NFT San Francisco North Oakland / Emeryville

North Oakland / Emeryville

Overview
San Francisco may be the first place you think of when you hear "city by the bay" but it certainly isn't the only place. Oakland, with its adorable neighborhoods, ethnic diversity, radical history, and eclectic architecture, is as much of a destination out here as Brooklyn is in New York City. Travel through Oakland's neighborhoods and you'll find everything from near-ghetto conditions to gentrified warehouse districts, cute bungalow neighborhoods to hillside mansions, city streets, pools, art centers, and a beautiful regional park system in the Oakland hills -- perfect for hiking, biking and all things nature.

If you are looking for a day out through some "Oaktown" neighborhoods filled with craftsman bungalows and Victorian homes, boutiques, cafés, bookstores, and the like, try the Rockridge, Temescal, or Piedmont Ave neighborhoods in North Oakland. Check out places like Bittersweet Chocolate CaféSee more.

> (everything chocolate), Diesel Books (both in Rockridge), Piedmont Theatre, and Lot 49 (470 49th St), or Bakesale Betty, and Lanesplitter for a unique taste of some of the best Oakland has to offer. Get your art on at Studio One Arts Center (on 45th Street between Broadway and Shafter) where you can find a range of art classes for adults at great prices. For a park-like stroll and a significant history lesson, take the dog for a walk in Mountain View Cemetery (founded in 1863, and designed by none other than Frederick Law Olmsted). Walk by the mansion-like tombs of famous San Franciscans who are the namesakes for such streets as Powell and Stanyan. Famous architect Julia Morgan is buried here alongside common and famous people of all ethnicities, races, and religions.

Oakland's incredible diversity can be found in many of its neighborhoods, including the pan-Asian Chinatown's center at 8th and Webster, the hub of downtown. Since it gets much less tourism than San Francisco's famous Chinatown, this neighborhood has a few less "junk" stores and is perhaps on the more authentic-side. This is the neighborhood to find the best fake-meat restaurants, including the Golden Lotus (on Franklin and 13th), and the Layonna Vegetarian Health Food Market, which sells all the kinds of fake meat you might ever want to try. The Fruitvale neighborhood in East Oakland is home to the cities growing Hispanic community, once named after...you guessed it, fruit orchards. The best Mexican restaurants are Otaez and Mariscos La Costa. Along International Boulevard between Lake Merritt and Fruitvale are a variety of excellent (and cheap) ethnic restaurants; here you'll find everything from Korean barbecue to carnitas and empanandas. Plan your visit to coincide with the celebrations of Cinco de Mayo or Dia de los Muertos and you'll be in for a real treat.

East of downtown but west of Fruitvale is the hamlet 'hood of Lake Merritt. It is a quick 15-minute walk from downtown, and cozy shops and restaurants can be found tucked away in sloping streets overlooking the water. Looking up at the hills, you can mistake it for a small Mediterranean city. Joggers can be found rounding the lake all day and you'll often see small sail boats, kayaks, and rowboats forging the waters. And once you've made your way around the lake, take a stroll down Lakeshore or Grand Avenues, home to a farmers market every Saturday, and a plethora of restaurants, cafes (check out the workers' co-op Arizmendi Bakery or Walden Pond Books), and shops. Easy Lounge is a perfect place for fresh cocktails post-farmers market. Visit the beautifully restored Grand Lake Theater on a Saturday night to hear the organ played before your movie.

In recent years, downtown Oakland has seen an increase in activity, with notable restaurants, cafés, and cultural centers flourishing along its streets. The Malonga Casquelourd Center, formerly Alice Arts Center, hosts a variety of performances and cultural events. Jack London Square, which used to be a mere tourist trap, is now home to the city's hottest new restaurant, Haven, by star-chef Daniel Patterson. Just east of this area is the city's new and obtuse warehouse district, where expensive lofts now exist in old warehouses. A loft community of artists, bohemians, intellectuals, and yuppies has colonized the area. You'll find Oakland's best ribs and cornbread at Everett and Jones in Jack London Square and Oakland's best DIY museum/store at Oaklandish (1444 Broadway). Despite what you may have heard, Oakland also has a thriving and varied nightlife scene. While you may want to steer clear of some West Oakland and far East Oakland neighborhoods after dark, the rest of the city can and should be explored. For the upscale set, AIR Lounge (492 9th St) rivals San Francisco's swankiest lounges. Check out Café Van Kleef (1621 Telegraph Ave), the White Horse Bar (the country's second-oldest gay bar) at 6551 Telegraph, and Luka's Taproom & Lounge (2221 Broadway) for a good night out with or without music.




