Thursday, January 29, 2009

Bar Scene

Alameda is home to many bars. The Island City was a plethora of watering holes during the boom times of the naval base. Even though the navy base is now closed, bars are in still in business. I guess the Coast Guard and the Ready Merchant Marines are keeping some of the old haunts alive.

Many of the old timer bars got face lifts and name changes. The old Lincoln Address is now the Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge, and the Fireside got a complete makeover with a modern and slick lounge area. Z's use to be an Irish bar and pub with an outdoor patio in the back. When Z's renovated the space, the outdoor garden was no longer available to the public due to the neighborhood noise. Z's is now a clean and comfortable setting with flat screen TVs on the walls.

There are a few Irish Pubs around the island. McGraths is a low key Irish Pub on Lincoln Avenue. You can play darts and hang out with the locals. Some nights they host an open mike night and another night is karaoke singing. The Shamrock Pub on Webster Street is an interesting spot. At times it is a college atmosphere where young adults come and drink for cheaper beers and other times, it is where the old and worn come to congregate. The only concern to look out for is an angry patron who is constantly there drinking until he can no longer remember his name and he becomes difficult to deal with. McGees Bar and Grill on Park Street is probably the most frequented Irish Pub on the island. I think a lot of patrons enjoy the friendly atmosphere as well as the 12 flat screen TVs within the two rooms. Another positive point about McGees is that they serve a decent full menu of hamburgers, fish and chips and appetizers. The food is tasty and adds to the pleasant experience.

The trendy places around town all have different vibes, but all of them are cool in their own special way. The Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge on Lincoln Avenue is a throwback to the South Pacific. The decorum is Polynesian with a nautical flavor added. The drinks are all blended with tropical components and mixed with your favorite alcohol. The drinks are very good and they arrive to your table in a tiki warrior glass that is even more festive. The only drawback is the cost of the drinks, the prices are $10 and up. Z's on Encinal Avenue caters to the locals in the neighborhood. The space is nice and clean with a great bar made to look antique. They don't serve fancy, fruity cocktails compared to the Tiki Lounge, but make your standard drinks along with beer. It is a friendly and comfortable atmosphere where anyone would be content. The Fireside Lounge on Webster Street has gone through a major renovation. The old interiors was a sports bar with a pool table and air hockey. Now the new space has a sophisticated, modern lounge inside with cool furniture and slick colors. They got rid of the air hockey game, but kept the pool table. The type of drinks they serve are the same, beers, blended and mixed drinks. Lucky 13 on Park Street is a college hangout as well as a younger crowd. It is usually crowded on the weekends with a huge following of tattooed patrons. You will see a lot of smokers hanging out on Park Street. The Lost Weekend on Santa Clara Avenue is where a lot of bicycle riders go. The space is a long, skinny bar with a jukebox for tunes. It's more of an eclectic crowd, leaning towards a bohemian edge. Some people claim it's a dive, but I don't think so. It's just a bar with a mixed group of people all having drinks.

The oldies but goodies bars are becoming extinct. Wally's Corner on Webster Street use to cater to navy personnel, but now serve the neighborhood regulars. The bar has seen better times, but they added some curb appeal recently and repainted the front with new signage. This is a beer joint, no fancy drinks are served here. The Pop Inn on Park Street is a popular place for reasons that perplex me. The space is very dark inside, you can't see a lot around in the room. The place is quite old along with the fixtures. I have seen people in the bar very early in the morning having drinks during breakfast. Perhaps it's the lesser priced drinks that attract patrons to the place, since it is not the ambiance. The Lemon Tree on Santa Clara Avenue is an interesting place. It is sort of a cool dive. The interiors are very old and odd. This was the bar that served the hotel's guests once upon a time. The hotel is no longer in operation, and it is now an apartment complex. Standard drinks are served here, nothing fancy or hip.

