2017 Best of the East Bay: Nightlife
Mimosa flights for the morning after; a hoppin’ happy hour in Walnut Creek.
Illustration by Basemint
Walnut Creek Yacht Club
Walnut Creek, wcyc.net
Landlocked suburban diners can eat and drink like sailors at Walnut Creek’s nautically themed seafood restaurant during the daily Skippers’ Meeting—aka happy hour. The specials are only available to “members” who have loyalty cards, but it’s free and easy to get one: Simply tell your server you want to sign up, and you’ll be well on your way to enjoying all the delicious deals.
BY THE NUMBERS
3: Number of hours the Skippers’ Meeting lasts. Sidle up to the main bar or the oyster bar between 3 and 6 p.m.
$5: Cost of all draft beers, including brews from local spots like Calicraft Brewing Co. and Farm Creek Brewing. (Savings: $2.)
$6: Cost of all Coral Wines, Graham Beck Brut, and well drinks. (Savings: $2 to $3.)
6: Number of snacks on the menu. All cost less than $10, but do yourself a favor and try the mahimahi tacos or the Black Angus burger.
7: Number of days happy hour is offered. We won’t judge if you decide to partake every day.
12: Number of oysters you can shuck for $18.
13.3: Mileage to the Martinez Marina, the closest waterway.
16: Number of seasonal cocktails made each year in addition to the 13 mainstays.
20: Percent discount on all house cocktails, such as the signature mai tai. (Savings: $2.)
75+: Number of rums available. You can taste rums from around the world in various house cocktails, including The Drake, Hamilton Swizzle, and Twelve Mile Limit.
12,000: Number of “members” that have joined the Yacht Club since it opened in May of 1997.
103: Age of the oldest member. —A.S.
Editor Pick: Portia Battistini, The Cooperage American Grille
Passion: It’s what drove Portia Battistini to dive headfirst behind the bar at the ripe old age of 21. After working briefly as a cocktail waitress, Battistini knew she wanted to create libations. “I loved the atmosphere of the bar and watching the bartenders make drinks. And I loved it so much that I said, ‘That’s it. In six months, I want to be behind the bar.’ ”
Those six months came and went, and before she knew it, Battistini was slinging drinks. She hustled and hopped her way from nightclubs to bar events to sports bars, making Long Islands and other basic bar drinks. But Battistini wanted so much more.
After visiting a friend who was the bar manager at The Cooperage American Grille in Lafayette, Battistini was invited behind the bar and introduced to the creativity and complexity of craft cocktails. “[I] expanded my knowledge on bitters and [the process] of making craft cocktails, using egg whites and more complex ingredients—and my passion for food and flavors just grew,” she says.
Since starting at The Cooperage two and a half years ago, Battistini has taken the reins as the bar manager and has turned up the flavor.
She stresses the importance of including fresh, seasonal products in her drinks and uses local ingredients when making new beverages. You can often spot Battistini at farmers markets finding unique flavors (such as dragon fruit), buying star anise and juniper berries at local produce shops, or chatting with neighbors who’ve just dropped off three bags of tangy kumquats—all of which she uses in new concoctions. “It’s much fresher getting it straight from the garden,” says Battistini.
The bartender also infuses her spirits with flavors like chai or rhubarb, and makes her own simple syrups. “I find it really fun creating stuff,” says Battistini. “I like to get my team involved in creating cocktails, too, and want them to be passionate about it.” —L.B.
Calicraft Brewing Co.
Walnut Creek, calicraft.com
The anticipation surrounding this Walnut Creek brewing company’s new tasting room was at an all-time high late last year, and Calicraft did not disappoint. Its ultramodern tasting room always buzzes with patrons. Rotating food trucks offer pizza (Slice of Italeigh) and tacos (North Border Taco); on Fridays, local musicians entertain with live music; and limited releases like the Karl the Fog (a West Coast hazy IPA) draw in beer aficionados. Come for a Make and Mingle class (paint-dipped pint glasses, anyone?), and create art with other beer enthusiasts while you sip a Calicraft brew, and leave with a crowler of your favorite release. —R.C.
Editor Pick: The Banks Vault
Recover from the night before with mimosas at this new Livermore hot spot. While you can’t go wrong with the bottomless mimosas served in goblets (yes, you read that correctly), the star of the show is the mimosa flight. Bartender Kaitlyn Apoian creates a new bubbly flight each week for locals looking to end the weekend strong. Offerings may be inspired by fruits, cocktails, or lemonade—making for such delicious flavors as mango, piña colada, coconut mojito, and strawberry lemonade. Stop by for Sunday Funday and sip between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. They’ll fix you right up. —A.S.
Place for Live Music
WiseGirl Ristorante Italiano and Cocktails
Pleasant Hill, wisegirlph.com
“This is a great place that supports local musicians. You can go to WiseGirl and have a great meal, and then settle in for a night of outstanding music and dancing.” —Rick Mickaels, Martinez
Livermore and Pleasanton, beerbaronbar.com
No night out is complete without some delicious cocktails, and in-the-know locals often choose this speakeasy-style saloon for creative tipples (and for the 25-plus craft beers on tap and the 250-plus whiskeys). The bar opened in Livermore in 2012 and became so popular that it expanded to Pleasanton last summer. The newest location, dubbed Beer Baron Bar and Kitchen, offers elevated pub fare as well as signature drinks—and another one is coming to Oakland later this summer, giving East Bay cocktail devotees even more chances to sample innovative libations. Local and seasonal ingredients, fresh-squeezed juices, and house-made syrups
are used in drinks like Meet Your Match (Japanese whiskey, nigori sake, lemon, local honey, green tea salt rim, Sichuan flower); the Penelope (mezcal, barrel-aged Chartreuse, lime, serrano pepper); and the P.M.D. (plantain syrup, mango bitters, Demerara rum, pineapple, and lime). Don’t be surprised if you stick around for a second (or third) round. Bottoms up! —A.S.
Residual Sugar Wine Bar and Merchant
Walnut Creek, residualsugarwine.com
Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Napa, Paso Robles, Lodi—it’s pretty safe to say that Jim Telford has amassed perhaps the most global selection of wine in Walnut Creek (and maybe Contra Costa County) for his Residual Sugar Wine Bar and Merchant. With more than 800 bottles of wine—32 “on tap” at any given time—and seafood tapas (added last year), along with a new outdoor patio, Residual Sugar is the place to drink wine and be spotted downtown. Enjoy warm summer evenings and bold reds or crisp whites, plus scallops, tuna, squid, octopus, and other oceanic delicacies, at this perennial Best of the East Bay winner. —R.C