Where to Grab a Drink in Berkeley, California

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Albany Taproom’s $12 Flight

It’s been just over two years since I made the move from Vancouver, British Columbia to the just as culturally diverse Bay Area town of Berkeley, California. The college town, which is just a 20 minute train ride from San Francisco, has no shortage of restaurants, book stores, and places to stroll and get your cardio on (e.g. the Berkeley Marina or Berkeley Hills). However, in the couple years I have resided here, one thing has puzzled me: the shortage of bars in Berkeley. Most mid-large sized cities offer at least one lively block of bars and go-to weekend places, but Berkeley is oddly not one of them. I live downtown and I can count the area’s decent bars on both my hands. I must mention that there is Telegraph Ave., which is home to a couple bars geared toward college students. If that’s you then Pappy’s and Kip’s are where you’ll probably be on a Friday night.

If you have encountered the same conundrum I first faced in Berkeley, fret not, as I have done the work for you and sussed out the most worthwhile drinking experiences in the city.

My Top 2 Places to Grab a Drink in Berkeley

Note that these are beer places, as I am a beer lover (if not already obvious from my profile photo). Refer down the list for wine and cocktail recommendations.

1. Sierra Nevada Torpedo Room (West Berkeley)

  • Stellar customer service! Our bartender shared a plethora of information on each beer and the brewery
  • Well-designed, modern atmosphere
  • Great selection of beers
  • Easy to find parking
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Flight at Sierra Nevada Torpedo Room

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Our Flight with Dojo Dogs from the Food Truck Outside

2. Fieldwork Brewing Co. (West Berkeley)

  • A great space to drink at with a friend or a big group (they have really picturesque outdoor seating)
  • A constantly changing selection of in-house brews
  • Offer tasty empanadas if you’re hungry
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Me and a Flight from Fieldwork Brewing Co.

If you’re looking for lively atmosphere: Jupiter has a great outdoor area and live music on some nights (Downtown Berkeley). Offers beer, wine, and food.

If you’re looking for a dance floor: Missouri Lounge (West Berkeley). Offers beer, cocktails, and hot dogs.

If you’re looking for creative and interesting cocktails: Tupper & Reed (Downtown Berkeley). Offers beer and scorpion bowls too.

If you’re looking for a high class experience: Revival (Downtown Berkeley) or FIVE (Downtown Berkeley). Offers beer, wine, cocktails, and food.

If you’re looking for a good Happy Hour: Beta Lounge has Happy Hour 4-9pm (Downtown Berkeley). Offers beer, wine, cocktails, and bar bites.

Honorable Mention:

  • Albatross Pub (West Berkeley) offers beer, darts, and a multitude of board games.
  • Albany Taproom (technically in Albany, which is just north of West Berkeley) offers beer and food.
  • Comal (Downtown Berkeley) offers beer, cocktails, and upscale Mexican food.
  • Starry Plough (South Berkeley) offers beer and bar food.

Am I missing anything? If you can think of other great places to grab a drink in Berkeley, let me know in in the comments below!

3 Days at BottleRock 2016

Stevie Wonder, Florence + the Machine, and Red Hot Chili Peppers. It’s no wonder the festival sold out for the first time in four years.

Napa provided the perfect backdrop for a music, wine, and food festival. Who knew you could see top musicians and top chefs (Gordon Ramsay and Iron Chef Morimoto were there) at one event? I loved that the fairgrounds weren’t too expansive so you never had to walk too far to get to your next destination. Perhaps even more of a plus was the lack of young hooligans. The festival’s audience skewed a bit more mature than most festivals, which equaled less unnecessary yelling, pushing, and puking.

4 tips for attending BottleRock:

  • If you’re going for the whole weekend and don’t live close by, I suggest booking an Airbnb way ahead of time. We stayed in a beautiful Airbnb in Sonoma, which was a 45 minute drive from the festival.
  • If you’re driving, LEAVE EARLY. My friends and I drove from San Francisco, and traffic moved at snail’s pace.
  • Skip the zoo of a parking lot that the festival offers passes for and just park in the surrounding residential areas. We found spots everyday that were no more than a 20 minutes walk from the grounds.
  • Bring lots of cash for the FOOD and DRINKS. Food ranges from $8-18 and drinks range from $8-12.

