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Strong cocktails + bar food in East Bay?

Looking for somewhere that has good drinks and decent bar food in Oakland/Berkeley....food doesn't have to be outstanding, just good to nibble on for a light dinner while having a few at the bar.
Already been to Luka's, Trader Vics (disappointing!!), Pyramid, Triple Rock, Pacific Coast Brewing Co, Cato's, want to find a new spot. Thanks!

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  1. Pearl Oyster Bar in Rockridge.

    1. Depends on what time you go: Cesar and A Cote both fit the bill, but it gets difficult to find a spot at the bar after 6:30 or so.

      1. Cesar is a good one -- or two, actually, since they have locations in North Berkeley (Shattuck) and Oakland (Piedmont Ave.). Also, Bistro Jax in Berkeley is another.

        T-Rex in Berkeley has good drinks, but I'm not sure if you can eat at the bar -- let alone if they have a separate "bar menu."

        3 Replies
        1. re: zin1953

          No separate bar menu but there are some light snack-type dishes.

          The same owners' Fonda Solana also has a good bar and small plates.

          http://www.t-rex-bbq.com
          http://www.fondasolana.com

          1. re: zin1953

            ? I don't know of a place in Berkeley called Bistro Jax. Could you mean Zax Tavern on Telegraph in Berkeley? If yes, they do have a nice bar, though I'd prefer Cesar, Fonda or A Cote if one also wants food.

            Another option is the bar at Eccolo.

            1. re: susancinsf

              Yes..Zax, not Jax -- my bad memory . . . .

          2. The Fat Lady in Oakland--Great drinks, food and atmosphere!

            http://www.thefatladyrestaurant.com/

            1. You've got a nice list going there already. Your title says "cocktails" but your list has several places that are beer & wine only, like catos, 3rock, pacific coast, so I'm a little confused. Boy do I like catos.

              Jupiter you should really try. And lanesplitter. Dude, lanesplitter. Neither have mixed drinks. I'm a fan of the san pablo location, more character, but both are fine. LS and J are pizza more than full service food, but they're both good.

              If you like the Lukas->Cesar/A Cote direction, you really need to try Fonda on Solano. More of a hike, but it's a bit less full of itself, quieter than cesar, and the seats at the far end of the bar are excellent. Don't miss the warm chocolate cake. Arguably the food isn't as good, but they've got a few home runs on the menu, like the lamb.

              My favorite east bay cocktails are at Cesar, period. Best is a warm summer afternoon, about 6pm, when they have the windows open in front. Nirvana.

              Grasshopper is another that I don't see mentioned here much. I think it's a cut down from all the others mentioned, but certainly worth a try - your milage may vary.

              Another spot I often forget about is Skates at the Berkeley Marina. Haven't been there in a few years, but drinks and apps at the bar at sunset isn't all bad, even if the food is generic, the beer selection is limited, and it's all overpriced (ok, you pay for the view, and it's worth every penny). For a change, anyway, especially with guests in town.

              Anyone been to the bar at the Claremont? Do they serve food?

              What about Nick and Ben's?

              10 Replies
              1. re: bbulkow

                Neither Jupiter nor Lanesplitter has cocktails.

                1. re: JasmineG

                  I don't think Pyramid, Triple Rock, Pacific Coast Brewing, or Cato's do, either.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Well, the OP specifically asked for "strong cocktails" so I assumed that she was looking for a bar with actual cocktails now.

                2. re: bbulkow

                  Didn't Grasshopper close? I seem to remember reading about it a few months back.

                  1. re: Morton the Mousse

                    Grasshopper did close: It's going to open up again as Wood House by the end of this month (so says the sign on the outside of the restaurant.

                  2. re: bbulkow

                    great suggestions! thanks everyone!
                    we usually go for brews, but I think we're in the mood for cocktails tonight...at least I am! We ride our bikes to Lanesplitter on Telegraph, and we've been to Jupiter too.
                    Is there much of a difference between the Cesar in Berkeley and the one on Piedmont? I checked out their website, and the menu is slightly different, but what about the vibe?
                    We've lived in Oakland for about a year now, and I'm trying to explore more over here, we lived in SF for 10 years, and it's just been too easy to head there to all the places we already know.

                    1. re: MissMechante

                      I like the vibe in the Oakland location a LOT more than in the Berkeley location. The bar is a lot bigger in Oakland too, which helps to find a seat at the bar.

                      1. re: JasmineG

                        Same here. The Oakland menu's also longer.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          I guess I have to be the dissenter. I go at odd hours, but I like the Berkeley location better, on the strength of very friendly bartenders, and the Oakland location, while larger, feels somehow industrial/chainy to me: like it should be a Cactus Taqueria or something. Now that I think about it, I can't remember what it was before it was Cesar's: maybe I have some residual memory of whatever it was previously that is interfering with my appreciation of it?

                          Still, with a group, and particularly if I lived in Oakland, I'd recommend the Oakland location.

                    2. re: bbulkow

                      the claremont is a good place to go. good (strong) drinks, great selection of food (the mac and cheese is to die for!), and the view is outstanding. best days to go is... with a friend, coworkers, or a date (mon to thur), but if you want to check out the scene (fri or sat night). have fun!