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Bars for Seeing and Being Seen
The Air Bar & Lounge (492 9th St., Oakland, 510-444-2377, AirOakland.com) is located below street level in Old Oakland, has a spacious-yet-cozy interior, and exudes an upscale, VIP vibe for the urban hip.
Aura Nightclub (4825 Hopyard Rd. # 10, Pleasanton, 925-416-0777, NightclubAura.com) is perfect for when you're in the mood for that classic dance club experience but don't want to trek to San Francisco: The club offers two distinct lounges-cum-dance floors, fireplaces, lots of mod furniture à la Design Within Reach, go-go dancers, and fabulous people-watching.
Bench and Bar (510 17th St., Oakland, 510-444-2266, Bench-and-Bar.com) aims to please with theme nights like "Latin Explosion" on Fridays, "Club Rimshot" on Saturdays (hip-hop and R&B), and "Beautiful" (house) on Thursdays — and succeeds with flying, uh, colors.
Club 21 (2111 Franklin St., Oakland, 510-268-9425, Club21Oakland.com) is a spinoff of the Bench and Bar, and, appropriately, features themed nights such as "La Bota Loca" (aka Latino Cowboys night with go-go boys galore), "Tasty" (ladies' night) on Thursdays, and "The Escape" for the college crowd on Tuesdays.
Club Anton (428 3rd St., Oakland, 510-463-0165, ClubAnton.com) remains perhaps the only Latin jazz club in the entire world that would feature Bay Area turf rapper G-Stack and DJ True Justice on a Thursday and follow up with Tony Mayfield or Pepe y Su Orquesta on a Saturday — a lineup patrons definitely seem to dig.
Club 1220 (1220 Pine St.,Walnut Creek, 925-939-4550, Club1220.com), which hosts line-dancing for queer folk every Tuesday night, proves that country line is still alive and well, even in the Bay Area.
Club Montero's (1106 Solano Ave., Albany, 510-524-1270, ClubMonteros.com), located inside Montero's Cafe, dedicates its weekends to salsa, with intermediate lessons on Thursdays and classes for newbies on Fridays and Saturdays, followed each night by dancing till the early mañana.
Club Paradiso (2272 Telegraph Ave., Oakland 510-735-9095, DisoLounge.com), located in the much-contested building that once contained the Vibe Lounge and its predecessor, Cables Reef, is the Uptown analogue to Air Lounge, both in terms of its decor (exposed brick, chic lounge chairs, paintings with an "urban" slant) and its music (hip-hop, reggae, and R&B).
The Den (1912 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, TheDenOakland.com), adjunct to the Fox Theater, has become a go-to spot in its own right. Besides its two-tiered dance floor and lounge area, the Den offers a selection of hoity-toity appetizers (smoked salmon rillets, artichoke bacon dip, and cheese plates with stuffed apricots), and original cocktails — the "Encore" is essentially a liquid chocolate cake with Stoli. Not to mention the wall-to-wall windows, which provide a first-rate view of Telegraph Avenue.
Easy Lounge (3255 Lakeshore Ave., Oakland, 510-338-4911, Easy510.com) attracts an eclectic crowd — doe-eyed hipster chicks, suave urbanites, eccentric locals, and even suits fresh off of work — and the tunes are just as varied, thanks to different DJ themes each night — from rockabilly to salsa, 1980s to funk.
Era Art Bar and Lounge (19 Grand Ave., Oakland, 510-832-4400, OaklandEra.com), surrounded by a cluster of similarly themed boutique bars, combines industrial elements with nouveau Goth — the chairs could have been poached from a 19th-century English parlor.
Karibbean City (1408 Webster St., Oakland, 510-251-0769, KaribbeanCity.com) has as a diverse entertainment lineup — which represents the panoply of Caribbean music from salsa to dancehall roots to Afropop — and proffers a savory selection of Jamaican cuisine.
Kingman's Lucky Lounge (3332 Grand Ave., Oakland, 510-465-5464, KingmansCocktails.com) caters to a dressy yet diverse crowd and features a full bar, ample mood lighting, and DJs spinning downtempo, house, funk, and drum 'n' bass.
Kitty's (6702 Hollis St., Emeryville, 510-601-9300, BarKittys.com) proves that Emeryville really does have a pulse, with its rotating lineup of DJs, a patio that's swarmed in warm weather, and a regular crowd of upscale loft-dwellers and thirsty Pixar workers who've just punched out.
Luka's Taproom & Lounge (2221 Broadway, Oakland, 510-451-4677, LukasOakland.com) boasts a long list of sexy amenities (a rotating art exhibit, a spacious dance floor, a vast selection of beer and a menu that includes killer burgers, fries, and oysters), and it's spitting distance from the 19th Street BART station, so you can get your swerve on without getting a DUI.
Mimosa Champagne Lounge (2355 Broadway, Oakland, 510-891-1005, MimosaChampagneLounge.com) with its slender cocktail glasses and sparkling wines (nineteen total, along with twenty-three champagnes and five mimosas), is not a dance club, but the vibe is so light and frothy, it's like a bottle of champagne being uncorked.
Mua (2442a Webster St., Oakland, 510-238-1100, MuaOakland.com), a fabulous addition to the Oakland restaurant scene, turns into a nightclub around midnight. With its warehouse chic decor and decidedly Oakland clientele, it's a guaranteed good time.
Ruby Room (132 14th St., Oakland, 510-444-7224, MySpace.com/OaklandRubyRoom), where the DJs spin a wall-to-wall soundtrack of punk, glam rock, and kitschy hip-hop classics, is one of the best places in Oakland to chat up sassy indie kids while drinking stiff, cheap drinks.
Somar Bar and Lounge (1727 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, SomarBar.wordpress.com) is an art bar that distinguishes itself by having quarter-pump candy machines and a sushi vendor in the front window. In Uptown, it's a perennial favorite.
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