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Cocktail in Oakland uptown: a challenge

bbulkow Sep 28, 2010 10:53 PM

Let's say you've got an old friend coming in from out of town. A shared interest is food. You've thought carefully, and one night is Manresa, and the second night is Plum. But you feel bad your friend isn't seeing the best of the bay area's cocktail scene.

Thus, a request: cocktails before Plum.

Downdown/uptown Oakland. If we do after, we can swing into SF, where we could do Romolo or Comstock or Bourbon and Branch or Heaven's Dog or a million other places.

But where to go before Plum? That part of town, I don't mind a repark, but don't want to spoil the evening by a long drive.

I had mind blowing (compared to everywhere I've just listed in SF) cocktails at the Hotsy Totsy, but it's too far north. Nether do I want to traipse over to A Cote - nor do I consider them of the first rank.

I'm kinda figuring between Flora and Sidebar, based on current research.

Recommendations?

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Manresa Restaurant
320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA 95030

A Cote
5478 College Ave, Oakland, CA 94618

Flora
1900 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94612

Sidebar
542 Grand Ave, Oakland, CA

Heaven's Dog
1148 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94103

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  1. JasmineG RE: bbulkow Sep 28, 2010 11:10 PM

    Does this friend like bourbon? Because if so, you should definitely go to Pican.

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    Pican Restaurant
    2295 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612

    1. lexdevil RE: bbulkow Sep 28, 2010 11:37 PM

      If you're willing to drive, but not too far, consider Adesso on Piedmont at Pleasant Valley. Once you're done, head straight down Piedmont and make a left on Broadway. I'm guessing this is a five minute drive to Plum. If Adesso is too busy, you could try Cesar a bit further down Piedmont.

      I know it's not really thought of for cocktails, but I love the drinks at Camino on Grand. Definitely a restaurant rather than a bar, but there are small tables in front by the bar. The drinks are limited and not flashy, but I find them tasty. To get to Plum you would head down Grand to Broadway. Plum is pretty much right there.

      You could also skip the cocktails and have a really perfect beer experience at The Trappist. Just over a dozen blocks down Broadway from Plum.

      -----
      Adesso
      4395 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA

      5 Replies
      1. re: lexdevil
        bbulkow RE: lexdevil Sep 28, 2010 11:45 PM

        Adesso would not be out of range, I agree, and it's easy to park there.

        But... what I'm interested in is the *cocktail* experience. Something as good as, say, Bourbon and Branch. Not just tasty, but representative of the amazing breadth, innovation, reverence for history, of the bay area cocktail scene.

        What I like about Sidebar is the "locavore" versions of cocktails --- but they still have to be well mixed.

        Regarding bourbon, she's a southerner by birth. Bourbon is just fine. Question is whether Pican can mix with the heavyweights - what do you think?

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        Adesso
        4395 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA

        Pican Restaurant
        2295 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612

        1. re: bbulkow
          h
          happenstance RE: bbulkow Sep 29, 2010 02:18 AM

          There are a few excellent options within range. You can go to Flora and sit at the bar for a drink ahead of time. Or go get greyhounds at Cafe van Kleef. Or head down to Radio (a few more blocks down). There are also the bars/lounges at Pican, Ozuma and Mua.

          -----
          Mua
          2442A Webster Street, Oakland, CA 94612

          Pican Restaurant
          2295 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612

          Ozuma Restaurant
          894 Laurel St, San Carlos, CA 94070

          1. re: happenstance
            bbulkow RE: happenstance Sep 29, 2010 02:24 AM

            Look, I'm fond of the greyhounds at Van Kleef, but they're not remotely in the range of cocktail I'm asking about. What cocktails are *really good*?

            1. re: bbulkow
              ourswimmer RE: bbulkow Sep 29, 2010 05:47 AM

              The Carter Beats the Devil cocktail at Flora is *really good*. Also, the bar area at Flora is comfortable, and if you go to Plum after the drinks you can park once and walk between them.

          2. re: bbulkow
            JasmineG RE: bbulkow Sep 29, 2010 11:17 AM

            Pican has something like 80 different kinds of bourbon, so if she likes bourbon, it's the right place to take her.

