.Oakland’s Watering Holes: Best spots to sip this summer

VAN KLEEF
1621 Telegraph Ave, Oakland

I walked in and my jaw actually dropped open—I know because someone at the bar said, “Good evening, look at you, you look shocked.” Van Kleef’s, named after its now deceased owner, Peter Van Kleef, is an art gallery turned cafe turned bar, with enough knicks, knacks, taxidermy, sculpture, twinkle lights and bison-horn cornucopias to outfit several Shakespearan stages and a Los Angeles movie prop warehouse. Giant silver fish hang from the ceiling; there’s a horse head, a rhinoceros head, a human head—and body—and, at 5pm, a manageably raucous group of regulars is lined up at the bar. 

The speciality is a Greyhound, vodka and grapefruit juice, but the deal is, Van Kleef’s grapefruit juice is special. As I heard it from a regular who prefers to remain nameless—and as I sampled for myself—the grapefruit juice is pulpy, delicious and unparalleled. There’s a theory going that they’ve got a special hookup.

Karaoke Tuesdays, a plethora of things to look at if the conversation bores and a solid Oakland crew. I needn’t say more. 

THE MIRANDA
1739 Broadway, Oakland

I endeavor not to play favorites, but can confidently say that—subjectively speaking—this is the best bar in Oakland. It’s unmissable; just look for the classic neon martini sign on Broadway between 17th and 19th streets. And here’s the deal: The Miranda, along with an elegant, potted-plant and Edison bulb-filled aesthetic, has some of the best bartenders in town. Allow me to illuminate. My first week in Oakland, I came to this bar and was welcomed with nothing short of open arms by bartenders John and Rebecca, who shared with me a complimentary shot of Mescal and gently instructed me never to call Oakland “the city” because “the city” is San Francisco. 

Since that initial evening, I’ve come to The Miranda a handful of times, and am consistently met with exceptional drinks—I tell John what type of alcohol I want and let him run wild; the man is an artist—and familial service. I’m not promising a free shot, but I wouldn’t rule it out either. Don’t miss The Miranda. It’s an undeniably classy venue, with the kind of amicable service one would expect from a dive. This place is special. 

 VIRIDIAN
2216 Broadway, Oakland

It’s actually not possible to miss Viridian—the bar’s outside is a vertical sea of lambent green glass. Slide inside and it’s a Blade Runner-esque neon utopia, minus the stress, plus spectacular cocktails and dim sum. I spent a lavish evening at Viridian recently, which included the pork belly skewers—yes, they melt in the mouth, and yes, this bar also has a full menu—one Baijiu Groni and one White Rabbit. Francisco, the bartender, puts a grace into his drink preparation that I could watch endlessly. And the beverages pack a real punch—no weak drinks in the neon sea of Viridian. 

Having dinner and drinks at Viridian will add a je ne sais quoi to the evening, but it’s in no way unapproachable. The vibe is ultra-chic while still being utterly inviting. Stop in earlier for drinks and dinner, or late night after a show at The Fox Theater. 

DREXL
382 19th St, Oakland

Like playing Pac-Man? What about Skee-Ball? Skills improve the more cocktails imbibed? What if I told you there’s a two level, concrete walled, black-tiled bar in downtown Oakland that offers all these things? And it’s called Drexl? Don’t doubt me; it’s a fact.

After a recent stint up north, which was roastingly hot and put me in the summer state of mind like nobody’s business, I made my way back to Oakland in search of a margarita and found my way into Drexl. Cool enough to calm my sunburn, sweet enough that I made friends with several fellow patrons and entered into a rousing impromptu Skee-Ball tournament, with a margarita rim salty enough to make the Don Julio silver in my margarita sing, Drexl, I thought to myself, gives The Miranda a run for their money. Shortly after thinking this, I found out that, in fact, they’re sister bars, owned by Demetrius Chapin-Rienzo, Adi Taylor and Nathan Johnson. To these three I say, bravo and, Skee-Ball game soon?  

COPPER SPOON
4031 Broadway St, Oakland

I have to say that what pulled me into Copper Spoon originally was their Instagram, which highlights their staff in one of the coolest ways I’ve seen. It’s a big deal to me to see a business take good care of their staff and give them the props they deserve as the lifeblood of the operation. Cooper Spoon had me wanting to meet Sascha the bartender, who they refer to as “the unofficial mayor of Oakland,” and Owen, the “sometimes-pessimistic and charmingly-sassy” cook. If you haven’t noticed a theme to this roundup, vibes, including how the staff feels, are a big factor in enjoying a good drink. 

The real deal is Copper Spoon also has an amazing lineup of events, almost every night. Comedy shows throughout the week, Taco Tuesdays, DJ nights—there’s always something going on. I laughed my face off over a Natto’s Burger and a Sexy Chula—spicy tequila, passionfruit, ginger and lime—and I’ll 100% be doing it again. 

THE TRIBUNE
401 13th St, Oakland 

My first time in the Tribune Tower was for a Juneshine Hard Kombucha event, featuring a special guava margarita that was utterly mouthwatering. But the ambiance came in a close second—located on the ground floor of the Tribune Tower, opened in 1924 by Joseph K. Knowland and the home of the Oakland Tribune newspaper—The Tribune bar has an incredible sense of time—the hallway to the bathroom, for one, is wallpapered floor-to-ceiling with an old Oakland cityscape. There’s a sense of walking into a Mad Men episode, but then you look behind the bar and the NBA playoffs are on. I deeply enjoyed watching the Suns-Pelicans game while feeling like I was in a time machine. Plus, the bartender let me charge my phone, and we all know that’s quality service. Grab a seat at The Tribune’s wraparound bar any night this summer. 

Mask Up, Drink Up

Alameda County reinstates mask mandate

By Eli Walsh

Alameda County health officials announced last week  that they are reinstating the county’s indoor mask mandate as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to increase locally and across the Bay Area.

The mandate went into effect last week and will apply to most indoor public settings, including grocery stores and gyms.

Students and staff at K-12 schools will not be required to wear masks under the order through the end of the 2021-2022 school year, according to the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency, but they will be required in all other settings for children, including summer school and youth programs. 

The order will not apply to the city of Berkeley, which operates as its own local health jurisdiction. A spokesperson for the city did not respond when asked whether Berkeley will align with the county. 

“Rising COVID cases in Alameda County are now leading to more people being hospitalized, and today’s action reflects the seriousness of the moment,” county Health Officer Dr. Nicholas Moss said in a statement. “We cannot ignore the data, and we can’t predict when this wave may end.”

Alameda County is the first county in the Bay Area to reinstate mask requirements in indoor public settings since February, when the state and most counties in the greater Bay Area lifted mask requirements that were implemented to combat the winter surge driven by the omicron variant.

Santa Clara County was the lone holdout among the 11 counties in the greater Bay Area, keeping its indoor mask requirement in place until March 2. 

Health officials have urged a return to widespread masking in recent weeks, amid a new surge in cases primarily spurred by the omicron subvariant BA.2.

According to Alameda County health officials, COVID cases began to rise in April, and the daily number of reported cases has eclipsed the peak of last summer’s wave driven by the delta variant.

Local COVID hospitalizations have also risen to 102, after falling as low as 37 in early April.

COVID cases in general are largely undercounted, according to health officials, due to the wider availability of at-home tests that do not necessarily get reported to the county and infections that may remain asymptomatic and undetected. 

“Putting our masks back on gives us the best opportunity to limit the impact of a prolonged wave on our communities,” Moss said. 

COVID information and resources for Alameda County can be found at https://covid-19.acgov.org/index.page.

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