Park Street, Pickled

Drinking from one side of Alameda to the other.


A trip around the world starts and ends on Alameda’s Park Street with Shark Bites, above, mojitos, and 33 Export.

Photo by Pat Mazzera

Beside Alameda’s Park Street Bridge, Dragon Rouge’s all-night happy hour on the waterfront patio can break a mid-week routine, temporarily relieving the working stiffs’ stresses by means of an alcoholic beverage of choice.

This is the kind of spot where a crew team might row by as the beer, a 33 Export from Vietnam in this case, arrives. It sloshes around the green glass, not unlike the waves below. And when the second beer arrives, an idea emerges: Why not explore a pickled side of Park Street from one end to the other? Thus, a trek across the Island begins.

6:17 p.m. As commuters are returning home, a patron shuffles out of McGee’s Bar and Grill, leaving an open stool. Domestic beer seems the preferred drink here, so it’s a Bud Light—as approachable, honest, and essential as the barflies. The bartender calls everyone by name, and shouts ricochet around the crowded bar until the joviality turns sour over a football game.

6:42 p.m. As the venue-hopping continues, the fading sun darkens Habanas’ white tiled floor and sparkly, teal bar. Muddled mint, rum, simple syrup, and crushed ice brighten the restaurant. Time ticks by unnoticed, as it does with mojitos. The smell of spices, oil, and cooking meat drift from the dining room. Bottles of booze in front of the window colorfully distort the faces of passersby.

7:27 p.m. The rainbow-colored fun-mirror effect of the bottles warp fewer faces since the darkening street is sparsely populated, except for pockets of people waiting outside a few restaurants. Faded photographs of people long gone stare back from Pauline’s Antiques’ barred storefront. Who were these people? What was their drink of choice?

7:33 p.m. At Monkey King Pub & Grub, there’s life once more. The tables overflow with food, laughter, and drinks. A round of blue and red Shark Bites goes out. Then another and another. They’re tempting, but a Blueberry Starlight on the all-night happy hour menu promises a unique mixture of blueberry moonshine and yogurt—too weird to resist. It’s like a drunken Danimal, delicious but a fruity, sweet decision that suggests the night is detouring into waters more dangerous than the Shark Bites circling the bar.

8:13 p.m. Two doors down at Lucky 13, the pinball machine is irresistible. At the cash-only bar, the infamous recession combo—a shot of Jim Beam and a pint of PBR—and a tip deplete the remaining cash with nothing to spare for pinball. But the bartender returns, sliding a few quarters across the bar, saying, “Pinball’s on me, tonight.” Cirqus Voltaire’s right flipper sticks. Who cares? Neon lights and bumpers dance through the disappearing pint. A rain check on skeeball, pool, and a photo booth.

8:53 p.m. The commercial character of Park Street dissolves into a residential one. Roses grow from the concrete. It’s quiet, passing the occasional car or dog walker. Lights up ahead at South Shore Center, enough to keep one soldiering on.

9:10 p.m. Success as bowling beckons from AMF Southshore Lanes. Upon entering, it smells dank, like grease, feet, and fryers—heaven, which leads to a lane, a 14-pound ball, a pitcher of beer, and bowling alley french fries. Muscle memory takes over: Fingers into holes; ball cradled to the side; push off, four steps, right leg hooks behind the left, arm raises, wrist twists at the last second for spin, and the ball is free. A crash of pins, continually answered up and down the alley. After four games—or is it six?—the alley is closing. What’s there to do after the last re-rack?

11:04 p.m. On the beach across from the alley is where the happy hour–inspired journey must end. The cold sand gives way underfoot, magnifying any unsteadiness. Out beyond the black water, San Francisco is lit up, and woozy wonders wander. Who’s on that far shore, looking back at someone they can’t see? How many people are enjoying the night—embarking on an intoxicating adventure—exploring the endless possibilities of happy hour in their own backyards?

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