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Bars, Clubs & Coffeehouses: Bars & Clubs

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.

The Alley

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 Kingman’s 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.

The south of Mission dive bar attracts a rock 'n' roll-type crowd with semi-regular live punk shows and other debauchery-inspiring events.

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.

Blondie's recently added a second bar to its backroom smoking lounge, which is open on the weekends. But the martinis are the main attraction, with specialties like the Dagwood boasting a "smorgasbord olive feast" along with smoked salmon, spicy sausage, and bleu cheese (what's the food-to-liquor ratio on that savory concoction?).

Bruno's offers live music Tuesday and Thursday, featuring Jazz Mafia Tuesdays, Batanga Live! Thursdays, and DJs on other nights. Full-service Italian restaurant open until 10 p.m.

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.

There's a rich history behind this rustic Irish pub, which was founded by two sets of Irish immigrant brothers. The location once served as a regular gathering space for San Francisco Chronicle and Examiner employees, and today stands as a historical landmark. Patrons can have some craic watching both Irish and U.S. sports games, drinking beers, and eating decidedly UK-inspired fare.

CommonWealth Cafe and Pub

Ahna Adair co-owns the CommonWealth with her brother Pete Jeffryes and her husband Ross Adair, a Scot who learned to appreciate traditional cooking in his grandmother's kitchen. He prepares it here in the form of English-style breakfasts and pub grub with a California twist: Steel-cut oats, beans and toast, egg-and-chutney sandwiches, and the like augment an impressive selection of beers from the UK, the East Bay, and a few locales in between.

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