Dive Bar Jukebox with Blake Cole
"Gotta have some faith in the sound."
Welcome back to Dive Bar Jukebox, where every Friday bartenders, writers, chefs, musicians, and a cast of cool characters answer the question: If we were hanging out together at a bar and I put ten credits on the jukebox, what songs would you punch in and why? The answers reveal thoughts on their favorite dive bars along with a hand-picked, annotated playlist for your weekend listening pleasure.
Please welcome today’s special guest…
A Bay Area-native who has spent more than 15 years in the restaurant industry, Blake Cole is the owner of the Oakland bar Friends and Family. Three years in the making, Friends and Family opened in the spring of 2020 in Oakland’s Uptown neighborhood and has been named one of the Top 50 Bars in North America and listed as semi-finalist for the James Beard Award for Outstanding Bar Program.
Cole helped open and manage several bars and restaurants in Oakland and San Francisco (including the recently-shuttered Hopscotch) and with Friends and Family she created a woman-owned and -operated bar that serves as “a love letter to the beverage industry,” where everyone is treated like a restaurant insider. On the menu you’ll discover cocktails like the Sophia Loren (Aperol, bourbon, lemon, rhubarb bitters), the San Michele … My Belle (melon-infused gin, Cocchi Americano, dry vermouth, grapefruit), and the Papa Bear (rye, sweet vermouth, B&B, bitters, cherries), along with snacks like umami popcorn, duck tacos, and a coffee-and-amaro-kissed chocolate pudding.
True to its name, Friends and Family is a welcoming, queer-centric space that hosts pop-ups, art openings, community events, and even a popular Queer Speed Dating series. Though Cole, as she told Imbibe, doesn’t label Friends and Family a queer bar. “I think it’s funny because we always need things to fit into a box for us to make sense of it,” she says. “And I think this whole idea is to get rid of the box.”
As she shared with Eater, “A major point of motivation for me is to create a very safe space for women, for femmes, for queer folks, to work in and to visit.”
Read on for the skinny on Cole’s favorite dive bars and her thoughts on what makes a dive bar a true dive bar, along with a playlist of personal picks, including George Michael, Tina Turner, and Shania Twain, that you’ll be sure to keep in heavy rotation sliding into the Fourth of July Holiday.
Talking Dives with Blake Cole
What is your favorite dive bar and why do you love it?
Blake: I don't think I can just pick one, so i'm choosing two stand-outs. Sorry, not sorry.
First up is Buddha Lounge in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Small, perfectly adorned with classic dive bar accoutrement and smells. The bartender will often give credits for the jukebox and instantly the place becomes your own living room. Representing for the East Coast, we’ve got the Cubbyhole, an iconic queer bar in the West Village, where you simply couldn’t be happier to be packed in like sardines with music blasting and on occasion the bartenders handing out slices of free pizza.
What makes a dive bar a dive bar?