            -----
            Pican Restaurant
            2295 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612

        2. p
          pcdarnell RE: bbulkow Sep 29, 2010 01:44 PM

          My first thought was Flora, but Luka's Taproom has a nice cocktail menu as well. I do like Sidebar. There's a relatively new spot called Room 389 that's just a bar, but I think I read they had the bartender from Sidebar (?) consult on their drinks. It's at 389 Grand Ave., on the other side of the street from Sidebar a few blocks closer to downtown. I looked for a website, but didn't find one. They do have reviews on Yelp and apparently have a facebook page.

          -----
          Luka's Taproom
          2221 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612

          1. m
            ML8000 RE: bbulkow Sep 29, 2010 02:30 PM

            I'd go to Flora or Van Kleef, with Flora the first choice. You can also scope out both places quickly at the same time.

            Also, Tamarindo expanded into the space next door and opened a tequilla bar. Sorta far from Plum but there's the new Broadway shuttle (The B) that goes between Jack London Sq and upper Lake Merriott, and it's free. Okay, here's the link: http://www.meetdowntownoak.com/shuttl... (only runs until 7 p.m.)

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            Tamarindo
            468 8th St, Oakland, CA 94607

            1 Reply
            1. re: ML8000
              Robert Lauriston RE: ML8000 Sep 29, 2010 04:38 PM

              I love Van Kleef, but it's a pretty regular bar. They don't do artisanal cocktails a la Flora, Adesso, et al.

            2. o
              originalfig RE: bbulkow Sep 29, 2010 04:51 PM

              Oooh, what a handy thread! I'm going to Plum tomorrow night and was just wondering about nearby cocktail options. Love the discussion and all the recs...

              1. escargot3 RE: bbulkow Sep 29, 2010 09:12 PM

                Mua, of course.

                -----
                Mua
                2442A Webster Street, Oakland, CA 94612

                1. daveena RE: bbulkow Sep 29, 2010 09:27 PM

                  On my way to Plum tonight, I passed by Era, a relatively new bar - didn't get a chance to have a drink, but peeked inside, and liked the speakeasy-ish vibe. The cocktail list looks good, too - hope the execution's as good.

                  http://oaklandera.com/era/pdf/era_coc...

                  Of the places discussed that I've been to, Flora makes the most sense geographically - its cocktails are a level above Pican's, a few levels above Luka's, and a stratosphere above Mua's.

                  I do love the cocktails at Camino, Adesso and especially Sidebar, but it makes the most sense to stay put, esp when you have as strong an option as Flora.

                  Oh, and Plum's off to a great start - I highly recommend the artichoke with green olive romesco, the chilled eggplant soup with tomato gelee and beans, the seared squid with black rice porridge, and the slow-cooked egg with chicken giblet fried farro. There were a few tempo and temperature issues, but the flavors are all there. Longer review to come.

                  -----
                  Mua
                  2442A Webster Street, Oakland, CA 94612

                  Adesso
                  4395 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA

                  Pican Restaurant
                  2295 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: daveena
                    bbulkow RE: daveena Sep 29, 2010 11:48 PM

                    I think you're speaking my language.

                    So if no-repark is paramount, Flora, if we're on the early side and a repark is ok, then Sidebar?

                    PS. Look forward to your review. As a prelude to Plum we dined tonight at Manresa, which was the best Manresa I've had. Many dishes were astonishing, far less meat than other visits, wine pairings were better, and the pacing of the meal was dead on (would have been 4 hours if we had cleared out fast, we dawdled to 4.5 hours). There were a number of tables available on a wednesday night; astonishing for a restaurant of that quality. Will post the menu when it hits my mailbox.

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                    Manresa Restaurant
                    320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA 95030

                    1. re: bbulkow
                      daveena RE: bbulkow Sep 30, 2010 09:06 AM

                      That sounds good - I'm definitely interested to see how Sidebar's Corpse Reviver #2 stacks up to the other ones you've had.

                      Oof, you started off with Manresa? Plum's really good, but I don't know if it will be a fair comparison. Looking forward to the report.

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                      Manresa Restaurant
                      320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA 95030

                      1. re: daveena
                        bbulkow RE: daveena Sep 30, 2010 02:46 PM

                        The idea being it's a fun journey. The cool restaurant list would be: Manresa, Commis, COI, Ubuntu, Plum, one after another. But my friends only have two days. Are there other Manresa alumni restaurants of note?

                        Here was the Manresa menu, which says almost nothing about the quality of the dishes. Every dish was revelatory - the "young lamb" included a little bit of something that must have been the tongue. On and on.

