Put on your fancy pants ‘cause you’re going OUT, baby. Grab a seat in the inviting wraparound patio and take in historic Old Oakland with its brick sidewalks, gargoyles, and Victorian-era buildings. Located on the corner of 9th Street and Broadway, Desco is the ultimate upscale urban locale to enjoy a handcrafted happy hour cocktail with kiddos in tow. The restaurant is gorgeous inside and out; ridiculously high ceilings, walls of glass intersected by ornate concrete columns, a copper bar topped with filament light bulbs with a vintage motif, and rustic yet classy wood furnishings.
The Happy Hour bar bites (all $4) are deliciously sophisticated, which means the little ones will likely thumb their noses at it. No matter – more for the grownups!
We ordered the olive marinate, ricotta fritta, and polenta e gorgonzola. They had choices for carnivores, too, like a salumi plate and a fancy fried meat option … maybe next time. The pint-sized bites arrived at the table quickly and artfully arranged on a small cutting board.
The hands down winner of the bunch were the fried ricotta balls. They were the perfect complement to a nice stiff cocktail and it would be easy to polish off two orders in one sitting. The assorted olives were served with house chips (which was pretty much the only thing our four-year-old friend found appetizing). We circumvented that problem by busting out her lunchbox and she noshed on leftovers from school; the staff didn’t seem to mind. Next time, if there are more kids present, we might order a wood-fired pizza off the dinner menu for them to share.
The cocktail list (all listed at $10, but half-priced at Happy Hour) was polished and playful. You’ll find classics like a sidecar or an old fashioned, but also fun choices like daiquiris and Moscow mules. The Venetian spritz is a nice option if you want to keep it light and bright. Made with with prosecco and aperol (a Compari-like Italian aperitif), it was bubbly and dry with a nice blush. The sidecar was solid, but what made it truly memorable was a subtle touch by the bartender. Served in a glass rimmed with sugar on only one side, allowing the sipper to have options. I like options. There are three beers to choose from and a nice selection of wines by the glass, but take my word for it and go for the cocktails. For the kids, a limonata is a nice choice. They’re served in glass bottle (no cans here) or in a tall glass.
Happy Hour is served daily from 3 – 6 p.m. at the bar or on the patio, so if you have a couple of little ones in tow you’ll probably be shown outside. Don’t take it as a slight – it’s actually pretty great! The servers are super accommodating without a hint of snootiness and the manager even came out to say hello. You don’t want to sit at the bar anyway since it gets crowded and chances are you’ll have the entire side of the patio to yourselves. This privacy lets the little ones can act like kids without bothering anyone.
The lovely metal and wood fence that surrounds the patio is a wonderful barrier from the sidewalk and busy street beyond, keeping the kids from running into the busses speeding down Broadway. Unfortunately, there is a welded steel angle with the sharp edge turned inward precisely at forehead height for your average 4-year-old child. Don’t find out the hard way.
This corner of Old Oakland seems to have a minor curse. Desco is the third restaurant at this location in the last decade. Before Desco it was Borgo Italia (that only lasted for the blink of an eye), and before that it was B restaurant. The previous incarnations never had a kick butt Happy Hour like Desco, so let’s hope this restaurant has finally lifted the curse. Also, the stretch of Broadway right in front of Desco is shut down every Friday afternoon for the Old Oakland farmer’s market. Farmer’s Market Happy Hour playdate?
Details: Desco, 499 9th St, Oakland, (510) 663-9000. Happy Hour: Daily from 3 – 6 p.m.
– Jenny Wread