Pizza, Pac-Man and Pinoy food: bottoms up at Oakland's newest watering holes

If you're interested staying abreast of Oakland's latest watering holes, consider dropping into one of these fresh spots. Here are some recently-opened places to check out the next time you're in search of a new drinkery near you.

Benchmark Oakland

499 Ninth St., Jack London Square

Photo: Leandra F./Yelp

Benchmark Oakland (499 Ninth St.) is the new Old Oakland expansion of the popular Kensington pizzeria. Owned by Oliveto and Dopo veterans Peter and Melissa Swanson, it features food from chef de cuisine Jennifer Moffitt and cocktails from Tamir Ben-Shalom of Bull Valley Roadhouse.

Its chewy personal-size Neapolitan pies come in classic flavors like a margherita with fresh mozzarella and basil, and California-influenced ones like fried sage and brown butter, or wild nettle and Pecorino. The menu also includes housemade pastas, salads and a handful of American classics, like fried chicken with buttermilk biscuits.

As for the bar, expect cocktails like the Time After Thyme (gin, lime, thyme) and about half a dozen craft beers, like a pilsner from Oakland United. There's also an array of upscale soft drinks, like grapefruit-hibiscus soda and elderflower spritzer. (View the full food menu here and the drinks menu here.)

With a current rating of four stars out of 30 reviews, Yelp users have found that the newcomer is mostly hitting its marks.

"My short ribs with gnocchi was the best interpretation I've ever had. Highly recommend," wrote Yelper Steve S. of his experience with the new bar on October 28. "What makes everything amazing is the balance of flavors in all dishes, with a big emphasis on textures as well."

"Excellent cocktail and wine program," opined Elguero S. "Amazing Caesar salad followed by the signature sage pizza. I still think that Bare Knuckle does the best crust in this style, but this was excellent. The sage, lemon and garlic topping was so good."

Benchmark Oakland is open from 11:30 a.m.–9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.–10 p.m. on Friday, 5:30 p.m.–10 p.m. on Saturday, and 5:30 p.m.–9 p.m. on Sunday.

The Payback

1618 Franklin St.

Photo: Gloria T./Yelp

The Payback is a two-story cocktail bar and restaurant with a forthcoming games space. Located in the former home of Oakland Rec Club at 1618 Franklin St., it's the project of Sky Wegman (who also owns San Francisco's 83 Proof, Hopwater Distribution and Dogpatch Saloon).

At the bar, thirsty patrons will find signature cocktails like the New Fangled, a take on an old fashioned with rye whiskey, honey and fig. On tap, the selection of a dozen craft beers includes local options like Standard Deviant Saison.

If you're in need of a snack to pair with your drink, the food menu focuses on small bites like samosas and cauliflower fritters with gochujang hot sauce. There are also sandwiches and the signature Payback Fried Chicken, which comes tossed in a Korean- and Vietnamese-inspired sauce. (You can check out the full drinks menu here and the food menu here.)

For game enthusiasts, the bar is already offering skee ball and some classic arcade games, and plans to open a billiards space on the second floor soon. 

With a 4.5-star rating out of 46 reviews on Yelp, The Payback is on its way to building a local fan base.

"Solid bar for a local hang. Had a fine selection of cocktails—I got the gin-based drink called On The Skite, which was good. The bartenders were not shy with the amount of liquor going in the drinks," wrote Yelper Nandita B., who called the fried chicken dish "tasty" but "loaded with too much sauce."

Yelper Amanda P. was also impressed with the bar service: "[The bartender] went and got ingredients from the back if he didn't have it out front, and he was very passionate. In the past, we have been to some speakeasy-type places that are really good at coming up with drinks based on things you like, and that is what he did for us."

The Payback is open from 11:30 a.m.–2 a.m. on weekdays and 10:30 a.m.–2 a.m. on weekends.

7th West

1255 Seventh St., Acorn

Photo: Joseph C./Yelp

7th West is a spacious Filipino restaurant and bar that also hosts art, music and other events. It's the project of Oakland locals Donna Inscho Brinkman and Kevin Pelgone of Overlook Lounge, Assan Jethmal of Good Mother Gallery and Pancho Kachingwe of The Hatch, as we previously reported

At the bar, there are craft cocktails like the Raincoat Jones, with whiskey, grapefruit and honey; plus draft beers from West Oakland breweries like Line 51 and Ghost Town. 

Chef Dennis Villafranca, of the food truck Jeepney Guy, has charge of the food. Hungry patrons will find Villafranca's signature lechon (roasted pork belly with crispy skin), available as a rice plate as well as in flip sandwich form with a side of adobo au jus and coleslaw. (You can find the full menu here.)

Visitors will also discover murals on the walls by various Oakland artists; an arcade; and a large, dog-friendly outdoor patio space. 

Yelp users are excited about the new watering hole, which currently holds 4.5 stars out of 33 reviews on the site.

"Once you walk in, you will quickly notice the huge open space and the arcade games! 7th West will make you feel like you are an extremely big kid. There is something for everyone," wrote Yelper Porsche C., who also praised the large, dog-friendly outdoor space. "The drinks are fab!"

"Pineapple cider was delicious," Sarah I. noted, and recommended: "Come for the lechon. My god it was cooked to perfection and super flavorful."

7th West is open from 11 a.m.–midnight on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Sunday and 11 a.m.–2 a.m. on Thursday-Saturday. (It's closed on Monday.)

Hometown Heroes East Bay

4000 Adeline St.

Photo: Andrew C./Yelp

Hometown Heroes East Bay is a sports bar with both indoor and outdoor seating, plus food from chefs Jan Dela Paz and Bobby Punla's Filipino pop-up kitchen Likha, as we recently reported. You can find it at 4000 Adeline St.

The bites on offer include garlic fries with banana ketchup, ukoy fritters of sweet potatoes and corn, pork lumpia and the signature pork sisig — minced pork belly with a soft-boiled egg over rice.

Patrons can accompany their food with craft cocktails like the No Comment, made with tequila, agave, Chambord and lime, plus beers ranging from Anchor's San Franpsycho IPA to Heretic's Chocolate Hazelnut Porter.

Yelp users are excited about Hometown Heroes, which currently holds 4.5 stars out of 72 reviews on the site.

"It's not really a sit-down dinner place, but more like a sports bar that offers food in bowls, small plates and tapas," Claudine V. noted. "Team loved the food and service. I enjoyed my pork sisig. It was a good portion and came with a cup of rice."

And Yelper Tracy D., who also praised the food, wrote, "Love this place. Always looking for a good sports bar in the area. They had around 6 or so TVs and a big screen/projector set up to watch the Warriors play. Outdoor seating available too. Loved the decor inside."  

Hometown Heroes East Bay is open from 4 p.m.–midnight Monday-Thursday, 4 p.m.–1:30 a.m. on Friday, 11 a.m.–1:30 a.m. on Saturday, and 11 a.m.–10 p.m. on Sunday.

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Pizza pac man and pinoy food bottoms up at oakland s newest watering holes