Here at Place Makes, we enjoy a $7.50 Hazy IPA at Drake’s Dealership as much as the next person. But sometimes you just want to walk up to a bar, order a $3 beer (and depending on your mood, a whiskey to go with it), and listen to a bartender talk about what Oakland was like “back in the day.” Here are the best five spots for cheap beer, good stories, and a host of local characters.
5 Best Oakland Dive Bars
1) The Kingfish
If I only had one watering hole in Oakland to recommend, it would be The Kingfish. It’s hard to beat the combination of cheap drinks ($5 for all draughts and most cocktails), free popcorn, shuffleboard, and plenty of outdoor tables to post up and watch the Warriors. Don’t forget to order a late night hotdog from Casper.
2) The Alley
Part karaoke bar, part dive, and part cocktail lounge, The Alley is an Oakland watering hole like none other. Writer Kimberly Chun described it as being designed by “a drunken Walt Disney”, and we can’t say we disagree. Order a martini (best deal in town), take a seat close to the piano, and prepare to be transported to the 1920s. Feel free to request a song, but you better not ask for the latest pop hit. You’ll want to sing a tune from the Great American Songbook, with something by the likes of Cole Porter or George Gershwin.
3) George Kaye’s
George Kaye's is a great spot to watch a ballgame in peace. I've never seen more than seven people in this bar, but there are always two or three folks eager to shoot the shit with. Craving a rant about how terrible the Oakland A's are, or how invincible Steph Curry is this year? This is your spot.
4) Heart & Dagger Saloon
Heart & Dagger always has good vibes. It even has a spacious outdoor seating area to sip on a reasonably priced, $4 Lagunitas brew. On a Friday or Saturday night it's always full, but there's never a wait to grab your next beer. After hanging outside, head indoors for a game of billiards and put a quarter in the jukebox to play your favorite tune.
5) The Ruby Room
The Ruby Room is known for its late night dance parties, and I’ve certainly enjoyed a few. However, my preference is to grab a seat at the bar around 8pm, well before the place fills up. Bring a buddy, grab a $3 High Life draught, and bask in the Ruby Red glow (literally) of this funky hole-in-the wall.
Honorable Mention: Telegraph Beer Garden, The Avenue, Merchant’s Saloon