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5 new bars worth toasting

 A quick and discerning guide for the city that loves to drink.

Royal Cuckoo

If Twin Peaks–era David Lynch opened a bar with an audiophile—say, Nick Hornby from the High Fidelity days—you might get something like this idiosyncratically decorated Bernal Heights spot (think furniture and vinyl from a hipster thrift store). The drinks are fine, but it’s about the atmosphere.

Hi-Lo Club

The best thing about a dive? The lack of pretension. The worst thing about a lack of pretension? Lousy drinks. The Hi-Lo Club, which opened in June, is the best of all worlds: Good drinks—fresh local beers, well-made classic cocktails—without the hipsterisms.


It’s drinks all around when the Bourbon & Branch guys open another new bar in the Tenderloin. Enjoy one of nine private booths, called snugs, each with a traditional bar theme, from tiki to dive. Reservations are required for the booths but not for the bar.


Although this Emeryville bar named after a song by the Eels isn’t boxing themed, it’s got all the moves. Owner Jon Santer’s an elite bartend, but Prize-fighter is a casual, blue-collar place that bobs with pitchers of beer, weaves with a sunny patio, jabs with cocktails, and, naturally, offers serious punches.

Night Light

Oakland’s rise to watering-hole prominence is embodied by this Jack London Square newcomer with a warm, lived-in look and enough plush red fabric on the walls to give it the air of a cathouse. The upstairs music venue keeps things thumping. Don’t doubt the cocktails: They’re well-shaken, even though the vibe seems to say “shot and a beer.”