Two completely different bars with completely different vibes. What do they have in common? They’re both making waves in the Bay Area and even national bar scene and they’re both here in Emeryville, CA.
Jon Santer opened Prizefighter in 2011 along with Dylan O’Brien and since then they’ve received quite a few accolades including this national profile in the NY Times. Prizefighter is often credited for reversing the bar landscape to a less-pretentious, community-oriented bars that serve straight-forward drinks.
Meanwhile in more central E’ville, Bar Manager Eric Grenier continues to churn out classic cocktails with a modern twist at the prohibition era inspired Honor Kitchen & Cocktails (They may have abandoned plans to update the old Sushi Village neon at this point). “Anything that’s been around for 80 or 90 years is bound to be good.” noted Grenier in his SF Examiner Interview.
Feature Image: Jon Santer
Eater.com: Why California’s Jon Santer Is the Ultimate ‘Bartender’s Bartender
Bartender Jon Santer is well-known in the San Francisco area for his stints behind some of the city’s best bars: Most notably, in 2006, he helped open the Prohibition-inspired Bourbon & Branch, the bar that helped usher in the speakeasy-style, craft cocktail scene. But when it came time to open his own place, Santer happened upon a location just outside Oakland, in the two-square-mile city of Emeryville, California. The result, Prizefighter, is a neighborhood bar that draws the occasional pilgrim from San Francisco proper. It’s Santer’s (successful) attempt at “making drinking fun” once again: “Patio drinks” like Aperol Spritzes and Roman Holidays are available by the pitcher, a “Soda Fountain” section offers shrub and sodas with or without booze, and Mezcal features prominently, available starting in half-ounce tastes.
“People think if a cocktail is good, that means it’s fancy,” Santer says. “And I don’t think that’s true. I think a great drink can be very simple.” Eater recently chatted with Santer about the Bay Area’s early cocktail scene, the “difficult” opening days of Bourbon & Branch, and how Prizefighter is his response to the overly serious bars of old.
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SF Examiner: Honor Kitchen bartender hones craft through guild membership
Don’t look for a sign with Honor Kitchen & Cocktails’ name on it, because you won’t find one anywhere on this Emeryville bar’s exterior. At Honor, which invokes the spirit of Prohibition-era speakeasies that operated in semi-secrecy, management has not removed the “Sushi Village — Fine Foods” sign left over from the building’s previous occupant. Step inside and you’ll find whimsical curios on display in the lobby, a dark interior with warm, golden lighting, and an open kitchen whose aromas make you immediately forget any diet you might have been following. Born in Hawaii and raised on the East Coast, bar manager Eric Grenier got his start in the bar business at the age of 17, checking ID’s and providing security for nightclubs he was too young to legally patronize. Grenier has had a wide variety of careers, including serving in the Navy as a hospital corpsman and selling real estate. He holds a degree from the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, has lived in the Bay Area since 2010, and is an active member of the Northern California chapter of the United States Bartenders’ Guild.
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