Best of the East Bay - Fun & Nightlife
Find the best theater troupe, a cheap happy hour or your wildest night yet with these top picks.
► Wine Bar
Just because the economy’s tough doesn’t mean you have to give up going to posh restaurants—just hit happy hour at Bridges Restaurant and Bar. The menu is available at the bar and on the patio from 5 p.m. to close Monday through Friday, and features a selection of $6 small plates that includes a monthly special (a spicy shrimp tostada on our visit), and larger plates in the $10–$12 range (we had a pizzeta topped with wild mushrooms, parmesan, and drizzled truffle oil). Happy hour on the patio is an elegant experience at a less-than-luxe cost.
44 Church St., Danville, (925) 820-7200, bridgesdanville.com. —Justin Goldman
America’s best comedy clubs are mostly in big cities. But, thanks to Tommy T’s Comedy Steakhouse in Pleasanton, you don’t need to leave the comfort of the East Bay burbs to see a hilarious show. Promoter Tommy Thomas, who’s been running East Bay comedy clubs for 33 years, opened his Pleasanton venue in August 2006, and he’s been bringing stand-up stars to the East Bay ever since, including Andrew Dice Clay, Craig Ferguson, and Damon Wayans.)
5104 Hopyard Rd., Pleasanton, (925) 227-1800, tommyts.com. —J.G.
There are flight schools, and then there’s Attitude Aviation. Whether you want to glide over Livermore wine country in an old Waco biplane, dangle upside down by your seatbelt in an open-cockpit Great Lakes 2T, or pilot a Marchetti SF-260 in a mock dog-fight, Attitude Aviation has a plane for you. “We can have a person who has never flown before doing loops and rolls on their very first flight,” says the school’s owner, retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Rich Perkins.
299 W. Jack London Blvd., Livermore, (925) 456-2276, attitudeaviation.com. —Hannah Craddick
Anyone who has attended On Broadway will not be surprised that it was voted best gala. The Diablo Regional Arts Association’s fundraiser features great auction items (One year, my friend won a Tiffany diamond necklace and earrings.) and the Lesher Center's lively troupes perform. This year, on October 9, On Broadway will be even more spectacular, as the Lesher Center celebrates its 20th anniversary, with a tented dinner banquet, music in the center’s Hofmann Theater—including a set from Grammy-winning jazz quartet Manhattan Transfer—and dancing and dessert.
draa.org. —Susan Safipour
It doesn’t take long for a sunny sail on San Francisco Bay to turn into a windy adventure. That’s why it’s nice to have Anthony Sandberg at the helm: The president and founder of the Berkeley-based OCSC Sailing club and school is as comfortable in blue skies, regaling novice sailors with old yarns, as he is guiding you safely back into port in near-zero visibility.
Sandberg was part of a crew that sailed the Pacific at the age of 16.
“I remember thinking that this was way too good to be the exclusive domain of rich people. You should not have to own a boat to be able to sail,” Sandberg says.
1 Spinnaker Way, Berkeley, (800) 223-2984, ocscsailing.com. —Ethan Fletcher
For the last few years, Uptown Oakland has been the place to see edgy art. The hippest new gallery in the hood is Krowswork, a space dedicated to video and photography installations. Founder Jasmine Moorhead, an Oakland resident, started the gallery in December because she sees video as a medium that “gets in the cracks between things, that gets to places that painting and film don’t.” Krowswork features three exhibition spaces, including a screening room outfitted with old church pews for seats, and has already hosted a video installation from famed photographer William Eggleston.
480 23rd St., Oakland, (510) 229-7035, krowswork.com. —Justin Goldman
Since its inception in 1997, the annual California Independent Film Festival, has been a showcase for up-and-coming filmmakers and a gathering spot for cinephiles. Last September, the festival moved from the Tri-Valley to the historic art deco Orinda Theatre, presenting a four-day festival in April, as well as a monthly Classic Film Series. Screenings of Hollywood gems, including One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and West Side Story, have delighted audiences, as have onstage interviews with special guests such as Louise Fletcher and Rita Moreno. In late June, the festival partnered with community members in Moraga to reopen the Rheem Theatre as a venue for art house, independent, mainstream movies, and special events.
