Follow the neon lights to Fred’s Place (photo by @jthepirate)

Pauli Partti doesn’t serve fancy, craft cocktails. The owner of Fred’s Place on Old Middlefield Way in Mountain View has intentionally kept his place old school: sports memorabilia covering the walls, pinball machine up front, billiards in the back, and a spirits list that’s not trying to impress anyone. Martinis and Manhattans are about as fancy as they’ll get. “We don’t even have mojitos,” Pauli tells me proudly.

At noon on a Wednesday, the only people there are a couple of regulars playing liar’s dice at the bar and a man on his laptop sucking down a Sierra Nevada while answering some emails. At nights, though, Fred’s Place transforms into one of the friendliest dive scenes in Silicon Valley. Pauli’s pleased with the mix of patrons he’s been able to attract. “CEOs, truck drivers, carpenters — they come together,” he tells me. “Everyone’s coming here to have a good time.”

Pauli’s been serving up a good time on the Peninsula for decades. A manager at the old Dinah’s Shack restaurant in Palo Alto, he served Joan Baez, JFK when he came into town, and Walter Cronkite, who always had the fried chicken. After opening and then closing BuenoBueno Mexican restaurants in Mountain View, Pauli bought Fred’s Place in 2001 with his business partner and fellow bartender, Chang Cho.

“There’s not that many old-school spots left around here,” Pauli says. “There’s lot of modern places opening up that charge an arm and a leg for drinks and you have to get them with roasted almonds or Malaysian honey!”

At Fred’s Place, pints of Bud are $3.50. Pints from local breweries start at $4. Pauli tells me if you want to order like a regular, go for a straight shot of Old Crow ($4.50). The cheap, Kentucky bourbon became the favorite of one of their bartenders, Ole Bill, and over time, has become the most popular drink at Fred’s. Shots of Old Crow and a tallboy of PBR go for $6.

Over the past 15 years, Pauli’s seen some of Silicon Valley’s storied history from behind his bar. He talks of the PayPal founders and their early days at Fred’s Place. “These guys told me they were starting a company so you could pay on the Internet. I told them they were crazy,” he remembers. “But then they’d come back and say ‘We got an office!’ Then years later, ‘We sold to eBay!’”

But for every startup success incubated on shots of Old Crow, Pauli tells of a construction worker who picked up work from connections he made at Fred’s or a real estate agent who closed a deal at this very bar. “When people come together, they’re all the same,” Pauli tells me. “If you’re in a bad mood when you get here and we can get you to laugh by the time you leave, then we’ve succeeded.”

// Fred’s Place // 2534 Old Middlefield Way // Open everyday 10AM — 2AM //

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Nick Bastone

Editor of Is America Great?, Some things I learned at Square, and Cool Young Kids

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