From Dusk Till Dawn ... 

The bars, bands, and clubs to keep you happy.

Page 9 of 9

Nothing screams "dive bar" like the red-and-blue neon sign announcing the fact that you're about to get hammered at the shoebox-sized Hotsy Totsy Club (601 San Pablo Ave., Albany, 510-524-1661). The drinks are eye-poppingly powerful and cheap, the decor classic grunge, the pool table operable and — in other words, it's a divine place to drink away your woes. ... For all the hullaballoo that Christians have made about drinking and temperance, it's remarkable that the best beer makers in the world are also some of the most devoutly religious folks out there. If you want to step back in time and taste Belgium beer made in the most venerable of traditions, head to the Trappist (460 8th St., Oakland, 510-238-8900, The cozy bar may be a bit noisy and cramped at rush hour, but it serves some of the finest hops around. ... 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 (3325 Grand Ave., Oakland, 510-444-8505) is characterized by its vintage clotheslines, clean pink and blue restroom stalls, the thousands of business cards stapled to its walls, and Rod Dibble, the music whiz who's been behind the Alley's piano for nearly fifty years. ... Funny how looks and names can be deceiving. The Lost Weekend Lounge (2320 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda, 510-523-4700) may conjure up images of a rough and tumble hangout for wayward souls, but in reality it's good, clean fun. With a wide variety of music and events — from trivia contests to a DJ spinning tunes from the '80s — a pool table, and an enclosed patio out back for smokers, there's a little something for everyone. ... Touting itself as "West Berkeley's Most Elegant Dive Bar," the Missouri Lounge (2600 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, 510-548-2080, has become the new destination for urban hipsters. Thanks to its wide-open door, the Missouri is quite an inviting, unpretentious space to hang your hat for a few beers. Though no live bands play here, you may spot quite a few local musicians bobbing their heads to the various DJs spinning a variety of hip sounds. ... Perhaps the only Irish pub in the country listed on the National Register of Historic Places — it is a pretty red brick building, after all — Beckett's (2271 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-647-1790, features live pub bands several nights a week, lip-licking fish and chips, Tuesday trivia night, and the best black 'n' tan in Berkeley. ... If you haven't been to Cafe Van Kleef (1621 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 510-763-7711,, you're missing the chance to unwind in the presence of some very fancy knickknacks. If you have stumbled inside, owner Peter Van Kleef has no doubt regaled you with tales of the water buffalo head across from the bar: shot by Gary Cooper. Or the ruby slippers by the coffee machines: an original pair from the movie, of course. Van Kleef's is a step back to a simpler era, where drinks at five were the norm, and everyone gathered to welcome the evening. ... You don't go to Cato's Ale House (3891 Piedmont Ave., Oakland, 510-655-3349, for the food — which is passable, in the most authentic UK way. You come to this homey neighborhood bar (cluttered with framed black-and-white photos on the walls and guffawing happy-hour drinkers everywhere else) for the vast selection of beer, the warm company, and the live acoustic music. ... Ben 'n Nick's Bar & Grill (5612 College Ave., Oakland, 510-923-0327) may be a hipster hangout, but it's such a mellow, non-cliquey one that you'll have no qualms returning again and again. With loads of tables of varying sizes, a long bar ripe for hunkering down for a few hours (and pints), and variety of beer on tap that changes daily (as well as a full bar), it's the perfect place to catch up with friends. ... Forbidden Island (1304 Lincoln Ave., Alameda, 510-749-0332, is a tiki bar at its best, offering everything it takes to capture that elusive blend of island kitsch, pure spectacle, gaudy cocktails, and festive mood: a nautical wood interior, a jukebox crammed with vintage Martin Denny and Frankie Laine tunes, and a topical lanai for outdoor guzzling. But the true test of a tiki bar is in its cocktails — and this one passes with flying, pastel colors. ... In 1883, a small bunkhouse on the harbor between Alameda and Oakland began to sell hooch and beer. As the port of Jack London expanded, it became known as Heinold's First and Last Chance (48 Webster St., Oakland, 510-839-6761, Today, it stands as the only place where you can drink at the same table used by Jack London, president and Supreme Court Justice William Howard Taft, and Robert Lewis Stevenson. In other words, it's seriously old-school cool. ... Enjoy tasty wood-fire pizzas and house-made brews beneath the stars at Jupiter (2181 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-843-8277,, Berkeley's