The East Bay's nightclub and bar scene has gained considerable clout in the last year, with new venues and more on the way. Here are our favorites.
Bars for Drinking
Albatross Pub (1822 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, 510-843-2473, AlbatrossPub.com) is popular among young people for its pleasantly woody British-style atmosphere, twice-weekly bluegrass and jazz shows, and wide selection of board games like Pictionary, as well as darts, pool, and the infamous Sunday-night trivia quiz.
The Alley (3325 Grand Ave., Oakland, 510-444-8505) is known for its vintage clotheslines, clean pink and blue restroom stalls, relatively private diner-style booths, the thousands of business cards stapled to its walls, and Rod Dibble, the music whiz who's been behind the Alley's piano for nearly fifty years.
Beckett's (2271 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-647-1790, BeckettsIrishPub.com) features live pub bands several nights a week, lip-licking fish and chips, Tuesday trivia night, and the best black 'n' tan in Berkeley.
Ben & Nick's Bar & Grill (5612 College Ave., Oakland, 510-923-0327) is the perfect place to catch up with friends, with loads of tables of varying sizes, a long bar ripe for hunkering down for a few hours (and pints), and a variety of beer on tap that changes daily (as well as a full bar).
Cafe Van Kleef (1621 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 510-763-7711, CafeVanKleef.com) is a step back to a simpler era, where drinks at five were the norm and everyone gathered to welcome the evening.
Cato's Ale House (3891 Piedmont Ave., Oakland, 510-655-3349, MrCato.com) is a homey neighborhood bar with a vast selection of beer, warm company, and live acoustic music.
Englander Sports Pub & Restaurant (101 Parrott St., San Leandro, 510-357-3571, EnglanderPub.com) boasts about sixty beers on tap, a line stretching a good twelve feet — almost as long as the five big-screen overhead televisions combined.
Forbidden Island (1304 Lincoln Ave., Alameda, 510-749-0332, ForbiddenIslandAlameda.com) is a tiki bar at its best, offering everything it takes to capture that elusive blend of island kitsch, pure spectacle, and festive mood: a nautical wood interior, gaudy cocktails, a jukebox crammed with vintage Martin Denny and Frankie Laine tunes, and a tropical lanai for outdoor guzzling.
George Kaye's (4044 Broadway, Oakland) has an eclectic mix of regulars and down-to-earth hipsters who all end up chatting toward the end of the night, when the booze has set in and the place seems even more intimate.
The Graduate (6202 Claremont Ave., Oakland, 510-655-8847) draws a lively and standing-room-only crowd of grad students, hipsters, and blue-collar locals with its cheap drinks, Sriracha-spiked free popcorn, student discounts, no-frills vibe, unusually friendly bartenders, and unpretentious attitude.
Heinold's First and Last Chance (48 Webster St., Oakland, 510-839-6761, HeinoldsFirstandLastChance.com), which was founded in 1883, stands as the only place where you can drink at the same table used by Jack London, president and Supreme Court justice William Howard Taft, and Robert Lewis Stevenson — in other words, it's seriously old-school cool.
Hotel Mac (50 Washington Ave., Point Richmond, 510-233-0576, HotelMac.net), in relaxed downtown Point Richmond, has a wood-paneled, clubby conviviality that makes it the perfect atmosphere to sip the East Bay's best mojito.
Hotsy Totsy Club (601 San Pablo Ave., Albany, 510-526-5986, HotsyTotsyClub.com) is a classic dive bar inside and out: The red-and-blue neon sign loudly announces the fact that you're about to get hammered, the drinks are eye-poppingly powerful and cheap, the decor is classic grunge, and the pool table is operable.
Jupiter (2181 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-843-8277, JupiterBeer.com), Berkeley's go-to beer garden, is the place to enjoy tasty wood-fired pizzas and house-made brews beneath the stars while listening to live entertainment from jazz to bluegrass to samba.
The Lost Weekend Lounge (2320 1/2 Santa Clara Ave., Alameda, 510-523-4700, LostWeekendLounge.com) may evoke images of a rough and tumble hangout for wayward souls, but in reality it's good, clean fun, with a wide variety of music and events — from trivia contests to a DJ spinning tunes from the 1980s — a pool table, and an enclosed patio out back for smokers.
Missouri Lounge (2600 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, 510-548-2080, TheMissouriLounge.com), which touts itself as "West Berkeley's Most Elegant Dive Bar," is an unpretentious, inviting lounge that has become the new destination for urban hipsters.
The New Zealander (1400 Webster St., Alameda, 510-769-8555, The-NewZealander.com) offers gorgeous high ceilings, plenty of beer and wine direct from New Zealand and Oz, and authentic down-under food that can't be beat.
The Pub (1492 Solano Ave., Albany, 510-525-1900) is a low-key smoker's paradise and homey-feeling lounge, proffering more than fourteen blends of tobacco and a good selection of pipes, lighters, and cigarette holders, as well as beer on tap including Bass, Fullers, Guinness, and Harp.
Spat's Restaurant and Saloon (1974 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-841-7225) is a bar with style, both in its vintage-saloon-meets-hunting-lodge-inspired decor and drinks like the Oliver "Boston" Strangler and Aunt Matilda's Zombie.
The Trappist (460 8th St., Oakland, 510-238-8900, TheTrappist.com) is the place to go if you want to step back in time and taste some of the finest hops around, made in the most venerable of traditions.
Triple Rock Brewery and Alehouse's (1920 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-843-2739, TripleRock.com) has a local vibe, a dozen house beers on tap, comfort food, and the best rooftop beer garden in the East Bay.
Warehouse Cafe (5 Canyon Lake Dr., Port Costa, 510-787-1827) is your place to try out exotic and international beers, whether you're looking for that brew you haven't seen since El Salvador or are just bored with the selection at your local store.