         



On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Valerie Ng
Photo:  Valerie Ng

Burma Superstar
Burma Without the Junta Of all Southeast Asian cuisines, Burmese is one with which many of us, myself included, remain mostly unacquainted. Unlike its Thai and Vietnamese counterparts, the food of Burma is not well represented with restaurants throughout the Bay. Burma Superstar helps fill the much-needed void with locations in San Francisco, Oakland, and Alameda. Living up to its namesake brilliance, the restaurant offers a tasty variety of dishes comparable to other Asian favorites like samosas and pad thai, as well as traditional Burmese specialties like tea leaf salad and a chicken and shrimp rice casserole. The highlights for me were the egg curry with fresh okra, which I enjoyed on rich and creamy coconut rice, and a refreshing lychee mint smoothie. But it's hard to go wrong here, whatever your fancy may be.



Posted By:  Valerie Ng
Photo:  Valerie Ng

Tutti Frutti
Is it just me, or are frozen yogurt shops popping up and spreading like fast food joints? I would have quickly dismissed the latest addition to this trend when there were heaping sundaes available just half a block away, and for its cheesy name--couldn't they come up with something better than Tutti Frutti? But if it's got anything going for it, it's the prices. While the smallest portion at a certain franchise will easily set you back more than $4, here you're charged by the ounce, and you can fill your bowl with as many flavors (everything from original to pomegranate, banana pudding, and mango) and toppings (like fresh strawberries, mochi, and cheesecake bits) as you please. It won't always be my go-to spot, but if I'm short on cash I can always keep this place in mind.



Posted By:  Valerie Ng
Photo:  Valerie Ng

Temescal Farmers Market
So normally you wouldn't voluntarily spend an hour or two at the DMV. In fact, you could probably come up with at least 100 less mundane ways to pass your time. But on Sundays, the parking lot of the Claremont location turns into the Temescal Farmers Market, a wonderland for those who enjoy farm fresh produce, baked goods, a and healthy fast food. You probably never imagined that a visit to the DMV could be so wholesome. And instead of going out and standing in line for Sunday brunch, why not head to the market's food stands for an inexpensive and equally delicious meal? Your stomach--as well as the local economy--will appreciate the support.



Posted By:  Elizabeth Hollis Hansen
Photo:  Elizabeth Hollis Hansen

Christopher's Burger
There is much debate about who serves the best burger this side of the Bay, but Christopher's ranks among the top contenders. A burger joint that's mom-and-pop rather than a recognizable chain, uses Niman Ranch beef, and makes their own condiments is not easy to beat. Plus there are options for those who tend to steer clear of the cow. Christopher's offers turkey burgers, salmon burgers, and homemade veggie burgers. Diners have the option of shoestring fries, which are light and crispy, thick-cut fries, sweet potato fries, and/or onion rings as an accompaniment to that burger. Not that you’ll have room for all that food, since the burgers are about as big or bigger than any whopper I've ever seen. You can help yourself to the fountain sodas or grab a bottle of beer to wash down your meal. Now that's a burger joint I can get down with.



Posted By:  Elizabeth Hollis Hansen
Photo:  Elizabeth Hollis Hansen

Marc 49
It's hard to put my finger on it, but this place is just missing the mark in my opinion, (no pun intended). This wine bar is relative newcomer to Oakland's Temescal District, once a neighborhood of scruffy artists who preferred the late-night dive bars and 24-hour coffee diners to the gourmet brands that have moved in recent years. (You know the yupsters have arrived when a wine bar opens on your block.) To its credit, Marc 49 attempts to not seem overly stuffy or cater to the yuppie crowd by offering affordable wines and small plates. But I think this is where it goes wrong somehow. I'm all for affordable, but I still like quality, and I haven't been all that impressed with the quality at this place. The wine list is decent, but not overly impressive. The servers are nice, but terribly slow. The food sounds good, but ends up being bland. The atmosphere is inviting (the decor is tasteful and cozy), but it's quiet and spread out. I'll go back, but with slightly lower expectations.



