Customers with a drawerful of tokens from Emporium San Francisco, a bustling arcade bar chain founded in Chicago that expanded to Divisadero in 2017, have another place to spend them: At Emporium Oakland, a new location of the bar in Uptown. The space, smaller than the SF spot by about half, but still packed with 30 games and lots to drink, opened this week at 1805 Telegraph Avenue, inside the building that also houses the Fox Theater.
The proximity to the popular music venue is ideal, says Emporium co-owner Danny Marks. “Before and after show crowds should be good business for us — having an arcade-slash-bar in the same context is a natural, it’s just another fun thing to do.”
“It’s an amazing venue,” Marks adds of the Fox. “The restoration of that space was incredible. We’re really stoked to be a part of this building.”
On the restoration front, he should know: Emporium’s San Francisco space is the old, long-vacant Harding Theater on Divisadero, a challenging and long-delayed restoration project.
For entertainment, Emporium Oakland has two air hockey tables, two skee-ball alleys, nine pinball machines, a foosball table, 12 video games and Killer Queen, a ten-player favorite, plus three big TVs and a stage for DJs. The bar features a strong selection of beer, cocktails and wine.
And unlike the San Francisco location of Emporium, the new Oakland digs (formerly a branch of Rudy’s Can’t Fail Cafe) include a full kitchen space.
To curate rotating pop-ups there, Marks brought in Nigel Jones, chef/owner of popular Jamaican restaurants Kingston 11 in Oakland and Kaya in San Francisco.
“I come from a pop-up scene; I never had a lot of capital,” says Jones, who, started his career at Berkeley’s Guerrilla Cafe cooking two nights a week.
“I want to use the [kitchen] space now to create that opportunity for chefs in Oakland.”
Jones expects pop-ups to run for a week at a time, rather than nightly rotations: Stay tuned for more as they launch.
Meanwhile, Jones is keeping busy in Uptown. He’s also planning Calabash, a marketplace and restaurant in a new, under-construction development called Alta Waverly at 2302 Valdez Street. Calabash will also feature Azalina Eusope, who currently serves her popular Malaysian food at the Market on Market, and Iranian chef Hanif Sadr who, runs the pop Komaaj. The new project could open as early as this fall, Jones anticipates.