On one side of the bar at Eastside West, visitors gather to sip beers and mixed drinks, and perhaps to sample the house-smoked salmon toast. The other side is a gallery: ornate golden frames surround bottles of wine and spirits, turning them into works of art on the bar’s recessed shelves. It's a touch of sophistication that speaks volumes about the gastropub. Though the menu announces that Eastside West does indeed have corn hole and beer pong, its pages also showcase a more refined take on down-home traditions.
For example, the double cheeseburgers here come decorated not with bacon strips but with bacon jam. Many of the menu items are seasonal or organic, and all are overseen by Chef Dino, who prefers to shop local. His entrees expand on barroom staples by adding an entire fried Cornish game hen to the list. The appetizers, too, flaunt stylish touches—nachos are garnished with chorizo and carnitas instead of just cheese and cheese-flavored whipped cream.
All of this subtle elegance doesn't keep the place from getting rambunctious, however. Crowds still vie for first place during Wednesday pub trivia, and dance to live jazz or DJ sets. A heated outdoor patio provides ample space for savoring cocktails such as the cherry apple sour, made from Templeton rye, apple juice, and black-cherry jam.
A product of the Vintage 415 cultural market company, The Ambassador exhibits a debonair vibe with its 31 chandeliers, plush red carpet, and two large TV screens that have been known to mysteriously splice single frames of Connery-era Bond films into whatever is on at the time. Contemplate how to foil a brilliantly evil archenemy while sipping one of the Ambassador's specialty cocktails ($9), such as the Ace Of Spades, which mixes Hendrick's Gin, cucumber, lime, and soda.
A 2010 Best of the BayList coffee-shop nominee, Sugar Cafe's daytime, caffeinated digs mellow into a moody lounge by night. Mornings buzz on fresh brews by Bicycle coffee, an organic and sustainable brand of South American beans. Lunch favorites skew from flavorful egg-salad sandwiches ($7.95) to the Mangia! salad, a toss up of salami, chickpeas, roasted red peppers, red onion, and kalamata olives ($8.25). Blow up inflatable brunch dates for plates such as pancakes fully loaded ($7.95) or stuffed french toast, aptly shoved with lemon cream cheese, fresh blueberries, whipped cream, and seasonal fruit ($7.50). After 5 p.m., Sugar switches gears, crawling into its less-than-dark hole with help from a fireplace seating area and very important conversations. Watch wall-projected movies as you nosh on house sliders ($10) or the vegetarian-friendly truffle mac 'n' cheese ($8). Stay late to sip an array of freshly shaken martinis beneath the ethereal, purple glow, which attracts a cultural crosscut of art students, doctors, entrepreneurs, and people eaters.