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Apr 22, 2009 10:19 PM

South Bay equivalent to Toronado Pub?

Hoping people could suggest pubs in the South Bay region that might have a beer selection anywhere close to SF's Toronado Pub (i.e. great selection of domestic microbrews + Belgians + ...). Let's say an area bounded roughly by Mountain View to SJ to Milpitas, but suggestions outside this region are also welcome. I've looked everywhere on Chowhound (and y**p for that matter) with no success. Thanks in advance!

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  1. The South Bay is sorely lacking in quality beer establishments. Your best bet is probably going to be The Rose and Crown in Palo Alto. They carry some good stuff on tap including Pliny the Elder and Piraat, as well as a decent selection of bottles. They update their beer menu on their website often.

    Can't speak for the quality of food though.

    The Rose & Crown
    547 Emerson St, Palo Alto, CA

    9 Replies
    1. re: pininex

      One indicator of good beer is Russian River on tap. And russian river has a complete list of all bars carrying their beer on tap. And -- the closest to San Jose would be the Englander in San Leandro - anyone been there?

      Rose and Crown - probably true, and terribly sad. To add some more detail: the R&C even as recently as 3 years ago was predominantly british beer, watneys and such, but sometime a few years ago got on a serious belgian kick. But you can see from the web site how sad it is --- just doesn't have the 30 choices of west coast beers and everything else that toranado does.

      R&C doesn't have much style either. The place still smells funny, the interior is tatty. The clientele is the peninsula equivalent of what you see at Toranado - jock-ish 20 somethings with well-cut hair, instead of tattooed 20 something bike messengers. And less overall diversity, because it's the peninsula.

      The food at the R&C is actually not that bad, though. Still just burgers and garlic Fries, but a cut above some. Improved through the upgrade a few years ago.

      These days, I actually prefer the beer at Cafe Barrone in MP because they have fewer taps so the beer is fresher, they chill their glasses, you can sit outside, and their wine-by-the-glass is decent if I'm in that mood. I had a late bite there two days ago, during the heat, and there was a run on prosecco - they were servicing something tasty but ordinary for $6 a glass, but as an antidote to the heat, very pleasant. I tried asking for the addition of a slice of fresh peach, but even though the weather was summer, the produce wasn't.

      I also like City Pub in Redwood City, even further out of your range. They have Racer 5 on tap and seem to keep fresh barrels. Pleasant enough place, good burgers.

      In some sense, this is anti-globalization at work. A local specialty!

      1. re: bbulkow

        Did you read my post? Rose and Crown has Pliny the Elder on tap. The RR website never has all of their accounts listed on it. They also have Union Jack from Firestone, an excellent West Coast IPA.

        They have Urthel and Piraat on tap for Belgian lovers, although I prefer both of those out of the bottle because of what the bottle conditioning does to the beer.

        They have a good selection of bottles such as Delirium Tremens, Duvel, St. Bernardus Abt. 12, La Fin du Monde, Rochefort 8 & 10, and Westmalle Triple

        1. re: pininex

          I read your post. I also read the R&C website. R&C lists Pliny under the rotating taps, but also lists Pliny under bottles.

          So I've got your post and common sense (pliny in bottles seems impossible) vs RR's web site and RC's web site and my own memory.

          In your experience, how often is Pliny on tap? I'm pretty sure it wasn't last time I was there.

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              I've found Pliny the Elder at Whole Foods in the Bay Area. I imagine there are other retailers as well, but it's good to know at least one reliable place to get my fix! That said, I was hoping to find some place reliable to try it on tap without going up to Oakland or SF.

              1. re: bouncepass

                I suppose you could call rose and crown and ask what's on the rotating taps...

        2. re: bbulkow

          I was afraid this was the answer. I would agree with the above post in that carrying Russian River is likely *sufficient* to be considered a really good pub, but not *necessary* (despite my own fondness for their beer). For example, The Red in downtown Santa Cruz has a perfectly respectable selection but there's no RRBC distributor in SC county. Maybe there's a good but RRBC-absent place somewhere? I'm still hoping it's out there and someone can point the way...

