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.
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.
You can dance, drink, and most definitely eat at this German-American restaurant and tavern, where the Wiener Schnitzel comes veggie-optional and live music fills the room every weekend. If the weather's nice, sit out on the cedar patio and sip on Belgium ale and other tasty beer offerings in bottle or on tap.
This sleek, loungey little wine/sake bar boasts an interesting menu of nigori cocktails, a dozen or so largely satisfying noshes, and an ambient conviviality that belies its proto-IKEA design scheme.
Crosby's country-club cuisine is better than it needs to be, with some dishes grand enough to stand up to the monumentally nostalgic surroundings. The bar is a roiling meat market for the over-forty and the overly tanned, but it's worth wading in for the excellent martinis.
Serves breakfast and lunch made from organic, locally grown ingredients, including house-cured cold cuts, daily roasted meats, and poached eggs.
Housed in a mellow, spic-and-span space, Cafe Yesterday is Berkeley's most comprehensive cereal bar, though its well-rounded menu also includes salads, sandwiches, house-baked pastries, and fair-trade coffee.
Located along a quiet stretch of Washington Street in downtown Oakland, Caffe 817 — under the ownership of Scott and Emily Goldenberg — offers a European cafe experience with meals worth the relatively high prices. Loyal customers come back for the delicious Italian flourishes in breakfast and lunch offerings, with daily specials that appeal to the palette, the eye, and, when read aloud, to the ear — “Roasted pork shoulder sandwich with arugula and aioli.” The service, though sometimes slow, is solicitous, and the baristas make impressive coffee art, as worthy of display as the latest art show on the walls. On a sunny day, sidewalk seating under umbrellas perfects the experience. Bottled beer and wine selections vary with the season.
This sleek Old Oakland wine-and-whiskey bar boasts gorgeous design, a mind-bogglingly huge menu, and some of the best bar food around.
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.
Turns out, the Hotel at Shattuck Plaza has not only a rock-solid restaurant, but a bang-up — if slightly mannered — bar space as well. Drinks are well-made and undeniably thought-out — you'll be hard-pressed to find a cocktail here with fewer than five ingredients — but it's a pleasant place for an after-work or post-theater cocktail.
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.
Henry's is an old-school hotel bar that's been remodeled and reinvented. While you can still sit at the bar and enjoy a reasonably stiff drink, you might be better off sitting down for a full meal, as Henry's offers a full-size and well-executed take on classic pub fare.
Enjoy tasty Mediterranean-style pizzas and a wide variety of house brews on tap in this Berkeley outpost’s beer garden, where live bands perform on a brick patio throughout the week. For no cover charge you get atmosphere -- heat lamps, foliage, lanterns, a huge brick fire pit -- and entertainment ranging from experimental laptop music to bluegrass and Americana. Inside, the restaurant is two stories, and there are tables large enough to accommodate groups.