                        Petit fours “red pepper-black olive”
                        Parmesan churros
                        Corn and tomato new version.6.3
                        Arpege farm egg

                        Japanese sea bream, sashimi style
                        Porcinis in bonito butter, toasted seeds
                        Into the vegetable garden...
                        Pumpkin veloute “potimarron”, nasturtium ice cream
                        Black cod, vichysoisse of coastal herbs
                        Farm chicken roasted with porcinis and sunchokes
                        Young lamb, golden marjoram and tomato jam

                        Green apple sorbet with olive oil, celery granite
                        Yogurt panna cotta and homemade granola, lemon sherbet with wood sorrel
                        Petit fours “strawberry-chocolate”

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                        Ubuntu Restaurant & Yoga Studio
                        1140 Main Street, Napa, CA 94558

                        Manresa Restaurant
                        320 Village Lane, Los Gatos, CA 95030

                        Coi
                        373 Broadway, San Francisco, CA 94133

                        Commis
                        3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

                        1. re: bbulkow
                          tvham RE: bbulkow Sep 30, 2010 03:23 PM

                          Just an FYI if this is for tonight...there is a show at the Fox across the street so Flora might be more packed than usual. I really like their cocktails but refuse to go there on a show night anymore because of how crowded it gets.

                          1. re: tvham
                            bbulkow RE: tvham Sep 30, 2010 05:11 PM

                            Thanks for the headsup. All the more reason for sidebar.

                  2. p
                    punkymunky RE: bbulkow Oct 1, 2010 11:02 AM

                    I may be a little late to the party, but you've got to check out Grand Tavern.
                    It's in this great, old house with nice art deco period details. It's a really nice place to have a drink and a quiet conversation. The staff is very friendly and they take great care in crafting their drinks. The family that owns it is afghan and the menu offers a great selection of spicy and delicious finger foods.

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                    The Grand Tavern
                    3601 Grand Ave, Oakland, CA

                    1. g
                      goblue72 RE: bbulkow Oct 1, 2010 01:29 PM

                      I've been to pretty much every cocktail joint mentioned so far and as well almost all the ones in the uptown and downtown Oakland area. And if it helps, my home wet bar is 100+ bottles at this point, so I guess one could say...um...I drink like I'm auditioning for Mad Men. Here's my order of recommendations:

                      1. Flora - if proximity to Plum is the #1 condition, then there's no point in going anywhere else - at least until Scott Beattie's cocktail bar opens up next door to Plum next year. They have a great cocktail list with excellent execution by staff, a full sized bar for sitting at, West-Coast style market friendly cocktails mixed with unearthed obscure classics. Nuf ced.

                      2. Levende East / B Restaurant - These two are in Old Oakland at Clay & 9th, a very short hop on the BART (one stop) from Plum. Levende has a full bar with plenty of seating. Their cocktail list reminds me a bit of Absinthe in Hayes Valley but a little more updated. "B" is more of a restaurant than a bar, but they have nice market friendly cocktail list similar to a Range or Berretta.

                      Other also rans: As mentioned, the new tequila bar adjoining Tamarindo has some fun tequila-centric cocktails, but not much "non-tequila". Also in Old Oakland is Liege, but I think they are a half-step down from Levende/B. Closer to Plum, is Hibiscus - mainly a restaurant, but they have a small bar area - really nice little cocktail list, with several rum-centric food-friendly cocktails. I'd avoid ERA like the plague - the sound system is far too loud, its good more of a nightclub vibe and while the cocktail list looks great on paper, the execution by staff is horrid. (likely b/c management seems to place a higher value on pretty bar staff in skimpy outfits than on actual skill) MUA is ok, but nothing spectactular.

                      The other places mentioned (Sidebar, Camino, Grand Tavern) are quite fine, but you'll probably want to drive because getting to that part of Lake Merritt is a pain by bus. (or you could cab ride it for probably only $5) I find Sidebar's cocktail list a bit short and there weren't any real stand-outs. One place I've been really pleasantly surprised by is Charlie Hallowell's Boot & Shoe Service, right by the Grand Lake Theater. Its mainly an artisinal pizzeria but they have a bar area in the back. It can get crowded, but they always have these really fun, creative drinks that makes me really wish Charlie would open a bar.

