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Monday, May 19, 2014

Dive Bar Bite: Farmers' Market Sundays at Heinold's First and Last Chance Saloon

Posted By on Mon, May 19, 2014 at 2:55 PM

The bar at Heinold's First and Last Chance Saloon, where most items on the wall are over a century old. - FERRON SALNIKER
  • Ferron Salniker
  • The bar at Heinold's First and Last Chance Saloon, where most items on the wall are over a century old.

Time has had a gradual effect on the interior of Heinold's First and Last Chance Saloon since it was built from the timbers of an old whaling ship in 1880. The small shack-like bar at the foot of Jack London Square still uses its original gas lights, the floor has remained tilted at a noticeable slant since the 1906 quake, and there's very little wall space between the dusty collages of business cards, caps, and other memorabilia. But outside, sandwiched between shiny upscale restaurants and palm trees, there's a modern patio with tables, umbrellas, and a view of the docks. On Sundays it makes for a quiet spot to anchor yourself over a beer and a bite from the neighboring farmers market.

See also: Dive Bar Bite: Carnita's Tacos at El Cerrito's El Autlense

Dive Bar Bite:French Onion Sandwich at The Galley

Prohibition be damned, Heinold's has been operating as a bar continuously since 1883, making it Oakland's oldest bar. During the 1920s the ferry that ran between Alameda and Oakland stopped next to Heinold's, and as Alameda was a dry city, the bar was indeed the first and last chance to stop for a refreshment. Later it became the watering hole for servicemen heading for overseas from the Port of Oakland. Growing up, I always remembered the bar as the Jack London bar. London drank at the same very bar, writing notes for several of his novels and making good friends with the bar's original owner, Johnny Heinold.

The patio at Heinold's First and Last Chance Saloon - FERRON SALNIKER
  • Ferron Salniker
  • The patio at Heinold's First and Last Chance Saloon

Inside, it's dark and smells sweet like leather and smoke. Anything not sepia-toned or covered in dust sticks out like a sore thumb -- like the white board with the beer list and the newest addition to the wall, a plastic white hardhat signed by the builders of the new Bay Bridge. With only two tables and a small bar, it's a cozy place to nurse a hard drink in the winter. When the weather's nice, you'll want to choose from one of the seven beers on tap, and enjoy a plastic cup of $5 draft in the waterfront breeze.

The bite to pair with your beer? While the market has several food stands, I went for fish tacos from Cholita Linda: fried tilapia, a mild salsa roja, slaw and a little too much crema. They went down nicely with my Town Ale from nearby Linden Street Brewery. Other market food options include wood fired pizza, bacon-wrapped hot dogs (maybe after a few beers?), a crepe stand, and of course, fresh produce.

The Jack London Farmers Market is open 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sundays, and Heinold's lists its hours from noonish to 11ish.

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Ferron Salniker

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