Oakland is a hot topic around San Francisco these days—our most pioneering friends moved there ages ago, and now the city’s restaurants and various businesses are following, in search of affordability, creativity, and the cultural zeitgeist captured by The Town.
Of course, such exodus to Oakland has brought about rising prices there as well, which means that city too is starting to leak its talent as industrious artists, makers, and entrepreneurs venture further afield in search of more accessible places to set up shop and residence. Today, Oakland’s cool factor has spread well beyond its borders, past Berkeley even, into parts of the East Bay once largely foreign to San Franciscans, who may now be surprised to find how much the likes of Livermore, Richmond, Lafayette, and Alameda have to offer.
But don’t just take our word for it. Let these East Bay towns show you for themselves in our various guides below, where you can also dig deeper into Oakland’s many buzzy neighborhoods. This is by no means the completest, most end-all-be-all guide to the East Bay, but rather a still-exhaustive look at some of the East Bay’s best offerings, written largely by East Bay denizens.
Did we leave out your favorite spot/hood/town? Tell us in the comments on Facebook!
The Perfect Day in Richmond: Hidden Wineries, Authentic Eats + Miles of Waterfront
Although it may get less shine from the national press than its Bayside neighbors Berkeley and Oakland, Richmond has the secret advantage of being the East Bay’s best hidden gem, with 32 miles of waterfront (more than any other city in the Bay Area), 13-plus art centers and museums, easy access to nature, and that under-the-radar, underdog feel that makes it reminiscent of Oakland 20 years ago.
And while Richmond locals may tell you they don’t want their city discovered—or gentrified—and some seedier areas are best explored during the day, the city is making strides in revitalizing its downtown by transforming Main Street into a gathering place—with a Wednesday farmers market, a community-run urban farm, and a growing chess scene. And with the San Francisco Ferry scheduled to directly connect Richmond with the city as of January 2019, it’ll be even easier to access this lesser-explored slice of Contra Costa County. —Reporting by Kristen Haney
Richmond has something for every adventurer—even the four-legged ones. For an easy stroll, head to the 23-acre Point Isabel Regional Shoreline (2701 Isabel St.), which offers a dog park and sweeping views of the Golden Gate and Bay bridges. // Miller Knox Regional Shoreline (900 Dornan Dr.) has 300 acres where dogs (often allowed off leash) particularly love Keller Beach, near the tunnel entrance. // There’s also plenty to discover throughout the 2,315-acre Point Pinole Regional Shoreline (5551 Giant Hwy.), which connects Richmond to Pinole and San Pablo and affords opportunities to spot local wildlife and hear the hooting of resident owls. // One of the city’s parks also serves as one of its top tourist destinations, and Rosie the Riveter Memorial/WWII Home Front National Historic Park (1414 Harbor Way S. #3000) includes a visitor center where thousands of people converge every August dressed like Rosie for the Home Front Festival and Rosie Rally. If you’re visiting at other times of the year, tour the education center with a ranger, stroll the memorial park, and board the SS Red Oak Victory Ship. On most Fridays, you can meet real Home Front workers from WWII.
Right by the USS Red Oak Victory, you’ll find Riggers Loft (1325 Canal Blvd.), a working winery and cidery that also serves as a tasting room with killer bay views, Oyster Sundays every third week of the month, and open mic trivia nights. If beer is your beverage of choice, you’ve got a trio of options in Richmond. // Named for Richmond’s lighthouse, East Brother Beer Co. (1001 Canal Blvd.) is one of area’s most entertaining gathering spaces, with pool, bocce, pinball machines, a ping pong table, board and arcade games in addition to traditional-style beers and the odd limited release in a 12,000-square-foot warehouse and brewing space. // Downtown’s Benoit Casper (1201 Pennsylvania Ave.), the city’s first brewery, pours largely European-inspired, unfiltered pints, which you can now sample in flights. // The homey, welcoming feel you get from sibling-run Armistice Brewing Company (845 Marina Bay Pkwy. #1) extends beyond the reclaimed wood barn door, into the tiny taproom, and outside to the fairy light–lit beer garden where you can sip genre-spanning beers from the ever-changing tap list by the fire pit. If you’re hungry, grab a bite from the daily-changing food trucks.
A handful of Point Richmond mainstays combine dining with weekly events, so plan a visit to coincide with live music. Brezo (135 Park Pl.) may look like your traditional sit-down restaurant from the outside, but the party gets started in the bar, where you can find live harp music on Saturdays in the fall. Highlights from the Latin American–inflected menu include the char-grilled octopus and 14-ounce rib-eye steak. // Around the corner at the rugby-themed Up and Under Pub and Grill (2 W. Richmond Ave.), you’ll not only find sandwiches and burgers named for rugby positions and plays, but Tuesday night trivia and Saturday karaoke. // At Hotel Mac Restaurant (50 Washington Ave.), vintage decor combines with old-school comfort food such as prime rib and chicken cordon bleu to create a date-night-worthy destination. The best deals are to be had during weekday happy hour (3-6pm), but it’s worth timing a visit to coincide with nightly live music. // To get truly off the beaten path, score a reservation at Anaviv’s Table (600 Hoffman Blvd.), a 10-seat communal supper club. The dining experience begins with a chef meet-and-greet over cocktails followed by a multi-course, farm-to-table meal with California wine pairings.
But there’s still so much more to Point Richmond, which is also known to design lovers and collectors for its excellent antiques shopping; to arts and music lovers for its cool alternative scene; and to roller derby fans who can’t get enough of the badass Richmond Wrecking Belles.
Plan your visit—starting with great third-wave coffee and culminating in a stay at the historic East Brother Light Station Bed & Breakfast—with our complete guide to A Perfect Day in Richmond.
A Perfect Day in Livermore: All the Country, Wine, and Cocktail Bars
Hidden on the outskirts of the East Bay and long known as cowboy country with killer wine (and not much else), Livermore has ripened into a day-trip destination worthy of a weekend jaunt.
