At Actual Cafe, it's all about sitting down and enjoying the coffeehouse experience. Get a cup of Joe (or tea) served in a real china cup, plop down, and just hang for a while. Actual Cafe boasts comfy furniture and communal seating to encourage actual interaction with actual human life-forms. It's "not just another wi-fi shack." Indoor bike parking and a full menu are also available. Weekends are laptop-free.
This North Berkeley pub is popular, particularly among students, for its wide selection of board games like Scrabble and Connect Four, not to mention darts, pool, and the Sunday night trivia quiz. Order a brew from the thirteen on tap or sample their serious selection of Scotch. Even man’s best friend is welcome. On alternating Wednesdays and Saturdays, this laid-back British-style bar hosts bluegrass, world music, or jazz bands.
Rod Dibble plays piano nightly at this Lake Merritt bar, often with vocal accompaniment from local amateur cabaret crooners. Designed like an old saloon with relatively private diner-style booths (where you can order a burger, steak, or fries to go with your drinks), the Alley is characterized by its vintage clotheslines, pink and baby-blue restroom stalls (much cleaner than your average East Bay haunt), and the thousands of marquees and business cards stapled to its walls. In contrast to the swankier Kingmans Lucky Lounge across the street, the Alley stays true to its namesake, and the cluttered decor makes it seem homey.
This club, modeled after an Eastern European wooden synagogue, is a Berkeley institution dedicated to dance and music. The non-profit venue hosts live music nearly every night, and shows are all-ages. Ashkenaz hosts reggae, bluegrass, Balkan, Brazillian, Cajun, and Caribbean bands, just to name a few. Come early for a dance class or on Sunday afternoon for a kid’s concert.
Ahh... Au Coquelet, the welcoming Berkeley cafe where you can get a cup of coffee at the crack of dawn and come back after midnight for another cup with an Irish kick, indulge in a fresh fruit torte or any of the spot's homemade desserts. No matter what time of day you opt to sit for a spell in the brick-walled Berkeley institution, there tables are sure to be dotted with people typing at laptops, thumbing through books, or just shooting the breeze.
Formerly known as Connolly's, this neighborhood bar straddles the line between dive bar and community melting pot. The clientele here reflects the surrounding neighborhood's diversity, from the tony streets of Temescal to the working-class neighborhood of Longfellow on the other side of Telegraph Ave. Owners and Oakland natives Curtis Howard and Davey Herrick, who bought the place from the previous owners, also tend bar here; they're more than happy to welcome you to the ’hood with a $8.75 pitcher of PBR or a delightfully stiff cocktail.
You can dance, drink, and most definitely eat at this German-American restaurant and tavern, where the Wiener Schnitzel comes veggie-optional and live music fills the room every weekend. If the weather's nice, sit out on the cedar patio and sip on Belgium ale and other tasty beer offerings in bottle or on tap.
Another example of the emergent lounge-bar-hybrid breed. It's got the energy of a dive, but with an auspiciously non-sticky floor and a lovingly curated playlist.
Oakland's emerging beer renaissance finds a firm foothold at Beer Revolution, located near Jack London Square. Inside, a bevy of beers on tap (as many as fourteen at a time) includes local selections, Belgian and German styles, and microbrews from across the country. Perhaps even more impressive are the large coolers lined up against the wall opposite the bar, stocked with four hundred of the world's finest and rarest brews, with forty two of which are on tap. Take one to go or enjoy it on the sunny front patio for a $1 corkage fee.
Is the perfect place to catch up with friends, with loads of tables of varying sizes, a long bar ripe for hunkering down for a few hours (and pints), and a variety of beer on tap that changes daily (as well as a full bar).
With eight full bars, a billiards room, smoking lounge, and multiple dance floors, it's easy to believe Bench and Bar's claim to the title of the Bay Area's biggest gay and lesbian dance club. The Friday night Latin Explosion party moved with the name to this Uptown location, (though other Bench and Bar favorites remain at what is now Club 21 a few blocks away), and Saturdays is Club Rimshot, a hip-hop and R&B LGBT party. Other nights are a mix of dance, house, and Latin music. A daily happy hour and free wi-fi cater to the after-work crowd.
This chocolate lovers' paradise proffers drinks, pastries, and bars from chocolate dulce de leche pudding to chocolate Thai iced tea.
For those willing to wait for drip coffee, Blue Bottle is heavenly, and it’s roasted right here in Oakland. Besides the roastery, the Webster Street location also houses a coffee bar and cupping room. The latter hosts coffee tastings at 2 p.m. every Tuesday and Saturday. Drop by the coffee bar any day of the week for Blue Bottle’s signature roasts as well as cookies, cakes, and sandwiches. Even those of us who consume 10 cups of coffee every morning might occasionally care how they look, tastes. It' always great to find a place that actually brews drip coffee with "citrus" or "chocolate" flavors, as is done at the Blue Bottle Coffee.
There's nothing broken at the Broken Rack, which offers twenty tables, a host of high-octane cocktails, and a comfy lounge complete with that vanishing species, the smoking section. There’s also foosball, pinball, and free wi-fi. It may seem a little odd to find a pool hall right next to a food court and the high-rise condos of Emeryville, but the atmosphere is relaxed and adult. Just the game, no scene, no cruising. Tie one on and sink a few.
Cafe 504 is a charming neighborhood spot that serves Blue Bottle Coffee and food that’s focused on seasonal, local, organic ingredients. All of the food is made in-house, and the pastries are particularly popular. Art adorns the walls and exhibits rotate monthly. The web site gives the hours with an “ish” disclaimer. There’s free wi-fi, and it’s cash only.