It actually feels like summer here in the San Francisco Bay Area, which is unusual given we often have to fight the fog for some hot days. But I’m not complaining because I live in Oakland where we get a nice middle-ground of weather — not too hot and not too cold.
When the weather is nice, most people like to go outside and go hiking. But I’m not a fan of dust and dirt, so I like to keep it more urban for my outdoor activities. One of my favorite things to do is to hang out at a beer garden, especially one with a large patio.
In the last few years, it feels like Oakland has cornered the market in the Bay Area for beer gardens, with several opening up within a short time from each other. And why not? Like I said, Oakland often gets more sun than San Francisco and there are just as many people here willing to spend some bucks for good food and drink.
So here’s my roundup of some of the beer gardens in Oakland, each popular for a variety of reasons. Have you been to all of them? Which one is your favorite space to share some suds?
This German biergarten has the advantage of being along the waterfront on the Embarcadero, but it can be tricky to find since it’s not at the more central Jack London Square but south along some of the docks for yachts. From the road, you can drive right by it if you didn’t know ahead of time that it’s behind the Homewood Suites by Hilton.
But once you find it, it’s a charming family-oriented restaurant and biergarten by the water. It has beer on tap and beer cocktails, and a nice menu serving up brunch, lunch and dinner. When I dropped in for an early lunch one Saturday, I tried the Brotzeit sandwich ($16), which is slow-roasted pork belly slabs that has been flash-fried and served with smoked Caggiano ham, an egg over easy, spicy aioli, lettuce, pickled onion and jalapeno. It’s a huge sandwich, and I was impressed by the crispiness of the French roll and the pork belly. I washed it all down with a Veltins Pilsner ($7.50).
While there are only a few tables outside, the friendly service and laid back vibe makes this a quaint spot by the bay.
The deets: Brotzeit Lokal, 1000 Embarcadero, Oakland. PH: 510.645.1905. Open Tuesday through Sunday, from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; weekday happy hours, 3 to 6 p.m.; and weekend brunch, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Closed Monday.) Reservations accepted only for indoor tables, outdoor seating is first-come, first-serve. brotzeitbiergarten.com
Lost & Found
This popular beer garden is one of four in Oakland’s bustling Uptown neighborhood, drawing crowds because of its large outdoor area with ping pong tables and space for other games like bean bag toss. And of course, it has an extensive beer menu, offering up a variety of beer mostly coming from California.
The tiny kitchen inside offers a limited menu, with items like popcorn, fries and nachos. The few times I’ve gone (it’s popular for the after-work crowd), I haven’t really found anything exciting to go with my beer and it can take awhile for food to come out at peak times. Still, you can’t beat the beer selection and the fun vibe.
The deets: Lost & Found, 2040 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. PH: 510.763.2040. Open Tuesday through Thursday, 4 to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, noon to midnight; and Sunday, noon to 10 p.m. No reservations. Major credit cards accepted. www.lostandfound510.com
Near Lake Merritt, Portal is a neighborhood beer garden with a pub upfront and a good-size patio in the back, with limited view of the lake.
They have great service, and a nice food menu to complement the beer options. Serving up brunch, lunch and dinner, it’s signature snack food is the unique “garbage bread” ($16), which is a grilled pizza stuffed with meat and vegetables (there’s a veggie option too). It’s the perfect item with a cold beer.
Parking can be a challenge in the area, but if you decide to walk or jog around Lake Merritt, you can drop in for a cold beer afterwards as your reward.
The deets: Portal, 1611 2nd Ave., Oakland. PH: 510.663.7678. Open Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.; and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. (Closed Monday.) No reservations. Major credit cards accepted. www.portaloakland.com
One of the newest players in the hood, Temescal Brewing opened up along Telegraph Avenue with a small indoor bar and a large outdoor patio. They serve up its own brews, with quirky names like “Lovely Pils” and “Take the Time” (house saison) and “Where’s My Hat?” for its sour beer.
It’s a very casual spot, so you order your beer inside and then find a spot outside. There’s also a very limited food menu (mostly just popcorn) but they have rotating food trucks parked at the front if you want something to absorb all the beer.
