Let's start with the opening of Plum Bar. It is the offspring of Plum Restaurant and sits on the corner of Broadway just before Grand Avenue.
It's unpretentious despite its pedigree and mixology approach to cocktails that can get carried away into the essence of tobacco and the like. Unless you consider a fried mortadella sandwich pretentious. I mean, it could be. "Eleven dollars for a fried bologna sandwich?" a man sitting at the bar Thursday night asked the bartender.
Said bartender replied that the mortadella was not just "really high-end bologna." Rather it was charcuterie-made in-house. A person needs an appetite to do such a fried mortadella sandwich justice. The man at the bar was waiting for a table at Plum Restaurant, so he wasn't up to it. But the bartender said constant hunger is an occupational hazard of working there.
The Croatian cocktail -- a mixture of brandy and vermouth -- that I ordered posed a hazard of its own. "It's basically pure alcohol," another bartender said when I declined a second round. I had trouble adding up the tip.
Plum Bar opened Nov. 11 in what was once a Chinese joint.
Now the rectangular room at 2214 Broadway is modern industrial but without being austere. The décor blends smoking club colors and woods with metal, Japanese lines and squared edges. Patrons can become "seatholders" for a contribution of $500, reflecting a sports approach to micro-financing adapted by Plum owner Daniel Patterson.
Plum seatholders, according to the website, "celebrate conviviality, share a sense of propriety, foster a shared community ethos and enjoy the benefits of their contributions." Translation: They receive a 20 percent discount on their tab at Plum Bar or Plum Restaurant for parties up to four guests, get priority reservations and will be invited to special community events.
On the same night, Nov. 11, Rumbo al Sur opened on Park Boulevard after three years of waiting. The restaurant bills itself as the Latin American answer to the College Avenue darling, A Cote, and shares the same owner. Check back for updates on this one because I have not had a chance to visit.
Speaking of openings, however, Douglas Kinsey and Edward Nackley are on their way to transforming the bar on Broadway and Third Street called at different times Aqua Lounge and Chancy's. It was last known as Sweet Jimmie's until the fatal shooting in April.
Someone kept the adjoining Grown Folks Social Club going. But Kinsey and Nackley will be taking over the entire building and turning it into a plush lounge modeled after an old-fashioned apothecary. Instead of elixirs, they will serve cocktails under chandeliers and surrounded by velvet wallpaper and Rococo prints. "Like something out of Boardwalk Empire," Kinsey said, citing the HBO series about Prohibition-era Atlantic City. "The stoke train is in motion," Kinsey said shortly after the Oakland Planning Commission gave their plans the green light in September.
They are hoping to open in January but were still considering names, including the Nite Lite, the Sundown and the Belgrave.
Kinsey and Nackley once worked for Radio and Ruby Room. That intrigues me because many of the bartenders opening new Oakland places in the past couple years also share those roots. Similarly, a fairly large percentage of new restaurants such as Boot and Shoe, Camino and Pizzaiolo have a connection to Chez Panisse. Daniel Patterson of Plum noted the Chaz Panisse heritage back in 2006. I will go one further and propose that Radio and Ruby Room are the Chez Panisse of bars.
And while Occupy Oakland was debating Wednesday night whether to take over the empty lot on Telegraph Avenue and 19th Street beginning Saturday, I was inside listening to plans for putting a mixed-use building on the parking lot at 1800 San Pablo Ave.
The Occupy proposal was way more interesting because it is not going to go over well with commercial real estate developer Phil Tagami. He's the one who chased off a group of would-be vandals the night of the Nov. 2 general strike from the Rotunda Building with a shotgun. The refurbishment of the gleaming glass and marble Rotunda was Tagami's first big break in Oakland even though he is better known for shepherding the renovations of the Fox Theater, which is right across the street from that lot Occupy Oakland wants to move into.
That's not all. The city had plans to temporarily turn part of the lot into an art garden (as opposed to a parking lot). In the meantime, the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce installed the Remember Them sculpture in the Henry Kaiser Memorial Park behind the lot, in which Occupy Oakland also proposed to set up camp.
The Occupy Oakland website noted with amusement that Occupy's arch-opponent, the Chamber paid for the sculpture. But I don't think they fully realized the Oakland School for the Arts is on one side of the lot while the Forest City apartments are on the other. Have they bitten off more than they can chew this time?