BARTable Hidden Gems
Photo courtesy of The Backyard.
It’s always fun to be in the know of something lesser known. When you’re in the mood to explore beyond the well-documented and well-worn tourist route, take BART to Bay Area “hidden” spots a little more off the radar to the wider world. Some of these are physically underground, some are just lesser known and “underground” in vibe—all are worth knowing.
From comedy to cocktails to thoughtfully curated art, these BARTable destinations offer authentic experiences in SF and the East Bay. Impress a friend from out of town with your speakeasy knowledge, or head to one of the following to indulge away from vacationers.
Photo courtesy of BARTable.
Submission Cocktails and Comedy
Red lights, hot mics, and craft cocktails. Submission Cocktails and Comedy hits the Mission on Thursday and Friday nights, steering locals down the stairway of the Armory Club bar to this weekly underground showcase of stellar standup comedians—local and touring. The Armory’s dark basement lounge, with its separate bar and black leather booths, brightens up with laughs spearheaded by Submission co-hosts Richard Barney and Natasha Vinik. Set breaks include edgy musical acts and entertainment meant to make even the very open-minded feel wide-eyed. Take BART to 16th St Mission Station and walk two blocks to the Armory Club and watch the Submission punchlines fly.
Photo courtesy of The Hourglass Room.
The Hourglass Room
The Hourglass Room is an adorable Uptown Oakland speakeasy and a welcome surprise in Classic Cars West’s popular garage-y beer garden and event space. Those already in the know are heading here for ultra-cozy and atmospheric hangtime with craft cocktails. Behind a separate door and curtains (of course) lies an intimate and narrow strip of very limited seats, colorful pillows, and hanging lights. With a one-bartender bar serving up upscale concoctions at this nook on Broadway, a short walk from 19th St/Oakland Station, regular date nights, standup comedy, and living room-style performances have found a home.
Photo courtesy of BARTable.
Adobe Books Backroom Gallery
You probably already know of the revered selection of books at the seminal independent bookshop, but what about the lesser-known Adobe Books Backroom Gallery? A rotating cast of color and imagery embraces the white walls of this art gallery tucked away within the book-lined space in the Mission. Take BART to 24th St Mission Station and check out the evocative monthly exhibits of experimental artwork by emerging local artists displayed in The Backroom, where free thinking and free expression find a home.
Photo courtesy of Marianne's.
This bar and lounge named after Marianne Faithfull is quietly situated behind its parent restaurant, The Cavalier, and you can expect to encounter some VIP rock ‘n’ roll vibes. Open Thursdays through Saturdays from 6pm-2am, Marianne’s is the kind of dimly lit and moody salon space you’d imagine concert legends ending up after a show. Take BART to Powell St and walk just four minutes to this ultra-cool bar where high-end cocktails and reservation-only booths add to the elite atmosphere. Don’t worry, there is limited table seating that welcomes walk-in fans as well.
Photo courtesy of The Hidden Cafe.
The Hidden Cafe
A menu of locally sourced ingredients and down-home cooking are what’s on hand at Berkeley’s adorable The Hidden Cafe. Just a 10-minute walk from North Berkeley Station, this inviting breakfast nook overlooks Strawberry Creek Park. An elegant setting filled with hanging greenery, vintage lighting, and sprawling windows is the scene for the kind of fresh flavors that would make any mom proud: Think heirloom tomatoes, strawberry salads, and California-fusion tacos. Serene indoor and outdoor seating gives you a choice of where to enjoy your calm morning parkside coffee.
Photo courtesy of Millie's Kitchen Yelp/Sharon L.
Corned beef hash benedict. Classic French toast. Bacon and eggs bliss. Millie’s doesn’t mess around. A nine minute walk from Lafayette Station, this local’s favorite restaurant brings it all home. Traditional breakfast feasts and lunch sandwiches make for hearty meals in an inviting familial atmosphere. No fancy tricks or flashy decorations here—just the kind of old-fashioned small restaurant that knows how a good (and big!) breakfast with coffee can be the comforting essential for a great day or weekend.
Photo courtesy of aRt Cottage.
Stroll across Concord’s Todos Santos Plaza and through the doors of this bright yellow venue to enter a warm world of stunning visuals and handmade crafts. A discreet spot that lives up to its name, aRt Cottage looks like a quaint countryside cottage, and is located a quick 10-minute walk from Concord Station. Shop items by local artists and artisans at this off-the-beaten-path gallery and working studio where an ever-changing array of 3D and 2D exhibits take the spotlight. Classes, free art receptions, and artist gatherings make the aRt Cottage a beloved “secret” in Downtown Concord.
The sister agave mecca to Oakland’s Nido restaurant, The Backyard calls itself the only margarita garden in the Bay. In the mood for regional Mexican fare and a comprehensive mezcal list? Take BART to Lake Merritt Station and make your way to outdoor dining where the motto is always “Mi Backyard Es Sú Backyard.” Seasonal ingredients make up the tamales, tacos, and pozole—all served in a vibrant and casual patio setting. Don’t forget to wash it all down with the famous agave flights.
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