As a daily wine drinker, I don’t often foray into the world of rum. But when I see a list that runs several pages, and encompasses imports from Antigua to Guyana, and on to India, I don’t need much convincing. Longitude has opened in downtown Oakland to throngs of thirsty urbanites, longing for a tropical escape and a cool, refreshing beverage to transition from day to evening. They’ve found the ideal spot.
When Susanne Long, who cut her chops at the ever-popular Forbidden Island, learned that Disco Volante was shuttering, she made her move and set up shop. While the food menu is up a notch from places like Trader Vic’s, to be sure, the focus here is on the rums, and the delicious cocktails, each with a vivid and accurate description on the menu. Servers know the concoctions inside and out, and are a great resource for any questions you might have.
We started our evening with two classics: a Mai Tai and a Black Orchid, the former made from (Trader) Vic Bergeron’s 1944 recipe, which most agree is the hands-down best.
The Black Orchid is a more recent masterpiece, Long’s own mix of Angostura 7, tart citrus, and house-flambéed rum cordial, an idea that came to her when she was trying to give the drink a caramelized finish.
Of course, we needed to lay down a base, and the crab rangoons hit the spot. These are made with a fair amount of blue crab, enough to emerge through the melted cream cheese.
Most versions of coconut shrimp are all breading and little coconut, but this one was coconut- laden, the shredded meat fresh and crunchy.
Time for another cocktail. We wanted to try the biggest possible variety, so we ordered one light drink and one quite strong: The Cape Verde Collins, the only rum-less drink we ordered, has Pür Spirits elderflower liqueur, gin, Angostura and Peychaud’s bitters, and a sprig of rosemary, poured over crushed ice in a parfait glass. This is probably the lightest drink on the list, perfect for anyone who’s needing to keep her wits about her.
The Queen’s Barrel is at the other end of the alcohol spectrum. Served in a big brandy snifter, this whopper has three rums, sparkling citrus, and passion fruit.
I suggested we get two more straws and invite friends, but the more I sipped, the more I fell in love with the sweet passion fruit on top of all that high-octane power. Still, we left some behind.
Our favorite two pupus were the salt-cod fritters, Trinidad-style, with cilantro and red pepper aioli, and m’bazzi pea beans, navy beans stewed in coconut milk and served as a finger food in romaine leaves, a Kenyan dish.
You can dine under a palapa or at the bar, but anywhere you go you’ll hear birdsong, crickets chirping, or frogs croaking, thanks to a 22-speaker ambient soundscape that plays recordings of wildlife without repeating in each zone.
If you’re seated downstairs, by all means make a trek upstairs to see Long’s mother’s original art, line drawings of animals—a zebra, tiger, giraffe, and many more—Mary Long’s gift to her daughter’s new place, which has already had an auspicious beginning.
347 14th St.
Oakland, CA 94612
Hours: Sunday and Tuesday-Thursday, 4pm-midnight; 10:30; Friday-Saturday, 4pm-1:30am; closed Mondays
Price Range: $$
Facebook: Longitude Oakland