Not one to be easily outdone by its angelic neighbor to the south, the Bay Area will soon be home to its own signature water bar named The Water(ing) Hole. Unlike Ray’s and Star Bar in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, however, this North Berkeley-based spot will focus specifically on local water.
Opening later this month, The Water(ing) Hole is a natural option in the growing world of gourmet water menus. Ray’s and Star Bar was the first restaurant in the U.S. to offer such a menu; but the trend has been going strong in Europe, where bottled water has always been de rigueur. Not surprisingly, this local version is eco-focused.
“Those idiots down in L.A.—they have the wrong idea. Who cares if the bottle of water has notes of Icelandic icebergs or German beer dregs? All I hear when I hear ‘European water’ is fossil fuels, child labor, and the destruction of remote natural springs,” explains Violet Skye, Berkeley’s first water sommelier and the owner of The Water(ing) Hole.
Indeed at Skye’s bar, there will be no bottles in sight. Each selection on the 20-item water menu will come from a different location in Bay Area, and each water will be hand-harvested. “The core of our menu will feature several samples from the actual S.F. Bay with varying levels of salinity and mineral deposits depending on the proximity to natural landmarks like the Pacific Ocean or the Port of Oakland. In addition, we’ll have glasses from the San Pablo Bay, Grizzly Bay, and of course the Sacramento River. We’re literally offering a taste of the Bay,” said Skye.
But she’s not limiting the selection to large, moving bodies of water. “Once we get up and going, I’d like to expand the menu to include weekly specials from smaller lakes and ponds. I live right near Tilden Park, so of course I’d love to show off the wonderful complexity of water in the swimming area of Lake Anza. Children’s feet add a ton of earthiness that is missing from all of those ‘gourmet’ bottles that they’re shilling at Ray’s and Star Bar.”
The one thing in common with the LA spot? “We will of course offer several different water tasting menus, each at a different price point,” said Skye with a sly grin. She plans on pricing these menus from $20 all the way up to $100, for “the really rare stuff, like the water in Tomales Bay right after a big rainstorm. It’s really funky and awesome stuff.”
Neighbors are already clamoring for the bar to open. “I’ve been spending way too much time filtering my own koi pond’s water. It’s about time someone stepped up and offered this awesome service to all of us who care so deeply about the water we consume,” said North Berkeley resident Carl Williams as he swallowed the dregs of his Blue Bottle cappuccino.
And the staff at near-by restaurants, like Cafe Gratitude, The Cheeseboard, and even Chez Panisse are awaiting The Water(ing) Hole’s opening with glee. “I can’t wait to leave my shift slinging artisanal pizzas and be able to clear my head with a strong glass of the Oakland port,” said an anonymous co-op member from The Cheeseboard. “I mean, the port has had such significance since Occupy, and I want to honor that by drinking its water,” she added.
It is yet to be seen if Skye will fully filter and clean the painstakingly collected waters. “I’d like to serve the waters 100% naturally. That’d be ideal.” Skye sighed. “But my vision for a true water experience will probably be stymied by the man. Really real experiences always are.”