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.
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).
Husband-and-wife team Hisuk and Sanju Dong preside over what, on a busy night, feels like the fiercest party in Uptown. The 6,500-square-foot loft sprawls in an L-shape through most of the old Rim and Wheel building, a cavernous former garage. It's part bar, part hang-out zone, and part art studio -- plus a restaurant menu highlighted by fare like skinny fries and fried chicken.
With big-name chefs and a serious foodie following, Plum the restaurant is a fine dining establishment, and with average drink prices scraping $11 and containing ingredients such as tea foam, Plum Bar, its lower-fi appendage, is most definitely a fine drinking establishment — but it's a fineness that speaks less to pretension than to premium attention to detail, the kind you have to pay a little extra for: marigold flowers in your drink; beef-tendon chicarrones just seconds out of the fryer; a bar staff that'll slide an ice-cold glass of water to you from across the bar when they hear you clearing your throat, without you having to ask — or even noticing.
Hold a glass up high as Skip Henderson and Starboard Watch, a pirate band, belts out old sea shanties. It’s just your average Thursday night at Quinn’s. The lighthouse dates back to 1890. The deck seats eighty, and the pub on the second floor has eight beers on tap and more than fifty bottled beers to choose from. The atmosphere is casual — patrons are permitted to toss peanut shells on the floor. The restaurant downstairs is more formal, but guests can order off the full menu wherever they are.
Amy Murray’s bustling downtown Berkeley venue celebrates the Bay Area’s bounty of fresh, organic foodstuffs with flair and a sense of fun. Fig and marrow flatbread, creamy pork rillettes with lemon chutney, handmade pasta with pea tendrils and trumpet mushrooms, and a mixed pig plate of sausage, tenderloin, shoulder, and belly are among the standouts.
This California bistro joint, housed in a grand-looking 1920s-era building, features more than one hundred vodkas, plus specialty cocktails.