Welcome to Cocktail Week, East Bay Nosh’s appreciation of the local mixed drinks scene. Stay with us all week, as we bring you the best in cocktails, mocktails and spirits from businesses in Berkeley, Oakland and beyond.
Who could use a drink?
Even for those who don’t imbibe, much of the misery of the last nearly three years has stemmed, of course, from the absence of gatherings, and from missing out on the community, comfort and quirk that hits at familiar local haunts.
The pandemic and its fallout have been brutal for bars especially, with so many East Bay watering holes now dearly departed, from fancy to divey, indoor lounges and even gartens — and don’t even talk to us about cozy pubs, sob.
Recently, however, libation havens have begun to emerge from hibernation, and new ones are taking a chance. Whether it’s a grand opening, grand re-opening, or simply grand that a spot will open soon, break out the bubbly or nonalcoholic sip of choice for the following new (since summer) and upcoming drinking establishments, once again providing the East Bay with both liquid and soul-satisfying refreshment.
(Reopened Oct. 27) Warm, welcoming 514 cocktail bar and lounge on San Pablo Avenue from proprietor Mary Dugbartey is known for its good vibes and El Cerrito neighborhood appeal. Locals are toasting (and retoasting) its reopening after the pandemic shut it down after only a year in operation. 514 Lounge is at 11236 San Pablo Ave. in El Cerrito.
(Opened Aug. 12) Black Star Pirate BBQ devotees are having to kiss the sparkling waterfront barbecue destination good-bye, but the same owners are now keeping the party going in Point Richmond. Expect playful cocktails, tons of live music and Louisiana comfort food at this fun and funky new bar in the atmospheric Baltic building. Baltic Kiss is at 135 Park Place in Richmond.
(Projected opening early 2023) “Don’t worry El Cerrito,” said owners (and fiances) Claire Sullivan and Devin Hohler on their Instagram page, next to a photo of a car crashed into Banter’s wall. “One way or another, we’ll eventually get you this wine bar.” The young industry vets’ vision was waylaid a bit, but construction is now on track for Sullivan and Hohler to open their little natural wine-focused gathering place in early 2023. “We’re looking forward to bringing all sorts of delicious, approachable, low-intervention wines from all over to El Cerrito,” said Sullivan. Banter will also be a bottle shop, and there are plans in the works for monthly wine clubs and other perks for customers. Banter Wine Bar will be at 10368 San Pablo Ave. in El Cerrito.
“Bar de la Marine”
(Coming soon?) All we know so far about North Berkeley’s coming Chez Panisse-adjacent bar, now under construction in the former Cesar location, is the working title on its liquor license application: Bar de la Marine. That French moniker is a nod to Marseille and the Marcel Pagnol trilogy of films, from which Chez Panisse also was named, but we have no guarantee that that’s the name of the business that will open there. A variety of other names have been rumored, but as Chez Panisse management has steadfastly refused to confirm any details, it appears we will all have to wait patiently for more, including a projected opening date. (Working title) Bar de la Marine will be at 1515 Shattuck Ave. in Berkeley.
(Opening and location TBA) It’s a coincidence of alphabetical order that the only bar opening as murky as Chez Panisse’s nascent project is the anticipated reopening of Cesar in a new location. Yes, our beloved Nosh tipsters have emailed the rumored location to us, for which we are grateful, but the owners of the reopened iteration of Cesar — a bar evicted by Chez Panisse management to make way for the business above — refuse to confirm any information at all. Again, we must wait. — Eve Batey
(Opened July) Definitely more of a nightclub/bottle service scene is newcomer Drop 84, opened this summer in downtown Berkeley. The glitzy venue features live DJs and performers and special (and private) events, including the occasional KPOP party. Sometimes there’s a cover, check to be sure before heading over. Drop 84 is at 2284 Shattuck Ave. in Berkeley.
(Opened Sept. 9) Eater described Fieldwork’s newest East Bay space as a “big ass new beer garden,” and they are not wrong — the location is vast, the craft brewery’s largest at 7,800 square feet, and built for craft beer drinking, dining and relaxed enjoyment outdoors and in, no matter the size of your group. We’re bending the Cocktail Week rules by including this spot, but the art of fresh beer is on full display here. Fieldwork San Leandro is at 100 W. Juana Ave. in San Leandro.
