Sunday, March 24, 2013

Oakland bar crawl, part 2, Heinold’s

The night started out uneventfully, regrouping after a day of working a conference. We had the choice of several corporate parties, or ditching San Francisco and heading over the bridge to the East Bay.  We chose wisely and headed for Oakland.  The rest is, as they say, alcohol over the liver.

The night started with at Messob for Ethiopian food, then to the dive tiki Kona Club.  After leaving the Kona Club, common sense dictated that we head for our hotel and get some sleep.  So we headed downtown and ended up hitting three bars, our selection being limited by it being late and a Tuesday.  Not to fear, we hit three winners.


(image credit unknown, via Heinold’s website)

First stop was Heinold's First And Last Chance Saloon , an old school bar which survived the Great Earthquake, and much more.  From their website:

“Opened in 1883 by Johnny Heinold as J.M. Heinold's Saloon, this Historic Landmark looked much then as she does today. She was built right here in 1880 from the timbers of an old whaling ship over the water in a dock area that even then was at the foot of Webster Street. For nearly three years, the building was used as a bunk house by the men working the nearby oyster beds. Then in 1883, Johnny's $100 purchase, with the aid of a ship's carpenter, was transformed into a saloon where seafaring and waterfront men could feel at ease.”

The entire tiny establishment tilts severely due to settling and the effects of the Great Earthquake.  It’s ramshackle appearance is at odds with the nearby yachts in the harbor, but this old Jack London hangout stands proud in the face of change, a single middle finger upraised in the face of gentrification.  The place is laid back and friendly- I’m sure during weekends and boating season it is overrun with people who don’t quite fit the vibe, but it’s worth the trip.



Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A word about Oakland

When we were on our tour of Oakland a few weeks ago, I joked about surviving a few hours in the city at night.  I knew it was a joke, but some people only know what they see on TV or other generally-mistaken mainstream media outlets.

Oakland certainly has some troubled areas.  So does your town.  Oakland’s trouble areas may (or may not) be bigger or badder than yours, that’s the sad nature of city life.

But Oakland has some great communities, and a lot of great people- and I spent a couple of very enjoyable evenings in Oakland.  As with any  city you don’t know well, seek out advice on what’s safe, what’s reasonable, and what to avoid.  Local knowledge is key, if you don’t have it, borrow some.  I was fortunate enough to have an awesome friend act as tour guide, but if you don’t, ask at your hotel, ask a bartender (especially one you’ve tipped well), or ask a cop.  More than once I’ve asked a policeman for advice about their community- they tend to know them, and I usually preface the conversation with “I do not want to end up as paperwork for you…” which lightens the mood.

As far as Oakland, a lot of it feels like San Francisco used to feel.  Maybe that’s part of the East v. West Bay thing that happens there, I don’t know.  But I know I’ll be back.



Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Kona Club, and Messob, Oakland, CA

You may have guessed by now that I like tiki bars, and that I also like dive bars.  Imagine a tiki bar worn comfortable by the passage of time (and alcohol), with real tiki decorations and style, but with a laid-back dive vibe.

Welcome to the Kona Club.


(image credit: Kona Club website)

The Kona Club is on Piedmont Ave, near (but not in) the city of Piedmont (a small city within a city, Piedmont is completely surrounded by Oakland).  Tiki drinks and Hawaiian shirts. or t-shirts and beers, either way, Kona Club has you covered.

It is worth mentioning that a wander down Piedmont Ave. will take you to several good restaurants, we found Messob Ethiopian just a couple of blocks away at 4301 Piedmont and packed in enough outstanding Ethiopian food to steel ourselves for a bar crawl night in Oakland (yeah, a few more spots to add to the “should blog about” list).  Great food, and lots of it.  The ambiance at Messob is nothing special, but when you get your first smell of their food from about a block away you won’t care if it looks like a generic restaurant- the food is outstanding.