7 bars + restaurants with wild design – 7×7 | Candle Made Easy

What happened to fun restaurants and bars? Do you know those nice pubs plastered with bizarre utensils or kitschy restaurants that embark on a theme?

While they’re not as common as they once were, there are still a few spots in the Bay Area that aren’t afraid to go beyond current dining trends. Say hello to the unexpected at these seven unique restaurants and bars.


The Alley: 1920’s diving vibes in Oakland

(Courtesy of @lilhoopty)

That East Bay Express once aptly described the interior of The Alley as “Dashiell Hammet in Disneyland”. Indeed, with its clapboard ‘roof’, swinging telephone wires and interior windows, this cozy restaurant-bar is reminiscent of a gritty urban back alley circa the 1920s. Founded in 1933, The Alley is one of Oakland’s last remaining piano bars, where patrons gather around a grand piano and sing with drinks in hand, or tune in to one of the dark booths near an old school’s “pawn shop.” the back wall make cozy steak dinners.

// 3325 Grand Avenue (Oakland), thealleyoakland.com

Smuggler’s Cove: A marauder’s cave with all that rum

(Courtesy of @tikichava)

San Francisco has some of the most engaging tiki bars in the country (the walls are thundering and raining in the Tonga Room, for God’s sake). Each is great on its own, but Smuggler’s Cove, the split-level pirate ship-style Civic Center cocktail lounge, is arguably the most transportable. From a ceiling dripping with buoys, fishing nets, and lanterns, to rocky walls and a backlit kettle, in Smuggler’s Cove you’re not just in the bowels of a Marauder’s hideout, you’re in a hideout a bumbling largest rum selection in the country. Try as many cocktails as possible; Her book of Polynesian pop fantasy recipes won a James Beard Award in 2017.

// 650 Gough St. (Government Center), smugglerscovesf.com

Specs’ 12 Adler Museum Cafe: curios + live jazz in North Beach

(Courtesy of @specsbarsf)

Richard “Specs” Simmons opened his curiosity bar, 12 Adler Museum Cafe, in 1968, when San Francisco was still a darling of the counterculture movement. Specs filled his salon with artifacts and knick-knacks ranging from intriguing to the odd: taxidermy, African masks, Egyptian caskets, seafaring gear, and a formidable collection of historical photographs and newspaper clippings plastered floor to ceiling. This North Beach dive bar is now an old business and still holds its own, especially during regular performances of the jazz and Rat Pack variety of crooners.

// 12 William Saroyan Pl. (North Beach), specsbarsf.com

Butter: Trailer Trash Glory in SoMa

(Courtesy of @butterbarsf)

There’s no better place in town to get dirty than this bright yellow bar on 11th Street. Drinks are notoriously strong at Butter, where trailer trash chic is the name of the game. Not only is an actual RV parked in the center of the bar, almost everything in the room screams uncompromisingly redneck, from the large selection of tallboys to the wall art. Order a jelly and some microwave fried food (fried Twinkies, anyone?) and do like the butter lovers do: get FUBAR.

// 354 11th St. (SoMa), smoothasbutter.com

The Warehouse: Scary Bears + Prime Rib in Port Costa

(Courtesy of @treezyfbebe707)

Once a granary on Carquinez Strait, the Warehouse Cafe is one of Northern California’s strangest restaurant-bars. The carnival-like decor includes not one, but two life-size stuffed bears, armor, spooky masks, street signs, and other oddities big and small. Live music is played weekly, prime rib dinners are served on weekends, and the pool tables are always open for a grift.

// 5 Canyon Lake Dr. (Port Costa), lagercafeportcosta.com

Shuggies Trash Pie: A taste of the wild in SF’s mission

(Courtesy of @sailorsavvy)

Mission newcomer Shuggie’s blew our minds when it opened earlier this year, not only for its sustainably upcycled food, but also for its colorful, over-the-top vibe. The pizza and natural wine booth has two color-blocked areas, the sun-yellow cheetah room and the incredible hulk-meets-disco-diner vibe of the green room. Everything in both rooms served up in lips, tits and asses that made their way out of a cartoon or how the wandered SF Chronicle formulated: “Lisa Frank’s fever dream”.

// 3349 22nd St. (mission), shuggiespizza.com

Palm Court Orchestra

(Courtesy of @contentmag)

Vintage self-playing instruments provide the soundtrack at the Orchestria Palm Court in downtown San Jose’s SoFi neighborhood. On Friday and Saturday nights (the only time it’s open), pianos, fiddles, jukeboxes and even drums from the 20th century take turns playing one of hundreds of jazz-age ditties that Mark Williams has owned over the years has collected . Feast on soothing continental fare (think boeuf bourguignon, shrimp putanesca, and pesto gnocchi) as they echo through the soaring warehouses with their exposed brick walls, Art Deco accents, and Tiffany-style lamps. But don’t just stop at the wine for your glass: The Orchestria’s antique soda fountain pumps out early Americana in the form of chocolate malt, Black Forest phosphate, raspberry ambrosia, and blueberry fizz.

// 27 E. William St. (San Jose), orchestrapalmcourt.com

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