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 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 spot's homemade desserts. No matter what time of day you opt to sit for a spell in the brick-walled Berkeley institution, there 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.
The latest addition to Oakland's blossoming nightlife scene has set up shop in a turquoise-tiled Art Deco building at 14th and Webster streets. Disco Volante, set to open in late October, is a bar, music venue, and restaurant run by a trio of Oakland arts and entertainment vets, with chef Douglas Bernstein of Bacar, Eccolo, and Farallon fame serving up local and seasonal California cuisine. Musical offerings will range from bluegrass to Afrobeat, with shows at least three nights a week.
Perhaps most notable for the fact that it's located inside the Shattuck Cinemas movie theater, this bar/restaurant offers a full bar, a comfortable atmosphere, and surprisingly delicious food.
Uptown's latest and greatest bar: inviting but not desperate; quietly trendy without trying too hard; relaxed but not lazy — a rec room with the metaphorical volume turned up to eleven (the actual volume, by the way, is nicely not too loud). The cocktail list, which was masterminded by Caroline Pagel of Sea Salt, manages to be both decently priced ($6 during happy hour, which runs 4-6 p.m. weekdays, or $8 regularly), and, by and large, unfussy and delicious (try the garden gimlet.) Big bonus: bocce ball!
Husband-and-wife team Hisuk and Sanju Dong preside over what, on a busy night, feels like the fiercest party in Uptown. The 6,500-square-foot loft sprawls in an L-shape through most of the old Rim and Wheel building, a cavernous former garage. It's part bar, part hang-out zone, and part art studio -- plus a restaurant menu highlighted by fare like skinny fries and fried chicken.