The first thing you notice about Drake’s Dealership, the new beer garden from San Leandro-based Drake’s Brewing, is the size. It’s huge, with an extensive outdoor area that includes private tables, communal tables and a row of fire pits and benches. Inside, there’s bar seating and more communal seating. It’s sunny and open, the opposite of the dark warehouse where they brew the beer and have a taproom in San Leandro. Drake's Dealership is the size of a suburban chain restaurant, with the same kind of persistent branding: everything, from the chambray shirts servers wear, to the chairs, to the buckets holding the silverware seems to be emblazoned with the Drake’s logo.
It’s obviously a major step forward for Drake’s, and it’s equally exciting for Uptown Oakland: a family (and dog) friendly beer garden with a sprawling selection, enough room for a group of friends, with a fairly affordable and wide ranging selection of food.
It’s already being warmly embraced by the natives. On a recent Saturday afternoon, almost all the tables were filled. Beer-obsessed types in sport sunglasses and tee shirts advertising their favorite breweries (Sierra Nevada, Oskar Blues) brushed up against young couples on double dates. A DJ in the corner played Motown. The sheer amount of space created a welcoming atmosphere, with wheelchairs, strollers and dogs all crunching by on the gravel patio.
The Dealership, which opened August 10, is part of The Hive, a new Uptown mixed use development that includes restaurants, a coworking space and a “holistic fitness center.” The Hive sits at the beginning of Auto Row, and Drake’s takes advantage of its past life as a Dodge auto dealership, with lots of exposed brick and steel embellishments.
The menu is standard beer food, burgers and pizzas, but there are some ambitious and interesting flourishes: a selection of well thought out salads (with the option to “Add duck confit” for $9), pizzas from dough that’s been aged for three days then baked in their wood fired oven, and a few carefully chosen entrees: ribs, duck, fish and chips.
The beer list is obviously sprawling, including both their most visible offerings like Drakonic and 1500, and a selection of limited releases. Wine is available not in bottles but on tap and in cans. They’re still planning out their beer flights, so we made our own: the citrusy, slightly sour Oaklander Weisse, the chocolatey Black Robusto, and Aroma Paloma, a fruity triple IPA.
A soft pretzel, that perpetual beer snack, was wisely paired with both a smoky, bacony cheese sauce and a mustard made with their session lager that had just enough back of the throat kick. The pretzel itself, made by Oakland’s Salthouse Pretzel Co, was delicious, chewy and flecked with caraway.
A Drive-In Burger, topped with cave aged cheddar, onion confit and an ombre heirloom tomato was deliciously juicy--so juicy that its impressively thick bun gave a valiant effort but still fell apart while I was halfway through. For three dollars more, we swapped the burger’s kettle chips for spicy fries, topped with togarashi and served with a fiery mayonnaise made with an impressive amount of sriracha.
We also shared the Joey pizza, featuring horseradish cream, crimini mushrooms and grilled red onion. Horseradish on pizza sounded like it had the potential to be a delicious, if alienating, pizza topping. We’ll never know, since the pizza didn’t seem to have any horseradish on it whatsoever. What it did have -- perfectly roasted mushrooms, tender onions, a haphazard sprinkle of unidentified herbs--was tasty, especially after taking advantage of the chance to “Get it Draked,” (adding a runny duck egg) which added another layer of richness. The pizza had the same blistered, crispy crust and speckled undercarriage of several local Italian style pizza places, but at $13, Drakes’ version a few dollars cheaper than most.
After finishing the pizza and promptly falling into a food coma, we ordered a cold brewed nitro coffee, made with a blend from Oakland’s Highwire Coffee Roasters. Topped with a creamy layer of foam similar to a stout, the nitrogen-infused coffee was refreshing, with a thicker texture than hot coffee and a seltzer-like taste.
Like most new restaurants, there were a few slip ups: we originally received garlic fries instead of the spicy ones we ordered, water glasses remained empty even after several beseeching looks towards the server with the pitcher, and our check came a solid 15 minutes before the nitro coffee.
But even those issues couldn’t distract from the overwhelming niceness of our surroundings, as we sat outside in the warm sunlight, watching a half dozen vignettes play out around us: a man unwrapping a pile of presents, friends excitedly running into each other, two toddlers ponderously examining a white labrador retriever. The coffee may have been late, but it forced a few minutes of mindlessly--or mindfully, depending on your interpretation--enjoying the moment. And what’s so bad about that?
2325 Broadway [Map]
Oakland, CA 94617
Ph: (510) 833-6649
Hours: Sun-Wed, 11:30am-11pm (kitchen closes at 10:00pm); Thu-Sat, 11:30am-1am (kitchen closes at 11:00pm)
Facebook: Drake's Brewing
Price range: $$ (Entrees $11-$17)