Posts in Biased Bests
Vietnam Creative Essentials
 

What is indispensable for creative life in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City?

We asked designers, musicians, writers, and artists where they feel inspired, where they collaborate, and where they create. From their answers, we have created a list of the five essentials to creative life in Vietnam.

 

Red Plastic Chairs 

Sitting on a red plastic chair, watching the world go by.

Vietnamese Coffee

Vietnamese Coffee

Fueling your day with coffee, served hot or cold

Motor Bike

A Motorbike

Finding that perfect moment when traffic is light to hop on your bike a explore a new area of the city.

Creative Cafe

A Creative Cafe

Discovering the perfect nook in a hidden cafe for a brainstorm, an impromptu gallery opening, poetry readings or concert.

Beer Bia Hoi

Bia Hoi

Keeping the creative juices flowing for happy hour and enjoying a glass of bia hoi (fresh beer) with friends.


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Best Cozy Coffee Shops in Japan

Coffee across Japan is excellent. Many of the Third Wave coffee houses are tiny havens, where a masterful cup of coffee is hand poured with a ritual-like attention to detail. Coffee experiences across the country feel like art. 

What can be a bit harder to find is a cafe (that serves excellent coffee) and is big enough to read a book, chat with a friend, or scribble ideas in your notebook.


Osaka

Salon De Amanto (Nakazaki)

Hop up to Nakazaki and after meandering through shops and the beautiful narrow streets, don't miss this 120 year old house. What started as a cafe, is now a central fixture of arts and culture in Tokyo.  

 

Kyoto

Cafe Independants

This charming homey cafe embodies the Japanese "Wabi Sabi" in both decoration and ambiance. Set down a mosaic staircase, this arty environment is sure to inspire.

Walden Woods Cafe

In contrast to Cafe Independants, head South some contrast to dark, head to the crisp, clean space to enjoy a cappuccino on their minimalistic benches.   

 

Tokyo

Daikanyama T site (Daikanyama)

Disclaimer: you’ll be drinking Starbucks unless you head upstairs to the cafe but trust us, it’s worth it. Find your perfect nook among the three buildings and browse through a magazine or book. 

Hattifnatt (Koenji)

Sometimes you just want to feel like a kid and this spot delivers. In what feels like a colorfully illustrated treehouse, you can even climb a ladder and sit up in the loft as you enjoy your treats. 

Mois Cafe (Shimokitazawa)

You might think you're walking into a friends house at this converted old house as you walk up a wooden staircase and settle in. 

 

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Best (Hidden) Bars in Japan

Japan is full of secrets and hidden gems. No one wants to spill the beans on their favorite local bars and cafes, and for good reason! Often they only seat 3-7 people. There's charm in the fact that these bars are a bit private, subtle, and hard to find because when you find a spot you love you won't be disappointed. Hint: don't stick to the ground floor.

A few of the best:

Kyoto

  • A cocktail bar lit by only candlelight playing quiet house music. (We were sworn to secrecy!)
  • Yuki's will make sure your experience at The Bar Straight is both friendly and impeccable. Head up the elevator and down a hallway in Kyoto's Gion neighborhood.

Tokyo

  • Bar Huddle, a friendly tiny bar in Setagaya.
  • Abe will make you feel at home in his Golden Gai 8 seater, Bar Asyl. He's written descriptions of each whiskey bottle and happy to explain his preferences.
  • Little Soul Cafe: A record-spinning Shimo-Kitazawa hangout.

Osaka

  • Bar Azzurri: a 4th floor cocktail lounge open 24 hours a day showing any soccer match you want to see.

  • Love Jazz and Vinyl? bird/56 should be your go to. 


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Best Dive Bars in Oakland, CA

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

Best Local Shops in Oakland, CA

Oakland has some of the highest rates of retail leakage—i.e. people who live in Oakland and spend their dollars outside of the town. It's unfortunate because there are so many great places to shop (in addition to the many amazing restaurants, cafes, and bars). So get your wallet ready! You'll notice that many of these shops also act as venues, art galleries and community gathering spots. Just some of why we fell in love with this East Bay city.

Some of our favorite spots to shop:

1.     Viscera

Come here for American-made clothing and accessories with a story. Ari is amazing - pop in to see (read: buy) her products, and stay to chat. She knows all about Oakland's small-business world, even going as far to organize get-togethers with other shop owners, community happy hours, and more. Read our interview with Ari here.

2.     Laurel Bookstore

Across the way, Laurel Bookstore is one of those places you really want to stick around — so, give your Amazon Prime a break, and go buy a book.

3.     Show & Tell Concept Store

This store feels like a community space (it is), hosts events, and sells goods that are social responsible. Theyve recently moved locations, so be sure to double-check your map first!

4.     SoleSpace

As they say, this “shoe store and ArtsLab,” sells shoes and clothing during the day, and is an art gallery and performance space.

5.     FLAX Art & Design

Supplying bay area’s artists with materials for over 80 years, FLAX is a family-owned community staple. FLAX moved its flagship to downtown Oakland in 2016! 

Also amazing: Oaktown Spice Shop, Oaklandish, Esqueleto, Umami Mart, Two Jacks Denim, Crown Nine

Best Creative Cafes in Vietnam
 
 

Cafes are central of Vietnam's creative scene. They are a place to work, a place to collaborate and are places where poetry readings, open mic nights, art galleries, and musicians come together.   

Tang Tret Cosmos Cafe, Hanoi

Hop up to the second floor to find a cozy nook to make your own.

SOMA Art Cafe, Ho Chi Minh City

In District 2, this graffiti art clad venue not only makes a mean coffee, but also features up and coming local artists. 

Manzi Art Gallery, Hanoi

This art gallery and cafe in Hanoi in an old French Villa where you can enjoy your drink while seeing art from leading Vietnamese contemporary artists.

Mockingbird Cafe, Ho Chi Minh City  

In what may look like a rundown apartment building from the outside, leads up 4 flights of stairs to this wonderful little cafe.

Tranquil Books & Coffee, Hanoi

Leave you shoes downstairs and sneak on up to the second floor to find a silent retreat. Swing by in the evening for their open mic, piano night, or movie screenings! 

 

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