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The Alley

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 those at your average East Bay haunt), and the thousands of marquees and business cards stapled to its walls. In contrast to the swankier Kingman’s Lucky Lounge across the street, the Alley stays true to its namesake, and the cluttered decor makes it seem homey.

This Chinatown breakfast and lunch counter serves “organic bicycle-pedaled roasted coffee” and Sri Lankan homemade Chai tea. There’s also an array of tropical smoothies, and a lunch menu full of Caribbean and Sri Lankan flavors that rotates daily and often sells out. (You can order a day in advance.) The muffins and breads all come from Semifreddi’s bakery. Prices are very reasonable, seating is limited, and catering options are available.

At Asha Tea House, the bubble teas are brewed with loose leaves, the boba is cooked fresh at least twice a day, and each drink is mixed and shaken by hand, not by a machine. Factor in the sleek, modern decor and the well-curated selection of snacks, and you've got yourself a boba shop that's a cut above the rest.

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 homemade desserts. No matter what time of day you opt to sit for a spell in the brick-walled Berkeley institution, the tables are sure to be dotted with people typing at laptops, thumbing through books, or just shooting the breeze.

The self-professed "spirits-driven meat sanctuary" in Oakland's Uptown district will surely satisfy your cocktail and cured-meat craving with an array of delicious offerings, from hearty meat and cheese platters to a ginger-y cocktail with house-made ginger syrup.

Crosby's country-club cuisine is better than it needs to be, with some dishes grand enough to stand up to the monumentally nostalgic surroundings. The bar is a roiling meat market for the over-forty and the overly tanned, but it's worth wading in for the excellent martinis.

Cafe Yesterday

Housed in a mellow, spic-and-span space, Cafe Yesterday is Berkeley's most comprehensive cereal bar, though its well-rounded menu also includes salads, sandwiches, house-baked pastries, and fair-trade coffee.

Step inside cozy Cafeina and discover a sweet community atmosphere with a kids’ menu, flowers gracing the concrete counter, and indoor and outdoor tables. The welcoming staff serves a large variety of organic and fair trade coffee, tea, and espresso drinks as well as bulk coffee and tea. Fresh seasonal menu with real food and plenty of veggie options. Must try: bursting blueberry muffin, all-organic chicken salad sandwich, and several homemade soups, including a vegan option.

CommonWealth Cafe and Pub

Ahna Adair co-owns the CommonWealth with her brother Pete Jeffryes and her husband Ross Adair, a Scot who learned to appreciate traditional cooking in his grandmother's kitchen. He prepares it here in the form of English-style breakfasts and pub grub with a California twist: Steel-cut oats, beans and toast, egg-and-chutney sandwiches, and the like augment an impressive selection of beers from the UK, the East Bay, and a few locales in between.

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