At The Way Back’s Tennyson Street bar and restaurant, fans will be able to recognize their old cult favorite while passers by will stumble upon an easy new neighborhood hangout. After six months closed for a move and remodeling, The Way Back is back in Berkeley, but it’s not the same as when it started in 2016 on 38th Street.
To start, the new space at 3963 Tennyson is the former home of two Irish pubs — Paddy the Yank and Patrick Carroll’s. From those past lives, The Way Back’s new front room and bar area retain an imposing wood presence along with the distinct feel of some rowdier late nights. Beyond that, a lounge area transitions the spaces, and the back room has been completely transformed into a moody and whimsical restaurant that’s oh so Way Back.
“It should hopefully take you out of your everyday,” said co-owner Kade Gianinetti, adding, “but we just want to be a neighborhood bar.” From design to drinks to food menus, The Way Back walks the line on this mantra, relying on equal parts shock and comfort for its 2.0 business model.
Example: Customers can order chef Jon Lavelle’s bison heart carpaccio with a sexy $11 long drink created by co-owner and cocktail master Chad Michael George. Or they can opt for fried chicken and a $3 Coors Banquet on special during happy hour. They can sit at the bar to eat the former or make a reservation in the dining room to enjoy the latter. Couches with TVs and toddler-height tables could offer a place for families to relax, or they could just as easily seat a group of friends and game watchers.
A neon “Wild Things” sign hangs before a black curtain in the bar’s front entrance. It’s a reference to the Wendell Berry poem “The Peace of Wild Things” and another nod to the theme of escape in the middle of a bustling city neighborhood. With owners Gianinetti, George, and Jared Schwartz busy this year on projects from Wayward to American Grind and multiple pop-ups, it makes sense that they would find small ways to stay subversive while also quickly growing. Fans of the original Way Back can head straight back to the new dining room, order all the cocktails, and make their way through Lavelle’s challenging food menu. But those who never knew better can always start with a beer at the bar before easing into heart of bison.
Status: The Way Back opens at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, February 27, and it will open for happy hour and dinner Tuesday through Saturday. Find it now at 3963 Tennyson Street, and find more information on the website.