Butterjoint, the bar adjacent to North Oakland's Legume, can be anything a diner wants it to be.
Cocktails and snacks with friends? Grab a seat at the bar. The drink menu lists about a dozen draft beers, classic and house cocktails, about 20 wines by the glass and six relatively inexpensive ($4 to $10) small plates. Up for a full meal? Settle into a booth in the back of the bar. The compact menu, including pierogies ($8 to $12), burgers ($12 to $14) and a "one bowl supper" ($10), allows for dozens of combinations.
I met two friends for the former option after work one day last week. Naturally, we began with drinks. I ordered a cocktail called the "Full Stop" -- Boyd & Blair vodka, green Chartreuse, St. Germain, lemon and thyme ($11). One friend ordered an Aviation, a classic gin-based cocktail with creme de violette. The other ordered a glass of Finca Torremilanos Monte Castrillo Rosado, a Tempranillo rose wine ($10).
The three bright drinks together were picturesque and summery -- my cocktail was a muted chartreuse, the Aviation a lovely lilac, the rose a bright mauve.
We discussed splitting a burger, which one of my friends said was one of the best hamburgers she's ever had, but opted for lighter fare. We split three small plates.
The Gemini chi ($4) -- a take on kimchi, so named because it contained vegetables harvested in late spring, including turnips, bok choy and radishes -- was wonderful, although the vinegary veggies weren't the most sensible pairing for cocktails. The crisp outside creamy inside risotto balls ($5) and crostini ($5) with a smear of goat cheese and pepper jelly, though, were the perfect snack to accompany happy hour drinks.
We ordered pierogies to go with our second round of drinks -- I switched to the rose and one of my friends ordered a Syrah. The pierogies ($8) tasted like no pierogi this Pittsburgh native has ever tasted, and that's OK. The insides contained tufts of farmers cheese, the outside slightly crisp. We added sauteed greens to the dumplings, and they were good and complemented the pierogies well, but $4 is a little steep for a handful of chard.
Diverse dining options aside, Butterjoint is just a nice place to sit down and have a drink. It's a little bit cozier than Legume -- dark wood bar, low lights, booths in back, two-tops by the windows -- and the staff is friendly and knowledgeable.
If you live within walking distance, Butterjoint should be your neighborhood haunt for happy hours and late-night drinks and food. If you don't, it should still be in a regular rotation of places to meet up for anything from a quick bite to eat to a leisurely dinner. Oh, and of course, cocktails.
Butterjoint is at 214 N. Craig St., North Oakland; 412-621-2700 and thebutterjoint.com; open from 4:30 p.m. to midnight, Monday through Saturday.
Annie Siebert: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1613. Twitter: @AnnieSiebert.