Drive out for the city’s signature outdoor adventures and farm-fresh eats—and yes, the wine—but stay for Livermore’s hidden charms, including third-wave coffee, a burgeoning live-music scene, and a nightlife pop-up concept that you’d expect from the city…but never the suburbs. —Reporting by Kristen Haney
Vino Around the Valley
It wouldn’t be a visit to Livermore without wine tasting, and you’ll find it easy to tailor your sipping experience to your preferences—but you can’t miss the two biggies. For petit sirah, you can’t beat Livermore stalwart Concannon Vineyard (4590 Tesla Rd.), credited with first bottling this grape in the 1960s, although the winery’s influence on cabernet looms just as large—80 percent of all California cabernet sauvignon can be traced back to Concannon clones imported from Bordeaux in 1883. The winery also hosts frequent “somminar” wine education events, if you’re into learning more than just history. // Wente Vineyards (5565 Tesla Rd.) serves as a one-stop shop for an ideal outing in Livermore wine country. The grown-onsite vegetables and wine-raised cows feature heavily into The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards, best experienced as part of the three-course wine and dinner experience at The Vineyard Table. In terms of wine tasting, sip within estate walls; embark on a behind-the-scenes walking and driving tour of the vineyards for an insider’s look at harvest; or learn the art of wine pairing, identifying aromas, or blending your own wines at Wente’s Winemakers Studio. The winery’s summer concert series draws some of music’s biggest names year after year—grab a bottle of Riva Ranch Chardonnay and prepare to rock out.
Other can’t misses include Eckert Estate Winery (5963 Graham St., Ste. D), which also houses a distillery that turns out killer small-batch spirits; Nottingham Cellars (2245 S. Vasco Rd.), which produces wines with three distinct focuses under three distinct labels, all of which you can sample at the tasting room; Steven Kent Winery (5443 Tesla Rd.), where Livermore-sourced cabs reign supreme; and Murrieta’s Well (3005 Mines Rd.), a limited-production winery with scenic grounds and reservations-only tastings. // For a quaint way to experience the valley’s breadth, book a guided tour on the open-air Livermore Wine Trolley, which runs rain or shine. // For a more active approach, both McGrail Vineyards (5600 Greenville Rd., $30) and Retzlaff Vineyards (1356 S. Livermore Ave., $30) offer frequent yoga and wine-tasting events.
It’s sometimes hard to make a splash when there are Livermore dining stalwarts like the Restaurant at Wente and Posada to contend with, but Range Life (2160 Railroad Ave.) has been garnering buzz since it opened in April, bringing a combination of airy interior design, a seasonally and locally focused menu, and craft mixology to downtown. The oft-evolving menu—changed daily and uploaded to the restaurant’s website—means you’ll never have to order the same thing twice (sometimes even if you want to), with choices ranging from grass-fed sirloin steak with roasted mushrooms, to burrata and heirloom tomato salad, to a seasonal cobbler topped with fresh ice cream for dessert. The wine list veers international, but a few local wines are available by the bottle or glass, and the cocktail selection shares the same emphasis on fresh ingredients, with spices and fruit featuring heavily.
If you’re looking for a nightcap in Livermore, there’s only one place to go: The Last Word (2470 First St.). When The Last Word opened in 2014 slinging speakeasy-style cocktails (ask for a lemon drop at your own risk), no one expected a bar in sleepy Livermore to garner national attention. Now, owners Rick and Theresa Dobbs are bucking expectations yet again by transforming their popular downtown hang into a new bar every six months, kicking off with the Cuban-inspired Revolucion at the Last Word this past August. Theresa transformed the interior and menu to give the gastropub a California-meets-Cuba feel, and Rick tackled the drinks menu, bringing a rum focus to the carefully crafted creations. The transportive atmosphere and libations go down especially smooth knowing it’s one of the few places you can grab a cocktail worth drinking until midnight on weekdays, and till 1am on Friday and Saturday.
In addition to Wente’s concerts, Livermore has a growing music and arts scene that makes it easy to stumble across live music and entertainment most days of the week. Shadow Puppet Brewing Company (4771 Arroyo Vista, Ste. B) frequently pairs live music with beer releases, plus hosts stand-up and magic show events. // Over in Blacksmith Square, grab a pint from Tap 25 (25 S. Livermore Ave.) or a glass of wine and a small plate from Swirl on the Square (21 S. Livermore Ave.) and listen to live music Fridays through Sundays. // For something more high brow, hit Bankhead Theater (2400 First St.), home to performances from local groups such as the Livermore Valley Opera and Valley Dance Theatre. Lest opera and dance aren’t your thing, Bankhead also serves as the Tri-Valley stop for touring musical heavyweights ranging from OK Go to Lisa Loeb, so keep an eye on the calendar.
Next time you’re headed toward East Bay wine country, take our guide to A Perfect Day in Livermore—it’s chockfull of tips for great hikes, landmarks, downtown shopping, where to grab breakfast and coffee, and more.
Downtown Berkeley: Authentic Eats + Theater Row
Right off the Downtown Berkeley BART stop is quirky Berkeley’s hub for people watching, eats and drinks, and award-winning theater.
Whether you BART it or park it, use Shattuck Avenue as the main vein to guide you in a day well spent in downtown. —Reporting by Lauren Bonney
Arts + Culture
Arguably what makes Downtown Berkeley most special—aside from that excellent university—is the arts and culture scene, where an incredible density of performance venues—fondly dubbed Theater Row—are home to a variety of stage productions. Catch a show at the Tony Award–winning Berkeley Repertory Theatre (2025 Addison St), which promises a drama-packed 50th anniversary 2018-2019 season with the one-woman show Pike Street, musical Paradise Square, Tony award-winner Mary Zimmerman in Metamorphoses, and more. // Or for a more intimate experience, buy a ticket to any of Aurora Theatre Company’s (2081 Addison St) performances—for the 2018-2019 season, look for Everything is Illuminated, based off the best-selling book, and theater classic comedy The Importance of Being Earnest. // In association with UC Berkeley campus—conveniently located off of Oxford Street—the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, aka BAMPFA (2155 Center St), is an architecturally fantastic space displaying a constant stream of innovative and interesting new collections, exhibitions, and film retrospectives. // The UC Theatre’s Taube Family Music Hall (2036 University Ave) rounds out the notable venues in downtown, highlighting everything from concerts to open mics to literary talks. // For the more literary inclined, and for those looking for the elusive treasure that is the bookstore, Pegasus Books (2349 Shattuck Ave) and Half Price Books (2036 Shattuck Ave) are perfect spots to while away the afternoon in between the stacks. //
For a laid-back outing with live music, Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse (2020 Addison St) will show you a foot-tapping good time along with a matching cup of joe.
