Best of the East Bay - Nightlife
Place to Relive the ’80s
If you’ve got an ’80s itch, head down to Dan’s Irish Sports Bar in Walnut Creek. Thursday night crowds go wild for the Spazmatics, a band that takes the stage (and occasionally runs through the audience) sporting Revenge of the Nerds–style outfits and performing songs by classic ’80s artists such as Joan Jett, the Clash, and George Michael.
The closing of 680 Lounge left a gaping hole in the Danville nightlife scene, but John Russell has stepped in and filled the gap—with an upgrade, no less. This month, Russell, owner of the defunct Sno-Drift nightclub in San Francisco, is scheduledto open a new upscale cocktail lounge, Blend, in the space formerly occupied by 680 Lounge.
Russell is sparing no expense in putting together the new club: He hired designer Charles Doell of Mr. Important Design, the creator of Sno-Drift and several other stylish Northern California clubs. The result is a nightclub—with fishbowl drinks and fireplace seating—that is well on its way to becoming one of the best in the East Bay.
Blend, 519 San Ramon Valley Blvd., www.blend519.com. —J.G
If you’re looking to start your evening with a few drinks and an extremely cheap bite to eat, head over to Stanford’s Restaurant and Bar. The happy hour menu at this Broadway Plaza eatery is available every day from 3 to 6 p.m. and from 9 p.m. to closing, and features 14 items priced at $4 or less, including a cheeseburger and fries ($3), penne pasta with Roma tomatoes ($3), spinach and artichoke dip served with tortilla chips ($2), and a tasty Southwest chopped salad ($2). The food isn’t necessarily gourmet, but it’s great fuel for any bar hopper on a budget.
Stanford’s Restaurant and Bar, 1300 S. Main St., Walnut Creek, (925) 944-0895, www.stanfords.com.
Place to Get Your Bar Crawl Started
Spoontonic Lounge is a slice of San Francisco’s Mission District hipster culture in the basement of a Walnut Creek Indian restaurant. The black lights, black leather booths, quirky wall art, and most important, great happy hour specials, make Spoontonic the place to start your Thursday or Friday Walnut Creek bar crawl. On those days, the bar opens at 5 p.m. and until 8 p.m. offers $2 beers, $3 well cocktails, and several $3 specialty cocktails, including the popular Red Dragon (a cool concoction of cucumber-infused vodka, cranberry juice, and lemonade with a pickled cucumber garnish). Be careful with this drink; as the cocktail menu warns, the dragon has a bite.
Spoontonic Lounge, 2580 N. Main St., Ste. A, Walnut Creek, (925) 977-1888. —Justin Goldman
Tri-Valley Bocce Bash
Looking for a party this weekend? Campo di Bocce is a sure bet for a fun night out. The outdoor courtyard at this sensationally popular Italian restaurant, with its four bocce lanes, is the place to be on a warm summer night. Don’t know how to play bocce? Not to worry. Lesson one: Grab a glass of wine. …
Campo di Bocce, 175 E. Vineyard Ave., Livermore, (925) 249-9800, www.campodibocce.com. —Peter Crooks
Eclectic Night Out
A meal at Asian Paradise Café in downtown Martinez starts out innocently enough. Good Thai food? Check. Thai beer? Check. Two older white men on stage with guitars doing covers of Peter, Paul, and Mary tunes in two-part harmony? Now, wait a minute. You’ve got to see it to believe it.
The Asian Paradise Café is one part authentic Thai restaurant, one part community music venue, and, come 10 p.m. on most Saturday nights, it’s an Asian disco. Which is not to be confused with a non-Asian disco, which, it’s fair to say, would never offer traditional Thai-Laotian circle dancing or a Thai version of the cha-cha, both hugely popular with Asian and non-Asian customers.
Just in case that’s not yet making your circuits sizzle, check out Armando’s, the new live music club in town, which had booked a smokin’ Latin jazz band called the Derek Rolando Band the same night the Peter, Paul, and Mary guys were at the Asian.
Asian Paradise Café, 414 Ferry St., Martinez, (925) 957-0741, www.martinezvibes.com/asianparadise ; Armando’s, 707 Marina Vista, Martinez, (925) 228-6985, www.martinezvibes.com/armandos. —Michaela Jarvis
Late Happy Hour Deal
Slide into McCovey’s Restaurant to catch the last few innings of the ballgame, and you’ll find a pleasant surprise: reverse happy hour. McCovey’s late happy hour starts at 8 p.m. and runs until closing seven days a week—meaning that the next time you watch Marco Scutaro slam a game-winning homer for the A’s, you’ll be enjoying pints of draft beer for $2 off—not to mention $2 nachos and quesadillas.
McCovey’s Restaurant, 1444 N. California Blvd., Walnut Creek, (925) 944-9444, www.mccoveys.com. —Justin Goldman
New Jazz Club
When Ron Bonner opened a supper club and jazz house in a large stucco building in downtown Orinda last year—a space where many a restaurant has suffered and died—we weren’t sure he could pull it off. But Bonner proved he can deliver on the Orinda House’s main attraction: jazz. Music lovers come from far beyond the precincts of Lamorinda to see top-shelf artists such as drummers Pete Escovedo and Kenny Washington, and saxophonists Pete Yellin and Hal Stein. Escovedo should be back to jam at the House this summer.
