (click here for address and info)
With apologies to Belgian beer haven The Refuge, awesome regular beer bar The Arsenal, and fancy shmancy, always-packed resto-bar Town, the Orchid Room is the move when it comes to the SC. Through a loophole in the law, this standby can actually legally allow smoking inside (classy!), plus they open at 8am, have a microwave in case you need something heated, there's a shuffleboard table with one of the coolest working, old-timey scoreboards we've ever seen, and -- we can't say how we know this, but -- the women's restroom door sticks, so if you get stuck, throw some shoulder into it.

Pro tip: PBR's the cheapest beer at $3, so get that.

Joe Starkey

The Stop: Redwood City
The Bar: Gourmet Haus Staudt (click here for address and info)
Possibly the closest spot to a Caltrain station, this authentic, German beer garden came about after the owner of the attached German market's son agreed to take it over, on the condition that they put in a beer garden in back. It's also the place where a guy tipsily left an iPhone prototype. Shizen!

Joe Starkey

Really though, there's a German market if you head to the back of the beer hall inside.

Joe Starkey

And since this is kinda the midpoint-ish of your Caltrain Bar Crawl that you're clearly now doing, get the giant pretzel with mustard.

Joe Starkey

Or the flammkuchen, which -- despite sounding like something you may need to tell your previous partners about -- is actually German for flatbread. And is something you want to get.

Grant Marek

The Stop: Menlo Park
The Bar: 7-Eleven (click here for address and info)
Nothing's really nearby enough, so grab a 40 from the 7-Eleven. Posing like an idiot: optional.

Old Pro

The Stop: Palo Alto
The Bar: The Old Pro (click here for address and info)
Only a couple blocks from the Caltrain station, they've got a full bar, cheap beer, a ton of TVs (with every sports package imaginable), and a friggin' mechanical bull. 

Joe Starkey

The Stop: California Ave
The Bar: Antonio's Nut House (click here for address and info)
Not "Antonio's Butt House", as someone's iPhone may or may not have autocorrected it to, this place is basically a third taqueria, a third classic college bar, and a third... classic college bar. They've got pool, Pirates of the Caribbean pinball, $3 16oz margaritas 'til 3pm, and peanut shells covering the floor... giving you the perfect opportunity to finally rid yourself of all of your friends with peanut allergies.

Pro tip: the restaurant side has a $5 minimum for credit, while the bar side has $20. Both sides have beer. Do the math!

Joe Starkey

The Stop: San Antonio
The Bar: Fred's Place (click here for address and info)
Whew! That was a bit of a walk -- you deserve a shot. Luckily, they've got PBR 16oz and a shot of Old Crow for $6, OR bartender's choice shots for $3. And don't worry, Chang won't steer you wrong.

Joe Starkey

The Stop: Mountain View
The Bar: Steins (click here for address and info)
Oh shoot, another beer garden. Gosh.... too bad. This ginormous beer hall has over 30 drafts all stored in a see-through fridge, plus a six-keg kegerator for an outdoor patio you can totally rent out for parties. Or just, yah know, hang out on because you probably didn't bring 40 people on this Caltrain adventure.  

Joe Starkey

The Stop: Sunnyvale
The Bar: Firehouse Brewery (click here for address and info)
This microbrewery has some pretty decent drafts, is easily get-to-able from the Caltrain through their outdoor patio entrance in the C-train parking lot, and they sell yards or beer. Yards. Oh, and just like in a real firehouse, all the waitresses... wear plaid skirts.

Joe Starkey

The Stop: Lawrence
The Bar: The Caltrain
Stay on the train and keep drinking! Also: charge your phone maybe. Totally secretly, the sixth or seventh seat on both sides of the top deck of every car has a charger below the window.

Joe Starkey

The Stop: Santa Clara
The Bar: The Hut (click here for address and info)
If you went to SCU, chances are you know about this spot. But if you didn't, it's totally worth the few-block walk. The Hut's got a projection screen for games, cheap beers, and a back patio that we definitely never hung out and drank on while visiting our older siblings at college.