(Opened July) New from proprietor Shelley Cardiff, this appropriately-quietly opened speakeasy inside an old Victorian, formerly the Grand Tavern, has two dog-friendly patios, juicy cocktails and a clubby, indoor, living-room vibe next to a glowing “fireplace.” With a wee full bar and roomy table seating throughout, the spot is by all accounts a homey new hangout with class. (Oh, and um, night brunch? You heard us. Night brunch, served from 10 p.m. until 2 a.m., coming soon.) Grand Avenue Social Club is at 3601 Grand Ave. in Oakland.
(Opened Aug. 12) Appealing in every way, right down to its name, is Lemon Drop, in Alameda’s former Lemon Tree, a new, stylish, casual cocktail hangout with comfy, lowlit nooks indoors and a roomy outdoor patio. Lemon Drop is at 2542 Santa Clara Ave. in Alameda.
(Reopened Oct. 6) Ted Helmick’s wonderfully comfortable Little Hill Lounge, closed in 2021, has been revived and is in good hands under the new ownership of Matt Regan and Christ Aivaliotis of Oakland’s Kon-Tiki and Palmetto. Along with craft cocktails that take the neighborhood bar a notch above, you can now find occasional food popups and other bonuses. Little Hill Lounge is at 10753 San Pablo Ave. in El Cerrito.
(Coming Late 2022 or Early 2023) “As long as I’m around this place will open up,” chuckled owner and Missouri Lounge “guardian” Ali Eslami by phone. “I call it my living room.” Funny, so do a lot of regulars. For true dive bar fans, the Missouri Lounge is the reopening to watch — and has been for a tantalizingly long time. The bar has been a West Berkeley cornerstone since the 1950s, and Eslami, owner for 17 of those years, says its reopening journey since the pandemic shutdown in 2020 continues to be knotted up, like so many businesses, by approvals, paperwork, inspections and zoning. “We wanted to move the kitchen,” said Eslami. “This has led to a challenging situation for us with permitting, but it is what it is.” He is quick to reassure everyone, though, that the historic watering hole will open its doors either late this year or early next. The Missouri Lounge will reopen soon at 2600 San Pablo Ave. in Berkeley.
(Opened Jul. 29) PSA: The new little French restaurant in North Oakland that everyone’s talking about is also a beautiful, sultry, approachable spot for a well-balanced cocktail. The Rendez-Vous is at 5526 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way in Oakland.
Roses On Adeline Bar & Kitchen
(Projected opening Summer 2023) Former South Berkeley karaoke dive Nick’s Lounge has a new family of owners with deep neighborhood roots and a fresh vision for the space. Architects Teresa Clarke, her husband David Soffa, sister Madeleine Clarke and chef Rose Soffa Clarke (Teresa and David’s daughter), are lifting the ceiling, adding windows and a kitchen, and hoping to contribute a new, beautiful bar with seasonal food and cocktails to the neighborhood — the family’s home for 50-plus years. Fingers crossed, the new community gathering place should open summer of 2023. Roses on Adeline Bar & Kitchen will be at 3218 Adeline St. in Berkeley.
(Re/opened Oct. 7) Oakland’s Thee Stork Club was formerly The Stork Club, and all that gritty dive bar history now meshes beautifully with the John Waters-blessed subculture vibe of the reopened landmark, brought to you by the folks behind Eli’s Mile High Club and music fest Mosswood Meltdown. Strong cocktails, live music weekly. Thee Stork Club is at 2330 Telegraph Ave. in Oakland.
(Opened Aug.) Maybe the old Venus in Berkeley was always meant to be a cocktail bar. The brick, the booths, the high ceilings and windows — the whole package just works for Tip-Sea, the new Berkeley nightlife destination that’s adding a stylish, welcoming vibe to the downtown scene. Note: The kitchen provides an array of snackable late-night bar nibbles. Tip-Sea is at 2327 Shattuck Ave. in Berkeley.
(Opened Oct. 14) The team behind popular San Francisco outposts Tacko and Underdogs have brought their hip, friendly, crowd-pleasing touch to this agreeable new, Mexican-themed Uptown cocktail bar and restaurant, decorated in Oaxacan street art. Todos Cantina + Cocina is at 2315 Valdez St. in Oakland.
(Coming by end of 2022) Updated intel on this upcoming LGBTQIA+ bar and lounge, coming soon to the Art Deco-era I. Magnin & Co. building, is that as of early November, they are this close to final inspections. Rest assured: Owner Joshua Huynh and team can’t wait to share their new space with the Oakland community. Stay tuned to Nosh for an opening date as soon as it hits. Town Bar and Lounge will be at 2100 Broadway in Oakland.