Grab a Bite
Despite its world-class arts and educational programming, Downtown Berkeley is college central. You know what that means? The food offering centers around pizza. And beer. And ice cream. But trust us, it’s all good.
For where to eat and drink while you’re in the neighborhood, click over to our Modern Guide to Downtown Berkeley.
Alameda: A Small Island on the Path to Revitalization
Only accessible by water, tube or bridge, the island of Alameda has managed to keep a quiet existence. In the 20 years since the shuttering of the defining Alameda Naval Air Station, the area has retained its small-town mystique while hosting a community of longtime denizens and young families, all of whom have carefully watched from across the water as surrounding locales boomed.
But now, Alameda’s time warp elements—think vintage arcades and a World War II–era aircraft carrier museum—are being paired with more modern spots: a number of art galleries, craft breweries, and waterfront cafes dreamed up by islanders looking to help Alameda grow without selling the soul of the city.
The area is also becoming a food-and-drink destination thanks to East End Park Street restaurants serving authentic fare from as far away as Lithuania and Ethiopia, plus the solidified reputation of the West End’s Spirits Alley, a popular stretch of U.S. Navy hangars turned urban tasting rooms.
And with the long-awaited $500 million redevelopment project underway at the Navy base site, now known as Alameda Point (plus hotshot companies such as Google’s Makani Power having settled in town), Alameda is continuing on its inevitable path to revitalization. —Reporting by Jenna Valdespino
Alameda’s a drinking town.
If you’re interested in craft beers and spirits, you likely already know that the old Navy base is still a sailor’s delight with a plethora of drinking options from which to choose.
As its name suggests, Hangar 1 Vodka (2505 Monarch St) pays homage to the city’s history with aviation-themed design. The distillery has grabbed headlines recently with its limited-edition Fog Point vodka made with Karl the Fog himself, but its recently revamped tasting room and visitors’ center is the real draw. // “Come for the beer, stay for the view” is the slogan at Faction Brewing (2501 Monarch St.), a repurposed airplane hangar with 20-plus original brews and a spacious front patio where crowds often spill out for the stellar vista of San Francisco’s skyline. // Sidle up to the sleek bar at The Rake at Admiral Maltings (651A W. Tower Ave.), settle into a booth, or hit the patio with one of 20-plus local beers on tap, all created with Admiral Malting’s own California-grown malt, which you can see being made through windows that overlook the malting floor. // Father-daughter duo Kent and Shauna Rosenblum operate Rock Wall Wine Company (2301 Monarch St) in a converted hangar with Shauna as head winemaker. Stop in for samples in the tasting room or a glass on the back deck where views stretch across the Bay to SF. // Long before Monarch Street was christened Spirits Alley, St. George Spirits stood alone as the sole liquor producer at Alameda Point—the distillery has been crafting whiskey, gin, brandy, and the like in Alameda since 2004. Tour the sprawling industrial space, or book time at the tasting room. // 2601 Monarch St. (Alameda), stgeorgespirits.com
But that’s only scratching the surface on Alameda’s boozy offerings. For more bars and breweries—as well as our definitive guide to where to eat and hang out on the East Bay island—click over to our complete Modern Guide to Alameda.
Oakland’s Piedmont Avenue: Movies, Hot Tubs, Ghosts + Grub
Piedmont Avenue, with its vibrant mix of locally owned boutiques and famous ice cream shops, offers plenty of opportunities for a day of fun.
Whether it’s strolling through a graveyard, catching a flick at Oakland’s oldest theater, or sipping scorpions under the watchful eye of an animatronic hula dancer, the stretch of street between Pleasant Valley Avenue and MacArthur Boulevard offers a healthy mix of places to chow down, cut loose, and spend some cash. —Reporting by Kristen Haney
Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted—the architect behind New York City’s Central Park and the Capitol Grounds in Washington DC— the expansive 223-acre Mountain View Cemetery (5000 Piedmont Ave.) serves as the final resting place for several local notables, including writer Frank Norris and artist Thomas Hill. Although easily explored solo, join a two-hour docent-led tour the second and fourth Saturdays of each month for an in-depth look at the cemetery’s history and architecture. // The Landmark Piedmont Theatre (4186 Piedmont Ave.) opened more than a century ago (making it the oldest operating theater in Oakland) and specializes in a mix of indie and limited-release art house flicks on two screens. // For a relaxing afternoon in the Town, head to Piedmont Springs (3939 Piedmont Ave.), where you can melt your problems away with a massage or facial, or lounge in a private outdoor tub.
Chef James Syhabout continually draws rave reviews with the prix fixe menu at Commis (3859 Piedmont Ave.), the only restaurant in the East Bay with a two-star Michelin rating. Splurge for the eight-course tasting menu ($165 before the wine pairings). // At The Wolf (3853 Piedmont Ave.), California cuisine gets a little je ne sais quoi from French influences—dishes span from octopus and Brussels sprouts openers to mains like lamb sugo served over egg pasta and seared day-boat scallops. // It’s all about uber fresh seafood at Geta (165 41st St.), an affordable sushi spot that highlights the quality and umami of the fish. // East Bay institution Fentons Creamery (4226 Piedmont Ave.) has been delighting kids—and the young at heart—since it opened in 1894. Try the black and tan, a Fentons original, or order off the secret menu, where you can find a grilled PB&J, adult-size mac ‘n’ cheese, and olive salad sandwich.
Half the fun at Mercy Vintage (4188 Piedmont Ave.) is sifting through the color-coded racks for the perfect thrifted find—the other is knowing that owners Karen Anderson Fort and Rachel Cubra have done most of the work for you by culling the very best high-quality treasures. // A few doors away, Good Stock (4198 Piedmont Ave.) is the place in Oakland for all-natural skincare and makeup, plus well-crafted yet statement-making accessories. // Completing the trio of must-hit stores on one short block, the (aptly located) next door Neighbor (4200 Piedmont Ave.) serves all your modern apartment needs with patterned poufs, blush-toned flatware, and ombre-hued candles. // Resurrect (4135 Piedmont Ave.) gives both consignment clothing and locally made goods new life. // Issues (20 Glen Ave.) has one of the largest selections of magazines in Oakland, including international releases, limited editions, and zines.
