Berkeley's Best Bars

If your idea of nightlife includes hitting a bar for drinks and socializing, then our Berkeley guide is just what you want. Capitalizing on first-hand experience and extensive research, we've located the best bars in Berkeley for hanging out and kicking back in. From long-lived mainstays like César to busy places like Henry's that get lots of 10Best reader approval, we present the top bars in town and offer details about them all. What's the energy like? How do the bartenders pour? Are most bars located in the Downtown Berkeley area? No fear - we share all the facts!

Solano Cellars
Is it a shop or a bar? Actually it's both. The shop downstairs stocks a selection of California and International wines, in all price ranges. Art Deco posters adorn wood paneled walls, while cool jazz wafts from strategically placed speakers, creating a warm and upscale ambience. The bar upstairs offers frequent tastings and special wine dinners, and serves dinner Wednesday through Saturday. Menu picks might include flank steak with wild mushrooms, roasted prawns with cherry tomatoes, olives and rosemary, and artisan cheese platters. Dinner reservations suggested. (510-525-0379, 800-946-3411)

At Henry's you'll find great food, a comfortable atmosphere, and friendly service from morning to night. Breakfast is a surefire hit -- the Chef's Hangover Special (cheese omelet, pancakes, bacon, fried potatoes, and coffee) is a steal. For something a little different, choose the corn-flake crusted French toast with cinnamon butter. Lunch and dinner options include fabulous burgers and sandwiches, plus entrees like fish 'n chips, meatloaf, and pasta. The pace picks up at night, when Henry's really shows its sports bar side. Draught beer choices include European favorites such as Boddingtons, as well as domestics like Fat Tire and Sierra Nevada. (510-845-8981)

Pyramid Brewery & Alehouse
Berkeley's largest brewpub, Pyramid offers some 15 beers at any given time -- the best way to figure out which one you like best is to try the Brewer's Rack of five sample size beers. You'll find both English and German inspired ales, wheat beers, and lagers; for non-drinkers, or the kids, Pyramid even makes its own old-fashioned sodas. During summer evenings, folks can enjoy a free movie (on a screen in the parking lot!), and the big game is always on TV. Solid menu of bar staples, too. (510-528-9880)

Albatross Pub
Bet you didn't know there was a short cut from Berkeley to Merry Olde England! It's called the Albatross Pub. The oldest pub in Berkeley is also the most British. You'll find all the traditional Brit activities -- pool, darts, board games -- plus a wildly popular quiz night (Sunday). Gather round the fireplace and enjoy a game of chess and a pint of ale, then enjoy a bit of live music. The pub is quite dog-friendly, too -- as long as Fido is on a leash, he's more than welcome! One drink minimum, cash only but ATM available. (510-843-2473)

Triple Rock Brewery & Alehouse
Opened in 1986, Triple Rock is the oldest brewpub in the US that's still in operation, with the same owners, no less. They brew more than 40 beers through the year, with 10-12 on tap at all times, including the favorite Red Rock Ale, a hoppy amber ale. The ambience is typical relaxed brewpub -- historic building carefully restored (in fact, it won an award for outstanding restoration from the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association), an eclectic selection of tunes on the jukebox, and a variety of hearty appetizers and burgers. Don't miss the rooftop sundeck -- it's ideal for lazing away a summer afternoon. (510-843-2739)

Bear's Lair
The epicenter of campus social life, the Bear's Lair may be the quintessential college hangout, but it's more than comfortable for faculty, staff, and visiting alumni as well. Depending on the day, folks will gather around the fireplace or the big screen TVs -- on game days, you can guess which. Forty taps offer beers for every taste, from Bud Light to Guinness, and there are awesome brick oven pizzas and calzones to accompany them. Promotions and special events keep things from getting too predictable. Sports Illustrated named the pub one of the top five college bars in the country and one of the top 25 sports bars. (510-843-5247, 510-643-4635)

Housed in what was once a stable, Jupiter has taken full advantage of its unusual location by creating a unique modern day Gothic ambience. Pews and Gothic-style chandeliers were scavenged from an old church, bronze-colored pressed tin panels some of the walls, and copper tops the bar itself, and vintage games provide some entertainment. Upstairs there are several cozy tables set up around a woodstove, and out back there's a heated patio that functions as a lively jazz venue during the summer. Jupiter brews its own beer, but offers an array of other microbrews as well, and when hunger pangs strike, you can order a stellar wood-fired oven pizza. (510-843-8277)

This festive Spanish hotspot attracts a diverse clientele with sensational tapas and excellent wines and cocktails. Small-plate delicacies are much more than delicate though -- they're boldly flavored and rich in appeal. Savory options include pickled anchovies, elegant Serrano ham, grilled shrimp, and herb-tinged potatoes. Couple them with an inventive drink made by César's talented bartenders. Salads, sandwiches, and pastries are also available. Reservations not accepted. Smart casual dress. BART: Downtown Berkeley or North Berkeley (510-883-0222, 510-406-5928)

Telegraph Avenue
Telegraph gets fun and rowdy at night, much like it's cousin across the bay, Haight Street. ((510) 549-7040)

Maps and Directions

Henry's 10Best List Arrow
Type: Bar, Pub
Neighborhood: Berkeley
Pyramid Brewery & Alehouse 10Best List Arrow
Type: Bar, Brew Pub, Sports Bar
Neighborhood: Berkeley
Albatross Pub 10Best List Arrow
Type: Bar, Live Entertainment, Pub
Neighborhood: Berkeley
Bear's Lair 10Best List Arrow
Type: Bar, Late Night / After Hours, Live Entertainment, Sports Bar
Neighborhood: Berkeley
Jupiter 10Best List Arrow
Type: Bar, Live Music
Neighborhood: Berkeley
César 10Best List Arrow
Type: Bar
Neighborhood: Berkeley
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