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Sobre Mesa Brings Afro-Caribbean Cocktails and Light Bites to Oakland

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German Nelson's cocktail-forward lounge Sobre Mesa, over the table in Spanish, invites patrons to stay a while.  (Courtesy of Sobre Mesa/Thomas Kuoh)

Sobre Mesa, a cocktail-forward lounge and restaurant from alaMar chef-owner German Nelson, is now open for business in downtown Oakland. The space is decidedly not a bar: Nelson dubs it an "Afro-Latin Lounge," and it delivers on the title. Sobre Mesa's pink-hued lights float above plenty of seating, including caramel, cushioned booths and a private alcove for bottle service, La Sala, which invite patrons to stay for a good time and a long time. Though there's no designated dance floor in the space, Nelson plans to have live bands and DJs on occasion.

Lush, dark green walls and tropical palms set the mood for a Caribbean-inspired cocktail menu, for which Nelson recruited Susan Eggett from San Francisco's Last Rites and Alex Maynard from Starline Social Club in Oakland. Sourcing from small batch brewers, Nelson explained why the backstory and tradition behind the spirits at Sobre Mesa matter to him.

"We're trying to showcase more African American-owned distilleries," he said.

To that end, you'll find Three Roll rum from the Alma Estate in Louisiana and Los Angeles' loft & bear vodka. Sobre Mesa also features the Patagonian spirit Träkál on its menu. Lesser known in the Bay Area, the South American drink is made using fruits and botanicals.

Though Sobre Mesa is cocktail-forward, it boasts a thoughtful food menu carrying on the African diasporic influences of its libations.
Though Sobre Mesa is cocktail-forward, it boasts a thoughtful food menu carrying on the African diasporic influences of its libations. (Courtesy of Sobre Mesa/Thomas Kuoh)

The food at Sobre Mesa plays off the cocktail menu, so expect small bites, tapas style, meant to prime guests for dinner or carry them over from a light one. As with the drinks, the food menu draws upon Nelson's Dominican roots as well as influences from across the African diaspora. White cheddar empanadas share space with stuffed platano maduro and Peri Peri wings.


"Oakland has really motivated me and educated me on that," said Nelson of how he's come to celebrate the connections and diversity among the African diaspora. "Our music comes from there. Our food comes from there. Our style, our swag."

Watch Chef Nelson and alaMar on Check Please!

"We all have a piece of the motherland in us," he continued. "This is why I want to do this."

Patrons can expect to stay at Sobre Mesa as late as 2am on Fridays and Saturdays and until midnight on other nights as the team figures out demand.

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