Piedmont Avenue is also home to some excellent global eats, a few legit bars, great comic and book shops, and no shortage of places to get an endorphin rush with a targeted sweat sesh. Make a whole day of it with our complete Modern Guide to Oakland’s Piedmont Avenue.
Temescal: Oakland’s Go-to for Indie Shops, Global Cuisine + Quirky Dive Bars
Once best known for its main alleyways (Temescal Alley and Alley 49), this BART-adjacent Oakland district has become the de facto destination for cool duds, around-the-world dining, and boutique fitness classes.
Chances are that you’re already familiar with the delights of Temescal Alley. But while you’re making your way over for soft serve and handmade jewelry, don’t neglect the other shops and restaurants making this North Oakland neighborhood such a charming locale. From vintage wares to Korean barbecue to stiff drinks, Temescal offers a little something for everyone. —Reporting by Candace Cui and Kristen Haney
Dandelion Post (423 Telegraph Ave.) features two rooms of clothing and accessories with an emphasis on textile work. // Mind’s Eye Vintage (484 49th St.) stocks excellent-quality vintage for men and women, which could include Pendleton flannels, polished-to-perfection wingtip creepers, or supersoft band tees. // If your typical farmers market tote is leaving you feeling “blah,” Temescal Alley’s Baggu (470G 49th St.) has the remedy. // Chances are you’ve pined over minimalist modern staples from Ali Golden (482B 49th St.), and her Temescal Alley studio is where you can not only try on the raw silk jumpers and breezy tunics, but also find the odd experimental piece at a discount. // Standard and Strange (5010 Telegraph Ave.) highlights expertly crafted menswear and denim. // Esqueleto (482A 49th St.) translates to “skeleton,” but there’s nothing bare bones about the jewelry, artwork, and other pieces Lauren Wolf crafts and showcases at her shop. // Temescal Alley also houses boutique jewelry maker Marisa Mason (484D 49th St.), who you can often find in her studio crafting handmade earrings, bracelets, and necklaces with a bohemian feel. // Part retail shop, part work space, Claflin, Thayer, and Co. (470E 49th St.) specializes in leather jackets and bags made in shop. // Sniff your way through the walls of fragrant tinctures and dried botanicals and spices at Homestead Apothecary (486 29th St.), where you can purchase everything from mushroom-infused coffee to natural deodorants to crystals. // Aside from an enviable selection of succulents, terrariums, and planters, Crimson Horticultural Rarities (470 49th St.) also offers classes.
In need of a strong beer and a tasty hot dog? The pork-obsessed makers at The Hog’s Apothecary (375 40th St.) have you covered with an impressive array of more than 25 craft beers on tap and an equally well thought-out menu. // A neighborhood favorite for fresh fish tacos and refreshing aguas frescas, Cholita Linda (4923 Telegraph Ave.) serves up Latin American flavors with a sunlit patio in the back. // Anyone lamenting the loss of the Oakland location of Hawker Fare can head to Hawking Bird (4901 Telegraph Ave.), a fast-casual spin-off celebrating all things chicken jazzed up with Southeast Asian flavors. // For even more Thai, Bird and Buffalo (4659 Telegraph Ave.) specializes in traditional rustic Thai fare, such as Gai gra prao (stir-fried chicken with fragrant spices in a yellow curry), blistered green beans, and spicy larb Thai salad. // Yes, there will be lines, and yes, they will be worth it for Bakesale Betty (5098 Telegraph Ave.) and its cult-favorite fried-chicken sandwiches topped with a lightly spicy slaw, only available three hours a day (11am–2pm), Tuesday through Saturday. // A schoolroom favorite gets an upscale spin at Homeroom (400 40th St.), where the focus is jazzed up mac ‘n’ cheese—with flavors such as Gilroy garlic and jalapeño popper. // Aunt Mary’s Cafe (4640 Telegraph Ave.) plates up Southern comfort food with a focus on fresh ingredients. // There’s no shortage of Korean options in Temescal, but Bowl’d BBQ (4869 Telegraph Ave.) may be the easiest way to ease newcomers into the bibimbap, miso stews, and hot stone grill for barbecuing your own meats.
When you want to get your heart rate up, check out the two Flying Studios (4834 and 4308 Telegraph Ave.) locations on Telegraph for yoga, TRX, and dance classes—plus frequent workshops and special events that will turn your life upside down literally with handstands or figuratively with song circles. // East Bay Athletic Club (5036 Telegraph Ave.) primarily serves as a competitive sports organization, but the Temescal gym space also offers weekly workouts open to the surrounding community, with the added bonus of instructors with specialized knowledge to help you shave a few seconds off your race time or improve playing performance on the field or court. // Tucked into a nondescript strip mall, Blue Sparrow Pilates (5095 Telegraph Ave.) delivers a challenging reformer workout in a light-filled studio, with small classes sizes ensuring personalized attention and an unlimited membership option for anyone who really wants to feel the burn.// Candlelit classes and supportive flooring make it easy to melt away the stress of the day during a barre or foam rolling class at Remedy Barre and Foam Rolling (4810 Telegraph Ave.), where two different levels of roller firmness let you choose your own stretching adventure—as do the combination classes, which blend both barre and rolling in one visit. // You won’t find any pretension at Square One Yoga (4689 Telegraph Ave.), but instead a warm and welcoming vibe that extends from the donation-based community classes and new-student special ($30 for 30 days) to the little lounge area outside of the studio rooms, where you can relax post-class and sip some tea.
This is one of Oakland’s buzziest neighborhoods, so there are many more great spots to drink, grab snacks (mmm, Beauty’s Bagels), and see art. Make a whole day—or even a weekend—of it with our complete Modern Guide to Temescal.
Rockridge: Top-Notch Eats + Kitschy Boutiques in one of Oakland’s Toniest ‘Hoods
Located conveniently by a BART stop on the borders of Berkeley and Oakland, Rockridge has long served as one of The Town’s toniest neighborhoods, where locals go to frequent upscale boutiques and restaurants.
