According to at least one source, the word “townie” commonly refers to residents of a college town who are not affiliated with the university. However, UC Berkeley students and others are welcome at this University Avenue watering hole of the same name, as owner Nima Shokat strives to provide a relaxed environment where folks of every stripe can let their hair down and enjoy small-plate, New American cuisine with their cocktails.
Head bartender Diana Krell holds a master's degree in museum studies, but has townie roots of her own, originally hailing from Davis.
How would you describe Townie's clientele and atmosphere? It's really nice because we're centrally located. We're near a lot of hotels, so we get a lot of people from out of town who are here for work. It's a very eclectic blend of students, Berkeley natives and older people who live in the neighborhood. The idea is to create a hometown space where everybody feels comfortable. It's just as important to provide a good environment as it is to make a good cocktail.
One of your signature drinks that you tend to recommend is the Ginger Thistle, which has less alcohol than a lot of cocktails. What's the thinking behind that? It's nice to have options for people who want to be able to have a drink and then go home and have dinner. You could have three Ginger Thistles and not be falling off your seat.
You advocate cocktails having no more than five ingredients. Why is that? Plenty of people in the craft cocktail movement make great drinks with a lot more ingredients — and I'm totally supportive of that — but I feel it's important to keep things accessible and easy to make and explain. For me, drinks should be fun and not too complicated.
How did you get your start in the business? My first bar job was at an Oakland bar called The Lucky Lounge, which isn't around anymore. I started as a bar-back, which is a little unusual for a woman. It's more typical for a woman to have a hostess job and then transition to bartending. I also learned a lot from Jessica Maria, who owns The Hotsy Totsy Club in Albany, and Kelli Rivers, who's president of the local chapter of Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails.
How do you spend your time when you're not pouring drinks? I work as a consultant, helping artists and collectors catalog and preserve their art collections.
Wow, what does that entail? I'm not a conservator, but I help people with preservation tactics. I'm also a digital archivist, building databases to ensure that collections are properly documented.
Do you have any other interesting pursuits? I write and take pictures. I'm sort of embedded in the art world. I write short stories and essays, and I'm working on launching a blog about issues in the art world.
Address: 1799 University Ave., Berkeley, CA 94703 Contact: (510) 356-4903, www.townie-bar.com