The Lush

Bar News & Reviews (put it on my tab)
March 20, 2020
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The Tomato Beef cocktail at the newly opened (and now temporarily closed) Viridian in Uptown Oakland. Photo: © tablehopper.com.

Call it a booze miracle: California’s Alcoholic Beverage Control just lightened up on some regulations during this stay-at-home order, and I can assure you a number of SF Bay Area bartenders are about to launch some very clever beverage service, coming to a takeout window or delivery service ASAP.

There are a number of changes, but the big one is that restaurants that offer food service and have a Type 41 (beer and wine) or Type 47 (liquor) license can now prepare cocktails, snap a secure lid on, and sell it to you at their takeout window to go, or via a third-party delivery app. The hitch: you also have to order food.

Now, this doesn’t mean we’re like New Orleans and you can roam around with your Hurricane in the streets, and really, you should be at home. But wow, you can actually have a carafe of Margaritas delivered to your door with some guacamole and chips and that sounds like a good time to me.

Another big change: any Type 41 and 47 licensed businesses can now sell bottles to go. Many have license conditions that prohibit off-sale privileges, but those conditions have been lifted for the time being. So, if you want to sell your cellar of wine, special beers, a bottle of whisky, or your back bar of rare spirits, you can (depending upon which kind of license you have).

Sales can also go from 6am until 2am! (It just depends upon how early and late the business wants to stay open.)

There are definitely some finer points to all of this, and restaurants, double-check with your attorney before you launch your new Bloody Mary-to-go service (you are liable, not the delivery service), but this is about to help a bunch of places boost their takeout/delivery check average, sell off some inventory, and help take the edge off for a bunch of us at home.

I’ll be updating my Instagram Stories with who’s doing what.

Big thanks to my good buddy Tom Kerr of Strike Kerr & Johns for walking me through the new regs.

March 12, 2020
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A look at the spacious bar and lounge at Sobre Mesa. Photo: Thomas Kuoh Photography.

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One of the tapas at Sobre Mesa: the Salt Spring mussel toast. Photo: Thomas Kuoh Photography.

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The tropical swanky style at Sobre Mesa. Photo: Thomas Kuoh Photography.

¡Hola, hermosa! Chef Nelson German of alaMar Kitchen & Bar has just opened ~SOBRE MESA~ in downtown Oakland, an Afro-Latino cocktail lounge that is a spacious, tropical oasis inspired by the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and other Latin countries. Chef German says he wants guests to feel like they’re on vacation—cue the uptempo Latin music!

There is plenty of room to gather with friends, whether you hang out in the lounge—with room for up to 40 guests, with sofas, cozy nooks, and cocktail tables—or hang out in the full-service dining area, outfitted with cognac-colored banquettes, offering a seasonal tapas menu (tables must be reserved in advance, but 13 bar chairs are available for walk-in guests). Be sure to check out the art wall, which features rotating artwork created by local artists of color available for purchase. In the far back is La Sala (“the living room”), an advance-reservations-only area for a spirits tasting for up to 12 guests, with a personal bartender, a bar cart, and a menu designed around the pre-selected spirit.

German paid a great deal of thought to the food menu, designed to tell a story with the cocktails and spirits. Among the tapas on the opening menu are white cheddar empanadas, stuffed platano maduro, peri peri petite wings, Salt Spring mussel toast, and sancocho stew dumplings ($7-$12).

The bar is focused on small-production spirits with a great backstory, including hand-crafted rum from the Dominican Republic and Träkál, made from indigenous fruits and botanicals of Patagonia. Consultants Susan Eggett (Last Rites) and Alex Maynard (Starline Social Club) worked closely with chef German on the creation of Sobre Mesa’s cocktail menu. Check out the eponymous Sobre Mesa cocktail, featuring a proprietary rum blend crafted in partnership with Mosswood Distillers in Berkeley,  and Hotel Creole, featuring Haitian clairin from Saint Benevolence, which donates 100% of the bottle profits to aid charitable work in Haiti. The drink menu will feature cocktails on tap, classic cocktails, and signature punches. Drinks begin at $10. 

Open Wed-Sun 4pm-12am, and until 2am Fri-Sat. Happy hour: 4pm-6pm. 1618 Franklin St. at 17th St., Oakland.

And now in the completely tragic news department, Jennifer Colliau has closed her Uptown Oakland bar, ~HERE’S HOW~, just shy of a year in business, and after so much sweat and hard work and every last penny she had to open the place. It ends up a few nightmare NIMBY neighbors in the building where the bar was located (The Marquee Lofts, at 1755 Broadway) spelled the demise of the bar (excuse me, but why do you live in the middle of a nightlife area if you don’t want nightlife?). You can read the Eater piece for the sordid details on what is one big, damn shame. We feel for you, Jennifer. 1780 Telegraph Ave. at 18th St., Oakland.

February 11, 2020
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The bar features a stunning neon sculpture by Laura Stevenson (Rite Guy Design), with more to come. Photo: Jeremy Chiu.

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Chile-garlic buttermilk bun at Viridian. Photo: Jeremy Chiu.

I am SO excited to go check out this new bar in Oakland, ~VIRIDIAN~, which is like a mymilligram neon dream bar come to life! Soon and Soon Studio (Anna Lee and Brandon Jew, of Mister Jiu’s, Moongate Lounge, and Mamahuhu) designed the space, reminiscent of Wong Kar-wai’s ChungKing Express, and 90’s graphic elements from R&B record covers.

Viridian is from William Tsui (Lazy Bear, Rich Table), Raymond Gee (Hakkasan SF), Jeremy Chiu (Shinmai, Mina Group), and Alison Kwan (Lazy Bear, True Laurel, Moongate Lounge), serving innovative, seasonal, and technique-driven cocktails, desserts, and small bites, from composed desserts to dim sum-style sweets, plus savory items by executive chef Amanda Hoang (Bird Dog) and opening consulting chef Alice Kim (Lazy Bear, Coi, The Restaurant at Meadowood). Check out the menus here, which include char siu bao, salt and pepper chicken nuggets, and coconut pandan cream pie.

Viridian additionally offers an eclectic wine list from Master Sommelier Andrey Ivanov, formerly of Lazy Bear, with a focus on small producers and a nice selection of bubbles. Viridian also strives to be a sustainable and minimum-waste establishment.

The space seats 70, with 16 seats at the bar, 10 seats in the lounge, and 10 additional seats at wall-mounted, semi-circle tables. Open Mon-Thu 4pm-12am (kitchen closes at 11pm) and Fri-Sat 4pm-late (kitchen closes at midnight); closed Sundays. 2216 Broadway at Grand, Oakland.