But with a slew of trendy new places to eat, locally owned businesses offering excellently curated wares at affordable prices, and a hidden origami workshop, this area of Oakland—particularly the long stretch of businesses on College Avenue—has cemented its status as a destination worthy of a day trip. —Kristen Haney
Coffee + Treats
Rockridge offers always-solid Bay Area mainstays Philz Coffee (6310 College Ave.) and Smitten Ice Cream (5800 College Ave.) to satiate any caffeine and ice cream needs (make it a one-two mint punch with a mint mojito iced coffee and the fresh mint chip ice cream), but if you want a taste of something truly local, you’ve got a few Oakland-only options. French-style bakery La Farine (6323 College Ave.) boasts three Oakland locations, and the Rockridge iteration does a brisk morning business with flaky croissants and cult-favorite morning buns. // Grab a pour-over—they’ve been doing it for more than 17 years, since before it was cool—and hit up one of the outdoor tables at Cole Coffee (6255 College Ave.) for some prime people-watching as you snack on locally made pastries or house-crafted sandwiches such as oven-roasted turkey on La Farine bread or a curried egg sandwich with spices from Oakland Spice Shop. // The Chocolate Dragon Bittersweet Cafe and Bakery (5427 College Ave.) is the ideal place to curl up with a creamy cup of spicy drinking chocolate and double-down on the cocoa with a whoopie pie, chocolate croissant, or bar of house-made chocolate. // You don’t necessarily need a special occasion to treat yourself to a refined cake from Katrina Rozelle Pastries and Desserts (5931 College Ave.), but it certainly doesn’t hurt. The bakery specializes in pre-ordered multi-tier cakes, but also stocks a selection of cookies, cupcakes, and “everyday” cakes available by the slice and whole—the dark chocolate ganache options are particularly rich and satisfying.
Hawthorn (5854 College Ave.) is one of Oakland’s best destinations for well-crafted women’s clothing with an emphasis on local brands with sustainable production practices—such as Freda Salvador and Ali Golden—so you you’ll not only look good in the clothes, but feel good buying them, too. // If you walk by Bella Vita (5511 College Ave.), don’t mistake it for just a children’s boutique. While the cheery shop does sell clothing for little ones (along with artisan-made toys), Bella Vita also specializes in brightly printed jumpsuits, tops, skirts, and dresses that would make Zooey Deschanel proud. // Whimsy meets functionality at Atomic Garden (5453 College Ave.), where wood-hewn home goods and playful gifts fill the space. You’ll go in for the hand-carved serving spoons, gilded trays, and vibrant indigo pillows, and somehow find yourself leaving with a hammered metal bangle, hand-woven hat, or airy scarf. // Nathan and Co. (5636 College Ave.) is like your neighborhood Jonathan Adler but sassier. Office staples for the disgruntled worker? Check. Swear word-laden celebratory stationery for a recent promotion or engagement? You bet. An old-timey mug emblazoned with the word “wench”? We’re shocked you even asked. // Next door at Maison d’Etre (5640 College Ave.), the offerings is more home-focused, with colorful doormats, artisanal soaps, and expertly designed serveware that you’d be hard-pressed to find at big box stores. // A neighborhood mainstay since 1969, the Oakland location of Pegasus Books (5560 College Ave.) stocks new and used books as well as an impressive array of magazines.
If you’re craving Italian, Rockridge is the place. Crafted in the same vein as Chez Panisse and its other East Bay farm-to-fork forefathers, the two-story Oliveto Restaurant and Cafe (5655 College Ave.) combines uber-fresh seasonal ingredients for simple yet elevated twists on Italian classics—the daily-changing menu tends to include house-made pasta (grab the short-rib gnocchi if it’s available) and charcoal grilled meats broken down and cured in-house. // You may find it slightly easier to sneak into the East Bay location of SF’s buzzy Italian joint A16 (5356 College Ave.), where the wine bar and chef’s counter are always available for walk-ins craving house-cured meats, fried olives, wood-fired pizzas, and fresh pastas. // Wood Tavern (6317 College Ave.) owners Rich and Rebekah Wood manage to maintain that rare balance of crafting both fine dining dishes and a welcoming atmosphere, with both the service and wine list just as impressive as the rustic fare. Standouts from the meat-centric menu include the pan-roasted half chicken, seafood risotto, and crispy pork belly. // If you can’t swing a visit to Wood Tavern due to prices or wait times, you won’t run amiss heading next door to Southie (6311 College Ave.), a more relaxed (yet tiny) space from the same owners that specializes in hangover helpers, drool-worthy sandwiches, and Italian-inflected mains at dinner. // Arrive early or make a reservation to slip into the sliver of a space that is Belotti Ristorante E Bottega (5403 College Ave.) for house-made pastas and bottles of Italian red. Excellent noodles, ramen, pizza, and more are also on the menu in Rockridge. Click here for all the restaurants.
Oakland’s poshest neighborhood is also home to plenty great watering holes, including the East Bay location of Mikkeller and The Rockridge Improvement Club. For more on where to drink, eat, and play, don’t miss our Modern Guide to Rockridge.
Lafayette: Elevated Eats, Shopping + Outdoor Access
Nestled in an abundance of wild terrain just beyond the Caldecott Tunnel that separates San Francisco’s closest neighbors from the East Bay suburbs, Lafayette has been steadily transforming from a sleepy Contra Costa town into a desirable destination for city-dwelling young professionals seeking a change of pace.
With its quieter surroundings and family-run shops paired with top-notch restaurants and a strollable, tree-lined downtown, Lafayette manages to combine the best aspects of the Bay: access to the outdoors, farm-to-table dining, and a less frenetic energy. And even if you’re not visiting Lafayette the one weekend a year when the population explodes for a popular art and wine festival, the city still beckons with small-town charm and big-city amenities worthy of whiling away a few days.
Every third weekend in September, more than 100,000 visitors descend on Lafayette for Lamorinda’s biggest event, the Lafayette Art, Wine, and Music Festival (Mt. Diablo Blvd.), a multi-block party that highlights row upon row of art and handmade crafts booths, plus food from local restaurants, wine in a “Premium Wine Pavilion,” microbrews, and four stages of live music.
