When Mad Oak first opened last summer, I was in like. I’m a sucker for hiddenish warehousey graffitied rooftop with concrete views (Hey Mua, mostly!) drinking establishments. It reminded me of LA, the good part of LA, downtown. I like LA, I lived there for ten years beyond college. When I say that something reminds me of LA, it’s usually a compliment. Donut shop like LA equals compliment. Fashion market like LA, also a compliment. Art party like LA, I’m there. I could go on.
Wednesday night my friends and I met at Mad Oak for Books and Beer club. We were all business that night. The book selection was The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander. People brought pages of note and outside articles ready to deeply discuss.
When did Mad Oak turn into a sports bar? I realize that every bar turns into a sports bar when the Warriors are playing but there were a ton of very large TVs. Large groups of men were everywhere in jerseys watching. I’m not complaining exactly. I will complain that there were no heat lamps on the roof. There are very few places to sit inside (wasted space in the back IMO). We ended up moving some people (we asked nicely) and claiming part of a long picnic table in the front patio.
I had a LA Street Burger (I’ve never bought a burger on the street in LA before) with shoestring fries. They have a full menu now. I’m pretty sure it’s a separate restaurant but since Mad Oak doesn’t seem to have a website, I am unable to say who cooked my food. They used to just have empanadas made by Javi’s Cooking. My burger was really soft and small. It was juicy and the bun was brioche maybe. I don’t like bacon jam so I gave half away. I loved the fries, especially the ones with some yummy red stuff sprinkled on them that my friend ordered.
We took a break to watch the Warriors win in OT. My friend T said she thought the vibe was weird, that there were too many bros watching sports. I said, “It’s always reminded me of LA.” As a good Bay Area resident, she took that to mean LA not in a good way. In this case I agree. Mad Oak feels like LA in bad way.
Years ago my friend and I arrived at MOCA in downtown Los Angles for an art party. The line went down Grand, past Walt Disney Concert Hall and stretched around the block to FirstStreet. My friend exclaimed, “This art party is no Bon Jovi!” Apparently, a Bon Jovi concert was the only event she’d consider waiting in line for longer than an hour.
I rarely go to La Note in downtown Berkeley. Weekend brunch waits are even more enormous than their pancakes. You can arrive at 8 am and still wait. Long lines for breakfast in the Bay Area are why I’ve patronized Doyle Street Café in Emeryville for years. Unfortunately, the secret got out and the wait is now long even for their mediocre food.
The food at La Note is not mediocre. It’s good, almost sometimes maybe great. I judge a breakfast place on the eggs. For the love of god, please don’t overcook eggs. I always undercook eggs. This grosses some people out but those people are wrong. My scrambled eggs at La Note this morning were perfect. I also ate bacon, sourdough toast, and some of my date’s raspberry oatmeal pancakes but the eggs were the best part.
The ambience at La Note is just OK. I’ve heard the back patio is super nice. My favorite breakfast places look like dumps in Concord or they’re in strip malls. Some are dumps in Concord strip malls. La Note looks nice ish. There are probably some chicken knick-knacks around.
Finally, my date’s grapefruit had a hair in it. The hair was like really in there. As he pointed out, “There are scarier things we can’t see in our food.” We think our waitress might have said, “Good luck to you guys” referencing the fact that we were on a date. That was odd but she backed me up on the fact that a Diet Coke is a superior beverage choice to coffee first thing in the morning so I loved her for that. Go to La Note on a weekday.
A group of my friends and I are starting out our First Friday night with a visit to Art Murmur. I started going to Oakland’s art party when I first moved here in 2007. It was great.
Then I went in 2013 around the time of the shooting, when you could buy truffles made with weed and moonshine on the street, people were packed into the cordoned off section of Telegraph, and those people were insanely drunk. The art mattered very little. It was a total shit show and I vowed not to return.
Last year I was talked into going again and it was so much better. Art Murmur is basically a bunch of open galleries, food, and sundries available for sale on the street. I’ll be back again on March 4.
This is not a post about Art Murmur, however. The most fun thing to do in Oakland on a First Friday is Hoodslam. Hoodslam is wrestling, cheap beer, too many tequila shots, and fucking great people watching. Hoodslam is Oakland. The Hoodslam website declares, “This is real!”
Hoodslam is in Oakland’s Old Opera House in the Jack London Square Area. Predrink at Heinold’s or Merchant’s. Like San Pedro, CA, Merchant’s is where you go if you want to be murdered by someone with a hook for an arm. Wait in line for a bit and then behold the wonders of Hoodslam. There are wrestlers with names like Drugz Bunny and F.O.N.G. (Fucking Obese Nerdy Gamer). There are bands with names like Broken Condoms and Cocky and Bullstinkle. Hoodlsam is a good opportunity to wear that leather bra top and show off your giant tattoo of Jim Morrison’s head.
This Friday, “Hoodslam and ArnoCorps team up to fuck you fans twice as hard once again!” It’s $20 and the show starts at 8 but runs until at least midnight. You’ll chant and jump up and down and maybe even spray Axe Body Spray into the air.