The festival in pictures…

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First show we managed to catch on Friday evening: Grouplove

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The weather was spectacular all weekend

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Day 2, waiting for Florence

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Sam Harris from X Ambassadors

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Day 3, waiting hours in advance for Red Hot Chili Peppers

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Red Hot Chili Peppers: Probably the most anticipated show of the weekend

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And the weekend comes to an end

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Snippet of our Airbnb in Sonoma

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Can’t believe we woke up to this every morning

Did you attend BottleRock? Did you want to? Share your thoughts below ๐Ÿ™‚

Our Crazy Cotopaxi Questival Experience

Screen Shot 2015-12-24 at 11.00.04 PMTeaching a first aid skill for a Cotopaxi Questival challenge

Firstly – yes this is being published 4 months post-Questival, but better late than never right? This ridiculous scavenger hunt definitely deserves full documentation and I encourage anyone who is thinking about taking on Questival to take the plunge and DO IT. We were one of 218 teams who competed in the 2015 San Francisco Questival and I cannot wait to try my hand at it again.

I was asked numerous times what the Cotopaxi Questival is so I think it’s fair that I sum it up in my own words: it is a 24hr team scavenger hunt consisting of ~300 challenges each worth varying points, which must be submitted in picture or video form via the Questival app. It is completely up to you which challenges you wish to undertake. Other teams vote on your submissions, in which cheating submissions can be flagged. The winning teams from across the country get to compete in a phenomenal championship across Central America.

Examples of challenges:

  • Cross the border into Canada
  • Cross the border into Mexico
  • Eat a whole can of cat food
  • Find snow and ski/snowboard on it
  • Share food with a stranger

It was fascinating to see how each team strategized and approached the list of challenges. The tricky thing is that there are 4 checkpoints throughout the race, which are optional but worth hefty points. My team, the Bullfighters of the Order of the Maple Leaf, opted to undertake the high point challenge of driving down to Santa Cruz and swimming in the Garden of Eden. We embarked on our journey down to Santa Cruz at 11pm after completing numerous challenges throughout San Francisco. Our plan went awry when we saw that the campground we planned to stay at was fully booked and that the “less than 1000 population town” we planned to hit up was more of a cult village than a town. We eventually found a small town called Davenport to complete the small town challenge with and ended up sleeping for half an hour in a Safeway parking lot before waking up at the break of dawn to hike to the Garden of Eden.

A lot took place on that sleepless night in Santa Cruz. It’s like Barney Stinson says in How I Met Your Mother, “nothing good happens after 2am.” Let’s just say we were frightened for our lives when a hooded teen almost jumped us in front of a Denny’s at 3am.

I could write a short novel about our entire 24hr race, but will opt to illustrate our journey in picture form below. For pictures and videos of every single challenge we completed click here to check out our Questival team page!

Some of my favorite pics from our Cotopaxi Questival:

(Video pics are just stills; You can view the full vids using the link above)

12065584_10153641732809819_4744945629710284406_nAt an abandoned mine in Berkeley

be3dogvnfmp8lkzukqg5Taking a dip in the Garden of Eden at 6am

do77bterbjkxgkw4zl0lDoing yoga at Lands End in San Francisco

fngtivi3tma493fnsfh7Casually posing with a llama at the kick off event!

kmolwuradbfuyztuydzrThe challengeย  was to find someone wearing “yoga pants, sunglasses, and walking a dog”

njl5xncosjjqfuk2zmojThe ruins at Lands End

Screen Shot 2015-12-24 at 10.56.08 PMReenacting the spaghetti scene from Lady and the Tramp

Screen Shot 2015-12-24 at 10.56.47 PMA still from our video where we had to reenact a scene from our favorite musical

zlj2bo1zpbpvwjemncumHitting up a local beach

afrqlmthdnsizzw7izi7Posing with our less than 1000 population town at 3am

waqg0pqzjed2qjh8emhpUs fitting 3 people into a sleeping bag

12431576_10206844446162410_1582225709_nAt the De Young Museum in Golden Gate Park

12434145_10206844448562470_810057180_nEating food made by a campfire

12435804_10206844446282413_1165952544_nHugging a huge redwood tree in Golden Gate Park

12435888_10206844433522094_239206331_nAt the Sutro Baths in San Francisco

Questions or thoughts on Cotopaxi Questival? Let me know in the comments below!