Orinda House, 65 Moraga Way, Orinda, (925) 258-4445, www.orindahouse.com. —Kathryn Jessup
As more and more neighborhood theaters go dark in this age of behemoth multiplexes (RIP, Lafayette Park), the opening of the Cerrito Speakeasy Theater is something of a miracle. The Cerrito—a labor of love undertaken by the city of El Cerrito and the owners of Oakland’s fabulously successful Parkway Theater—opened last fall and has been a blockbuster success on a sleepy section of San Pablo Avenue. Tickets for the Cerrito’s slate of new movies, Hollywood classics, and cult films are only $6. Throw in kids matinees on weekends, two-for-one Wednesday admissions, reasonably priced food, and great beers on tap, and you might never go back to a multiplex again.
Cerrito Speakeasy Theater, 10070 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito, (510) 814-2400, www.cerritospeakeasy.com. —Peter Crooks
All it should take is one round of “Don’t Stop Believing” and you’ll see why the Greenery is Diablo’s favorite place for staging Journey sing-alongs. Because karaoke is an activity best performed in groups—and it can be hard to get enough backup on weeknights—we like singing our hearts out every Friday and Saturday night at this bar and restaurant at the Diablo Hills Golf Course. Also, because the Greenery is off the beaten path (way, way off the beaten path), you don’t have to wait long in line to sing or for drinks. With little else in the bar to distract, the attention stays on the singing—for better or worse.
The younger crowd can sing newer songs and score some digits crooning Killers tunes at Crogan’s on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. At Masse’s, a live band backs up singers on Thursdays.
The Greenery, 1251 Marchbanks Dr., Walnut Creek, (925) 937-1270, www.diablohillsgc.com ; Crogan’s, 1387 Locust St., Walnut Creek, (925) 933-7800, www.crogansbarandgrill.com ; Masse’s Billiards Bar and Grill, 2721 N. Main St., Walnut Creek, (925) 256-7665, www.masseswc.com. —Catherine Cromelin
Missing Link Microbrew
Triple Rock has been known as one of the East Bay’s finest brewpubs since it opened in 1985. (Hell, back then it was pretty much our only brewpub.) The reason for its longevity, and continued supremacy, is most evident on Thursday nights, when the brewery packs in the crowds for its legendary Monkey Head Arboreal Ale.
Monkey Head, which is available only on Thursdays, is a sweet, malty amber ale, served in one-liter bottles that checks in at a mean 8 percent alcohol by volume. Drink a couple of these, and you might feel your, um, primitive side coming out.
Triple Rock Brewery and Alehouse, 1920 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, (510) 843-2739, www.triplerock.com. —J.G.
Venue for Local Bands
The huge guitar-shaped marquee hanging out over Telegraph Avenue tells you exactly what you’ll find at Oakland’s Uptown Nightclub. This place rocks. The decor is stylish, the bartenders are pleasant, and the walls shake with live music nearly every night—sometimes indie rock, sometimes punk, sometimes blues. No matter what particular brand of music is playing, there’s no doubt that this is a place where any music fan will feel right at home.
Uptown Nightclub, 1928 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, (510) 451-8100, www.uptownnight club.com. —Justin Goldman
Diabloland is mobbed with high-end steakhouses—and the cocktail lounges that come with them. Last year, Forbes Mill brought its mouthwatering meats to Danville, and the restaurant scored a huge hit with its sleek, modern bar. This year, Izzy’s Steaks and Chops, a longtime San Francisco favorite, is joining the East Bay fray with its Trophy Bar.
The San Ramon restaurant’s bar has a classic feel: Dark wood is everywhere, and a grand piano, old-school cocktails, and display cases containing 300 vintage trophies complete the effect. So far, Izzy’s is drawing an older crowd, but the first Friday it was open, there wasn’t an empty seat in the house.
Izzy’s Steaks and Chops, 200 Montgomery St., San Ramon, (925) 830-8620, www.izzyssteaks.com. —J.G.
Berkeley’s T-Rex Barbeque will keep you in a feeding frenzy until 12:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. Baby back ribs are the ultimate weapon in hangover prevention.
T-Rex, 1300 10th St., Berkeley, (510) 527-0099, www.t-rex-bbq.com.
Left Bank offers several food specials from 9 p.m. to closing every day (10 p.m. Sunday and Monday, 11 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday), including a tasty quarter-pound hamburger for just $4.95.
Left Bank, 60 Crescent Dr., Pleasant Hill, (925) 288-1222, www.leftbank.com.
Taqueria El Balazo’s Pleasanton location stays open until 2 a.m. every day except Sunday, when it closes at midnight. But watch your alcohol intake: Local police have been known to stake out the area, looking for drunk drivers.
El Balazo, 5331 Hopyard Rd., Pleasanton, (925) 737-1300, www.elbalazo.net.
Need some caffeine to propel you through your next all-nighter? The Starbucks in the shopping center at the corner of North Main Street and Treat Boulevard is open 24 hours.
Starbucks, 2922 N. Main St., Walnut Creek, (925) 935-0928, www.starbucks.com. —J.G.
More Reader Picks
Girls Night Out
Walnut Creek Yacht Club, 1555 Bonanza St., Walnut Creek, (925) 944-3474, www.walnutcreekyachtclub.com.
Live Music Venue
Yoshi’s, 510 Embarcadero West, Oakland, (510) 238-9200, www.yoshis.com.
Aura, 4825 Hopyard, Pleasanton, (925) 416-0777, www.nightclubaura.com.
Bing Crosby’s, 1342 Broadway Plaza, Walnut Creek, (925) 939-2464, www.bingcrosbysrestaurant.com.