go-to beer garden (with two floors to explore if you'd rather stay indoors). For zero cover charge you get atmosphere — including heat lamps, foliage, lanterns, a huge red brick fire pit, and live entertainment ranging from jazz to bluegrass to samba. ... The wood-paneled, clubby conviviality of the Hotel Mac (50 Washington St, Point Richmond, 510-233-0576) bar in relaxed downtown Point Richmond provides the perfect atmosphere to sip the East Bay's best mojito. The Mac's version of this classic Cuban cocktail is mintier than most, with less lime-and-club-soda tartness up front and a sharp wedge of lime instead of the typical overdose of lime juice. Boom! Havana. ... Fancy a pilsner from Lebanon? How about a lager from India? Or a stout from Brazil? Warehouse Cafe (5 Canyon Lake Dr., Port Costa, 510-787-1827) is your place, whether you're looking for that brew you haven't seen since El Salvador or are just bored with the selection at your local store. Allegedly you'll find 450 beers from more than 35 countries, including the strongest beer in the world: Switzerland's Samichlaus Brown, 14 percent alcohol. ... Small, smoky, 'n' cute, George Kaye's (4044 Broadway, Oakland, 510-547-9374) has an eclectic mix of regulars and down-to-earth hipsters who all end up chatting toward the end of the night, when the booze has set in and the place seems even more intimate. Just try to stay away from the jukebox, which is stocked with everything from local comps and bands like the Thumb of the Maid (the Moore Brothers' band) to classics as varied as the Clash, Sinatra, and Patsy Cline. ... Albatross Pub (1822 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, 510-843-2473, is popular among young people for its wide selection of board games like Pictionary, as well as darts, pool, and the infamous Sunday night trivia quiz — apparently, drinking pints and playing games go quite well together. On Wednesdays and Saturdays, this pleasantly woody British-style bar known by regulars as "The Bird" hosts rotating bluegrass and jazz bands. ... At last count, the Englander Sports Pub & Restaurant (7294 San Ramon Rd., Dublin, 925-587-2333; 101 Parrott St., San Leandro, 510-357-3571, boasted about sixty beers on tap, a line stretching a good twelve feet — almost as long as the five big-screen overhead televisions combined. The selection ranges from Alaska Amber to Young's Oatmeal Stout, and includes local favorites such as Sierra Nevada and Black Diamond alongside European ales. ... Ah, the French really know how to live. Why stop with one happy hour, they say, when you can have two? With its high ceilings, expansive mirrors, and huge columns with caricatures à la Honoré Daumier, the Left Bank Brasserie (60A Crescent Dr., Pleasant Hill, 925-288-1222, is a world apart from its suburban mall locale. Along with an extensive list of "Les Martinis" and "Les Cocktails," you'll find crisp pommes frites, mussels Florentine, and an array of other tempting treats. ... There are two reasons to arrange for a first date at the New Zealander (1400 Webster St., Alameda, 510-769-8555, First, the high-ceilinged 19th-century bar is gorgeous enough to give your date a good first impression before you get sloppy on beer and wine direct from New Zealand and Oz. Second, the food can't be beat: sausage rolls, Vegemite and cheese sandwiches, and savory pies for carnivores and veggie fiends alike. Come to think of it, it's an ideal spot for a second date, too. Or a third... Mammoth brewing machinery at work, a dozen house beers on tap, comfort food, and a local vibe are only preludes to the little pint of heaven provided at Triple Rock Brewery and Alehouse (1920 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-843-2739, Chill here on a sunny day, and see why it's also the East Bay's best rooftop for drinking and dining. ... The front room of Schmidt's Tobacco Trading Co. & Pub (1492 Solano Ave., Albany, 510-525-1900) is a little lounge complete with oak floors and tables, library lamps, bookcases, and comfy old couches. In the back, Schmidt's proffers more than fourteen blends of tobacco and a good selection of pipes, lighters, and cigarette holders, and beer on tap including Bass, Fullers, Guinness, and Harp. Here, bartenders wash the glasses by hand and guests gather on the back porch for a smoke and a low-key chat. ... Spat's Restaurant and Saloon (1974 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-841-7225) is a bar with style, both in its vintage-saloon-meets-hunting-lodge-inspired decor and drinks like the Oliver "Boston" Strangler and Aunt Matilda's Zombie. Seeking a cocktail à deux? Try Natasha's Borneo Fogcutter, a fanfare of fruits and liqueurs served over dry ice. Though some of the frou-frou cocktails won't hit you any harder than a swig of NyQuil, you can always use them as a chaser after a shot of something studly.


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