20 Questions: Todd Wagner of Honestly YUM

Todd Wagner / Honestly YUM / via Spotted SF

Allow me to introduce our next guest in the ongoing “20 Questions” series. Todd Wagner is a master mixologist and editor for HonestlyYUM. He has spent many years behind the bar in addition to operating his own beverage catering company. He was later approached by Erica Chan Coffman, executive editor of HonestlyWTF, to launch her new food, drink and entertaining site. Todd accepted the challenge, and in March of 2013 officially began shaking and shooting drinks as HonestlyYUM’s new Drink Editor. It was around this time I first met Todd and launched Spotted SF. We met for drinks to chat about our new endeavors and have been blogging and cocktailing friends since.

Todd is obsessed with all things food and drink, and even more so with his hometown, Berkeley. He currently lives in the Westbrae area and works from the home he shares with his beautiful wife and daughter + his sweet Aussie/Retriever mix, Grizzly. I’ve always admired his styling and photography, so recently I decided to turn the camera on him to see how it’s all done. And what an impressive bottle, bar tools and props collection he’s got! And because he has always lived in Berkeley (minus his four years at UC Santa Cruz), he was high on my “20 Questions” list to chat about living in and loving the Bay Area.

I hope you enjoy getting to know Todd + get some fun ideas on new things to discover in the city of Berkeley. I haven’t even heard of half these places, so I’m excited to venture out there again to check these out.

Todd Wagner / Honestly YUM / via Spotted SF

Todd Wagner / Honestly YUM / via Spotted SF

Todd Wagner / Honestly YUM / via Spotted SF

Todd Wagner / Honestly YUM / via Spotted SF

1. What is it about Berkeley that makes you call it home?

I love Berkeley’s topography – exploring the hills, between the streets on the many walking paths, lost in the fog.

2. Some top must-visit spots in Berkeley?

Cheeseboard for pizza and live music. Grizzly Peak Blvd for the view.

3. Favorite historic landmark in Berkeley and why?

UC Berkeley. Whether it’s the surrounding businesses, the hustle and bustle of students, or simply the physical footprint of the campus, it’s impossible to overlook the influence the university has on the city.

4. Favorite spots to hike or get a killer view?

Tilden Regional Park in the Berkeley hills.

5. Any hidden gems in the your area we should know about?

If you like good music and good vibes, check out Birdland Jazzista Social Club formerly of Berkeley, now in Oakland.

Todd Wagner / Honestly YUM / via Spotted SF

Todd Wagner / Honestly YUM / via Spotted SF

Todd Wagner / Honestly YUM / via Spotted SF

6. Favorite bars/watering holes?

Cesar in Berkeley’s gourmet ghetto, The Hotsy Totsy Club in Albany.

7. Favorite dive spots?

The Graduate for happy hour. The Mel-O-Dee Lounge in El Cerrito has some thoroughly entertaining karaoke. Top Dog (sausages) and King Pin (donuts) for greasy late night bites.

8. Favorite outdoor dining spots?

The back patio for brunch at La Note. Beer and live music on the patio at Jupiter. Also, the Westbrae Biergarten is great if you’re looking for somewhere that’s kid and dog friendly!

9. Favorite sweets spots?

iScream and Ici for ice cream, and Fournée Bakery for pastry.

10. Three foods you constantly crave in the Bay Area. What are they and where do you get them?

Pizza from either Cheeseboard or Zachary’s (preferably both). Burritos from Gordo Taqueria. Chaat from Vik’s.

Todd Wagner / Honestly YUM / via Spotted SF

Todd Wagner / Honestly YUM / via Spotted SF

11. Favorite spots to stock the bar (spirits, accessories)?

I find most of my barware/glassware at local estate sales. However, when in doubt, Kayoko and Yoko of Umami Mart always have me covered. For spirits there’s the lovely Alchemy Bottle Shop in Oakland, and Ledger’s Liquors and Northbrae Bottle Shop here in Berkeley.

12. Favorite spots to stock the fridge/pantry?

Monterey Market is an amazing local produce market in my neighborhood. Oh, and Berkeley Bowl of course!

13. Some good spots/cafes to work at outside of your office/home?

I’m a sucker for old cafes, and there are a ton of them in Berkeley: Berkeley Espresso, Caffe Med, Caffe Strada, The French Hotel. I could go on…

14. Local spots you can spend hours in and lose track of time?

Urban Ore (salvage) is always a time suck for me, not to mention where I’ve found some of my favorite blogging props/surfaces. I once spent almost 3 hours inside rummaging through old kitchen cabinet hardware.

15. Cool spots to catch a film or some live music?

The Greek Theater in Berkeley is definitely the best place to catch an outdoor concert. Also, Ashkenaz right here in my hood is a legendary world music venue.

Todd Wagner / Honestly YUM / via Spotted SF

16. Quirky or cool spots in your area that are worth knowing about?

There’s an awesome little spot just down the road in North Oakland called San Pablo Flea Market. Sure, it’s rough around the edges, but let’s just say that with a good eye and a little effort, there are plenty of gems to be found.

17. Last meal on earth in the Bay Area, what would you have and where do you get it?

Hands down, it would be any of the house-made pasta dishes from Corso in Berkeley.

18. If I gave you $100 right now to spend in the next 5 minutes in the Bay Area, where would you go and what would you buy?

Dinner and drinks with my wife at Comal for a quick break from our (teething) one-year-old.

19. Where do you go for inspiration?

Indian Rock Park for a view of the bay, and if I just need a quiet moment to think. The downtown Berkeley farmer’s market for recipe inspiration.

20. What are some local blogs in your daily feed?

Snixy Kitchen and The Bojon Gourmet for food, and Berkeleyside for all things Berkeley. Oh, and I’m slightly obsessed with Cyn Eats at the moment (especially her Snapchat).

Todd Wagner / Honestly YUM / via Spotted SF

Todd Wagner / Honestly YUM / via Spotted SF

To get the recipe and see Todd’s final shots of this delicious banana daiquiri (+ plenty other YUM features), click here.

* All images by me, Leslie.