Restaurant bars are becoming more popular since the ambiance and the atmosphere tends to be more exciting to people watch. Barceluna did a great job in creating a bar scene within the restaurant. The bar is elegant to look at and it's huge in size, very impressive. The feel of the room is modern and people tend to dress up a little more compared to its previous restaurant of Luciano's. Burgermeister on Park Street is fairly new, so the bar side is cool and comfortable. They have TVs on the bar side to watch sport events. It's a burger joint in new and clean surroundings. Scobies on Central Avenue is a collegiate hang out and sports bar. The interiors are not fancy or impressive, but it is casual and friendly. The drinks are on the cheaper side compared to the food. The bar is quite large so there is plenty of places to sit and eat or drink. The Hob Nob on Park Street has not changed much when it bought out Kelly's. The live music is no more, which is a shame since the talent that played there was incredible. Now, the focus is a more comfortable atmosphere to play board games, hang out with friends and eat a meal. I have not heard any noise about the food. The space however, is nice and pleasant. The New Zealander on Webster Street is located inside an old building. The bar is impressive with old wood and great craftsmanship. During Summer, lots of baseball and softball players hang out here after the games. It is also a popular spot for watching rugby games. The establishment is extremely casual, so you can come in shorts and t-shirts if you wanted. The food is casual specializing in meat pies. They also have a wide selection of foreign beers and that is another reason why people come. Aroma on the foot of Park Street has a bar which is popular for quite a few Alamedans. Patrons enjoy the bartenders and friendly atmosphere. The crowd is a bit older and the drinks are standard, not a lot of fancy drinks are made here. The bier garden at Speiskehammer is an outdoor space. Great on a warm, sunny day. The foreign beer selection is long and offers all types of beers. The ambiance is a mixed group of families eating, to younger adults having beers and everyone else in between. Great place if you are hungry for schnitzel.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Bargain Deals

Be on the lookout for bargain deals in restaurants and bars in 2009. I noticed while walking past Burgermeister that drinks from 8 PM to 10 PM are Happy Hour prices Monday thru Thursday. Burgermeister is also having a meal deal for a 1/4 pound hamburger, fries and a drink for $7.50 . Now that's a good buy. Also, check out prix fix menus to see if any deals are worth trying. I know that Cera Una Volta has a good selection of food items on their prix fix menu. Early Bird Specials at certain restaurants are less expensive than dinner prices with the same food selections and portion sizes. Now that's a bargain. The most popular Early Bird Specials restaurant is Pier 29.

Another alternative which is helpful in cutting costs is using coupons from the Alameda Telephone Book. Inside, there are good deals to be had in those coupons. The two for one coupons for Burgermeister are great to use. There are lots of pizza coupons from most of the pizza establishments in town. The $5 off coupon from India Palace is also a good one.

If demand for dining out decreases, restaurants and chefs will either create smaller portions and drop prices, or cook with lesser priced ingredients. Hopefully taste and quality will not decline since menu prices will most likely change. These are crucial economic times where businesses need your money to survive, and customers may become more picky in their food selections since the frequency of dining out may decline.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Obama's Inauguration Parties

I have never seen so many inauguration parties for one president in my lifetime. Cities across America are hosting parties on the special day. On Tuesday, January 20, 2009, President-Elect Barack Obama will be sworn in at Washington DC to become the 44th President of the United States.

On the local level, inauguration parties are being hosted all over Alameda on the momentous day. I stumbled across a flyer inside the Alameda Library that the Women's Guild will be hosting a party at the Main Library.

Alameda Wine Company will be hosting a party and serving wine flights of American wines all day long.

Boniere Bakery is making Obama inauguration cookies for the event. I wonder what they will taste like? Mmm, I hope there are ingredients of economic stimulus in the mix.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Recession & Dining

2009 appears to be an interesting year for dining establishments in Alameda. Economists predict this recession will last longer than previously expected. Currently the recession has lasted for thirteen months and no end date is in site anytime soon. With family budgets tightening, increased foreclosures and Alamedans losing jobs this is definitely a struggling economy for everyone.

Unfortunately for restaurants, this is a wait and see phase to observe which establishments can survive through a recession. Alameda is a small island and losing any dining options would be a travesty for the community. I know certain business owners on Park Street are struggling to pay bills on time.

The new location for Angela's Bistro on Central Avenue, near the new and improved Alameda Cineplex is taking longer than usual to open. The previous location of Marina Village has already closed which is a shame since the new location is not in operation. I hope money is not part of the problem for the grand opening date. Angela's serves great food and unique dishes.

Keep your fingers crossed and hope your favorite Alameda restaurant stays in business. I will continue to monitor the restaurant scene and watch for closures and openings.