A Buzz and a Tan

Why get drunk indoors when you can do it outdoors? Our guide to the best outdoor bars in the East Bay.

Barring those brisk foggy nights, the mild climate of the East Bay is a perfect environment for drinking under the stars (or the sun). Outdoor spaces create a whole other atmosphere in which to imbibe — one that’s immeasurably more social, like a backyard party with a bunch of random strangers. Beyond that, it’s just another place to get drunk. We rounded up some of our favorite spots:

Heart and Dagger Saloon

Cheap drinks and a down-to-earth, Oakland clientele make Heart and Dagger a favored neighborhood bar. What’s better is the lived-in picnic tables and patio furniture in the rear of the Lake Merritt rocker bar — the perfect substitution for a friend’s backyard party. Step down the stairs (in one piece), and you’re instantly transported to a kegger from your high school days (but with fewer douchebags). Even though it’s outside, the noise level on weekend nights can be intense, which doesn’t exactly make it the place to have a heartfelt exchange with a loved one. The plus: The lights make those under the umbrellas difficult to see, which means if you need to pass out, no one will notice. (K.R.)


Besides its massive beer selection and tasty wood-fired pizzas, Jupiter also boasts the granddaddy of all outside East Bay patios. Though you can’t tell from the outside, the bar/restaurant opens up to a spacious multi-level brick patio, complete with fountain, greenery, live music, and enough tables to accommodate large parties. When the weather is warm, the doors leading out to the beer garden are opened, and the view makes you feel like you’re in some quaint European plaza, not downtown Berkeley. Think of it as a cheap vacation. (K.R.)

Missouri Lounge

Spontaneous dancing to old-school hip-hop, friendly bartenders, grubbing bar food, and a clientele filled with old friends make the Missouri Lounge homier than most East Bay bars. To boot, it’s got a sizable outdoor patio that channels a vibe that’s conducive to striking up lively conversations with people you don’t know. Picnic benches, heating lamps, an awning, and a small bar make it a self-contained bar unto itself. (K.R.)

Eli’s Mile High Club

For those seeking a grittier experience, Eli’s Mile High Club is the place to be. Once a blues establishment and now the favored home of many Oakland punks and metal heads, it’s recently been revamped to include walls for art, a tattoo parlor upstairs, and a designated space for live bands. Noise complaints from neighbors force the bar to shut down early (11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday), but its back patio is where to hang during the day. Picnic benches, an awning, and grubbing bar food augment the experience. (K.R.)


Kitty’s boasts one of the nicer outdoor patios around. Its expansive wooden deck feels like you’re at someone’s fancy backyard barbecue — the perfect environs in which to down a mojito and catch up with a friend. Nestled along Hollis Street, the bar attracts khaki-pants types looking to unwind after long hours behdind the computer; late-night and weekends draw a younger crowd, although its club clientele fled since the DJs departed. For some, it’s a welcome invitation back to Emeryville’s hippest spot. (K.R.)

Lucky 13

If you want to light up, head to Lucky 13 in Alameda; it’s friendly to all the smokers in town. A convivial vibe permeates the rocker bar’s sizable backyard patio, which gets rather full (and smoky) on weekends. With ample seating and a neighborhood-y vibe in which everyone seems to know each other, it’s the place to enjoy a Pabst and a shot of whiskey under the Christmas lights. (K.R.)

Beer Revolution

The first thing you notice about this pint-size beer garden with a monster-size selection — including single-bottle brews from all over the world — is its patio, which sits on 3rd Street for all to see. Small but with ample picnic tables, it’s the place to go for a midday sunbathe or an after-work happy hour. The beers are cheap, the people-watching lively, and the view is as Oakland as it gets. (K.R.)

Bear’s Lair

Seeing as it sits literally at the heart of the Cal campus, in lower Sproul Plaza, it should come as no surprise that the Bear’s Lair tends to be a pretty student-centric experience. But if sticky floors, raucous co-eds, and plentiful American beer are your thing, get thee to the Lair for dirt-cheap pitchers, sun-lit picnic tables, and an, um, convivial atmosphere. Tip: this place gets packed; arrive early in the afternoon to grab a seat, but avoid it on game days, unless you enjoy getting very close to complete strangers. (E.C.)

Triple Rock

Fun fact: Triple Rock is the fifth-oldest brewpub in the country, and the oldest one still owned and operated by its original founders. There are reasons for why it’s been around for 25 years: a patient bar staff; a solid, satisfying pub-style food menu; a delicious, relatively cheap, constantly-rotating selection of beer, all brewed on-site; and, certainly not least of all, the sunny, Christmas-lit, impossibly pleasant second-story patio. The patio is small, but if you can snag a seat, it’s worth holding on to. (E.C.)


With the sudden death of Blakes earlier this year and the recent transformation of Beckett’s to the much more food-oriented BEC’s Bistro, Raleigh’s stands as one of the few remaining student-oriented bars in the downtown/Telegraph area — and perhaps the only one tolerated by people over the age of 22. The food is generally well-done, there are plenty of varieties of beer on tap, and the patio is much bigger than most. (E.C.)

Schmidt’s Tobacco and Trading Co. and Pub

There are many things to love about the bar-tobacconist-living room mash-up that is Schmidt’s, but here’s one: It’s perhaps the only place in the East Bay (aside from your own home) where you’re encouraged to show up in sweatpants. It’s about as low-key a bar as you’ll find: no music, no dimmed lights, no pretense — just a mild-mannered dude selling beer, wine, tobacco, and smoking accessories to an eclectic, respectful crowd in a converted house, with the patched sofas and well-worn board games to prove it. The picnic-tabled front patio and back smoking porch make it one of the best places in the East Bay to have a quiet drink and/or smoke under the stars. (E.C.)


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