Bar Guide to Oakland
James Granatowski · September 14, 2015 ·
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Café Van Kleef – In this strangely-decorated Oakland institution you will find the best Greyhound available in the city (not to mention the tiny smoking area at the bar’s entrance and occasional live music). Café Van Kleef is one of the most unique and fun bars in Oakland. The only hard part is finding a seat.

Make Westing – This mammoth bar with inside and outside seating features an actual indoor bocce ball court. For real. Not to mention a great tap selection and proximity to the Fox Theater.

Ruby Room – If you look up dive bar in the dictionary you won’t actually see a picture of Ruby Room, but you should. This dark downtown gem not only boasts cheap drinks and tall cans of watery American lagers, but also a massive indoor smoking area that includes a pool table and diner-style booth seating. If you don’t smoke, stick to the front section.


The Avenue – Another great dive bar (are we finding a pattern here?) in the heart of Temescal, The Avenue is a popular haunt for neighborhood locals. Close to plenty of restaurants and shopping, it’s a great place for an afternoon beer between errands.

White Horse Inn – The nation’s oldest gay bar (Read the ‘History’ section on their website). Need we say more? Features live music, amazing drink specials, pool tables, karaoke, an indoor smoking room, and an incredibly friendly atmosphere. This bar is a staple of the politically progressive Bay Area, and also a great place to have a drink, night or day.


Trappist Provisions – Twelve rare tap beers and literally hundreds of bottles for purchase, Trappist Provisions is one of the premiere beer havens in the East Bay. The bar snacks aren’t bad either.

The Graduate – Tiny and intimate, The Graduate has some of the cheapest drinks you can find in Oakland. The perfect place to stop off after a long shift. Drop a few coins in the jukebox and relax.

North Oakland:

George Kaye’s (Geo Kaye’s) – This local dive bar is hands-down one of the most interesting in the area. Small and boasting cheap drinks, Geo Kaye’s—down to the staff and regulars—seems like something out of a movie. Think Cheers but instead of the sober Sam Malone you’ve got the one that fell off the wagon.

Kingfish – Like many other bars on this clearly biased list, Kingfish is small, strange, and cheap. Recently, the entire building was moved across the street. Yes, the whole building. You’ll wonder why they didn’t just build a new one when you first enter, but after an hour or so the strange charm of this dive bar will make you glad they kept it the same.

West Oakland:

EBGB The Underground Wine Bar – An appointment-only tasting room run by Pat Paulsen Vineyards. Check out their website for more information.

JK Brickhouse – This sports bar still has an old-time Oakland feel to it, despite the massive changes and gentrification that are a threat to historic West Oakland. From Jam nights for musicians to karaoke on Fridays, JK Brickhouse is one of the only bars in West Oakland. Period. And it’s a great one too!

East Oakland:

Baggy’s By the Lake – Seeing a movie at the New Parkway and want a drink beforehand? Want to watch the A’s game but all of your friends are busy? Baggy’s is the spot. A small quaint dive bar with a famously friendly staff and a great location for strolling and shopping, Baggy’s By the Lake will not disappoint.

Lakeside Lounge – Want to dance to old school hip-hop in a city that boasts the home base of talents like Mac Dre and E-40? The Lakeside Lounge is a friendly and exciting spot to shake your rump on weekend nights.


Cato’s Ale House – Cato’s kind of has it all: a great beer and drink selection, good food, proximity to shopping and entertainment, a sports schedule for watching the game, the list goes on and on.

Kona Club – Tiki drinks and rock n’ roll: that pretty much sums up Kona Club’s vibe and mission statement. Their Hawaiian kitsch and décor is spot on, and their cocktails offer a lovely break from the usual Vodka Tonic.


Forbidden Island – Tiki lounge with an all-day happy hour on Mondays and a daily happy hour from 5-7pm, Forbidden Island is the Alameda equivalent of Piedmont’s Kona Club.

Lost Weekend – Cozy and featuring a quaint outside seating section for smoking or enjoying a warm summer night, the Lost Weekend is a favorite spot for Alameda locals looking to unwind and chat with strangers. Includes an indoor pool table and daily drink specials.

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