Joe Starkey


Joe Starkey

It's alumni tradition for people to come back with their first dollar and business card to put on the ceiling. Pretty cool. See anyone you know?

Joe Starkey

Or, if they're closed, looks like these guys next door know how to party.

Joe Starkey

The Stop: San Jose Diridon
The Bar: Patty's Inn (click here for address and info)
Just a couple blocks from the last (weekday) Caltrain station, Patty's Inn is divided into two parts: a bar with screens for games (mostly hockey, this being so close to the Sharks' arena and all), and a pool room with... a cigarette dispenser machine? Those are still legal??

If the Sharks are playing, it's packed with locals... mostly because every time the Sharks score, they do bartender's choice $2 shots.

Grant Marek

But also because they have a claw game IN THE BAR.

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1. Victory Hall & Parlor 330 Ritch St, San Francisco, CA 94107 (The Mission)

This American, comfort food-lauded joint is doling out delicious trays of things like chicken 'n waffles, chilli cheese fries, and the like.

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2. Dogpatch Saloon 2496 3rd St, San Francisco, CA 94107 (Dogpatch)

An 100yr-old cocktailery from the dudes behind SOMA's 83 Proof.

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3. The Topper 249 Grand Ave, South San Francisco, CA 94080

Topper is a neighborhood dive bar that can be found in South San Francisco, as well-known for its wall of Frisco sports memorabilia as its Topper Stix, which are breadsticks made with handmade dough topped with cheese and garlic butter. In addition to the Stix varieties available (they come in “cinnamonstix,” “berrystix,” “baconstix,” “pepperonistix,” and “tacostix”), other bar fare includes quesadillas, toasted grinders, wings, and a selection of house pizzas and customizable pizzas. While you’re sipping on one of Topper’s inexpensive cocktails, strike up a conversation with a fellow bar-goer; the place is teeming with regulars.

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4. Fiddler's Green 333 El Camino Real, Millbrae, CA 94030

Just your typical Millbrae Irish pub... with a dance floor?! Yep. The upstairs area gets converted into a club a few nights a week, but don't worry, the place is still bursting with all your classic eats and drinks, like Guinness and shepherds pie.

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5. Celia's 201 El Camino Real, San Bruno, CA 94066

This Mextaurant makes their tortillas fresh each day and serves up family-style eats by the beach. Don't miss the fajita burrito or their just-strong-enough margaritas.

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6. Under Attic 234 S B St, San Mateo, CA 94401

Located under Attic Restaurant (so literal!), Under Attic is a sweet cocktail-and-snack destination that's great for an after-work happy hour. Grab yourself a $5 whiskey cocktail, some Adobo Sriracha Wings, and get ready for a great night.

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7. Bucky's Cocktail Lounge 101 South Blvd, San Mateo, CA 94402

Open at 6am (a perfectly respectable time to start drinking), Bucky's is a classic dive with trappings like an old-school quarter candy machine, a pool room, and just two beers on draft: Miller High Life and Bud.

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8. McGraw’s Bar & Grill 864 El Camino Real, Belmont, CA 94002

McGraw's Bar & Grill's got darts, pool, cheap brew, flatscreen TVs to watch the game, juke music, and shuffleboard. If you need more reasoning than that, you may be insane.

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9. 7-Eleven 525 Oak Grove Ave, Menlo Park, CA 94025

Perfect place to escape the heat in Menlo park while waiting on the Caltrain. All of your typical convenience store wares are stocked - beer included.

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10. The Old Pro 541 Ramona St, Palo Alto, CA 94301

This sports bar is dotted with flat-screens and touts a substantial menu of American comfort food, including a baby kale-romaine Caesar and other salads, and snacks like crispy calamari, nachos, a smoked chicken quesadillas, house pizzas, and burgers with gruyere-grilled mushrooms, pulled pork, and house pimento cheese. The drinks menu encompasses a thoughtful list of local craft beers, seasonal cocktails, and notable California wines. Favorite specialty cocktails include a fruity raspberry-jalapeno margarita with agave and a blackberry and sage old-fashioned.

