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Seamless liquid trail
By James O’Brien, Photographs by Jon Snyder | June 16, 2011
The nightlife renaissance born in Old Oakland has finally spilled its boozy pleasures into downtown, just as the constellation of food and drink at Broadway and West Grand in the heart of Uptown continues to brighten. As a result, from a start at classy Old Oakland spots like Tamarindo’s new tequila bar, on 8th, or the shrine to Belgian ale next door, the Trappist, you can now drink up Oakland from the edgy bars of downtown all the way north to Mua at Uptown’s edge. It’s a one-mile swim—um, walk—and a further sign that despite Oakland’s troubles, its nightlife hasn’t been so inviting or varied in decades. Here’s how to pick your poison by mood.
Had a few Red Bulls today? Tap into the jittery energy of Disco Volante (347 14th St., 510-663-0271).
Not feeling like yourself tonight? Down beneath the Tribune Tower, in the suggestive glow of Radio’s (435 13th St., 510-451-2889) red lanterns, there’s a score of scotches, whiskeys and bourbons from Kentucky and Japan by way of Ireland and Scotland. Bottles of booze are stacked high behind the bar, like the skyline of a drinker’s dream city.
Soaking up the dive vibe of the Layover (1517 Franklin St., 510-834-1517), with its comfy sofas and chairs, you feel like you’re just drinking at the home of a (very popular) friend.
Lethargic? Need some protein? Just across from the thriving Fox Theater, Dogwood (1644 Telegraph Ave., 510-444-6669) specializes in that perfectly logical combination: cured meats and cocktails.
Feeling suave? Order up a cocktail at devilishly handsome Bar 355 (355 19th St., 510-451-3355).
Feeling randy? Lurk in one of the dark corners of the Uptown (1928 Telegraph Ave., 510-451-8100) on a Hubba Hubba Monday and take in the joyful bawdiness and partial nudity of a real burlesque show.
Ambivalent about humanity? Choose the dim lighting and quiet earnestness of the Punchdown (2212 Broadway, 510-251-0100) wine bar that opened last winter on Uptown’s Franklin Square.
With his acclaimed restaurant Plum (open late, at 2214 Broadway, 510-444-7586), and his Plum Bar debuting in late summer right next door, Daniel Patterson continues the trend of San Francisco transplants juicing Oakland’s nighttime power surge.
James Syhabout, the Oakland homeboy who brought a Michelin star to town with his elegant Commis, has flipped the culinary coin and gone street, Thai street, with the new Hawker Fare (2300 Webster St., 510-832-8896), his homage to his mother’s cooking. “I want it to be one big block party every night,” says Syhabout. “Come in, have a couple of beers, talk loud if you want.”
At longtime Oakland restaurateur Hi-Suk Dong’s Mua (2442 Webster St., 510-238-1100), the quasi-Korean small plates are spicy and rich, the art on the towering warehouse walls is eccentric and local, and the DJ is always spinning something unexpected. As the evening progresses, Mua morphs into the best late-night lounge in town.