Downtown Berkeley's Art House Gallery & Cultural Center mixes art with purpose. In addition to art exhibits, the space also hosts benefit events.
Despite their sheer numbers, cafes are never unpopular for Berkeleyites wanting to chat with friends over soy cappuccinos or pretending to write a research paper while engaging in some serious people-watching. Apparently, Caffe Triestes location in Berkeleys "West Bank" is the perfect spot for such social anthropological study, as its situated at the corner of busy San Pablo Avenue and Dwight Way, and has the type of baristas who wonder why you havent shown up in the last few weeks. With tiny white lights strung from the ceiling and bottles of Pinot Grigio and Chianti on the counter, this cafes Euro vibe is accentuated with traditional Italian music rotating with Argentine tango every Monday night. If you love Italy but arent in love with Italy, Caffe Trieste also books varying live jazz acts every Tuesday, and a range of other live music on Friday nights.
You could easily miss the Keter Salon with its small sign on the second floor level above Builder's Bookstore, but this chic and colorful hair salon is among the best in the East Bay.
Erected in the building that used to house the Oakland Box, this swank rock club is decked out with a classy mahogany bar inherited from the Old Spaghetti Factory, plus top-notch acoustics designed by the sound consultant at Yoshis. A lot of things have changed since the old Box days, most notably in terms of decor: Bushmamas old boutique is now The Green Room, where performers kick back before going onstage; and the clubs sign is now shaped like an electric guitar. The Uptown features local and touring acts in a variety of genres, including hip-hop, soul, rock, and ska.
Oakland Metro Operahouse is a large warehouse venue that books mostly punk, metal, and hardcore acts. It's also home to Hoodslam, the monthly wrestling event, and the famed variety show Tourettes Without Regrets, which features slapstick comedy, meat-hurling contests, formidable freestyle battles, spoken-word poetry, and dirty haiku — usually to sold-out crowds.
Now more than 35 years old, Pro Arts is an all-purpose resource for artists and art fans alike, as a gallery, performance space, and leader of the East Bay Open Studios program.
Same as it ever was, this Berkeley Irish bar has been around since the days when Ronald Reagan was California governor, and it hasn't changed much — although you can now order a cheeseburger as well as traditional Irish fare like corned beef and cabbage. There are lots of beers on tap, but why not just have a Guinness or a Harp? It's certainly appropriate, and the regulars won't look at you like you're from Mars. Entertainment includes Irish Dance and Ceili Mondays at 9 p.m. (dance instructions start at 7 p.m.); open-mic Tuesdays at 8 p.m.; Berzerkley Poetry Slam on Wednesdays at 8:30 p.m. with house band Three Blind Mice accompanying; and live music on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. There's a full bar with twenty drafts, and the kitchen serves food until 10 p.m.
This Jack London Square anchor tenant lives up to its claim of world-class jazz; everyone from McCoy Tyner to John Scofield comes by at least once a year, and you can also occasionally catch rising stars and school bands in addition to big-name national acts. The acoustics are marvelous, the sushi is fresh and good, and the grilled calamari is also recommended. Tickets range from $5 for a Sunday afternoon children's matinee (with paid adult admission) to upwards of $100 for a special event. Two shows nightly.
This building is designed to be as efficient and green as possible, as a result it holds the LEED Platinum rating.
La Peña Cultural Center, with its trademark colorful mural out front, is a microcosm of Berkeley’s cultural, social, and political utopia. Founded in 1975 in response to the military coup that overthrew Chilean President Salvador Allende, La Peña continues to live up to its revolutionary roots, hosting a variety of hip-hop, world, and jazz music; spoken word; dance classes; art exhibits; films; and lectures, focusing on social justice and human rights about four nights a week. Its 175-capacity theater features a sizable stage, wooden dance floor, and a riser with tables and chairs, suitable for getting sweaty to some Latin American rhythms or sitting back and enjoying the show. If all that consciousness has you feeling a bit woozy, try one of the empanadas at La Peña’s Cafe Valparaiso.