Movin' On Up
Brooklyn group one of several to open new bars in Oakland's burgeoning Uptown district.
The Fox Theater will soon be surrounded by a half-dozen new bars/restaurants, including the Updog bar across the street. Photo by Peter Crooks
The Brooklyn/Oakland comparison isn't a bad one. Both have long been overshadowed by bigger, more glamorous cities across the bridge. And both have slowly, almost secretly, become bastions of young, hip new bars and restaurants, a trend driven in large part by virtue of cheaper rents.
While the Brooklyn transformation has gotten plenty of ink, the Oakland renaissance is just starting to get recognized by folks outside of the East Bay. That's why it seems almost like a christening of coolness that some of the the folks behind Brooklyn's über-hip Weather Up bar (as well as several subsequent bars and restaurants around New York City) are helping to open up a spot in Oakland's Uptown district, the epicenter of the city's entertainment/nightlife scene.
"I think the idea is to bring a little bit of Brooklyn to Oakland," says Glenn Kaplan, who along with his partner Chris Foott, both Bay Area natives who went to high school in Rockridge, will be the principle owner of the new bar at 1741 Telegraph Ave. "We want to put some of the style and elegance of Brooklyn and New York on top of the honesty of Oakland."
Bold words but Kaplan and Foott seem to have the pedigree to back up their talk. Three years ago, they helped open up the successful, critically lauded Weather Up bar in Brooklyn, and their New York-based consultants are all well-known in NYC drinking and dining circles: John Cole, owner of Hecho Inc., has designed and built more than 50 high-end bars and restaurants around New York City and is working on projects in Las Vegas and London. Likewise for Matthew Maddy, a part-owner, who worked for Hecho and has since opened up several spots of his own. A third consultant Catherine Weatherup, is the namesake behind the Weatherup bars in Brooklyn and Tribeca who has studied the art of mixology with renowned New York cocktail guru Sasha Petraske.
So what's in store for this upcoming bar (they're targeting early summer for an opening date) located just across the street from the Fox Theater on Telegraph Street? Kaplan is hoping to turn their new bar into the "de facto elegant afterwork meeting place" for the downtown working crowd, as well as a go-to spot for pre- and post-concert goers at the Fox. Expect an outdoor patio, a floating island bar, and two indoor Bocce courts. No hot food, but there will be gourmet bar bites and possibly a raw bar (Tyler Kord, chef at the acclaimed No. 7 restaurant in Brooklyn is advising on the food). Also expect the artisan crafted cocktail menu you'd expect from hip Brooklynites, but Kaplan says there will also be plenty of affordable options.
"There'll be great cocktails but you'll be able to get a jack and coke if you want it," he says. "It's not going to be just exclusive and high-end like Bourbon & Branch (in San Francisco)."
Taking some shots at the big city across the bridge? Looks like Kaplan has already brought a little bit of Brooklyn over to Oakland.
And that's not all that's new in Uptown. Here's a rundown of what's on tap in this hopping neighborhood.
- As I first reported in this column, Emeryville's Rudy's Can't Fail Cafe, which is co-owned by Green Day bassist Mike Dirnt, will be opening up their second location in the long-vacant corner space next to the Fox Theater. They'll bring a diner-style, comfort food menu and possible full bar sometime in mid-2011.
- Disco Volante, the cool-sounding new restaurant/bar has opened for lunch on 14th street and plans to open for dinner this week. They've taken over a beautiful building and look to have an interesting menu and full bar.
- Daniel Patterson, the owner/chef of the recently opened Plum, is planning to open an upscale new bar next door to his restaurant on Broadway later this spring.
- Wine industry vets D.C. Looney and Lisa Costa opened up The Punchdown, a new natural wine bar on the other side of Plum, offering an international selection of wines made with organic or biodynamic grapes, plus a limited menu of simple small plates (with local/sustainable ingredients) in addition to one Farmer's Market special per night.
- I spoke with Flora owner Dona Savitski and she confirmed that they would be opening a new 2,000-square foot bar in between Flora and their upcoming Xolo taqueria (the first phase of which should open by March). Details are still sketchy but Savitski did say the bar would be connected to Flora and likely have a little younger/more downscale vibe. No word yet on the name, whether the cocktail menu would be different, or even if it would be open by the end of the year.
- "Cocktails and Cured Meats" is the motto for Bar Dogwood, the upcoming watering hole at 1644 Telegraph Ave. from Alexeis Filipello. Formerly an co-owner of The House of Shields in San Francisco, Filipello says Bar Dogwood will offer "good inexpensive bar snacks with great cocktails and independent wines and beers," with a special focus on the meat counter, serving salami, cold seafoods, and cheeses. Filipello hopes to open by Valentines Day.
- Finally Bar 355, a beautiful new bar at 355 19th Street, and The Layover, a fun spot on 1517 Franklin Street, both opened near each other within the last year.