The concept of beer gardens appeals because there’s nothing better on a sunny day than to sit outside with a cold brew. But sometimes you want to eat something to soak up the suds. And at some beer gardens, the menu is nothing more than a few snacks (many deep fried, ugh).
That’s why you will likely appreciate the effort put in by Drake’s Dealership in Uptown Oakland’s Hive complex. Opened in August in a former Dodge service and parts building along the city’s Auto Row, Drake’s is a restaurant and beer garden from the San Leandro-based brewery. It’s a festive and large space that can give you a full restaurant experience inside or outside.
I’ve visited a few times since it opened and have enjoyed a BBQ pork sandwich ($13) with a delicious macaroni salad (that I subbed for coleslaw) with had a nice balance of sweetness and tartness. Their macaroni salad, known as the aku mac salad ($6), is a fancified version that includes tuna.
Drake’s menu is led off by about 10 wood-fired pizzas that come out oblong in shape on a metal tray. The crust is chewy but thin. For a dinner with friends, we tried the “All Meat” pizza ($24), which delivered with a variety of meats including Hobbs pepperoni, house-made sausage and smoked pork loin, all accented with a balsamic glaze. Of course, we added a slow-poached duck egg ($3) for good measure.
The duck egg, which I also added a second time on the “Old School” pizza at a lunch with my friend Vera, turned out to have a pretty thick yolk,but there wasn’t a whole lot of oozing action. One of our servers mentioned that the egg is cooked more on the medium side, so the yolk comes out more like butter that you spread on your pizza rather than a runny egg.
By the way, the “Old School” is a simple pizza with tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, basil sprouts and Pecorino Romano ($13). I don’t know if our pizza sat a bit in the cold weather, but the tomato sauce was almost like tomato paste.
Speaking of the cold (which we’ve been having here lately because, well, winter) — Drake’s makes it welcoming to eat outside even on a cold night because of the heat lamps and fire pits, which both create a cozy lounge area. And of course, there’s also a large indoor lodge-like space with a fireplace.
While the menu has a variety of items, I feel it works best as a casual lunch spot with sandwiches and salads. For dinner, there are no real entrée items. (It’s the exact same menu from lunch.) For our dinner, we created a meal with the Oaklander salad ($12) made with upland watercress and roasted turnips and sweet potato; the Roy’s rib basket ($15) of St. Louis-style ribs with kettle chips; and poutine ($13) with double duck gravy and cheese curds for my fried food-loving friends.
The menu isn’t all heavy on meats and cheese. There’s also a couple healthy options: the 3-Row Grain Salad, which can be topped with duck breast, flank steak, duck confit or chicken breast, and a black bean burger made with whole grains.
The fun is also in experimenting with the beer, many of which come from Drake’s. (There are a few others on tap from other local breweries.) One of my favorite new Drake’s beer is the Jolly Rodger, which is an imperial coffee porter made with Highwire coffee. You really get that coffee flavor. I also enjoyed the limited release Rockridge Honey Brown, a brown ale. (They also sell Highwire’s nitro brew, which is a cold-brew coffee that gives the coffee a bit of fizz.)
The last bite
While the menu is more casual, emphasizing sandwiches, pizzas, and snacks, the food pairs nicely with the beer and adds to the overall festive experience of dining in the spacious lot. Drake’s is a fully conceived beer garden that’s also a community gathering spot.
The rating: 2.5 out of 3 camera snaps
Drake’s Dealership is at 2325 Broadway (between 23 and 24th streets), Oakland. 510.833.6649. Open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday, 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. Thursday through Saturday. Connect with the brewery on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Benjamin Seto is the voice behind Focus:Snap:Eat, a food blog in the San Francisco Bay Area, where this post first appeared.
Connect with NOSH on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and subscribe to the free NOSH Weekly email for all your East Bay food news.