As new buildings sprout up around the valley, Mr. Harada and I sit back and casually observe the action from behind a pen and bar tab. Certain architectural trends and styles are more prominent than others, but one look keeps popping up as we pogo around town: the Mediterranean revival.

It’s a fitting look for these parts, considering our climate shares similarities with parts of Italy. The execution, however, is often reminiscent of Brad Pitt’s accent in the final scenes of Inglorious Bastards: “Buongiorno progress!”

But we have a soft spot for one Southern European-influenced locale more than a century old: Hayes Mansion (est. 1905). The South Bay gem sits within some of San Jose’s most forgettable roads: Branham, Chynoweth and Monterey. These bits of tarmac are our worst offenders of urban sprawl, but they also lead to a watering hole that is anything but a hole in the wall. Mr. Harada and I were told the Palm Plaza Lounge was a lot better than the name sounded, so we had to investigate.  Because of a scheduling error—my Palm Pilot refuses to auto-update daylight savings time—Mr. Harada and I arrived separately. I came down a lamp-less road next to a mobile home park and assumed I had been kidnapped before the driver turned into the driveway.

The simple act of arrival is monumental if you’re heading to the Palm Plaza Lounge for the first time. The name recalls a strip-mall dive tucked between a Vietnamese nail salon and shady tax attorney, but you end up in a sprawling, luxurious South Bay mansion. The lounge is the door on the port side of the main entrance. The outfitted patio is filled with sparsely attended furniture, and the place is ready to host hundreds but usually remains quiet.

Happy hour, from 4-6pm every day, serves craft drafts for $4 a pint and includes $6 small plates, making it perhaps the best weekend deal around. It’s a bit of a journey, but guests will not be disappointed. The adjacent park, with BBQ and tennis courts and manicured grounds, provides an unusually serene spot for great food and cheap drinks.

Palm Plaza stays open until around 10pm, and while I considered axing this column to keep it hidden forever … actually, forget everything. Mr. Harada and I visited the Cheesecake Factory. It was awesome. We don’t know what the Hayes you’re talking about.

Palm Plaza Lounge
200 Edenvale Ave. San Jose.