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The Opening Wire
Three food and drink game-changers: one bar, one star, and one Oakland trailblazer.
Carolyn Alburger | Photo: Courtesy Thrillist, Coqueta, Tyte Media | April 15, 2013
Wild Hare is causing a fuss in the normally snoozy Lower Pac Heights. Chiarello power continues to fire up The Piers. And Chris Pastena's empire pushes the boundaries on Downtown Oakland’s gentrification. Read all about it below.
1) The seventh watering hole from local bar-trepreneurs Ben Bleiman and Duncan Ley, Wild Hare (2801 California Street) opened last week in the former Solstice Lounge space. Now, the walls sport whimsies galore: a blown-up Queen of Hearts playing card, a faux taxidermy hare and a stuffed peacock, to name a few. It’s “a little bit of an LSD hunting in the woods feel,” as managing partner Mark DeVito tells Thrillist. The boys are dropping their usual formula here: a solid list of ten cocktails, Fernet and whiskey on tap, beer and wine. So it’s a bar first, but there’s a parade of stunt food to back it all up: Reuben egg rolls made with Show Dogs’ pastrami ($9), Dungeness crab jalapeno poppers ($10), and “The Deluxe” ($13), a burger patty wedged inside of a grilled cheese sandwich (see that here). Stay tuned for the next (eighth!) project for Bleiman and Ley: a do-over of Yong San Lounge (895 Bush Street) in the Tenderloin.
2) Following the March opening of Charles Phan’s Hard Water on Pier 3, Michael Chiarello is the second chef-VIP to open a Pier restaurant this spring. His Spanish spot Coqueta (Pier 5) went live on Saturday. Chiarello’s team greatly revamped the former Lafitte with a Bay-facing bar, prime for sipping fancy gintonic adaptations. The 56-seat dining room now sports school chairs newly clad in leather, and cowhide rugs sourced from a bullfight in Spain, naturally. Chiarello is supported by his chef de cuisine from Bottega, Ryan McIlwraith, and two pros from Jose Andres’ empire in DC: general Manager Micahel Iglesias and bar manager Joe Cleveland. Check out our interview with Iglesias and Cleveland here—it’s filled with brainy details about Coqueta’s artsy, molecular cocktail list. On the food menu (see it here), pay special attention to the fire-licked calçotada, and the pan de crystal Chiarello commissioned from Panorama.
3) Tribune Tavern (401 13th Street) opened last week in the historic Oakland Tribune building in Chinatown. Inside, you’ll experience remnants of the building’s former life whist digging into chef Huw Thornton’s very manly menu of “tavern fare.” As you can see over on Eater, the building’s original moulding and support columns have been cleaned up and modernized with some acrobatic light fixtures, cushy brick-colored booths, and a cool communal table made out of re-used wheel barrows. Take a look at the full dinner menu here. Drinkers should also note that Linden Street Brewery helped with the bar’s impressive selection of local draft beers, and Paul Christensen has fused modern techniques with classic recipes to create the cocktail list.