Described as San Francisco’s “little brother” (at worst), or the “Brooklyn of the Bay area” (at best), the city of Oakland has long received the short end of the stick. In reality, though, Oakland is a bustling ecosystem unto itself, a spot famed for its sustainability and activism, not to mention the greatest NBA team of all-time. It’s the fifth busiest port city in America, home to nearly a half-million people—and is still growing rapidly.
Even so, it’s nearly impossible not to discuss its more famous West Bay sibling when talking about food and drink. San Francisco is, and perhaps will always be, the cultural capital of the west coast, a truly one-of-a-kind city of Michelin-starred restaurants and cocktail pioneers. In the last decade though, Oakland has begun forging its own identity as an epicenter of haute cuisine and outstanding beverage programs. In fact, as younger people get priced out of San Francisco, or become disgusted by how much Silicon Valley has corrupted its core values, Oakland is becoming the Bay Area’s best place to get blitzed—whether on craft beer at a legendary place like The Trappist, on artisan cocktails whipped up at Hopscotch or Prizefighter, or on macro lagers from gritty dive bars that define the quirks of the city.
Here we asked 10 of Oakland’s top bartenders where they drink when they pine for something simpler, like cold pints of Modelo and warm shots of cheap tequila. You’ll probably find them bellying up to these red-lit watering holes when they’re off the clock, watching the Warriors wreak havoc on the NBA, or, most importantly, avoiding the massive influx of tech-bros in San Francisco.