But there’s fun to be had here year-round at the Lafayette Reservoir (3849 Mt. Diablo Blvd.), the crown jewel of Lafayette’s trail system that draws droves on weekends for fishing, pedal-boat and row-boat rentals on the reservoir, and an easy 2.7-mile stroll around its paved loop path. The reservoir also plays host to Concert at the Rez in May, featuring the Big Band of Rossmoor and local school music program bands, plus the Reservoir Run in October. Hikers looking for more of a challenge can easily access the almost five-mile Rim Trail from multiple trailheads, with plenty of hills to challenge your quads and glutes. —Kristen Haney
Restaurant Row newcomer Batch & Brine (3602 Mt. Diablo Blvd.) sprang from the combined wisdom of life-long restaurateurs, and the truly family-run restaurant (from parents to children to siblings to cousins) draws upon the knowledge of its members, transforming passed-down recipes into globally inspired dishes served up in an artsy, patio-bedecked interior. Burgers and sandwiches are the main event—we suggest the falafel, fried chicken, and Greek-inspired kufta—with loaded fries (think hatch chile and pork or duck and cheese. Check out the bathroom for graffiti art provided by L.A. artist Berk Visual, who also did the street art–inspired murals in the interior. // Peruvian restaurant Barranco (3596 Mt. Diablo Blvd.) not only occupies an enviable airy, patio-adorned spot on Mount Diablo Boulevard, but capitalizes on the indoor-outdoor atmosphere with transportive dishes tinged with Latin American flair. The selection of ceviche and other chilled dishes burst with freshness, but it’s the dishes that get a healthy lick of flame—whether the grilled Spanish octopus, slow-roasted pollo a la brasa, or pan-seared day boat scallops—that let the complex flavors truly shine. // It’s worth springing for a stay at the chateau-inspired Lafayette Park Hotel & Spa at least once, but if you want a taste of Provencal without committing to an overnight, head to the hotel’s The Park Bistro & Bar (3287 Mt. Diablo Blvd.). Inside the French farmhouse–inspired interior, you’ll findCalifornia cuisine with a French twist, including smoked salmon deviled eggs, an unctuous French onion soup, and braised short rib over polenta spooned with bordelaise. The outdoor fire pit proves an especially nice respite from the craziness of the week, especially when paired with one of the bar’s award-winning cocktails. // No frills, decades-old Mexican joint El Charro Mexican Restaurant (3339 Mt. Diablo Blvd.) manages to capture south-of-the-border flavor at a reasonable price point that locals clearly love, since the oft-packed dining room often spills over onto the covered patio. Classic dishes such as smothered enchiladas, crispy fish tacos, and chimichangas come on colorful earthenware dishes; the house margaritas are a step above your standard cocktail; and even the unlimited chips and salsa come with the perk of a piquant cheese dip. // Comfortingly consistent, Uncle Yu’s (999 Oak Hill Rd.) gets top marks for upscale Chinese with a modern twist, with classics such as juicy potstickers, rainbow chicken, and peking duck turned out with reliably high-quality precision. The restaurant also offers an entirely gluten-free menu.
Locally Owned Boutiques
Husband-and-wife run Venture Quality Goods (3571 Mt. Diablo Blvd.) manages to appeal just as much to the guys as to the ladies, thanks largely to its selection of clothing that’s often as fashionable as it is functional. Soft button-downs made in California, selvedge denim jeans, and sturdy Red Wing boots make for all the strappings of an urban lumberjack, and for the ladies, trusty Patagonia pairs well with a bit of bling from local designers. For those hard-to-shop-for people on your list, a quilted blanket depicting the bay coastline or print depicting the Lafayette Reservoir’s signature water tower make for easy yet unexpected gifts this holiday season. // It’s hard not to fall in love with Farmyard Darlings (20 Lafayette Cir.) when you first enter, in part because of its barn-esque location but mainly due to the welcoming, gregariousness nature of owners Carole Sinclair and Kim Berry (the original “darlings”) and staff. Although known as the undisputed local resource for reclaimed wood barn doors, the shop also serves as the perfect place to add a smaller dose of country to your decor, whether its vintage glassware, old-school signs, or rustic cowhide flasks. // Interiors and home goods store Indigo & Poppy (1009 Oak Hill Rd.) can not only help you completely overhaul your home decor, but also offers small delights and accent pieces to give it a less dramatic tune-up. Swing by to pick up colorful printed throw pillows, blown-glass vases, or a modern bar cart, or go big with a new tufted couch, velvet-accented dining room set, or statement chandelier. // You won’t find better boozy recommendations or customer service in town than at Wine Thieves (3401 Mt. Diablo Blvd.), which has been offering premium vino at reasonable prices to Lamorinda residents for just shy of two decades. In addition to its selection of wine, craft beer, and premium spirits, Wine Thieves hosts Friday night tastings (5–7pm, $5, free for members); meet the winemaker and food and wine pairing nights; and a monthly wine club, when two bottles (price point and red vs. white dependent on your tier) are released to members. // Berkeley-based Amphora Nueva also has a Lafayette location (7 Fiesta Ln.), where people can not only find premium olive oils and vinegars, but also charming gift sets (that make for perfect wedding gifts), educational classes, and accessories such as stainless steel pour spouts for serious olive oil devotees. Olive oil and vinegar pairing guides and the freedom to sample any of the wares take the guesswork out of making the best choice from the extensive selection.
The flavors of Italy are also prevalent in Lafayette, with a trio of mainstay restaurants serving housemade pastas and blistery pies. There are also plenty spots to pop in for a treat (hey, SusieCakes!) or a juice (what’s up, UrbanRemedy!). Make a weekend of it with our complete Modern Guide to Lafayette.
Uptown Oakland: The Best Restaurants, Bars, Live Shows, Shops + More
Ask longtime Oakland residents for the geographic constraints that define the city’s Uptown district, and you’ll hear everything from the sliver of space between 14th and 17th streets to the blocks that stretch from 12th to 25th. Ask them when it first received the moniker Uptown (despite being located in what other municipalities would consider decidedly downtown), most will reference the renovation of the Fox Theater or the turn of the new millennium as benchmarks. But ask which area of the city most encapsulates Oakland today, with its juxtaposition of old and new mixed with rapid gentrification, opportunity, and possibility, and there’s no ambiguity: It’s Uptown Oakland.
