Despite their sheer numbers, cafes are never unpopular for Berkeleyites wanting to chat with friends over soy cappuccinos or pretending to write a research paper while engaging in some serious people-watching. Apparently, Caffe Triestes location in Berkeleys "West Bank" is the perfect spot for such social anthropological study, as its situated at the corner of busy San Pablo Avenue and Dwight Way, and has the type of baristas who wonder why you havent shown up in the last few weeks. With tiny white lights strung from the ceiling and bottles of Pinot Grigio and Chianti on the counter, this cafes Euro vibe is accentuated with traditional Italian music rotating with Argentine tango every Monday night. If you love Italy but arent in love with Italy, Caffe Trieste also books varying live jazz acts every Tuesday, and a range of other live music on Friday nights.
Now more than 35 years old, Pro Arts is an all-purpose resource for artists and art fans alike, as a gallery, performance space, and leader of the East Bay Open Studios program.
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 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.
La Peña Cultural Center, with its trademark colorful mural out front, is a microcosm of Berkeley’s cultural, social, and political utopia. Founded in 1975 in response to the military coup that overthrew Chilean President Salvador Allende, La Peña continues to live up to its revolutionary roots, hosting a variety of hip-hop, world, and jazz music; spoken word; dance classes; art exhibits; films; and lectures, focusing on social justice and human rights about four nights a week. Its 175-capacity theater features a sizable stage, wooden dance floor, and a riser with tables and chairs, suitable for getting sweaty to some Latin American rhythms or sitting back and enjoying the show. If all that consciousness has you feeling a bit woozy, try one of the empanadas at La Peña’s Cafe Valparaiso.
The cafe, which replaced the beloved Mama Buzz in February 2012, serves up homemade sausages, pastries, beer, and coffee, all for under $10. Like its predecessor, the space hosts a gallery that features works by local artists.
An East Bay cultural institution since 1969, the museum specializes in art, history, and the natural sciences of California, and in recent years has added quirky and contemporary community-oriented events and exhibits to its programming.
Thrashing, crashing, vocal-cord-straining, pounding-your-ears-and-obliterating-your-will-power rock. You know you love it. And the Stork Club is where rock makes its home. Tuesday through Sunday starting around 9:30 p.m., cover is usually just $5. Happy-hour DJs spin rock and punk tunes, a bluegrass jam happens on Mondays and Storking Comedy takes place on Tuesdays. The honky-tonk-style bar is decked out with red and yellow tinsel, Christmas lights, rubber-seated booths, a pool table, a jukebox, an extensive Barbie collection, and a tawdry, winter-wonderland atmosphere.
This club, modeled after an Eastern European wooden synagogue, is a Berkeley institution dedicated to dance and music. The nonprofit venue hosts live music nearly every night, and shows are all-ages. Ashkenaz hosts reggae, bluegrass, Balkan, Brazilian, Cajun, and Caribbean bands, just to name a few. Come early for a dance class or on Sunday afternoon for a kids' concert.
Founded in 1968, the Freight & Salvage may be one of the most reliable venues for music in the East Bay. The venue is all ages, nonprofit, non-smoking, and alcohol-free. Here’s what you can count on from this Berkeley institution: a variety of traditional acoustic music played by accomplished musicians, an excellent sound system, and a crowd that deeply appreciates the music. Somewhere between a glorified barn and a church, the Freight’s atmosphere ensures that the attention is focused on the stage, where a range of folk, bluegrass, swing, country, Cajun, and world music can be heard. While shows here aren’t cheap, this venue is also a nonprofit, so you can feel better about where your money is going.
Known for the outspoken political commentary often gracing its marquee, the restored 1920s theater features a Wurlitzer organ performance before Friday and Saturday night screenings in its 900-seat auditorium.
During the day, the softly upholstered furniture, richly colored linens, modern-exotic lighting, and casual seating coax patrons to relax, share, and open up — even with strangers. But on weekend nights, this bar turns into a crowded, sweaty dance club, with plenty of bumping and grinding. The drinks are neither low-brow nor high-brow; they exist to lubricate social interaction, not dominate it. On Tuesdays, comedians of various stripes test their mettle before accommodating, though nonetheless real crowds. You'd never know — or maybe you would — from the blank street sign out front, featuring only a glowing neon cocktail glass: This place is the real deal.
Offers the same high caliber of talent in the genre of jazz as the Oakland original, but the state-of-the-art venue also books R&B, soul, and world-music acts.
After all these years, Berkeley's famous all-ages punk warehouse still draws crowds of kids to its weekly shows, featuring punk bands (both local and national). But the best thing about this volunteer-run, alcohol- and drug-free venue is its sense of history: The yellowing, graffiti-stained walls have been ragged and tagged by members of now-legendary bands like Screw 32, Green Day, and A.F.I.