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11. Antonio's Nut House 321 S California Ave, Palo Alto, CA 94306

Most people associate Antonio’s Nut House with the sound of peanut shells crunching beneath their feet, the byproduct of a bottomless bucket of free unshelled nuts guarded by a fake gorilla being wielded to patrons while they await their food and drinks. Open-face tacos and enchiladas rule Antonio’s snack roost, while beer pours are cheap and margaritas are served in a pint glass with a slice of lime and a salted rim. And in case you needed reminding, signs plastered on the bar’s walls will inform you that you need to be 21 years of age and be wearing shoes and a top in order to enter.

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12. Fred's Place 2534 Old Middlefield Way, Mountain View, CA 94043

This local's dive bar is known for big pitchers and low tabs.

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13. FireHouse Grill & Brewery 111 S Murphy Ave, Sunnyvale, CA 94086

Reach for the Hops on Rye house brew at this award winning brewery plus grill. There's a seasonal rotation of brews available either on tap or by the bottle, served up by sometimes tartan mini-skirted waitresses.

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14. The Hut 3200 The Alameda, Santa Clara, CA 95050

The ultimate Santa Clara University haunt - the owners say that if the establishment would be a bronco, the SCU mascot, if it was an animal - you'll find dollars pinned to walls from patrons' first paychecks as well as a barbecue grill on the patio that's up for use. Don't be surprised if you find a beer pong competition in full swing at night.

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15. Patty's Inn 102 S Montgomery St, San Jose, CA 95110

Get the full ballgame experience - trough-style urinal included - at this local dive with hotdogs, hamburgers and always $2.50 PBRs.

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16. The American Bull Bar & Grill 1819 El Camino Real, Burlingame, CA 94010

This Burlingame sports bar is the perfect spot to watch any and all of your favorite games (they have NBA League Pass, MLB Extra Innings, NFL Sunday Ticket, just to name a few) on their 19 wide-screen TVs, while downing a cold beer and tasty bar food, of course.

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17. Barrel House 305 California Drive, Burlingame, CA 94104

If you find yourself in Burlingame, you're not gonna wanna miss this boozer, which boasts frequent happy hours and delectable bar snacks that run the gamut from chicken lollipops to pork sliders.

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18. Steamie's 3403 Pacific Blvd, San Mateo, CA 94403

Open since 1951, Steamie's has everything you want in a homey dive -- from the awesome neon sign out front to the pool table and working fireplace inside.

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19. Orchid Room 678 Laurel St, San Carlos, CA 94070 (Peninsula)

This classic dive in San Carlos serves cheap beers on tap and strong cocktails all day, and, because of a loophole in the law, actually allows smoking inside (don't say you and your clothes weren't warned). To get the most bang for your buck, go for a gimlet, which is really just gin with a pinch of lime here, and pick up a game at the old-school shuffleboard table. If it's already occupied by some of the OR's many regulars, you can kick back and relax with the sounds of the jukebox.

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20. Gourmet Haus Staudt 2615 Broadway St, Redwood City, CA 94063

Gourmet Haus Staudt is at once a German specialty store and beer garden in Redwood City. The building’s exterior is modeled after a German haus, with stark white paint, shuttered windows with planter-filled windowsills, and German floral designs adoring the walls. Once you enter, you’ll be surrounded by shelves of German food, spices, over 100 beers, and products from Haribo, Ricola, and Toblerone. The beer garden in the back offers a selection of 10 German beers on tap, three rotating guest taps, and a food menu of traditional open-faced sandwiches, bratwurst, and laberkase, a Bavarian pork dinner loaf, served with sauerkraut, two eggs, and German potato salad.



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