The very new bar at Grand Lake Kitchen offers the quintessential grown-up version of a childhood summery treat: the boozy slushy. What you once clamored for as a child on long hot summer afternoons appears in an adult version at the newly expanded premises on Grand Avenue in Oakland, right across the street from Lake Merritt.
Just reopened in June, the new Grand Lake Kitchen is double its original size and now offers a full bar and afternoon happy hour in addition to regular kitchen service.
We had long been fans of the brunch and lunch menu at Grand Lake Kitchen, so awaited the new menu with high hopes. Visiting on a warm summer afternoon, the only clear choice of a cocktail had to come from the intriguing slushy machine located behind the bar. Of the two offerings, we opted for the Salty Dog Slushy. A slushy twist to this variation of a Greyhound, Grand Lake’s Salty Dog is made with London dry gin, Crème du Pamplemousse (grapefruit liqueur), fresh grapefruit and sparkling wine, served with a salt rim. The grapefruit flavor is bright and deeply refreshing, and the salt rim contrasts nicely with the icy, fruit-packed flavor of the drink.
Another slushy selection on the menu is the Painkiller Slushy — white rhum, 152 proof Demerara rum, pineapple, lime, coconut, orange and mint. If one feels the need to self-soothe with the taste of the faraway tropics, this one may be just what the doctor ordered.
The idea of a boozy slushy is sheer genius. A frosty beverage, complete with tiny umbrella, appeals to the kid in all of us, while at the same time provides a flavor experience that is definitely for adults only. Carley, our bartender, explained that the slushies “may look like fun-time, but are actually well thought out cocktails.” So far, she said, the two types of slushies are the most popular drinks on the menu: “They’re a conversation starter. People see the ice machine and want to know what it is.”
The bar program includes other variations of familiar cocktails: a mezcal Negroni, a twist on an Old Fashioned called the Rye and Dry (high-proof rye, black walnut bitters, orange peel) and an herb-y gin fizz called the Gin and Stone (London dry gin, Becherovka herbal liqueur, lemon, honey, egg white, rosemary). A few of the classics listed on the menu are martinis, Manhattans and a classic daiquiri. House cocktails are all $10.
The new space at Grand Lake Kitchen is light and airy, with high ceilings and a wall of windows facing the lake. The décor is minimal, which only serves to highlight the location on a busy and vibrant stretch of Grand Avenue, with lake walkers and passers-by providing an endless source of people watching. The bar area features a long marble bar lined with stools. There are several tables on this side of the restaurant, with chairs on one side and two long banquettes for additional seating against the walls.
According to our bartender, the restaurant has a loyal customer base, including a big industry crowd who enjoy coming to a place where they can have brunch during the week. Smiling, she added: “They are a well-behaved crowd.” Word is now getting out about the new space, but the crowd still comes mostly from the neighborhood.
The bar at Grand Lake Kitchen adds something special to a place that is already popular. Though it’s almost twice the size as before, the restaurant still has a cozy feel. And as long as the summer heat lasts — well into fall around here — we expect to return for those cool, refreshing umbrella-garnished slushies.
The Crowd: Neighborhood residents, lake walkers, industry folks, passers-by who spot the slushy machine
The Drink: The Salty Dog Slushy
The One to Try Next Time: Gin and Stone, a crowd favorite
When to go: Happy hour (4 to 6 p.m.), after work, after a nice stroll around the lake
Good to know: Open 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day except Tuesday. (Starting August 9, Grand Lake Kitchen will be open seven days a week.) Reservations available for dinner, which is served from 5 to 10 p.m.
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