High 5ive’s outdoor area has swiftly become a nightlife destination, but now it’s a notable brunch stop, too. Credit: High 5ive

High 5ive rooftop bar
Inside the Kissel (2455 Broadway), bar entrance is at  437 25th St.
Sunday brunch: 10 a.m.-2 p.m.

High 5ive, the leet-monikered bar atop Oakland’s Kissel hotel, has made a name for itself as a Instagrammable drinking destination. Now it’s making a play for daytime patrons, too, as the bar has just launched a Sunday brunch service for folks who prefer to pair their eggs with a view.

The brunch is just the latest in new developments at 2455 Broadway. Once the site of the Pacific Kissel Kar-Dean Lippi Showroom, a 1910s Beaux-Arts building designed by noted architect Frederick H. Meyer, we now have the Kissel, a six-story Hyatt-owned luxury hotel (168 rooms) and residence (74 apartments) that opened in February. 

High 5ive opened in the spring, with fire pits, sweeping views of the city and a late-night, DJ-and-drinks-driven vibe that brought a bit of LA/Miami rooftop bar culture to the foggy Bay Area (that’s where those fire pits come in). Open late into the night, it’s become a dressed-up cocktail destination, with a slick interior and a well-appointed outdoor space

A casual meal like brunch is a big departure for the venue, which until now has been way more of an after-sunset scene. Softly launched this past weekend, the menu (you can see it in full below) includes distinctly non-nightclub offerings like overnight oats with berries and nuts, or shrimp and grits with house sausage and chimichurri. But, of course, it is a bar, so that means a daytime-specific cocktail menu of drinks like the Kissel (house-made berry service and gin) or the pink senorita (pink lemonade, triple sec and tequila). 

A gooey croque monsieur from High 5ive’s new Sunday brunch menu. Credit: High 5ive

High 5ive is named after the gesture we all either embrace or dread, depending on our tolerance for palm slapping. According to press materials from the bar, the moniker is a nod to Bay Area history: As legend has it, the first-ever high five went down in 1977 during a Dodgers/Astros game, when Dodgers outfielder Dusty Baker hit a home run. As he crossed home, teammate Glenn Burke raised his hands in triumph, and Baker spontaneously slapped them. And so, an iconic gesture was born. (ESPN pulled together a fun documentary short on the high five’s history you can watch online.)

What folks watching that 1977 game didn’t realize was that Burke, a one-time Berkeley High School attendee and Oakland native, was gay. According to his autobiography, which is still available via ebook, the Dodgers traded Burke to the Oakland A’s after Burke and the son of team owner Tommy Lasorda struck a close relationship. 

According to ESPN, things got worse for Burke, a star for the Dodgers, after he was sent back to the Bay. Notoriously homophobic A’s manager Billy Martin frequently used an infamous gay slur in Burke’s direction and never played the former star, eventually demoting him to Triple A play. According to a 2020 report from NBC Sports, “Burke was beloved by his Dodgers teammates, but Los Angeles’ front office allegedly traded the once-prized prospect to the A’s because he was gay. The Oakland native was treated no better by his hometown team, and unable to truly be himself.”

Burke retired at age 27, and came out after that, becoming a fixture in San Francisco’s Castro district as the first-ever openly gay major league baseball player. After a struggle with drugs and a stint in San Quentin on a theft conviction, Burke died in 1995, two years after testing positive for HIV.

I include all that back story, not because it will change how the venue’s crusted Baileys French toast might taste, or how swoon-worthy their elderflower mimosa is, because it makes the bar’s name a little more interesting than it might be on the surface. There’s a challenging-to-reckon-with history just adjacent to the high five as a gesture, something that makes the symbol of celebration a little more complicated than it seems. Seated on the Kissel’s Uptown rooftop with a smoked turkey Benedict, you’re looking out at an area with a complicated history of its own. That’s the kind of duality that might not play as conversation during a wild night drinking at the four-month-old bar, but it sure makes for a stimulating brunch discussion.