Posted By:  Valerie Ng
Photo:  Valerie Ng

Teacake Bake Shop
Other cities have their popular go-to bakeries for cupcakes, but so far the Bay Area doesn't seem to have any obvious spots, aside from Sprinkles in Palo Alto, a little too far for me no matter how good they are. Then I remembered a little place at Bay Street in Emeryville, with its perfect-looking cupcakes and cookies. I'd never gave it much notice, maybe figuring any bakery in a shopping center with goods as flawless as the ones I saw in the window were too good to be true. But with a new determination to find the most perfect cupcakes in the Bay, I decided to give Teacake Bake Shop a try. The boutique bakery puts its own twists on old favorites, always a plus in my book. And after sampling the pink velvet and chocolate or vanilla with raspberry buttercream, I knew that the hype was justified. And even better, these cupcakes didn't require a long wait or even a trip across the bridge.



Posted By:  Valerie Ng
Photo:  Valerie Ng

Diesel Bookstore
I was saddened by last year's demise of Cody's Books. If a powerhouse like Cody's couldn't survive, I wondered if that mean the end of the independent bookstore. Would we eventually have to give in to the Bordersization of the reading experience? Luckily, there are still those that thrive, like Diesel. Though small, it's not short on substance. It definitely has the feel of a neighborhood bookstore, with a rack of staff recommendations, displays of new releases, and frequent events and book clubs. And with its trademark "Born to Read" t-shirts prominently displayed, we're reminded that reading really is cool and should be celebrated. Here's to hoping that Diesel remains a part of the East Bay literary scene.



Posted By:  Elizabeth Hollis Hansen
Photo:  Elizabeth Hollis Hansen

Namaste
Yoga studios these days are like coffee shops. Not only are they appearing on every Bay Area street corner, but they're offering a menu of levels and styles that can make choosing a class as complicated as ordering a blended drink at Starbucks. In its ancient Indian form, yoga was practiced by ascetics to prepare for meditation. Today, across the globe, yoga has many forms. From get-a-better-butt Bikram to a relax-and-recline restorative practice, yoga is no longer just for white-bearded holy men. Namaste in Rockridge is my neighborhood yoga studio, and they have a variety of classes for all levels. A friend of mine observed that Namaste looks like "fancy yoga," mostly because the yoga clothes in the front window cost upward of $100. Fancy or not, the teachers at Namaste are the reason so many students keep coming back. I've taken classes with nearly all of them, and I find the teachers are willing to help everyone along their yogic path, whether they're seeking a better butt or enlightenment.




Posted By:  Valerie Ng
Photo:  Valerie Ng

Bakesale Betty
This isn't your average neighborhood bake sale, nor is there a Betty. But there is no denying the popularity of this Temescal favorite that has customers lining up out the door. It's all the work and love of "Bakesale Betty," an Aussie named Alison who dons her trademark bright blue wig and serves up her famous fried chicken sandwich. This isn't your typical heart-attack-inducing fast food craving--the buttermilk and cayenne-battered chicken breast are served with a vinegar-dressed cole slaw spiced with jalapenos, tucked into a soft roll. Yup, it really is that delicious. And so filling that I had to pass on the strawberry shortcake. But I'll be back soon. Though the line may appear daunting, the wait's not long, and if you're lucky, Betty or one of her employees may come by handing out cookies while you're waiting in line or sitting at one of the ironing-board dining tables.



Posted By:  Elizabeth Hollis Hansen
Photo:  Elizabeth Hollis Hansen

Crepevine
It's hard to find a restaurant where I can eat time and time again and never order the same thing twice. It's even harder to find a restaurant where I never order the same thing twice and am always pleased with what I get. Crepevine, with several Bay Area locations, is easy on the wallet and never disappoints. The menu boasts a variety of sweet and savory crepes, omelets, pancakes, salads, sandwiches, and desserts. The restaurant's claim-to-fame crepes are melt-in-your-mouth buttery delicious. But the true clincher for me is that I can order breakfast all day long and late into the evening, since this is both an early-morning and late-night establishment. Think cheddar, spinach, and caramelized onion omelet with a side of roasted rosemary potatoes, cinnamon raisin walnut french toast dipped in vanilla yogurt egg batter, or poached eggs and crab cakes on an English muffin smothered in spicy hollandaise. If you're getting hungry just thinking about it, you heard it from me: Crepevine is sure to keep you stuffed and satisfied.