A decade ago, before the area was officially dubbed “the Arts and Entertainment” district of the city, Uptown’s potential felt largely unfulfilled, with abandoned storefronts and longtime mom-and-pop shops. Although beloved by locals, the neighborhood failed to entice visitors from the surrounding communities, especially San Francisco. Now one of Oakland’s hippest hoods, Uptown, with its robust mix of dining, shopping, and nightlife, has been luring San Franciscans with (slightly) cheaper rents, a little more space, and the same quality of life and range of options.
Stroll Telegraph Avenue during the district’s wildly popular First Friday events, and you’ll find 20-somethings spilling out onto the closed-off streets from galleries and bars while music thumps from the stereos of street performers and food vendors ply much-needed hot dogs on the small batch whiskey–fueled masses.
As tech giants and other companies continue to move into the district (Pandora has called Uptown home since 2000), some fear the area’s affordability may vanish, and with it, much of its diversity and “Oakland soul.” But if there’s one thing Uptown has proved over the years, it’s a district that’s always primed for reinvention—and poised to defy definition. —Kristen Haney
If you’re headed out to the bars in Oakland, chances are you’re bound for Uptown, where there is seriously not shortage of ways to stay buzzed and entertained. Below is a selection of some of our faves—check out our complete guide to Uptown for the definitive list. // To plan a perfect Sunday, bring your crew to Telegraph Beer Garden (2318 Telegraph Ave.) order a round of boozy Greyhound slushies from the outdoor bar, and come to terms with your inevitable sunburn as a quick hangout slowly melts into a day of drinking. // At Lost and Found‘s (2040 Telegraph Ave.) expansive indoor-outdoor space, you can sip from a selection of 20 taps, snack on kimchi deviled eggs and buffalo cauliflower, and duke it out with a game of corn hole or ping pong in the beer garden. // Drake’s Dealership (2325 Broadway Auto Row) is a vast, 350-seat pub and beer garden where you’ll find 32 beers on draft (including a few guest taps), elevated bar grub, and plenty of space to stretch out near a fire pit on the dog-friendly patio. // Commune with nature while consuming cocktails: The Double Standard‘s (2424 Telegraph Ave. Oakland) outdoor patio is shaded by three towering redwoods, a remnant from the space’s previous life as Ms. Kim’s Backyard. // As a relative newcomer to the Uptown bar scene, Hello Stranger (1724 Broadway) has managed to lure a sizeable chunk of the Oakland nightlife crowd with an enticing ceiling-height bar, DJ nights and dancing, and your choice of ways to rose all day. // Cocktails capitalizing on seasonal ingredients—try the garden gimlet (gin, cucumber, basil, and lime)—shareable “things in jars”, and two indoor bocce courts make Make Westing (1741 Telegraph Ave.) an ideal stop for low-key date nights during the week. // Located in a warehouse/artist co-op also occupied by jewelers, artists, and other makers, urban winery Two Mile Wines (477 25th St.) specializes in food-focused, small production wines and also is the driving force behind Oakland Spirits, a new Uptown distillery focused on brandy and gin. // The Punchdown (1737 Broadway) is a cozy wine bar pouring vino with a focus on organic, minimal-intervention winemaking. // Oakland lost an icon last fall with the passing of Peter Van Kleef, who transformed the Telegraph mainstay Cafe Van Kleef (1621 Telegraph Ave.) into a delightfully random watering hole more than a decade ago, way before the area was hip. It’s not uncommon to find yourself leaning against a naked sculpture, sipping a freshly squeezed greyhound while a live band is welcomed with enthusiastic hip shakes and claps on the tiny dance floor. // Nightly special events at The Port Bar Oakland (2023 Broadway) make this much-needed gay bar a draw seven days a week. Tuesday trivia night, weekend midnight happy hour, and cabaret Sundays hosted by local drag queens round out weekend DJ nights with shirtless go-go dancers and drink names that aren’t shy about the sexual innuendo.
There’s sooo much to eat in Uptown Oakland. Here are some of the best of the sit-down restaurants—for grab-and-go, sweets, and more, click here. // Tucked away inside The Gastropig, Abstract Table (2123 Franklin St.) is a multi-course dining experience that manages to mix the quality and innovation of an upscale prix fixe meal with the laid-back atmosphere of a friend’s dinner party. A sort of “permanent pop-up,” Abstract Table offers just two seatings (6pm and 8:30pm) every Friday and Saturday, with reservations for either a five- or seven-course meal only available on Resy ($50–70). // Itani Ramen (1736 Telegraph Ave.) serves the best of slurpable cuisine, with a seasonally changing menu that shows finesse and an intimate familiarity with Japanese food. // As the unofficial centerpiece of The Hive, Calavera (2337 Broadway) immediately beckons with exposed brick, soaring ceilings, an open kitchen, and a meticulously organized wall of spirits. Adventurous diners will get a kick out of duck confit tacos and guacamole topped with Oaxacan chapulines (grasshoppers). It’s hard to go wrong with one of the bar’s tequila and mezcal selections. // Hopscotch (1915 San Pablo Ave.) helped solidify Uptown Oakland as a dining destination, and still churns out one of the tastiest take-out options in the area: the to-go bucket of fried chicken. // Casual vibes make alaMar Kitchen and Bar (100 Grand Ave.) the perfect place for dollar oysters and drink specials on game day, girls’ night out, and a relaxed evening over craft-your-own seafood boils or Cajun crawl packs with peel-and-eat shrimp and crab to feed a crowd. // Montreal-style bagels are now available in Uptown, with the second location of Beauty’s Bagel Shop (1700 Franklin St.) serving wood-fired bagels topped with silky cream cheese and smoked salmon, sandwiching fried chicken, or alongside chicken scrapple (cornmeal laced with chicken and pan fried). // Shiba Ramen (1438 Broadway) lends itself to a satisfying yet casual experience with five menu standbys that vary by broth (clear, spicy, soymilk), and sides including Nagoya-style fried chicken wings and gyoza. // The Oaxacan-infused Agave Uptown (2135 Franklin St.) features a colorful folk art mural, authentic renditions of dishes such as molcajete and prawns diabla, and an impressive array of mezcals. // One of the first restaurants to recognize Uptown’s potential, Flora (1900 Telegraph Ave.) capitalizes on its Art Deco exterior and proximity to the Fox to serve elevated seasonal dishes and cocktails // Caribbean flavors collide at Kingston 11 (2270 Telegraph Ave.), and weekends bring a lively crowd for island-inspired libations and classic roots and reggae music. // At Dosa by Dosa (2301 Broadway), enjoy lunch and dinner, or order both alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails and chais from the all-day bar. Street food–inspired favorites include the butter chicken street wrap, the masala potato dosa, and idli fries.
