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.
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.
Furnished with a full bar, restaurant, dining area, pool table, and a lounge with a spacious dance floor and an elevated DJ booth, Luka’s is chic, but not intimidatingly so. The lounge features rotating art exhibits and an all-star DJ lineup every week. Admission is often free, but expect to pay a $5 or $10 on weekends. Enjoy specials like half-priced bottles of wine (Mondays) or dollar oysters (Tuesdays) and listen to a variety of music, from funk to punk and bhangra to be-bop. Luka’s draws a diverse crowd that’s ready to dance, so arrive early on Voodoo Wedesdays for free salsa and timba lessons.