Posted By:  Elizabeth Hollis Hansen
Photo:  Elizabeth Hollis Hansen

Lanesplitter
Whenever I get that familiar craving for a hot, cheesy pizza and a cold beer, I know where I'm headed: Lanesplitter Pizza & Pub. I order the 7/10 Split combo, which gets me two slices with one topping and a pint of draught beer for under ten bucks. While cheap pizza joints aren't hard to come by, Lanesplitter's is a cut above most for several reasons. First, the slices are huge. While they tend to be floppy, they are not greasy and the cheese does not slide off when you pick it up. That gets big points in my book. Second, the beer selection includes at least 20 microbrews. Sorry Bud drinkers, this is not a watery-beer joint. Third, vegetarians and meat lovers can coexist with the vast selection of pizza toppings: there's Notta Ricotta, a soy-based cheese topping for vegans, and for serious carnivores there's a specialty pizza called the Chopper, which includes pepperoni, sausage, salami, bacon, and Canadian bacon. If that's not enough to clog your arteries, there's another pizza called the Heartstopper. You're on your own eating that one.



Posted By:  Valerie Ng
Photo:  Valerie Ng

Tara's Organic Ice Cream
Berkeley really doesn't need another ice cream shop. We've already got Ici, Almare Gelato, and Ciao Bella, among others. But the arrival of Tara's Organic Ice Cream, by way of Santa Fe, is another welcome addition to the already impressive lineup. Exquisite scoops of such flavors as adzuki black sesame, Turkish coffee, and pink peppercorn come in biodegradable cups or sesame-specked organic cones. Though it's tough to compete against Ici down the street, this place has two advantages: you're free to sample as many flavors as you like, and it has yet to require a long wait. So if the line at Ici is unbearable, just head up the road and you'll have your ice cream fix without having to while away the afternoon.



Posted By:  Dan Bollwinkel
Photo:  Dan Bollwinkel

El Agavero
The folks behind the successful La Pinata restaurants of the East Bay--with locations now surfacing in every city this side of the Bay Bridge toll plaza--usually name each location by number, but they've snuck one past me with El Agavero. I was hoping for a new Mexican experience when I stumbled upon this stylish restaurant with the cactus moniker, perhaps to add yet another notch to my seasoned taqueria belt, but alas, opening the menu I realized quickly that La Pinata has staked a claim in Montclair as well. But it's not all bad. The food is consistent to the La P standard, the portions are out-of-control big, and there are more than 150 tequilas behind the bar. So if you’re in Montclair and need some massive flautas or a $65 shot of aged Don Julio Real, El Agavero's got ya covered.



Posted By:  Dan Bollwinkel
Photo:  Dan Bollwinkel

Ben 'N Nick's
No one really knows who Ben and Nick actually are. Or if there ever was a Ben or a Nick, and if so, how they met and why they decided to open a pub. But aside from such philosophical questions, whatever powers that be behind this unassuming establishment on College Avenue are certainly on to something (as they are with sister-pub Cato's of Piedmont). Along with the rare full-bar and pub food menu combination, the place has an exclusively neighborhood feel. The food is decent and cheap and well-portioned, with a specials menu changing almost daily that really goes above and beyond standard pub fare. And the bartenders and servers are a really amicable bunch, who--coincidentally--are also the DJ's with a strictly ipod-only format for tunes. This means that the staff has the power to largely control the mood of the place, and lucky for us, it's typically a good one.



Posted By:  Dan Bollwinkel
Photo:  Dan Bollwinkel

Barclay's Restaurant & Pub
Set below the sidewalk on a nondescript stretch of College Ave. near the Rockridge BART station is Barclay's, and inside Barclay's is one of the better selections of beer in the bay area. The owners are industry guys, with experience in actual brewing and distribution so the rotating taps are usually fairly nuanced and their attention to seasonal offerings is impeccable. The majority of the taps are of course dominated by local and Northern California breweries, but they always manage to slip in a few sick Belgians and the occasional English ale. The food is also worth mention, with a substantial special menu changing daily in addition to their reliable standard pub menu, heavy on fish n' chips and burgers. The small-ish below-ground patio is usually packed on weekends when the sun is out, and for good reason, what a better way to pass an afternoon than people watching in the sun with a pint or five.



