Cafe Van Kleef

Cafe Van Kleef

This modest little venue houses one of the hippest live music scenes in Oakland, with bands playing nightly. At Cafe Van Kleef the music ranges in genre, but is always cool—just like the patrons: you're likely to see everyone from young punk rockers to the biz pro set standing side by side at the bar. The decor is as eclectic as the music and the accomodating bar staff makes sure everyone is pleased; and, hey, the owners pass around free food all evening long. You just can't beat that kind of customer service.

Cafe Van Kleef, a sepia-toned saloon and art gallery two blocks from City Hall, is the jewel of Oaksterdam. The seductive scent of city council-sanctioned ganja wafts from many doorways along this strip of Telegraph, but nothing fancier than Fernet is served inside this dimly lit, elegant watering hole. Legend pegs the place as a haunted cornucopia of nostalgic treasures from the past. Dorothy's ruby slippers, Cassius Clay's boxing gloves, and the head of a water buffalo shot by Gary Cooper on an African safari with Hemingway allegedly adorn the walls. The ghost of a French junkie is said to patrol the premises, adding a supernatural flair to the bar's Euro-charm. In the six short months since Peter Van Kleef's little speakeasy went legit, it has become the eye of its own little Oakland zeitgeist. Like Les Deux Magots in Paris or Vesuvio in San Francisco, Cafe Van Kleef is bound for glory. Ambitions aside, it's a great place to get buzzed.

-East Bay Express - May 5, 2004

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