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Where to Drink and Be Seen

An explosion of drinking establishments has turned the East Bay into a bona fide destination for libations.


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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.

Jazzcaffe (2087 Addison St., Berkeley, 510-883-0231, JazzCaffe.biz) is a gathering place for the local jazz scene, offering a simple yet sophisticated (and evolving) menu of breakfast, brunch, and lunch, plus specially chosen wines, beers, and apertifs.

John Patrick's (1813 Park St., Alameda, 510-522-5105, MySpace.com/JohnPatricks) is a honky-tonk-ish dive bar featuring live music, karaoke, and pool tournaments.

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.

Kensington Circus Pub (389 Colusa Ave., Kensington, 510-524-8814) has British owners and a menu to match; ten taps spout American microbrews and English favorites.

Kona Club (4401 Piedmont Ave., Oakland, 510-654-7100, KonaClub.net) is a tiki-style bar staffed and patronized by friendly, sophisticated folks who call the Kona their second living room.

The Layover (1517 Franklin St., Oakland, 510-834-1517, OaklandLayover.com) serves drinks that are neither low-brow nor high-brow; they exist to lubricate social interaction, not dominate it. Regular events include DJ nights, live music nights, and Layover Comedy Night, where comedians of various stripes test their mettle.

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.

Lucky 13 (1301 Park St., Alameda, 510-523-2118, Lucky13Alameda.com) has more than 20 beers on tap, 40 choices in bottles, local wines by the bottle, and a full bar, as well as a pool table, pinball machines, a black-and-white photo booth, beer garden, and a jukebox full of rock, punk, and soul.

McGrath's Pub (1539 Lincoln Ave., Alameda, 510-522-6263, McGrathsPub.com) isn't your typical Irish pub. Yes, there's Guinness on tap, but the bar is best known for bluegrass — the jam begins every Monday night at 7:30 p.m.

McNally's Irish Pub (5352 College Ave., Oakland, 510-655-3929) is a great place to watch the game, enjoy reasonably priced drinks, listen to tunes on the digital jukebox, or play bumper pool.

Merchant's Saloon (401 2nd St., Oakland, 510-465-8032), undoubtedly one of the oldest bars in downtown Oakland, is a dive bar that combines punk bar decor with a nautical theme, and features an upright piano, a jukebox, and a lofted DJ booth crafted from dilapidated plywood.

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.

Pacific Coast Brewing Co. (906 Washington St., Oakland, 510-836-2739, PacificCoastBrewing.com) is a microbrewery that hosts free blues and jazz acts about once a month, but it's known for its large selection of beers — 25 on tap — as well as its tasty selection of common bar food.

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.

Quinn's Lighthouse (1951 Embarcadero Cove, Oakland, 510-536-2050, QuinnsLighthouse.com) dates back to 1890 — the deck seats eighty, and the pub on the second floor has eight beers on tap and more than fifty bottled beers to choose from.

Radio (435 13th St., Oakland, 510-451-2889) is a well-ventilated and red-lit bar featuring lots of glamour mirrors, Japanese lanterns, and vintage mannequins.

Room 389 (389 Grand Ave., Oakland, Room389Oakland.com) is a completely revamped bar and lounge — a dog-friendly space featuring a spiffy bar, space for a DJ (spinning exclusively vinyl), two flat-screen TVs, and a crafty wall covered in pages torn from books.

Rooster's Roadhouse (1700 Clement Ave., Alameda, 510-337-9190, RoostersRoadhouse.net) features an outdoor patio, pool tables, a large indoor stage, dance floors, and a full bar with seventeen microbrews on tap.

Ruby Room (132 14th St., Oakland, 510-444-7224, MySpace.com/oaklandrubyroom) is a faux dive where DJs spin a wall-to-wall soundtrack of punk, glam rock, and kitschy hip-hop classics.

The Saddle Rack (42011 Boscell Rd., Fremont, 510-979-0477, TheSaddleRack.com) is an enormous country bar — boasting a large stage, two dance floors, three full bars, plenty of seating, a game room, an oxygen bar, and a mechanical bull.

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