Review: The Oakland

The Oakland
The Oakland in Ferndale

The Oakland 5 stars

Yelp! Review of the Day

If King Louis XIV had clandestine meetings with King Charles II of England and Elton John, the Oakland would be the venue. I demand the interior decor in my own home, for a woman cannot get anything done unless enthroned in a plush royal blue wingback as tall as she is in 4″ stiletto heels. Their chosen accessory is much the same as mine, a cool Neroni or a flaming Blue Blazer cocktail swimming in ice hand-chipped with a proper pick off a sweating block behind the bar. The Oakland breathes decadence, opulent refinement, and a tight drink list that guarantees I will hire them lock, stock, and barrel when I achieve fame and fortune.

The Oakland is Ferndale’s speakeasy, lurking behind the innocuous “Oakland Art Novelty Company” sign on a rather plain storefront. The occasional well-heeled patrons slipping into this apparent art supply company alone hint at its real identity as the finest place for a tipple in the suburbs, and possibly all of Detroit. Roast might come close at happy hour and Sugar House is a little too inconsistent. The only Midwestern venue coming anywhere close is The Violet Hour in Chicago, and these two share a soul along with a favourite colour.

A strict seating policy prohibits standees at the bar and maintains a private, intimate atmosphere inside a gorgeous space outfitted in velvet, polished wood, and dim lighting. Oakland takes reservations for up to an hour and offers callback, so cool your heels in adjacent Java Hutt or shimmy through The Rust Belt Market.

Once within, expect to be dazzled by the solid array of handcrafted drinks that hearken to the glory days of the Thirties and Forties. Some recipes are modern twists on old fashioned favourites, and others come straight from the post-Prohibition years. Try any of their daily specials, especially their punches, served up in a cut crystal bowl like 1960s hostesses did. My friend up-ended the bowl on her birthday because, they claimed, there wasn’t enough for a second cup. I’ve yet to try a bad drink.

I prefer anything with a citrus kick, strong flavours, or a spiced vibe. Do not expect to come away disappointed in the offerings, though I cannot name a favourite because they have a drink for every mood. Stay to the hard alcohols and don’t bother with the wine or the beer. Though good offerings, this is above all a place for cocktails. Who orders a hamburger at French Kitchen? Similarly the Oakland is for delicious booze that goes down strong and sings the night away like a French muse.

The sarsaparilla, also handmade, is purely delish. Staff are top notch professionals with an extraordinary talent, and they’re all mine the instant I get that first royalty cheque. Sorry, darlings.

The Oakland is a place where spending $20 on two drinks doesn’t feel like a ripoff, but worth the luxury and expense.