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.
The swanky Old Oakland restaurant and bar boasts 10 65-inch plasma 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.
Live music every night starting around 8 p.m. (Sunday starting at 4 p.m.). Mostly local musicians, from blues to surf to acoustic to bluegrass to eighteen-piece bands. Open-mic night every Monday. No cover. Beer and wine with twelve drafts; local beers and imported; extensive Belgium bottled beer selection. An upscale kitchen serves California lunch and appetizers.
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.
Chandeliers and mahogany create a ritzy lounge environment in which to enjoy up-scale drinks and dining.
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.
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.
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 Naked Maja (Skyy cherry vodka, black cherry juice, and Sprite) — it's named for the famous Goya painting.
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.
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.