“We finally have a downtown nightclub vibe without driving to the city. Sapphire Restaurant and Lounge is a great place to work off the calories while dancing with friends." -Julia Anne Hawkins, Livermore
In the age of the multiplex, it’s tough for neighborhood movie houses to survive. What makes Livermore’s Vine Cinema terrific is that the theater is doing more than just still standing: It’s offering movie fans an experience the multiplexes can’t. The Vine shows smart art-house flicks, hosts TV viewing parties (Oscars, Super Bowl), and has installed tables and couches, and partnered with Zephyr Grill and Bar next door for a small-plates menu complete with microbrews and wine.
1722 First St., Livermore, (925) 447-2545, vinecinema.com. —Peter Crooks
“The Vine at Bridges presents the best experience of any wine bar in our area. Where else can you listen to great music and drink great wine in such a cool ambience?” -Chuck Reyna, Danville
The recent wave of restaurants, galleries, theaters, and nightclubs has made Oakland’s Uptown district one of the Bay Area’s top nightlife destinations. When Era Art Lounge opened in February, it was the crowning jewel of the revitalized neighborhood. Take your friends to this chic two-story lounge, and watch their jaws drop at its antique furniture, vaulted ceilings, and hand-blown glass chandelier. Contemporary art adorns the walls, and the menu of boutique cocktails can kick off an evening or provide a pleasant nightcap.
19 Grand Ave., Oakland, (510) 832-4400, oaklandera.com. —Peter Crooks
►Appetizers to go with your drinks
Va de Vi, 1511 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Walnut Creek, (925) 979-0100, vadevi.com.
Bedford Gallery, 1601 Civic Dr., Walnut Creek, (925) 295-1417, bedfordgallery.org.
Felix Parra, at Havana, 1516 Bonanza St., Walnut Creek, (925) 939-4555, havanarestaurant.net.
Pyramid, in Berkeley and Walnut Creek, pyramidbrew.com.
Draeger's Cooking School, 4100 Blackhawk Plaza Cir., Danville, (800) 642-9463, draegerscookingschool.com.
Company C Contemporary Ballet, (925) 708-0752, companycballet.org.
►East Bay Museum
Oakland Museum of California, 1000 Oak St., Oakland, (510) 238-2200, museumca.org.
►East Bay Winery
Wente Vineyards, 5050 Arroyo Rd., Livermore, (925) 456-2405, wentevineyards.com.
Boundary Oak, 3800 Valley Vista Rd., Walnut Creek, (925) 934-4775, playboundaryoak.com.
Lafayette Reservoir, Mount Diablo Boulevard, Lafayette, (925) 284-9669, ebmud.com.
Maria Maria, in Danville and Walnut Creek, maria mariarestaurants.com.
Bing Crosby’s Restaurant and Piano Lounge, 1342 Broadway Plaza, Walnut Creek, (925) 939-2464, bingcrosbysrestaurant.com.
Sapphire Restaurant and Lounge, 2300 First St., Livermore, (925) 294-9346, sapphirelivermore.com.
►Place for Family Fun
Fantasy Forum Actors Ensemble, fantasyforum.org.
►Place for Girls Night Out
1515 Restaurant Lounge, 1515 N. Main St., Walnut Creek, (925) 939-1515, 1515wc.com.
►Place to Meet Your Mate
Bing Crosby’s, 1342 Broadway Plaza, Walnut Creek, (925) 939-2464, bingcrosbysrestaurant.com.
►Place to See a Concert
Wente Vineyards, 5050 Arroyo Rd., Livermore, (925) 456-2424, wentevineyards.com.
Northstar at Tahoe, (800) 466-6784, northstarattahoe.com.
Mojito, at Havana, in Alameda and Walnut Creek, havanarestaurant.net.
Stadium Pub, 1420 Lincoln Ave., Walnut Creek, (925) 256-7302, thestadiumpub.com.
Center Repertory Company, (925) 295-1422, centerrep.org.
The Vine at Bridges, 480 Hartz Ave., Danville, (925) 820-7210, thevineatbridges.com.