E’ville’s Prizefighter Bar featured on NYTimes.com

2 mins read

Even the East coast is acknowledging the E’ville vibe. It’s a bit of a backlash against the pretentious “Mixology” trend over the last few years when every bar was serving exotic, trendy, cocktails at “in the know” establishments. Prizefighter offers simple, straight-forward versions of classic cocktails & craft beers without all the posturing.
Queue Portlandia Mixologist skit:

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Opened in 2011 after the legendary Kitty’s “riot” forced its closure, the libation pro’s behind Bourbon & Branch & Bloodhound stepped in to preserve Emeryville’s limited nightlife scene. Since then, the addition of Honor Bar (recently changed to “Honor Kitchen & Cocktails” because of  the threat of litigation from a similarly named Beverly Hills establishment) has made its mark as well.

I personally love Prizefighter because it’s one of the few dog-friendly establishments in a city where seemingly half the residents have them (more on that subject in a future post). Enjoying a cold beverage with my pooch on their patio on a warm day is very satisfying. Prizefighter: It’s always good to report when the “local boy makes good”!

NY Times Dining & Wine Section
April 9,2013

Prizefighter, a bar in the Bay Area, doesn’t look like much at first glance. It’s in a boxy brick building with a lot of space but not much in the way of distinctive décor. It’s not even in San Francisco, but in Emeryville, a small community in the East Bay.

If you hang out long enough, however, you notice things. The back bar is impressive, with dozens of whiskeys, tequilas and rums. If you venture beyond beer, you’ll find the daiquiri is beautifully wrought, and the old-fashioned is excellent. They ought to be. That man fixing your drink is Jon Santer, who was among the opening staff at Bourbon and Branch, one of San Francisco’s fanciest cocktail dens.

Over the last decade, bartenders around the country have created a cocktail culture of exquisite drinks and exclusive digs — hidden speakeasies that require a seat reservation to get in, and lavish, library-like barrooms where drinks are contemplated with hushed seriousness or marveled at like circus acts.

Prizefighter is part of what is shaping up as a fresh chapter for high-end mixology: a new breed of cocktail bar that seeks to retain the profession’s hard-won artistry while shedding the pretensions that often come with it. These bars — which include Mother’s Ruin in the NoLIta neighborhood of Manhattan, Evelyn in the East Village and Basik and Lighthouse BK in Williamsburg, Brooklyn — have no secret entrances. Their outdoor signs are easy to spot. Standing at the bar is allowed. Canned beer is often an option. And they aim to be neighborhood places rather than destinations, just as most bars traditionally have. | More on NYTimes.com →

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Note: Use the commenting below if your fave is not listed. I’ve omitted chain restaurant-bars & places that primarily serve as restaurants … sorry Trader Vic’s & Townhouse!

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Rob Arias

is a third generation Californian and East Bay native who lived in Emeryville from 2003 to 2021. Rob founded The E'ville Eye in 2011 after being robbed at gunpoint and lamenting the lack of local news coverage. Rob's "day job" is as a creative professional.


  1. I vote for including Trader Vic’s in the poll. They have fantastic cocktails, happy hour, and are known for inventing the original Mai Tai (Vic Bergeron).

    • I struggled with this as I love Trader Vic’s but ultimately I opted to just include Emeryville Originals and omit “chains”. Otherwise, to be unbiased, I’d have to include Elephant Bar & probably P.F. Changs! Thanks for taking the poll & chiming in though!

      • I see, interesting point. However, I would say that Trader Vic’s although they are now a chain, began in this neighborhood. They originally opened as Hinky Dinks on San Pablo in Oakland in 1934 and moved to Emeryville in the 70’s. Yes, they have since opened additional locations, but Emeryville is their original location.

  2. I didn’t know this! Having known this now, I would have thrown them in there but I think it would be unfair at this point (too far along). I love the idea of writing a history piece on Trader Vic’s at some point though (alas, if only I had the time to write about everything I want to write about!). We’re definitely proud to have them in our town. Thanks Erin!

    • Yea I was surprised the first time I heard Trader Vic’s Emeryville is their original location which is why I always remembered that factoid. =)

      Great website by the way. It’s a wonderful resource for the Eville community. Keep it up!

      • Thanks for inspiring my most recent piece on Trader Vic’s (I finally got around to it). Let me know what you think!

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