A whiskey adventure for you and me.
“We really ought have moved to Oakland,” I admit to my roommate.
Our bartender sort of nods, sort of frowns, contemplates this. ”Yeah. Something’s happening here.”
I know I’m intoxicated by potentially fleeting charms, but certainly, that’s a feeling I’m accustomed to by now. This night, it’s unseasonably warm. We spent the day in Berkeley: some yoga, some Brazilian food truck snacks, some cheap paperbacks. We divvy up a bottle of champagne alongside Lake Merritt, recaffeinate, and wander over to Art Murmur, Oakland’s version of an art walk that sees several city blocks along Telegraph Ave cordoned off. Oakland has baited us, charmed us, even endeared us.
Oakland offers the community that San Francisco seems to lack, at rental prices that thankfully (thus far) fail to meet the city’s absurd norms. “Uptown” is the face of the emerging Oakland, come what may. And what would those sparse, white-walled galleries and fair trade, fresh-roasted coffeehouses be without the small plate, craft cocktail restaurants to surround them?
Duende, tucked away across from Fox Theater, fulfills that role, almost comically if it wasn’t so damn cozy. It’s all there: the Basque designation (“Cocina de la Claridad y la Oscuridad”), the local sourcing, the vaguely exotic dishes (and a hamburguesa), the inflated pricing. That will all soon drift away, though, as you settle in, take it for what it is. It’s a lofty, beautiful space with impeccable murals. Take a date. Try the rye drink. Take a few friends before a show across the road. Order a half-dozen of the small batch American whiskies between you. You’re in Oakland, California. A few drinks in, you’ll need reminding.
It can’t be ignored: “duende” refers to the soul. It’s a strangely wonderful, dark concept that doesn’t easily translate. You could lose a day exploring it. But simply put, the Larousse Spanish-English dictionary provides a description for “tener duende”: to have a certain magic. To that, goodnight Oakland, good night.