Sure, Oakland has a reputation as the best place to find a cache of Four Loko, or a liquor store that carries rare varieties of tequila. But now there are several other reasons for Mission hipsters to travel across the bridge. Between the cluster of taverns around lower Broadway, the chic cocktail lounges in Uptown, and the wine bars in Temescal, Oakland is starting to make good on its promise to become a “destination location.” It’s not a tourist trap, yet. But it’s definitely a destination for drinking.
Perhaps the best sign of that shift lies in Uptown, where design trends err toward high-concept, “mixed-use” nightclubs. Places like The Layover (1517 Franklin St., 510-834-1517, OaklandLayover.com), Club Paradiso (2272 Telegraph Ave., 510-735-9095), Luka’s Taproom & Lounge (2221 Broadway, 510-451-4677, LukasOakland.com), and Era Art Bar (19 Grand Ave., 510-832-4400, OaklandEra.com) all double as galleries. Not only do they feature local artwork on the walls, they also try to keep a real art house feel in the interior decor. At Layover, the couches have hand-sewn cushions that match the pastel paint on the walls. Era is even fancier, with its gothic furniture and teardrop light fixtures. The whole idea is to have a place that can be endlessly recycled, in accordance with our current ecological sensibilities. Educate yourself while you drink. Feast your eyes. Soak in the ambience. And consider buying that couch you’re sitting on — at least, that was the original idea at Layover, where all the bar furniture used to be for sale.
Yet another trend that’s taken Oakland by storm is that of artists opening their own venues. The Layover fits that profile, in that co-owners Tim Martinez — a visual artist — and Prozack Turner — a rapper with the group Foreign Legion — manage to navigate both worlds. New addition Disco Volante (347 14th St., 510-663-0271, DiscoVolanteOakland.com) was the brainchild of Damon Gallagher, leader of the six-piece brass band, Damon and the Heathens. Despite the bar’s name, which means “flying saucer” in Spanish, the bar is not a dance club.
Perhaps we should give the word “uptown” a lot more latitude. In fact, the new, cool, hip spots don’t lie exclusively in the retail node between 12th Street BART and Auto Row. New faux-dive Heart and Dagger Saloon (504 Lake Park Ave., 510-444-7300, HeartandDaggerSaloon.com) sits right at the lip of Lake Merritt. With its pinball machines, pool tables, and wicked-strong whiskey sours, Heart and Dagger falls in the same vein as the old “red bars” that were all the rage back in 2002 (Ruby Room being a prime example). It attracts a genuinely mixed crowd. So does Bar Three Fifty-Five (355 19th St., 510-451-3355), a new rock bar with swanky vintage decor, located right at the edge of downtown. It’s the kind of venue where you can pretend to be a character in a more glamorous version of Cheers. And if you’re into that old fantasy of the neighborhood watering hole, it’s brought to life at The Avenue (4822 Telegraph Ave., 510-654-1423), a joint that’s become so popular, it’s often packed at witching hour on a Monday. Patrons relish the 75-cent pool table and classic Eighties movies playing on TV.
But lofty concepts and fine-tuned aesthetics aren’t the only draw in Oakland’s nightlife scene. It’s also part of the beer renaissance, with a new bevy of taverns and breweries, beer and bratwurst festivals, purveyors of barrel-aged ales, and beero attractions. Paramount among them is Linden Street Brewery (95 Linden St., 510-812-1264, LindenBeer.com), which is located in the same brick warehouse that used to house the Standard Underground Cable factory. Owner Adam Lamoreaux sees himself as a curator, as well as a brewer, and he specializes in original brews like the Urban People’s Common Lager. Linden supplies beer to The Trappist (460 8th St., 510-238-8900, TheTrappist.com), a Belgian and specialty tavern with 25 rotating beers on tap. Last year it was joined by Beer Revolution (464 3rd St., 510-452-2337, Beer-Revolution.com), a retailer and beer garden whose name could almost be a rallying cry.
And the wine revolution is in full effect, too — particularly in areas like Temescal. It’s home to Barlata Tapas Bar (4901 Telegraph Ave., 510-450-0678, Barlata.com), which serves Catalan delicacies — including jamon serrano and a starchy, eggy tortilla española — and sweet, citrusy sangria. It’s just steps away from Marc 49 (4915 Telegraph Ave., 510-652-2100), which offers a wide selection of zins, cabs, pinots, rosés, and bubblies. Flights are reasonably priced at $11 for three samples, and $14 for four. The wine bar trend has also taken hold in Uptown, where newcomer The Punchdown (2212 Broadway, 510-251-0100, PunchdownWine.com) took over a vacancy left by Franklin Square Wine Bar, which shuttered last year. The Punchdown advertises itself as a “natural wine bar,” meaning its grapes are grown and harvested in a biodynamic way, with minimal processing.
If development keeps apace, these joints might just be the tip of the iceberg. This month, former House of Shields owner Alexeis Filipello plans to open Bar Dogwood at 1644 Telegraph Avenue, formerly home to a pharmacy and an insurance company. It’s billed as another after-work drinking commons, complete with health-conscious snacks and live entertainment. That sounds intoxicating.