Berkeley is many things, but a San Francisco suburb it is not. Berkeley has its own symphony, its own theater district and an assortment of restaurants that rival any town in North America.
In fact, Berkeley can satisfy just about any type of person except maybe one: the hard core partier.
Every weekend night, throngs of people who want to get down until the early dawn amass at BART platforms to catch one of the last trains for San Francisco. Whatever they see in that town is beyond us.
So here is a sampling of some of the better nighttime options the San Francisco-bound partiers are leaving behind.
The two most popular establishments on Telegraph Avenue are Kips Restaurant at 2439 Durant Ave. and Blakes at 2367 Telegraph Ave.
Kip’s is known for passable food and over two dozen of the cheapest brews in Berkeley. The place is usually packed for sporting events and most nights after 11 p.m. As of last year Kip’s is now open until 2 a.m.
Although it is popular with undergrads, Blakes draws fans of all ages to its ground floor restaurant/pub and its basement music venue, Telegraph’s only place for live bands. Blakes hosts rock, hip hop and DJ acts throughout the week. Covers range from $5 to $10. The basement has a separate bar as well as couches and some pinball machines.
Also on Telegraph is Raleigh’s, a more upscale pub. The burgers, nachos and fries are considered to be a cut above its nearby competition, and Raleigh’s serves its own microbrews to those old enough to drink them. The bar also has two pool tables and shuffle board. On nice days and nights, patrons can enjoy the backyard beer garden.
The East Bay’s preeminent gay and lesbian bar is the White Horse Inn at 6551 Telegraph Ave. in Oakland.
Downtown Berkeley is home to the city’s one establishment that can truly call itself a club. The Shattuck Down Low at 2284 Shattuck Ave. is a dancer’s paradise. No matter if the there’s live rock, hip hop or if a DJ is spinning beats, the massive 20-by-40-foot dance floor is likely to be packed and the elevated stage hopping.
Those who don’t have the stamina to dance nonstop until 2 a.m. can head off with a beer or whiskey to one of the club’s comfortable booths or try their luck at the club’s pool table.
Across the street from the Down Low is Beckett’s, one of two Irish pubs in town. Beckett’s isn’t just a bar, restaurant and music venue, it’s a Berkeley landmark. The 1925 French Provincial building was designed by famed architect W.F. Yelland and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Every arcane fact is useful at Beckett’s considering the bar hosts a weekly pub quiz every Tuesday.
Heading towards University Avenue is Jupiter. The microbrew palace at 2181 Shattuck Ave. is a hit with graduate students looking to enjoy one of the pub’s nine house brews and numerous varieties of wood fried pizza. Jupiter features a huge heated outdoor beer garden and plays host to live jazz.
On the other side of University is Triple Rock Brewery. Owned by John Martin, founder of Jupiter and the Bear’s Lair on the Cal campus, Triple Rock, at 1920 Shattuck Ave., has 10 home-brewed beers on tap. Besides beer, Triple Rock offers its share of sandwiches, nachos and soups. The bar has become so crowded that it recently removed its shuffle board table to make way for more seating.
Downtown Berkeley has boosted its live jazz offerings in recent years. Anna’s Jazz Island at 2120 Allston Way has live music every night starting at 8 p.m. Happy hour is from 5 to 7 p.m. Covers range from $5 on weeknights to $7 on weekends.
Live jazz can also be heard at the Jazz Cafe on 2087 Addison St. and at Downtown, a restaurant on 2102 Shattuck Ave.
San Pablo Avenue
There are always plenty of games going on at Berkeley’s oldest pub. The Albatross at 1822 San Pablo Ave. destroys the competition when it comes to giving patrons something to compete over. Guests can choose between Pictionary, Trivial Pursuit, Boggle, Balderdash, Chess, Checkers and Connect Four. For those who want a more physical activity, The Albatross has six dart boards and a pool table. Sunday nights is Berkeley’s most challenging trivia night. Be warned, experts of ‘60s garage rock have a decided advantage.
For lovers of punk and classic country music, the Acme Bar at 2115 San Pablo is a popular choice. The juke box there is perhaps Berkeley’s finest.
Another good dive bar is the Missouri Lounge at 2600 San Pablo Ave. The recently remodeled pub has a pool table, darts, a 50-inch plasma television and the world’s smallest VIP room.
Not far from San Pablo is the 924 Gilman Street Project, a seminal local punk club. The alcohol free establishment has played host to Green Day and other local punk icons. Although it has a strong teenage following, punk lovers of all ages call it home.
The south end of Shattuck Avenue has a hub of nightlife centered around the Starry Plough and La Peña. The Starry Plough at 3101 Shattuck Ave., hosts live rock acts Thursday through Friday, Irish music on Sundays, Irish dancing lessons on Mondays and a poetry slam every Wednesday. La Peña, at 3105 Shattuck, is a non-profit cultural center with a focus on Latin American issues and music.
For those who want to do more than sit at a bar, Berkeley offers a wide range of live entertainment. Cal Performances brings some of the best entertainers from across the globe to Zellerbach Hall on the UC Berkeley campus.
The Berkeley Repertory Theater, winner of the 1997 Tony Award for outstanding regional theater, showcases seven productions every season at 2025 Addison St.
In South Berkeley, the Shotgun Players have transformed a former church at 1901 Ashby Ave. into the Ashby Stage.
Berkeley is also home to the Bay Area’s premiere folk venue. The Freight and Salvage at 1111 Addison St. plays home to folk, acoustic and bluegrass acts. For world beats and some of the least pretentious dancing imaginable, head for Ashkenaz at 1317 San Pablo Ave. And for classical music lovers, the Berkeley Symphony kicks its season off this November at Zellerbach.