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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.

"Community in a cup" is the mantra at Farley's, a cozy coffee hub with a local art gallery and a plethora of magazines awaiting your bleary-eyed perusal. The food menu includes plenty of classy salads — pine nuts, arugula, and goat cheese are just a few of the ingredients — and paninis both hot and cold. There's even a store with beans and Farley's T-shirts. Free wi-fi.

A cute little cafe that's just spacious enough to afford some seating indoors and out front. The cafe's name denotes an effort to combat the daily barrage of bad news with some caffeine-infused positivity. Aside from coffee drinks, customers can order up smoothies, energy drinks, bagels, sandwiches, and more.

First opened in 1988 by brothers Roger and Ken Ham, the Grand Lake-area sports bar is equipped with an array of flat-screen TVs for patrons to catch games while downing drinks and snacking on a wide selection of appetizers (even escargot), pizzas, and more. Includes a banquet room for large parties.

With a tagline like “Good Spirits for Bad People,” you wonder why readers voted Heart & Dagger Saloon “Best Former Dive Bar.” Basically, it has a rock ’n’ roll vibe without the rock-star ego: friendly bartenders, cheap drinks, and a good jukebox. The shaded patio has plenty of seating, which makes it great for groups. There’s free wi-fi, a pool table, pinball machines, and more. Your dog is welcome, but your plastic is not: cash only.

Deep scarlet walls, gilt mirrors, and house plants correspond with the dressy crowd at Kingman's, which also has a full bar, faux leather couches, and mood lighting. Most nights of the week you'll hear DJs spinning downtempo, house, funk, and hip-hop, and you never have to pay a cover.

After an extensive, sixth-month transformation, this Lakeshore favorite is completely unrecognizable from what it once was, in a good way: It's now clean and bright, with a slate of highly creative cocktails and a relaxed, picnic-y vibe.

Located in Oakland’s Lake Merritt area, Grand Lake Coffee House offers a full selection of specialty coffee drinks, as well as smoothies, sandwiches, salads, Tara’s Organic Ice Cream, and desserts. There’s also free wifi.

Occupying the space that formerly housed the Golden Bear and the Dapper Lounge between Oakland's Grand Lake and Adams Point neighborhoods, Room 389 is a completely revamped bar and lounge -- restrooms included. Decorated in dark hues with plenty of wood tones and bold colors, the dog-friendly space features a spiffy bar, space for a DJ (spinning exclusively vinyl), two flat-screen TVs, and a crafty wall covered in pages torn from books. There's also a grill out front and a back area featuring more seating and tables.

You can rely on Rooz for your morning drink of choice and pastry, or take advantage of its free wi-fi, order a sandwich, and stay a while.

With four TV sets, Smitty's is an ideal sports-watching locale. You'll also find pool, cheap beer, and shuffle board in this dive.

This California bistro joint, housed in a grand-looking 1920s-era building, features more than one hundred vodkas, plus specialty cocktails.

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