Best Karaoke Experience

The Mel-O-Dee Cocktail Lounge

The Mel-O-Dee may not look like much, tucked between a deli and a tae kwon do studio on a quiet side-strip of El Cerrito Plaza, its location since 1969 (a previous incarnation existed a couple decades earlier in neighboring Albany). But come Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, the karaoke starts banging and the joint comes to life. A diverse crowd of hipsters, students, bar regulars, and hard-core karaoke fans guzzle $2.50 well drinks, croon their favorite tunes, and get down on the small dimly-lit dance floor. "You might have a 21-year-old singing Lady Gaga, then, next up, a 70-year-old doing Frank Sinatra," says affable manager Ralph Zaragoza. "But everybody supports everybody else and everybody dances." Zaragoza's specially concocted "Ghetto Kamikaze" — featuring berry vodka and five other mystery ingredients — is a particular hit and helps fuel the wang-dang-doodle. But, with the laser lighting, fog machine, and — wait for it — red velvet wallpaper, one need not imbibe to subscribe to the Mel-O-Dee magic.

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