Play + Shop
It’s a rare day when shopping for adult toys feels as high brow as selecting a piece of art, but Feelmore Adult Gallery (1703 Telegraph Ave.) owner Nenna Joiner aims to remove the stigma and embarrassment that often comes from a visit to the sex shop by re-envisioning how the experience should feel. At the sex-positive space, toys are stylishly displayed on well-lit shelves, paintings celebrating the female form dot the walls, and stacks of vintage Playboys are available for purchase. Added bonuses: monthly comedy shows and delivery by bike. // After more than a decade in business, it’s no surprise that McMullen (2257 Broadway) owner Sherri McMullen continues to fill her expertly curated hangers and shelves with the top looks each season, even after a move from the original location to a sumptuous storefront in Uptown. This is the spot in Oakland to score covetable clothing from notable brands such as Tibi, Proenza Schouler, and Ulla Johnson, as well as duds from lesser-known designers destined to turn heads at your next event. // You’ll likely recognize Oaklandish’s (1444 Broadway) signature tree symbol from its popular line of T-shirts and other branded goods, but the shop also celebrates its city pride with apparel in Oakland sports teams’ colors, a selection of made-in-Oakland goods, and its Innovator grants, which give much-deserved funds to community organizations. Stop by on First Fridays for a monthly party, and leave with colorful artwork or a supersoft hoodie in a complimentary tote with a free sticker. // Minimalist dressers will love locally owned Viscera’s 1542 Broadway) selection of gray-scale clothing for both men and women from small, independent designers, plus 3-D printed jewelry customized and crafted in house. // One of the best places in the East Bay to find coveted sneakers, with limited-edition Pumas and throwback Adidas sharing the brick-walled space with some dressier kicks and a small selection of apparel, SoleSpace (1714 Telegraph Ave.) also doubles as an art gallery and events space, especially during First Friday events. // Raw denim fanatics flock to menswear shop Two Jacks Denim (2355 Broadway) for selvedge jeans from designers such as Taylor Stitch and Detroit Denim, plus other U.S.–made men’s clothing and accessories. // You’ll find art exploring topics such as feminism, race, and social justice in the artist-run Betti Ono gallery (1427 Broadway). // Well-groomed gents flock to the Oakland location of Peoples Barber & Shop (2337 Broadway #101), (which also has two shops in San Francisco) in the Hive for straight-razor shaves that include an old-school hot towel treatment, hip haircuts, and “testosterone-charged gossip.” // A comic book club, figurines and collectibles, and knowledgeable staff are just a few of the highlights at Cape and Cowl Comics (1601 Clay St.), a well-curated comic and graphic novel shop.
Jack London Square: Hearty Eats, Strong Drinks, History on the Side
Named for the Bay Area born-and-raised author of The Call of the Wild and White Fang, Jack London Square is a slice of history in Oakland—and it’s having a thoroughly modern moment.
Once home base for seafarers and fraught with the public houses that kept their spirits up, the waterfront was reimagined as a tourist attraction in the 1970s. Today, the area melds memories of the many eras gone by, with retro coffee shops sharing sidewalk space with sparkling new condos, industrial warehouses, and art galleries. The waterfront is speckled with ferries and sailboats, and an array of cool bars, music venues, and restaurants—ranging from grab-and-go to upscale—draws urbanites from around the Bay Area.
Jack London Square may be all grown up, but we still catch the spirit of rowdy old sailors in the air, partying into the wee hours of the night. Here’s where to eat, drink, and have a good time in the ‘hood. —Reporting by Kristen Haney and Jen Woo
Something for Everyone
Sporting types can go stand-up paddle boarding or kayaking in the estuary with rentals from California Canoe & Kayak (409 Water St.), or set sail with Captain Kirk’s San Francisco Sailing, which offers charters from Jack London Square (as well as Pier 40 and Sausalito). // Choose between bocce ball, 18 bowling lanes, or enough arcade games to delight any kid at heart at Plank (98 Broadway), and pair them with a decidedly adult spiked lemonade or riff on a Moscow mule. // Studios Eleven (560 2nd St.) is home to, you guessed it, 11 artist spaces and regularly opens its doors for Open Studios and Art Murmur events. // On the first and third Sundays of every month, check out The Buck (11am to 4pm) to browse through a whirlwind of vendors selling everything from jewelry to unique clothing. And even better – The Buck runs concurrently with the Farmer’s Market (10am to 3pm at Webster St. and Embarcadero West), where you can shop for fresh local produce and baked goods every Sunday. If you can’t make it on a Sunday, Second Saturday (11am to 5pm) brings together nearly 60 vendors, local entrepreneurs, and business owners for a block party complete with shopping, live music, and food. // Take a ride around the bay on the U.S.S. Potomac (540 Water St.), aka FDR’s “Floating White House.” You can also take a tour while it’s berthed. // Peek inside Jack London’s log cabin, which was relocated here from Alaska. // For a hardcore metal show, head to the Oakland Metro Operahouse (522 2nd St.), which also hosts the underground spectacle that is the wildly popular monthly Hoodslam, where underground wrestlers battle in a makeshift ring for Spandex-clad glory. // If shopping is more your speed, find the perfect gift—local art, fashion, candles,
cutting boards and more—at Oakland Supply (427 Water St.). // Score a killer antique at Something to Sell About (380 4th St), a hidden gem for estate shopping. // Narrative (560 2nd St.) stocks vintage treasures, from midcentury furniture to artsy decor. // And, stick with us here, it may be one of the best places to try your hand at the motorized scooters slowly invading the Bay Area, with an abundance of the suckers available and plenty of car-free space to get your bearings (and only semi-judgmental glares from pedestrians).
Eat + Drink
Jack London Square is also a bona fide foodie destination these days, with such mainstays at Yoshi’s and Chop Bar joined by newer-comers Lungomare and San Francisco’s Belcampo Meat Co. The bar scene is also strong, with everything from historic watering holes to modern breweries and wine tasting rooms.
For all the eats and drinks (and more), head over to our Modern Guide to Jack London Square.