Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Luka’s Taproom: good beer in Uptown Oakland

Uptown Oakland is undergoing a renaissance, attempting to restore some of the luster of the early to mid 20th century, when the area was a prime shopping and entertainment destination. A lot of the old department store buildings remain from that era, and the Fox Theater on Telegraph and the art deco Paramount Theater on Broadway have been beautifully restored and attract world-class talent. Oakland has also made an effort to revitalize the residential aspects of this historic part of the city. Opened in 2008, the Uptown on William Street has created 665 new apartments, 9,000 square feet of retail and a public park.
Uptown Oakland is also home to some nightclubs, like The Uptown Nightclub on Telegraph, and several very nice, up-scale eateries such as Ozumo and Pican. But sometimes before or after a show, say, or during a day of shopping, you just need a quick bite and a good beer. A cone of Belgian-style French fries with a little aioli and a pint of Old Speckled Hen English Pale Ale at Luka’s Taproom fills that bill admirably.
Luka’s 16 beers on tap nicely balance Belgian ales (Chimay, Nice Chouffe, Lindemanns Framboise, Delerium Tremens, Maredsous No. 8, Blanche de Bruxelles, Stella Artois) and beer from the U.S. (Racer 5, Boont Amber, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Blue Star Hefeweizen, Lagunitas Brown Sugga and Dogfish Head 90), with a couple of beers tossed in from the British Isles (Old Speckled Hen and Guinness) and a Jever lager from Germany. Several nice Belgian beers are also available in bottles, including 750ml bottles of Deus biere de champagne and Fantome La Dalmatienne.
The frequently changing “California brasserie” menu is a bit of a mish-mash – a Belgian influence with mussels, oysters and Belgian-style fries; American standbys like burgers, sandwiches and mac and cheese; and Southern-style brunch on Sundays. On a recent Sunday, we tried the Mac and cheese (pretty good), fried chicken (a bit dry), beet soup (tasty), Belgian fries and aioli (good), a biscuit sandwich (underseasoned) and a frittata with artichokes and Brussel sprouts. Overall, the food is OK but not memorable. The real stars are the beer, like the smooth Old Speckled Hen Pale Ale, served from a nitrogen tap to reduce carbonation, and the tasty Maredsous 8 dubbel-style abbey ale from Brouwerij Duvel Moortgat NV. Luka’s might not be the place you want to go for an amazing dining experience, but sometimes a casual environment, good beer and something tasty to snack on is just what the doctor ordered. 
Luka’s becomes a music venue at night, with DJs spinning hip-hop, soul, funk and reggae. Cover is $10 on Fridays and Saturdays. Luka's walls feature local artists, and art exhibits rotate regularly in the lounge, dining room and hallway.
Luka’s, which was named after a stray dog and replaced a hofbrau in 2004, fills a vital niche in the up-and-coming Uptown Oakland, with good beer and decent food, and support for local artists and musicians. If it wasn’t there already, someone would probably have to invent it.

Luka’s Taproom
2221 Broadway
Oakland, Calif, 94612.
Near 19th street BART and close to Lake Merritt
Phone: (510) 451-4677

Hours of operation:
Monday & Tuesday 11:30am-12:00am
Wednesday, Thursday & Friday 11:30am - 2:00am
Saturday 5:30pm - 2:00am
Sunday 10:30am - 12:00am
Lunch is served 11:30am - 2:30pm, Monday - Friday.
Dinner is served 5:30pm - 10:30pm, 7 days a week.
Brunch is served 10:30am - 2:30pm on Sunday.