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                      Levende East
                      827 Washington St., Oakland, CA 94607

                      Tamarindo
                      468 8th St, Oakland, CA 94607

                      The Grand Tavern
                      3601 Grand Ave, Oakland, CA

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: goblue72
                        DezzerSF RE: goblue72 Oct 1, 2010 02:50 PM

                        I hadn't chimed in since Flora and Levende East were the only ones I've tried for cocktails, but I was also impressed. Everything I've had at Flora has been good, and Levende has this really nice spicy vodka cocktail.

                        I also agree that ERA is more of a nightclub.

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                        Levende East
                        827 Washington St., Oakland, CA 94607

                        1. re: goblue72
                          bbulkow RE: goblue72 Oct 1, 2010 05:00 PM

                          Great round up!

                          Out of curiosity, if we loosen the travel requirement (because bart and bus wasn't the mode of transit),

                          where would Sidebar, Camino, Grand Tavern fall in pure mixology compared to Flora and Levande East?

                          -----
                          The Grand Tavern
                          3601 Grand Ave, Oakland, CA

                          1. re: bbulkow
                            g
                            goblue72 RE: bbulkow Oct 1, 2010 06:07 PM

                            Great question - here is how I would rank 'em

                            1. Flora
                            2. tie between B Restaurant, Boot & Shoe Service
                            2.5. Camino
                            3. Levende East or Hibiscus
                            4. Sidebar
                            5. Grand Tavern

                            I ranked Camino at 2.5 because although their drinks are very good, they aren't really "sitting down to throw back a drink or two" drinks, and MUCH more focused on pre-cursors to a meal there - they have a real aperitivi quality that is nice in the context of a meal, but maybe not as much fun stand-alone. As for Grand Tavern or Sidebar, their menu is focused on the classics and for showing off to an out of town visitor, for those two places, you aren't going to get them a taste of the "West Coast cocktail" scene of which the Bay Area is ground zero. My higher ranked ones will.

                            Ya know, almost all those places have websites with downloadable PDF copies of their cocktail menus. You could probably get a good idea about those places cocktail lineups by just browsing their menus online.

                            -----
                            Levende East
                            827 Washington St., Oakland, CA 94607

                            The Grand Tavern
                            3601 Grand Ave, Oakland, CA

                            1. re: goblue72
                              bbulkow RE: goblue72 Oct 1, 2010 08:44 PM

                              Thanks! Regrettably, my friends last night were running late for a cocktail, so this is now strictly for my knowledge. I'll be back at Plum before long, and able to do some sampling.

                              As a tip, my current best cocktails are at the Hotsy Totsy in El Cerrito. No foolin'.

                              1. re: bbulkow
                                Mission RE: bbulkow Oct 1, 2010 09:12 PM

                                what do recommend at Hotsy Totsy in El Cerrito?

                                1. re: Mission
                                  bbulkow RE: Mission Oct 2, 2010 03:36 AM

                                  Corpse Reviver, after that the bartender was ad-libbing. She said one was a submarine.

                          2. re: goblue72
                            s
                            skwid RE: goblue72 Oct 1, 2010 06:09 PM

                            This might be late, but Levende East/B restaurant are at the corner of Washington and 9th, not Clay (Clay is one block north of Washington). They are one block north of Broadway and one block west of the Marriott (which is between 10th and 11th). BART stops at 12th along Broadway.

                          3. achefsbest RE: bbulkow Oct 1, 2010 02:15 PM

                            A lot of the bartenders I know thought the drinks at Flora were great.

                            1. a
                              arockridgelife RE: bbulkow Oct 1, 2010 06:44 PM

                              don't know if this is one of the places already listed, but one time I was talking cocktails with the owner of Camino and she said one of her genius bartenders had left and started his own place (in Oakland) that also served light food. anyone know the name? I can't recall, but I'm sure it would be tops, knowing this guy designed a lot of Camino's bar list.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: arockridgelife
                                Robert Lauriston RE: arockridgelife Oct 1, 2010 07:05 PM

                                Thad Vogler is one of the partners in Bar Agricole in SF.

                                -----
                                Bar Agricole
                                355 11th Street, San Francisco, CA 94103

                              2. c
                                calny RE: bbulkow Oct 3, 2010 04:34 AM

                                I would recommend Hibiscus on San Pablo (@18th). A good cocktail menu plus the best rum selection you're likely to find hereabouts.

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