After an extensive, sixth-month transformation, this Lakeshore favorite is completely unrecognizable from what it once was, in a good way: It's now clean and bright, with a slate of highly creative cocktails and a relaxed, picnic-y vibe.
Named for W.C. Fields' character in the 1940 comedy The Bank Dick, the brick-walled bar on the corner of Piedmont Avenue serves up strong drinks such as margaritas and Long Islands. Twenty- and thirtysomethings tend to congregate inside, where a jukebox churns out old blue and jazz numbers, and patrons can order from a menu of Chinese and American food.
In English, it's called The Black Cat. Inside, you'll find a blaring jukebox, a primarily young Latino crowd, and drinks like the Michelada, a Mexican mixed drink made with beer and tomato juice.
This nine-table, twelve-tap family-friendly brewpub offers updated takes on American standards, as well as a full slate of beers, both brewed in-house and elsewhere.
You can get a tattoo, look at art, listen to metal bands, and enjoy New Orleans-style Cajun and Creole food at this punk-rock dive. The spacious back patio has plenty of picnic tables, and there's also indoor bike parking, two pinball machines, and a pool table. Eli’s is located in a squat, garish red building beneath a freeway overpass on MLK in North Oakland -- close to the MacArthur BART station. Come for good drinks, stay for good times.
The atmosphere at Era is upscale, the decor is decadent, and the popular bar attracts a diverse crowd. DJs spin everything from cumbia to reggae, hip-hop, and rock music. There’s a dress code, sometimes a cover charge, and on busy nights there may be a line to get in the door. There are two lounges, strong drinks, and exhibitions of original artwork.
Talk about old-school: The Fat Lady's building dates back to the 1870s, and the bar has been in the same family since it was bought, refurbished, and reopened in 1970. It's now outfitted with well-chosen knickknacks — Tiffany lamps, stained glass, a sign rescued from the Fox Theater during its revitalization — and as far as the clientele goes, it's filled with whatever the human equivalent of well-chosen knickknacks is. Try the Mafioso (American Honey Bourbon, St. George's Firelit Coffee Liqueur, and steamed milk, $9 — looks like a root beer float and tastes like an alcoholic espresso).
A more drinks-oriented, offshoot of next-door neighbor Flora, Fauna is, much like its forebear, well-appointed, art deco-inspired, and committed to using fresh ingredients in interesting ways — though in this case, in a slightly more casual, though no less attractive, setting.
This enduring Alameda bar has a wide selection of local craft beers, cocktails made from fresh-squeezed juices, and supposedly one of the longest wooden bars on the island. Shoot pool or enjoy tacos and trivia on Tuesdays. If you reserve your barhopping ventures for the weekends, every Saturday is 80's night, with DJ's, drinks specials, and general dance floor debauchery.
Turns out, the Hotel at Shattuck Plaza has not only a rock-solid restaurant, but a bang-up — if slightly mannered — bar space as well. Drinks are well-made and undeniably thought-out — you'll be hard-pressed to find a cocktail here with fewer than five ingredients — but it's a pleasant place for an after-work or post-theater cocktail.
Forbidden Island is a tiki bar at its best, offering everything it takes to capture that elusive blend of island kitsch, pure spectacle, and festive mood: a nautical wood interior, gaudy cocktails, a jukebox crammed with vintage Martin Denny and Frankie Laine tunes, and a tropical lanai for outdoor guzzling. It’s apparently the only tiki bar in America that makes fresh fruit juice in-house every day, and there are appetizers of the deep-fried variety. Entertainment includes live surf-rock bands and dance parties with DJs.
The neon sign outside says “Geo Kaye’s,” leading to arguments over the name being Geo versus George, but these facts are certain: It’s a small, friendly dive bar that caters to an eclectic mix of regulars and hipsters. The beer choices are limited, but there’s a broad selection of liquor. One wall often functions as an art gallery, and there’s a small TV mounted in one corner. The old jukebox was replaced with one of the hulking digital variety kinds, but despite that, the music is still good. This place is dog-friendly, and there’s usually one or two lying around. Everyone ends up chatting toward the end of the night when the booze has set in and the place seems even more intimate.
This bar draws a lively and standing-room-only crowd of grad students, hipsters, and blue-collar locals with its cheap drinks, jukebox, Sriracha-spiked free popcorn, student discounts, no-frills vibe, unusually friendly bartenders, and unpretentious attitude. On the weekends, it can be especially crowded. This cash-only dive bar also has a little-known lower level that’s affectionately called “the undergraduate.”
With a tagline like “Good Spirits for Bad People,” you wonder why readers voted Heart & Dagger Saloon “Best Former Dive Bar.” Basically, it has a rock ’n’ roll vibe without the rock-star ego: friendly bartenders, cheap drinks, and a good jukebox. The shaded patio has plenty of seating, which makes it great for groups. There’s free wi-fi, a pool table, pinball machines, and more. Your dog is welcome, but your plastic is not: cash only.
Heinold's, which was founded in 1883, stands as the only place where you can drink at the same table once used by Jack London, president and Supreme Court justice William Howard Taft, and Robert Lewis Stevenson — in other words, it’s seriously old-school cool.