The deets: Temescal Brewing, 4115 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. PH: 510.899.5628. Open Tuesday through Friday, 4 to 10 p.m. (till midnight Friday); Saturday, noon to midnight; and Sunday, noon to 10 p.m. (Closed Monday.) No reservations. www.temescalbrewing.com
Telegraph Beer Garden
Funky is the only word that best describes this small but popular beer garden in Uptown, which is often overflowing on a weekend night. Colorful murals adorn the older exterior, and it’s like an adult playground (its aka is “Beeryland”).
It’s a no-nonsense spot, just like its limited food menu from the tiny kitchen, which serves up burgers and mac n’ cheese. It’s located on a busy stretch of Telegraph that’s going through transition, with a mix of art galleries, older local shops, restaurants and corner markets.
The deets: Telegraph Beer Garden, 2318 Telegraph Ave., Oakland. PH: 510.444.8353. Open daily, weekdays from 3 p.m. and weekends from 11 a.m. Closes at midnight (later on Friday and Saturday). No reservations. telegraphoakland.com
Classic Cars West Beer Garden
This relatively new beer garden in Oakland’s Uptown neighborhood gets the prize for most unique. Like the name says, it is attached to a showroom of classic, vintage cars, which is fitting since it’s near Broadway’s Auto Row.
Found on one of the side streets between Broadway and Telegraph, this beer garden has a large outdoor space (with a cool breezy tent). They have a limited beer menu (on tap and in the can), and when I visited I tried a nice Ghost Town IPA ($6) from Oakland. There’s a small kitchen that’s open for limited hours, serving up vegan specialties.
Because of its showroom, it advertises itself more as an event space. And when I visited on a weekend afternoon, it had a quiet, chill vibe, almost as if it’s still taking time for people to discover this hidden spot.
The deets: Classic Cars West Beer Garden, 411 26th St., Oakland. PH: 510.922.1319. Open Wednesday through Friday, noon to 10 p.m.; Saturday dinner, 5 to 10 p.m; and weekend brunch, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. No reservations. www.classiccarwest.com
Arthur Mac’s Tap and Snack
Another new beer garden, you can find this spot across from the MacArthur BART station (which makes it easy for you to avoid drinking and driving) in a new mixed-use complex that was made from shipping containers. This fun new spot has a covered, graveled outdoor patio with these really cool booths that look like you’re drinking in a shrub because the sides are covered with leafy greens.
Like many other beer gardens on the weekend, there’s a DJ spinning music and Arthur Mac’s has a small area with fire pits for the cool nights. Its menu is limited but does have some interesting items like a refreshing watermelon salad and thin-crust pizza, along with buffalo or tikka masala wings. For the drinks, they have a list of beer on tap along with a small selection of wine and cider.
When I dropped by on a Saturday afternoon, it seemed like a popular spot for young families and groups because of their large tables and the booths. It’s a bit out of the way from the rest of the Oakland scene, but it’s probably a welcomed addition to the neighborhood that probably doesn’t get as many new openings.
The deets: Arthur Mac’s Tap and Snack, 4006 Martin Luther King Jr. Way (at 40th), Oakland. PH: 510.823.2509. Open Sunday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. No reservations. Major credit cards accepted. www.arthurmacs.com
This is probably my favorite beer garden in Oakland because it’s one of the more realized beer garden around, running at top speed in all areas from the beer to the food menu to the large outdoor space with fire pits and weekend DJ music.
Opened in the HIVE community-business complex in Uptown, Drake’s Dealership showcases the beer from its San Leandro brewery. The food menu makes this a full restaurant, with a large indoor dining area with bar and TV screens. You can choose from a variety of wood-fire pizzas (made oblong in trays), sandwiches and salads. A popular item that I haven’t tried (because I just can’t for my cholesterol’s sake) is the Frito Pie ($7) made with Frito Lay chips, steak chili, bacon fondue, cheddar, onion and pickled peppers.
The professional service and really the enjoyable outdoor space makes this my favorite spot for a cold brew and hanging out with friends. It can get packed for weeknight happy hours and on the weekends, so if you come with a big group be sure to make a reservation.
The deets: Drake’s Dealership, 2325 Broadway, Oakland. PH: 510.568.2739 ext. 40. Open Sunday through Wednesday, 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.; and Thursday through Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 1 a.m. Reservations, major credit cards accepted. Website
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