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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.

At Asha Tea House, the bubble teas are brewed with loose leaves, the boba is cooked fresh at least twice a day, and each drink is mixed and shaken by hand, not by a machine. Factor in the sleek, modern decor and the well-curated selection of snacks, and you've got yourself a boba shop that's a cut above the rest.

Ahh... Au Coquelet, the welcoming Berkeley cafe where you can get a cup of coffee at the crack of dawn and come back after midnight for another cup with an Irish kick, indulge in a fresh fruit torte or any of the homemade desserts. No matter what time of day you opt to sit for a spell in the brick-walled Berkeley institution, the tables are sure to be dotted with people typing at laptops, thumbing through books, or just shooting the breeze.

The self-professed "spirits-driven meat sanctuary" in Oakland's Uptown district will surely satisfy your cocktail and cured-meat craving with an array of delicious offerings, from hearty meat and cheese platters to a ginger-y cocktail with house-made ginger syrup.

Located on the Oakland estuary, Brotzeit Lokal is a view restaurant without the usual trappings of a view restaurant. Modeled after Germany's biergartens, it features casual food (most notably sausages) and about eighteen different beers on tap, split between German beers and local American brews, with a couple of Belgians mixed in for good measure.

Café Clem

Operated by the owner of La Note, the cafe features salads, sandwiches, organic coffees, and sweet and savory pastries, served in a traditional French ambiance with a modern twist.

Like an old-fashioned Eastern European bakery, Crixa Cakes has everything from chocolate-cherry mousse cake to Fatima’s Thighs. Also, all of Crixa's delectable delights are baked from scratch on-site. The cafe boasts an expansive coffee bar, which features various espresso-based beverages in addition to the standard-issue cup of joe. Surf the 'net while you sip and chomp; they've got free wi-fi as well.

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