Food & Drink

13 East Bay Bartenders You Need to Know

Published On 07/21/2015 Published On 07/21/2015
COURTESY OF HOPSCOTCH
Emily Tinkey/Thrillist
Amy Copperman/Thrillist
Courtesy of Tupper and Reed
Amy Copperman/Thrillist
Amy Copperman/Thrillist
Courtesy of Dogwood
Courtesy of Dogwood
Amy Copperman/Thrillist
Courtesy of Prizefighter
Courtesy of Flora
Emily Hayward/Thrillist
Amy Copperman/Thrillist
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1. Hopscotch Restaurant & Bar 1915 San Pablo Ave, Oakland, CA 94612 (Oakland)

An upscale diner serving Japanese-American fusion cuisine, Hopscotch is a standout restaurant in Uptown Oakland. You could order anything and be totally satisfied, but the perfectly crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside buttermilk fried chicken is one of the best dishes on the menu, especially when paired with a sweet & smoke Maple Old Fashioned. Did we mention the delightfully unusual menu includes homemade donuts and custard cream?

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2. The Double Standard 2424 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94612 (Oakland)

While The Double Standard has the ornate wood detailing, pendant lighting, and craft cocktailing of a trendy cocktail lounge (owner Ali Tahsini is a Bourbon & Branch alum), this East Bay bar has the atmosphere of a laid-back, friendly neighborhood watering hole. That's in large part thanks to its almost magical backyard, which is draped in romantic string lights and is home to three majestic Redwoods. For the best deal, come after work for the $10 cocktail menu comprised of Tahsini's originals, like the International Mason, an invigorating blend of mezcal, Cynar, house-made coffee bitters, and Dolin Rouge.

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3. Drexl 382 19th St, Oakland, CA 94612 (Oakland)

This cocktail bar in Oakland is one of the more sultry spots to go before a show at the Fox.

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4. Tupper & Reed 2271 Shattuck Ave, San Francisco, CA 94704 (Berkeley)

Built in 1925, Tupper & Reed's nearly 100-year-old space (designed by a Cal grad) originally housed a music store called, yup, Tupper & Reed, one of the reasons you'll see old school phonographs throughout the bi-level space, which also plays host to small jazz ensembles -- not to mention a 45-cocktail menu.

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5. East Bay Spice Company 2134 Oxford St, Berkeley, CA 94704 (Berkeley)

You can tell a bar has its priorities straight when the drink menu is held in a leather-bound book, while food is relegated to a single paper. And while, yeah, the simple Indian street food served is worth ordering on its own, it's more worth pairing with any of the cocktails on the menu, all inspired by the spice trade.

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7. Dogwood 1644 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94612 (Oakland)

This hip and cozy bar is serving up Prohibition-style craft cocktails (get the Bees Knees, a sweet & sour gin confection) and gourmet grilled cheeses (get all of them, but especially the one with truffle oil and/or whiskey bacon chutney). There's also a meat counter in the corner of the dimly lit, brick-lined space, where charcuterie and cheese plates are created -- perfect for sharing with a date at one of the communal wooden tables.

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8. Darling's Elixirs 1635 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612 (Oakland)

Dogwood's sister bar. Go for the brocade vibe, stay for the seductive cocktails.

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9. Prizefighter 6702 Hollis, Emeryville, CA 94608 (East Bay)

Front-manned by two drink moguls with ties to Bloodhound and Bourbon & Branch, Prizefighter is a pugilism-themed, SF-caliber East Bay cocktail bar armed with a heavyweight 'tail program you'll size up inside at a brick-backed black walnut bar (with an awesomely mounted axe), or outside on a 900sqft patio equipped with heat, so hopefully it doesn't go cold when the NBA Finals are on.

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10. Penrose 3311 Grand Ave, Oakland, CA 94610 (Oakland)

Penrose, located in Grand Lake, is serving up some great tapas and other small plates. They also have a fantastic cocktail bar, so make sure to hit that up too.

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11. Flora 1900 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94612 (Oakland)

Flora and its sister bar, Fauna, are worth the trip purely for the Art Deco beauty, which’ll transport you to a bygone era. The other thing that will serve as a time-machine: head barman’s Matty McGee’s amazing cocktails (his Ramos Gin Fizz would have delighted Herb Caen). Matty generously shares his cocktail knowledge with the masses in regular cocktail classes held at Flora.

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12. Fauna 1900 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94612 (Oakland)

It's obviously owned by the same crew behind Flora (there's actually a door that connects the two) and looks sorta like the entryway to a hunting lodge. There're smaller taxidermied animal heads on the walls (gazelles, jackalopes, etc.), regal-looking alternating vertical stripes, and a King Kong poster. Combine Art Deco architecture with their signature cocktails to pay tribute to a bygone Hollywood era. Here's looking at you, kid.

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13. Gather 2200 Oxford St, Berkeley, CA V3E (Berkeley)

Having won accolades from the New York Times and San Francisco Magazine, Gather will get you in the door for simple farm-to-table fare that treats vegetables as a main course. But you’ll stay in the door when you also find out they also have superb drinks made with small batch libations and fresh ingredients.

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14. Sidebar 542 Grand Ave, Oakland, CA 94610 (Oakland)

If you’re looking for a place to relax in a friendly, neighborhood spot, this lake-front restaurant and bar is where it’s at -- the square, copper-topped bar sits grandly in the center of the restaurant and facilitates easy conversation over hearty, reasonably priced meals.