I'm all for drinking fancy cocktails and shit. Hell, probably my favorite bar is the Hotsy Totsy, not for its shuffle board or endless PBR taps, but for its crazy cocktail specials and insane gin selection.* But one cannot live on high end Manhattans made with smoked vermouth alone.
There is so much comfort in a bar without a drink menu. Bonus points if it has a huge fucking frozen margarita machine and a dance floor with shitty Crayola-colored lights.
Overland opened in Oakland's Jack London Square a few months ago. Owner Paul Hayward advertised it as a "non-hipster" country music bar, complete with food like stuffed burgers and several varieties of loaded french fries. Picture beer bellies, cowboy hats, and lots of bottle blondes.
I was, frankly, not particularly interested in going there. First off, Jack London is still a pretty weird spot. And, eh, a country bar? I typically go for gross outdoor patio-themed dive bars when I want to drink tall boys of Hamm's or whatever.
But then this mysterious dude at the Chron wrote a fascinating review-visit-something piece about the bar (read it here, I recommend it). Here was the quote that got me:
Some might step into Overland, note the “Wingo Wednesday” and “Taco Tuesday” specials, see the bridge-and-tunnel-looking crowd, observe tattooed and very Oakland-seeming bartenders sporting denim and jaunty cowboy hats, and cringe. This isn’t authentic, they might sniff. This is a tacky parody. A real country bar, they might argue, should have dimmer lights, rough-hewn beams, a rickety stage and fewer TVs.
They might not have visited enough country bars.
Also, one of my good pals — also a Southerner/Texan — recently broke up with a guy she was dating and needed to do something ridiculous while wearing cowboy boots.
So here we were.
Overland has almost as many TVs as American flags.
It also has five different varieties of Red Bull on its menu, and I'm sure they all taste equally as invigorating mixed with a double pour of well vodka.
More importantly, its bartenders are crazy friendly. The longest I waited for a drink (this was on a Saturday night, mind you) was probably around 47 seconds. They will be happy to pour you some of that artisanal moonshine you may have seen sealed up in mason jars at BevMo. They'll also be happy to make that well whiskey ginger or pop open a Shiner Bock. And obviously pull the handle on the aforementioned margarita slushy machine — it dispenses a potent and syrupy sweet potion that will simultaneously invoke mishap-filled high school spring breaks and also that stomachache you got from housing too many Skittles. There's salt in them margaritas, too, so at least there's balance.
They're worth ordering at least once. Maybe twice if you have a big platter of fries and a high tolerance for sucrose.
Those fries are also insane, by the way. You can get them — we did — with a mountain of what tastes like KC Masterpiece-drenched pulled pork and crazy-hot ghost pepper jack cheese. Order an extra bowl of the pork, too, for extra gluttony. Overland will happily oblige.
Also, okay, there are also LINE DANCING TEACHERS. They're not the greatest teachers; if you don't already know what you're doing, you'll still feel silly and fuck up a lot. But seriously, what other bar in Oakland makes you excited to grab your belt buckles and do a grapevine while clapping, hooting and hollering? Please, I challenge you to find me one.
We looked like idiots but laughed for 2 hours. And burned off approximately 0.5 percent of the calories we consumed in those marga-slushies.
*Okay, also I go there for the smutty movies and velvet paintings. Who doesn't?