          If the South Bay really has such a paucity of good beer places, isn't this a business niche that has a really high probability of success if filled?

          1. re: bouncepass

            You would think that's a good beer pub is indeed a business niche waiting to be filled. Especially if you stay open late, at least on weekends. If you want to start such a place let us know when you open!

            The best I have done here is to find places that have a few good and interesting choices on tap. Calafia in Palo Alto does nicely for a restaurant - only 5 taps, but very well chosen, all local.


            1. re: mdg

              In my perfect world, this would be located near a Caltrain station, mountain view at the southernmost. Maybe-maybe sunnyvale. I do often want to meet people for a beer on fridays, and there's a real struggle to find a good beer bar. Something more like Lucky 13; so we end up at Antonio's Nut House.

      2. That I've been able to tell there is no other place like the Toronado in the Bay Area. The only place I know which has anywhere near the Belgian beer selection (better actually) is The Trappist in Oakland (all others pale in comparison to their belgian selection with the possible exception of The Toronado).

        1 Reply
        1. re: skwid

          Sounds like someone needs to find a location. If there can be a Toronado San Diego, why not a Toronado Mountain View?

        2. Just read the May/June 2009 AAA magazine Via last night and they mention NorCal brewpubs. Have no idea if it's good, but they feature a photo of Firehouse Grill and Brewery in Sunnyvale. The url is Looks like they only offer their own beers so it ain't the next Toronado, and as always with Micros, it could be awful but it's probably worth a try............. there is also one in Palo Alto apparently.

          Firehouse Grill & Brewery
          111 S Murphy Ave, Sunnyvale, CA 94086

          1 Reply
          1. re: NoeMan

            1. the URL is . The page is currently loading very slowly. I haven't tried them, but there's one in East Palo Alto in the same box-store cluster as the Home Depot and Best Buy.

            2. There are a number of 'breweries' in San Jose. The place seems to attract them. Gordon Bierch and Tied House is "old school" now, Faultline, BJ's, etc.

            Yes, "it's not the toranado" - these places are barely a good experience, in my book. The on-premises beer is always average at best. The atmosphere is chain and cookie cutter. Unlike a "real deal" place like Marin Brewing, which has some atmosphere and some great beer.

            I'd rather go to Faultline or GB than Chevy's if I have to meet someone, but not by much.

            That being said, I'll try to slide over to this firehouse place and confirm my suspicions.

          2. the best place i've found south of the city is the refuge, in san carlos. the food is kind of average: cheese plate good, pastrami ok (last time my sandwich was actually cold), but the beer is great. here's a list, copied from their menu:

            St. Bernardus ABT 12
            Tripel Karmeliet
            Delirium Tremens
            Chimay Tripel White
            Houblon Chouffe
            Buffalo Stout
            La Chouffe
            Duchesse de Bourgogne
            Val-Dieu Triple
            Nostradamus Brown Ale
            Affligem Blonde
            Gouden Carolus D’ Or – Cuvee Van De Keizer
            Allagash Curieux
            Allagash Fluxus
            Allagash White
            N’ Ice Chouffe
            De Koninck Ale

            The Refuge
            963 Laurel St, San Carlos, CA 94070

            3 Replies
            1. re: esoteric0

              Nice. Toronado has 50 taps, but 18 is still pretty good, especially with a hip selection like that.

              Full list with prices:

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Everyone of those is better out of the bottle.

                1. re: pininex

                  Chacun à son goût. I've tried about half of those both ways, and the Allagash Curieux was the only one I preferred in the bottle, since the draft had less of the bourbon-barrel flavor (and I suspect that more recent bottlings probably have less too).

            2. also, i didn't see la trappe mentioned - it's in north beach, but if we're talking about oakland too... highly recommended. huge beer list. get yourself the moules frittes and a few beers, and you're all set.

              La Trappe
              800 Greenwich St, San Francisco, CA 94133

              2 Replies
              1. re: esoteric0

                The OP requested "South Bay" - not SF or East Bay.

                1. re: larochelle

                  "but suggestions outside this region are also welcome."