GRAND AVENUE, WEST OF 580 – September 2016
Room 389 Cocktail Lounge & Cafe
Asked to describe the essence of Room 389, General Manager Nick White’s face lights up in a warm and inviting smile. Nick urges everyone, “Come in and see for yourself. We are a neighborhood bar that cares about the community.” Looking around he adds, “I know 90% of the people here today, and every day, by name. Everybody can find something to enjoy here.” If Ted Danson could have exuded Nick’s warmth, we all would still be watching new seasons of Cheers.
Room 389 is open every day and it is very dog-friendly, on the patio and inside. On a recent afternoon, Willis, a canine known by name by staff and many patrons, relaxed on the patio while his caretaker waited for a friend who also arrived with a dog. Willis watched the comings and goings, wagged his tail, sniffed greetings with other dogs, and sipped water from a bowl provided by Room 389. He seemed to think, “How nice to have a neighborhood bar where everybody knows your name.”
From 7:30 AM to 3:00 PM, the bar is closed and Room 389 is a quiet, laid back café with a barista serving espresso that is custom blended for Room 389 and roasted by Roast Company. She also serves French press and slow drip Bicycle Coffee as well as croissants, quiche and pastries delivered fresh daily by Starter Bakery. Also available: beer, wine, and freshly prepared organic “super juice.”
When the bar opens (3:00 PM weekdays, 2:00 PM Saturdays, and 1:00 PM Sundays), try items from Room 389’s “spiked” coffee menu, including Irish Cappuccino or a signature 389 Special (Cafe Mocha with Jameson whiskey, Kahlua and Bailey’s Irish Cream, topped with house-made salted caramel whipped cream). Or if you prefer a cocktail, consider the popular Greyhound (vodka with fresh squeezed grapefruit juice for only $6 (or $5 during Happy Hour, 3:00 PM-8:00 PM, Monday- Friday). Others may prefer a spicy 389 Bloody Mary for $9 or a 16 ounce Savoy’s Lemonade (whiskey, honey, lemon, mint and soda) for $11. Good quality wine pours are offered for $6-$8 (with some for $5 during Happy Hour). For designated drivers or others preferring to avoid alcohol, Clausthaler nonalcoholic beer is available as one of several $4 bottles of beer, cider and ale. Watch for hot cider with dark rum in October. And if your guest is takin’ it old school, note that Pabst Blue Ribbon cans go for $3.
Bar snacks include a salty/sweet/spicy snack mix for $2 and warm, soft pretzels served with mustard for $3. Or enjoy warm empanadas, made in Oakland, for $5 each, Tuesday-Saturday after 5:00 PM when Javi’s Cooking – Empanadas Argentinas takes over the café location inside Room 389 by the patio window. Javi’s operates as a “pop-up” currently serving empanada de carne (with Niman Ranch ground beef), empanada de pollo (with Organic Mary’s chicken), empanada de Puerco (including pulled pork, pineapple and jalapeños), and empanada de champiñones (mushrooms with pepper jack cheese).
Wednesday at 7:30PM is Trivia Night, provided in response to patrons’ requests. Come early! Bring a team, find a teammate in the bar, play solo, or watch and enjoy the good-spirited fun. On Monday nights, stay late to hear live music with no cover charge. On Tuesdays and Thursdays through Sundays, DJ’s spin actual vinyl records in the evenings. Check their website for starting times, music styles and DJ personalities on each of these nights. During the day and early evenings, music plays softly in the background, creating a cozy feel even when there are few patrons, but not impeding conversations with your friends or your concentration if you are reading on the couches at the rear of the bar.
In 2010, Daniel Cukierman (who previously owned Shattuck Down Low in Berkeley) and his brother Benjamin, with their friend, Jamie Bernal, launched Room 389 as co-owners. All three are now in their early 40’s and Benjamin and Daniel both live in our neighborhood.
When I first encountered them renovating this space previously known as the Golden Bear and the Dapper Lounge, they were carrying old books inside. They were re-purposing pages from damaged books from a prison that were scheduled for disposal. Not only do the pages add room-like atmosphere on the wall opposite the bar, they also baffle and improve the sound of music that would otherwise bounce off the walls.
Yelp has posted many rave reviews of this place, but also a few head-scratchers. For the record, there is no outside seating in the back (not sure where that Yelp reviewer really was). Also, there is no upstairs seating at Room 389. Maybe that reviewer had confused Room 389 with Mad Oak, a second Oakland bar that the brothers opened on May 16, 2015. As reported in this article by Allie Pape in SF Eater, Mad Oak is named for its location between Madison and Oak Streets on 12th Street. The vibe at Mad Oak is distinct, but it bears a family resemblance to its predecessor, Room 389. Try them both! Support our neighbors, Ben and Dan.
389 Grand Avenue
MON-FRI 3:00pm–8:00pm Happy Hour
MON 10:00pm Live music; no cover
WED 7:30pm Trivia Night (arrive early)
TUES-SAT 5pm Javi’s Cooking (Pop-up in café)
TUES & THURS-SUN DJs spin vinyl – start times & performers vary; see website