When chef and owner Andres Giraldo Florez first opened his natural wine bar, Imbibe 75 Place to Watch, Slug Bar, in downtown Oakland, California, he knew he wanted a different approach. Trying to run the food program there as well as at his popular restaurant Snail Bar wasn’t good for his mental health. “I worked in Michelin-star restaurants my whole life. And I didn’t necessarily want to continue just doing fine-dining food,” he says. “I wanted something that was easier.” The more casual ambiance of Slug gave him that reprieve, allowing him to hire monthly pop-ups to manage the food and cultivating a space that’s all about good vibes.
Slug Bar, which is only open four days a week, is here for a good time. A disco ball dangles from the ceiling while live DJs spin on Friday and Saturday nights, the volume turned way up. And when the patrons aren’t sipping wine, they’re dancing. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, the staff plays a mix of hip-hop, reggae, dub, and funk. But mostly it’s a free for all. “I’ve come in there to Black Sabbath. It’s kind of crazy,” Florez says, adding that “you’re not gonna walk in to Miles Davis’ first record.”
“We’re in Oakland, so we tend to play things that have a good rhythm, like Tribe Called Quest, MF Doom, Biggie.”
Florez’s eclectic dance mix originated during the pandemic lockdown. At first, he spent his time listening to music and creating playlists while driving around town delivering wine. Then he realized he wanted to create a specific vibe for the restaurant versus hitting “random.”
Yet despite their decidedly different atmospheres, Slug and Snail Bar share the same playlist. They mostly stick to high-energy songs, like “Int’l Players Anthem” by UGK and Outkast, “Champagne Shots” by Sainté, and “Fruit Salad” by Tierra Whack. But where patrons will “just vibe” to the music at Snail, “at Slug, people will be dancing to it for sure,” Florez says.
So which wine does Florez recommend enjoying while listening to the Slug playlist at home? “Some François Saint-lô Chenin. Because it’s electric, oxidated, like lemonade,” he says. “The guy is very anti-establishment. He’s a hippie who just does things his way. And he’s a very fun dude.”