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Best Secret Bars in East Bay

The cat is out of the bag when it comes to East Bay's secret nightlife scene. From Berkeley to Livermore, these hole-in-the-walls and sophisticated establishments made the list because of their welcoming atmospheres and genuine desire to please the customer. All of these hidden haunts focus on awesome drinks, great music, splendid entertainment, an easy-going and friendly staff and an environment that gives the patron that neighborhood, home-away-from-home feeling.  Who knows, you may discover that one of these secret places is located within your own stomping grounds.
Nightlife & Music Secret Bars, Nick's
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Nick's Lounge
3218 Adeline St.
Berkeley, CA 94703
(510) 652-4166

Berkeley has kept this bar on its hush-hush list for good reason. Nick's Lounge is stashed away in the South Berkeley vicinity, and you'll realize why this place has a huge following as soon as you are greeted by the bartender's smile.  Nick's Lounge is a dandy little jazz and karaoke bar, where drinks come in handy, laughs abound, students study and locals gather for a brew – or a few - without having to empty their bank accounts. Karaoke nights are Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and other nights host live jazz played by talented musicians. A backyard smoking section is outside, which is purposely designed to make patrons feel right at home.

Nightlife & Music Secret Bars, Bill McNally's Irish Pub
Photo Credit: Bill McNally's Irish Pub via Facebook

5352 College Ave.
Oakland, CA  94618
(510) 655-3929

Situated in the Rockridge district, McNally's is a classic Irish bar, but with a few bonuses that make it stand out. There is a wood-burning stone fireplace accentuating the room that beckons all weary customers to rest their troubled toes upon its hearth. It's easy to relax elbows along a gleaming wood bar where patrons can sip down a true Guinness. Bring in your pooch and the bartender may just slip your pet a milk bone from behind the counter. Bands occasionally play on weekends, and are typically when McNally's is invaded by Cal college students looking to celebrate after their marathon week of studying. The bartenders are cheerful and witty. McNally's is worth the venture.

RelatedBest Dog-Friendly Bars In The East Bay

Nightlife & Music Secret Bars, Forbidden Island
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Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge
1304 Lincoln Ave.
Alameda, CA 94501
(510) 749-0332

On the isle of Alameda is a lounge kept confidential from out-of-towners. Hidden among bamboo, tiki torches and waterfalls, and complete with Hawaiian music serenading all those who enter, The Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge is a fun-loving, Polynesian-themed oasis. Patrons will enjoy surf pop ballads and movies (Elvis, Annette Funicello & Hawaii 5-0 inspired shows) throughout the day and night. The Tiki Lounge offers a daunting drink selection of mostly perfect fruity concoctions. The menu also details how strong the drinks are, so avoid the traditional Mai Tai or the Scorpion Bowl if you are a lightweight. Staying too long at this place will result in a permanent grin for the rest of the night.

RelatedBay Area's 5 Best Tiki Bars

Nightlife & Music Secret Bars, Underdog Wine Bar
Photo Credit: Underdog Wine Bar via Facebook

Underdog Wine Bar
4590 Tesla Road
Livermore, CA  94550
(925) 583-1581

Hosted on the grounds of the historic Concannon Vineyard, the Underdog Wine Bar is an unsung haven boasting a selection of over 48 wines. The Underdog Wine Bar, a unit of The Wine Group, is all about "living deliciously." The bar's portfolio is impressive, as it is home to Cupcake, Fish Eye, flipflop and Big House wines. Underdog Wine Bar also tries to present lesser-known varietals of wine from select regions of the world. Foods selected for pairings are a cherished part of this bar's presentation, and small plate meals are prepared by Chef Barbaray Llewellyn. From light hors d'oeuvres to main entrees, the night becomes a symphony for your taste buds.

Nightlife & Music Secret Bars, Cocktails
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Baggy's By the Lake
288 E.18th St.
Oakland, CA 94606
(510) 763-5721  

It's not often a bar's atmosphere can be entirely different from one night to the next. At Baggy's by the Lake (Lake Merritt, that is), rubbing elbows with a diverse crowd is expected. From the young and old, to the gay and straight, to all ethnicities and creeds, Baggy's patrons enjoy a common interest - they love the bar's relaxed, easy-going vibe. The only requirement is that you come with an open mind and a penchant for eating, drinking and being merry. Kick up your feet and order a drink from the master bartenders. Genuine, happy people are what make up the usual crowd at Baggy's. No matter how often you come, you'll leave with an ear-to-ear grin and a few extra friends. Baggy's is a dive bar extraordinaire and a neighborhood gem, and lucky for you, this best little secret in the East Bay is out.

Kelly Gullo is a freelance writer in San Francisco, CA. Kellys topics are about music and nightlife. Kelly has also written a variety of articles on health and dieting and topics related to the environment. Kelly has a degree in journalism and public relations from Ferris State University in Big Rapids, MI. Her work can be found at

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