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.
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.
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 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.
Henry's is an old-school hotel bar that's been remodeled and reinvented. While you can still sit at the bar and enjoy a reasonably stiff drink, you might be better off sitting down for a full meal, as Henry's offers a full-size and well-executed take on classic pub fare.
Lounge 3411 transmits some Uptown flavor to the lower hills, with a mix of DJs, comedy nights, and local bands. There's also a sizable stripper-pole-equipped dance floor.
Furnished with a full bar, restaurant, dining area, pool table, and a lounge with a spacious dance floor and an elevated DJ booth, Luka’s is chic, but not intimidatingly so. The lounge features rotating art exhibits and an all-star DJ lineup every week. Admission is often free, but expect to pay a $5 or $10 on weekends. Enjoy specials like half-priced bottles of wine (Mondays) or dollar oysters (Tuesdays) and listen to a variety of music, from funk to punk and bhangra to be-bop. Luka’s draws a diverse crowd that’s ready to dance, so arrive early on Voodoo Wedesdays for free salsa and timba lessons.
This fun, friendly neighborhood tavern attracts regulars, young and old. The barstaff is attentive and informed, and pours from an extensive list of spirits that seems to grow daily. There's also a daily happy hour, great jukebox selections, and DJs spinning on the weekends, making Acme Bar a solid bet all around.
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. Its house-made tonic makes for a delicious gin and tonic.
Oakland's emerging beer renaissance finds a firm foothold at Beer Revolution, located near Jack London Square. Inside, a bevy of beers on tap 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. Take one to go or enjoy it on the sunny front patio for a $1 corkage fee.
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.
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.
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.”