There's a profound sense of the past and present at Cafe Van Kleef: The walls are adorned with vintage bric-a-brac — the kind of stuff your grandpa might collect, if your grandpa was David Lynch — and you might find a Berkeley student quietly reading a book at the bar while dancers two-step near the raised stage. Whether it's blues, jazz, or something more experimental, the live music is always good and almost always free, as the bar's management recently eliminated cover charge for most events. On the three or four nights of the week without a live show, the bartenders play everything from Sonny Rollins to Yo La Tengo, keeping the volume low enough for easy conversation. For many, the only drink to order is the bar's famous greyhound, for which bartenders hand-squeeze fresh grapefruits, but there are also delicious variations like the bluehound, which swaps vodka for tequila (try it with a salt rim). Cafe Van Kleef also has regular drink specials, and if it's your birthday, the bartender will usually offer a complimentary, celebratory drink.
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