Outside Lands 2015

It was 3 days of magical music, delicious eats, and all walks of life.

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Music: Elton John. ELTON JOHN. He is the main reason why I had to go – “Tiny Dancer” and “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me” were pivotal songs in my adolescence. He absolutely surpassed my expectations; what a spectacular voice and performer. Other faves: G-Eazy, Mumford and Sons, the Black Keys, Sam Smith, DJ Mustard, Porter Robinson, ODESZA.

Food: So disappointed with my inaugural ramenburger. I want to say it was due to an under-trained staff and I will try again at the restaurant in SF. I had such high hopes. My faves: oddly enough – the tots. The tots were unreal. I also loved the burritos and Vietnamese iced coffee.

Comedy: Still a little in disbelief that I actually got to see one of the most legendary comedy troupes (in my opinion), the Upright Citizens Brigade. UCB may be most popular as the troupe co-founded by Amy Poehler. Despite having to stand way in the back, this was certainly one of the finest comedic shows I’ve ever had the pleasure of attending.

DAY 1

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Broods

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Ron Swanson Sighting

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The Claawww

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Lands End Stage

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Porter Robinson

DAY 2

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The Craziness at Sutro Stage

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Lego Head Sighting

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At G-Eazy

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Some of the Cool Art at Outside Lands

DAY 3

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Nate Ruess

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At ODESZA

Till next year!

Short Hair Don’t Care

In less than an hour, over 1ft of hair was gone. The last time I had my hair cut was November 2013 (when I had my ombre done). I’ve been wanting to get my hair chopped for a few months, but kept putting it off because of how much the color cost me at that last appointment. I finally took the plunge and it feels FANTASTIC. Wash and dry is super quick and my natural waves don’t actually bother me with this length.

Thank you to Lisa Pomo for the cut. You can find her at Pitch Salon in San Francisco at: (415) 664-4800

Before (taken 2 weeks prior):

Wong_Emma_1After:

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More pics:

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You could make a wig out of this:

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After a wash: (no curler or straightener)

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Holiday Travels: My Unanticipated Washington Journey

With the peak of holiday travel madness upon us, my friend Rosey suggested that I share my story of travel in mid-October. The star of the tale is fog, but is relevant to any travelling obstacle. Though the journey was a frustrating and fatiguing one, I came out of it with a laugh and some new friends in the end. Needless to say, the people and situations you encounter while journeying around the world may really surprise you. Here is the excerpt I posted on Facebook – I think it’s a better read in short rather than long form:

Last Thursday night my flight from Bellingham to Seattle got cancelled due to fog. As I was lining up to talk to the front desk to hear my options, a guy in front of me overheard that I needed to catch a flight from Seattle to Sacramento. He and his daughter happened to be booked on the same flight so he offered to give me a ride with them to the airport. We made it to SeaTac in an hour and 20minsย and made it to the gate with a total of 5mins to spare before plane departure.ย 

On my way back from Oakland to Bellingham last night the plane wasn’t able to land due to fog again so it ended up landing in a small interior town called Pasco, WA. Two women also on the same flight offered to split a rental car with them to drive 5hrs all the way back to Bellingham airport. We picked up a 4th woman, and off we went. Neither of us a knew each other beforehand and coincidentally 3/4 of us were visiting our significant others in California, and 1 was there to see her fiance. Finally at foggy Bellingham at 3am, one of the women drove myself and another Vancouverite all the way back to our houses. The story officially concludes at 5am when I made it back to the comfort of my home.ย 

I just wanted to share these stories of kindness because it reminded me that there are really good and gracious people out there! Also, beware of flying during Fogtober.

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Map of Washington