Posted By:  Dan Bollwinkel
Photo:  Dan Bollwinkel

Yasai Produce Market
There’s something almost David and Goliath-like about the little Yasai Market, perched atop the border of Oakland and Berkeley (seriously, the leeks are in Oakland and the pineapples are in Berkeley) in Rockridge. This place operates and thrives directly across the street from a Safeway. As a matter of fact—and don't tell the tow-happy management of said mega-grocers—I've taken to parking in the Safeway's back lot just to go get my veggies at Yasai, and I know I'm not the only one. But I guess it makes sense in the land of the bourgeois bohemian that the little organic grocery store with one of the more eclectic selections of veggies, fruits and ice cream (yes, ice cream) can stay in business year after year across the street from an acreage of gleaming, flawless, swollen produce. Personally, I prefer my zucchini a bit on the smallish side, and nothing says 'organic' like dirt on your onions.



Posted By:  Valerie Ng
Photo:  Valerie Ng

It’s Saturday night, and you’ve only got about an hour for dinner before your movie on Piedmont Ave. There’s a long wait for Barney’s, you don’t feel like Fenton’s, and the local selection of Mexican and Chinese restaurants is only so-so… but wait. There’s Xyclo. This isn’t your traditional, no-frills, straight-from-Hanoi Vietnamese restaurant. The interior of the restaurant/lounge is sleek, the cuisine modern and the ambience chic. It’s definitely not short on innovation—specialties include spring rolls cut up like sushi and beef carpaccio—but what makes this place stand out are the cocktails, like the lychee tea martini and plum sak-tini. If you’re looking for pho or vermicelli bowls, though, this is not your place.



Posted By:  Vanessa Vichit-Vadakan
Photo:  Vanessa Vichit-Vadakan

Café Colucci
Cafe Colucci is one of those places that makes food so good that you just have to forgive the scattered, lagging service when the place gets busy during the dinner rush. The frazzled servers mean well, and they’re so nice it’s hard to get too cranky when you can’t track one of them down to order another basket of injera. So just try to pace yourself as you use the spongy, sour teff bread to scoop up chunks of chicken in spicy berbere sauce or as you dig in to the irresistible buticha, a chunky chickpea mash spiked with jalapenos and bright with lemon juice. The best way to go is with an assorted platter; either the vegetarian or the meat platter will offer a delectable array of tastes and textures. If you still have room when you're done, try a dessert and let me know how it is--by the end I'm always too full of savory bits of eggplant and lentils to even think of the tiramisu or baklava.



Posted By:  Dan Bollwinkel
Photo:  Dan Bollwinkel

Bar César
Cesar, which firmly established itself on the East Bay culinary scene at the restaurant’s original location in North Berkeley on Shattuck Avenue, has recently opened up a second location down south in Oakland on Piedmont Avenue. As one might expect from an upscale tapas and wine bistro, it’s generally not a lot of food for a whole lot of cash—but there are some undeniably good reasons to stop in from time to time: the Cesar martini for one—Ketel One and just the right amount of Pastis—makes for a truly bizarre and wonderfully drinkable cocktail. We’ve taken to avoiding the expensive small plates (maybe one or two per visit though…) and headed straight for the “tabla grande”: it’s a charcuterie plate with piles of Serrano ham and other various house-cured meats and cheeses, and it actually gets the job done for two people, even with leftovers so you can sneak them into the movies up the street and make everyone jealous cause’ they’re eating popcorn and you’re spreading duck liver pate on croutons.



Posted By:  Valerie Ng
Photo:  Valerie Ng

Sura
I love restaurants that provide freebies. It’s not always a good thing, though, because the food is usually mediocre at best. Sura, though, is a rarity. For a place that translates to “King’s Meal” in Korean, you can eat pretty well for dinner. It’s certainly not short on selection—you can choose anything from barbecue to noodles, Korean pancakes to tofu soups. Once you’ve ordered, you’re given a (complimentary!) egg soufflé while you wait for the main course, followed by the many small side dishes of kimchee, noodles and vegetables that accompany traditional Korean meals. If it’s the barbecue you came for, you have the option of cooking the meat yourself. To finish it off, you get a small scoop of ice cream—on the house. Sura may not be as much of a bargain as your average Chinese place, but would they give you this much free food, and authentic at that?




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