I like the concept of beer gardens because there’s nothing better on a sunny day than to sit outside with a cold brew.
But sometimes you want to eat something to soak up the suds. And that’s what I’ve noticed about some beer gardens where the menu is nothing more than a few snacks (many deep fried, ugh).
That’s why I appreciate the effort put in by Drake’s Dealership in Oakland’s The Hive complex in Uptown. Opened in August in a former Dodge service and parts building along the city’s Auto Row, Drake’s is a restaurant and beer garden from the San Leandro brewery. It’s a festive and large space that can give you a full restaurant experience inside or outside.
I’ve visited a few times since it opened, especially since it’s close to my Oakland offices. That’s why I went once for lunch with a co-worker, enjoying a BBQ pork sandwich ($13) with a delicious macaroni salad (that I subbed replacing the cole slaw) that had a nice balance of sweetness and tartness. Their mac salad is a fancified version, known as the aku mac salad ($6), with the addition of tuna.
The menu is led off by about 10 wood-fire pizza specialties. Drake’s pizzas come out more oblong in shape on a metal tray. The crust is chewy but thin. For a dinner with my fellow food blogging friends — Christina of East Bay Dish, Sandy of Foodhoe’s Foraging, and Brenda of Bites and Bourbon — we tried the “all meat” pizza ($24), which delivered with a variety of meats including Hobbs pepperoni, house-made sausage, and smoked pork loin, all accented with a balsamic glaze. Of course, we added a slow-poached duck egg ($3) for good measure.
The duck egg, which I also added a second time on the “Old School” pizza at a lunch with my friend Vera, turned out to have a pretty thick yolk, maybe because duck eggs are richer? But there wasn’t a whole lot of oozing action, and one of our servers mentioned that the egg is cooked more on the medium side. So the yolk comes out like butter you spread on your pizza rather than a runny egg.
BTW, the Old School is a simple pizza with tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, basil sprouts, and pecorino romano ($13), and I don’t know if our pizza sat a bit in the cold weather we’ve been having but the tomato sauce was almost like tomato paste.
Speaking of the cold (which we’ve been having here lately because, well, winter), Drake’s makes it welcoming to eat there even outside on a cold night because of the heat lamps and fire pits that create a cozy lounge area. And of course, there’s also the large indoor space that has a lodge feel with a fireplace.
While the menu has a variety of items, I feel like it’s more casual like a lunch spot with sandwiches and salads. For dinner, there’s no real entree-like items (it’s the exact same menu from lunch). For our food blogging dinner, we created a meal with the Oaklander salad ($12) made with upland watercress and roasted turnips and sweet potato, the Roy’s rib basket ($15) that was St. Louis style ribs with kettle chips, and a poutine ($13) with fries and double duck gravy and cheese curds for my deep-fried loving friends.
The menu isn’t all heavy on meats and cheese. There’s also a healthy option of a 3-row grain salad (and all the salads can be topped with duck breast, flank steak, duck confit or chicken breast) and a black bean burger, which is a patty made of black bean and whole grains.
The fun is also in experimenting with the beer, many coming from Drake’s but a few other featured beer from local favorites. One of my favorite new Drake’s beer is the Jolly Rodger, which is an imperial coffee porter made with Highwire Coffee. You really get that coffee flavor. I also enjoyed the limited release Rockridge Honey Brown, a brown ale. (They also sell Highwire’s nitro brew, which is a cold-brew coffee that gives the coffee a bit of fizz.)
The last bite
While the menu is more casual emphasizing sandwiches, pizzas, and snacks, the food pairs nicely with the beer and adds to the overall festive experience of dining in the hipster beer hall or spacious beer garden. Drake’s is a fully conceived beer garden that’s also a community gathering spot.
The rating: 2.5 out of 3 camera snaps
The deets: Drake’s Dealership, 2325 Broadway (between 23 and 24th Streets), Oakland. PH: 510.833.6649. Open daily from 11:30 a.m. till 11 p.m. (later till 1 a.m. on Thursday through Saturday). Email reservations available for groups of six or more. Major credit cards accepted. Website
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