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 its 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 those at 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.
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 swanky Old Oakland restaurant and bar boasts seven high-definition TVs, pool tables, and even an illuminated "wet bar," in addition to a high-end VIP room with a full bar, Italian leather couches, and a "Vegas-style" restroom. Class. Full catering and bottle service available for private parties.
This chocolate lovers' paradise proffers drinks, pastries, and bars such as chocolate dulce de leche pudding and chocolate Thai iced tea.
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.
The mantra is simple food done very well. Nearly everything — from the dressings to the desserts and the soups to the sauces — is made in-house. Café Aquarius serves locally roasted shade-grown coffee as well as beer and wine. Come for breakfast, lunch, weekend brunch, or just for a cup of joe. If you fancy a cup of tea, the selection is top-notch.
If you’re into quirky, this is the place for you. It’s a slim, high-ceilinged bar with a wide assortment of kitschy knickknacks and furniture. It’ll take you a while to take in all the objects d’art scattered around this hipster hangout, and that’s what you’ll do while sipping your drink and watching indie, jazz, blues, or funk bands. Cafe Van Kleef is known for its strong drinks made with fresh-squeezed juice, especially its greyhound. There’s live music most nights and always room to dance.
If salsa dancing is your thing, then Club Montero's is your nightclub. The Albany dance club, voted Best Latin Dance Club in the Express in 2004, features salsa lessons every Friday and Saturday, with live bands on Friday to put your skills to work. Do an underarm turn or take a dip on the huge wooden dance floor underneath a giant palm tree. If you need to take a breather, order a drink at the cabana-style bar or grab a bite to eat at Montero's Cafe next door. The cover charge is $15 on Friday, and $10 on Saturday, and the dress code requires semicasual to evening attire. No sportswear or tennis shoes allowed. Eighteen and over.
Like an old-fashioned Eastern European bakery, Crixa Cakes has everything from chocolate-cherry mousse cake to Fatima’s Thighs. Also, all of Crixa's delectable delights are baked from scratch on-site. The cafe boasts an expansive coffee bar, which features various espresso-based beverages in addition to the standard-issue cup of joe. Surf the 'net while you sip and chomp; they've got free wi-fi as well.
This ritzy Spanish restaurant from former Oliveto chef Paul Canales is nothing if not ambitious: a 4,000-square-foot multi-use space that includes a high-end coffee shop, a wine and olive-oil retailer, an art gallery, and a performance venue for experimental jazz.
Watch the game here on one of 21 high-definition plasma-screen TVs, and choose from an even greater number of beers on tap. Evening entertainment occasionally includes comedy, but this is definitely a sports bar. The menu has traditional pub grub like fish and chips or bangers and mash, and less traditional fare like chicken tikka masala and Thai yellow tofu. During football season, the Englander opens early on Sundays for the NFL breakfast. Enjoy your food and drinks inside or on the patio.
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).
The sports bar comes equipped with a handful of flatscreen TVs throughout its interior, bolstered by a domestic and imported beer selection and the usual bar food fare like a meat lovers' pizza and chicken wings.
At the sidewalk tables outside, attractive hipsters enjoy a late brunch — grilled panini, poached eggs and toast, or the waffle of the day with fruit. Inside, animated with the buzz of excellent espresso drinks, still more attractive hipsters converse as soulful beats play in the background. At the counter, laminated tributes to subversive visionaries from Mother Jones to Bob Marley kindle activist sparks. Owners Andrea Ali, Keba Konte, and Rachel Konte are artists who select thought-provoking work to showcase on the walls. Never has the leftist cafe community been so tasty, creative, and mod. Organic, fair-trade coffee served.