Beer halls seem to be bubbling up in Oakland like the runaway foam that spills over your glass when you get beer on tap.
But of all the versions of beer halls, I love the idea of the beer garden, or biergarten – pubs with large outdoor seating, serving up food perfect for beer.
One of the new beer gardens in Oakland is Portal, which is a few yards from Lake Merritt. With the few remaining days of summer, I decided to round up a few of my co-workers to hit Portal after work for happy hour.
Special Happy Hour
It’s not advertised on its website, but Portal has a special extended happy hour from Tuesday through Friday, from 5 to 7 p.m. (instead of the regular 3 to 5 p.m.). Along with a variety of beer selections, there are special prices for some dinner items.
For my glass of Speakeasy Prohibition ($6), a type of American porter, I washed it down with the unique “garbage bread” (regular $12, happy hour $11). I want to meet the creative mind who decided to wrap Italian sausage with cheese in pizza dough and then grill it. This is the perfect food for beer. (There’s also a vegetarian version.)
My co-workers enjoyed the beer and the food, which ranged from the typical chips and guacamole ($5) to garlic fries (they call it frites, $4) to sliders (we had both turkey and beef sliders). A seafood ceviche ($8) I ordered off the regular dinner menu looked deceivingly small but was quite fresh and filling with the tortilla chips. These aren’t cutting-edge foods, but they all fit right at home at a beer garden.
The beer and food at Portal are evenly matched by the welcoming service and fun community vibe. Everyone seemed like they were enjoying themselves, even stepping up to play with the giant Jenga stack in the center of the outdoor patio.
The Last Bite
Portal is a great find. Despite being out by itself in a remote area of Lake Merritt, this beer garden is a perfect place to hangout with friends on an early summer evening with a pitcher of beer and some garbage bread.
Rating: 2.5 out of 4 camera snaps
Portal Restaurant and Bar, 1611 2nd Ave. (at E. 16th), Oakland. PH: 510.663.7678. Open Tuesday through Sunday for lunch, bar snacks, and dinner. Closed Monday. No reservations. Major credit cards accepted. www.portaloakland.com