It’s that time of the year again…tis’ the season to be jolly…and day-drinking in the sun or under the stars with your friends and fellow ‘Oaklandians’ (what? I couldn’t resist! Open your eyes: the dream of the 90s isn’t just alive in Portland people!) We are officially past the Memorial Day homestretch, managing Mercury Retrograde while Gemini’s reign is in full-swing, oh, and summer is just around the corner. What better way to celebrate than by combining the natural love of beverage consumption with the love of nature…or at least as much of it as the more urban areas of Oakland have to offer! Typically I do not like to give away my favorite place gems to just anyone – namely why you’ll never see me doing a Secret Gardens of Oakland article…even if you twist my arm…although buy me a couple drinks from one of these bars and sweet talk me under the twinkly lights and then we’ll see what we can make happen. Until then, plan on making the rounds this weekend, and if you catch me out feel free to come clink glasses in merriment with me!
1. The Double Standard
*Ambience: your neighborhood friendly hangout disguised behind a very unassuming facade entrance, complete with more of a diverse clientele and warmth then the other hipster-filled establishments on this list, definitely making it my favorite (at this point, not really sure how to avoid that whole particular crowd of overprivileged snobs posing as “struggling artists”). This location has hands-down the best outdoor space of any bar garden I have been to in life, let alone in Oakland! The backyard boasts some of the most beautiful Redwood trees on the block – ancient, majestic, survivors – who all welcome one to sit and be cradled joyously by mother nature (a rare treat in my neighborhood) whilst you drink and socialize (although so often I’d rather socialize with trees than people). My most recent bar experience here was complete with the only truly welcoming manager I encountered throughout this article process – One who even bought the whole place a round of delicious pizza (I know because I took the cheesy pineapple and sausage goodness off to make it gluten-free) and proceeded to ask to clear out table immediately after snacking. On top of that, this was the only establishment who offered me their most popular drink complimentary so that I could try it, and it couldn’t have been a wiser decision (described below)! I also LOVE their only cider on tap – it’s totally crisp, refreshing, and not-too-sweet!
*Most Popular Drink: their signature “Double Standard.” (*comprised of the alcoholic components pictured here along with house-made Raspberry liquor and a splash of lime, all served to me so graciously by my new favorite bartender Doug in this classic cocktail glass that made me want to raise my pinky whilst sipping.*) This drink packs a big punch in a dainty and naturally colorful form, and offers the perfect sour to sweet balance I crave in a cocktail!
2. Telegraph (Beer Garden)
*Ambience: If you can look past the usual sea of over-styled flannel and intentional acid-wash extremes, you will find yourself surrounded by art and self-expression from the picnic tables (pack a sharpie in your purse before you head here) to the illustrious walls, complete with street-style art.
*Most Popular Drink: Traditionally their forte has been local beers (the most popular of which I was told by the bartender was any IPA) and ciders both bottled and on tap, but recently they opened a full bar, kitchy-garage-style in the back, which now serves what I am officially coining their signature drinks: frozen slushy cocktails, especially the “Greyhound.” (*I’ve now learned that I like my drinks how I like my fashion: there’s nothing better than classic vintage with a unique modern twist! In case you didn’t work through high school as a beverage cart driver on an prestigiously elitist private golf course on the east coast: Greyhounds are traditionally comprised of something like 3 parts grapefruit juice and 1 part vodka or gin.*)
3. Heart And Dagger Saloon
*Most Popular Drink: according to the bartender with the knowing smile: “a shot of whiskey and a beer!” I would also venture to call this their signature since it seems to perfectly sum-up the vibe and crowd…and interesting mix of rough-and-not-so-tumble because it is Lake Merritt adjacent after all (in crossroads of the fully gentrified Grand Lake/Lakeshore neighborhoods).
*Ambience: It’s true that I’m a sucker for twinkly lights, but I would say I usually try to find a corner spot if I can so as to avoid any potential cigarette smoke blowing my way (a downfall at times of all 3 bars). I like the relaxed vibe that makes me feel like I could practically be in my old Venice Beach stomping grounds…you know, minus the ocean view and extremely open and friendly humyns. I must say that as a womyn who presents herself as such (whatever that means to any other humyn’s perception is certainly varied) I often am given the distinct feeling by others cold attitudes that I’m not exactly welcomed, not exactly cool enough. At the end of the day, I call bullshit on all of this and would say that this saloon probably just exudes a bit more patriarchal energy than I may be keen to deal with in one day, but it also offers the joys of the backyard garden appeal – it’s totally somewhere to bring your own crew and just hang, creating your own party and fun.