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oakland, ca city guide

by Stephanie

Illustration by Michael Wertz

Today’s city guide comes to us from Catherine Weis and  Gretchen Krebs, the founders of Local Social, an art and event styling company in Oakland, California. Between Catherine’s background in graphic design and Gretchen’s experience in interior design, they can collectively curate every element of the events they host and design to provide a unique experience for their guests. Today they share their love of diverse Oakland with this fantastic list of music venues, bars, galleries and more. Thanks, ladies, for showing us all that Oakland has to offer! — Stephanie

Read the full guide after the jump . . .

I moved to Oakland in 2000 and always thought I would move to San Francisco because I heard so many amazing things about the culture there. But after living in Oakland for a little over 10 years now, I can’t seem to pull myself away! The diversity and history of Oakland, not to mention the cheaper living and constant growth, has kept me glued. Sure it’s a gritty place, but a place, nonetheless, with a great mix of historic Art Deco architecture and an emerging contemporary eclectic style. Oakland is also rich with culture: Over 100 dialects and languages are spoken in the city, and it’s the birthplace of the Black Panther movement as well as home to the Hell’s Angels and now many ethnically diverse neighborhoods.

Oakland is experiencing a revival similar to Brooklyn, the alternative sister city to New York. It offers a younger, hipper underground scene and fresh, new, exciting things to see and do! In my eyes, the two most impressive revolutions taking place are the underground art world and the culinary scene (not to mention the wine and mixology scene), both now in full swing and impressively rivaling that of our neighbors across the bay in San Francisco. But families and children are not to worry — there is plenty of entertainment for all ages to enjoy. Take a look below for a list of some the best Oakland has to offer. It’s a roster as rich and diverse as the city itself.

Oakland in a Nutshell
I’ve been praising Oakland for its culture; it would be wrong of me not to mention the variety of activities that abound in Oakland, from family-oriented wholesomeness to nightlife excitement. Where to begin: Fairyland, summer movie nights in the Temescal neighborhood, farmer’s markets, Art Murmur, gondola rides on our beloved Lake Merritt, swimming at the Lake Temescal, and shopping in the Rockridge district, to name a few. Because of Oakland’s size, it’s almost impossible to hit every area, so I’ve picked out a few for your viewing pleasure.

A Word on Places to Stay
Overall, I’ll say one thing about Oakland: Hotel options are few and far between! If you want someplace relaxing and quaint to stay, then your best bet is to go to VRBO rentals. This on-line vacation rental company rents out homeowners’ properties for a great deal. Otherwise, you can find some places around the outskirts of Oakland in Emeryville or Jack London Square (which I’ll include below in the neighborhood sections where relevant) or a unique and quiet bed and breakfast. SF still has the monopoly of big hotel retreats and spas.

Looking for Something to Drink
Oakland is no stranger to wine. Just by being a part of California, you bet that we’ve got our own vintner’s niche. A few wineries have set up shop in Oakland, selling, offering tastings and, in some cases, bottling their wines. It’s all right here in our urban backyard — no need to drive 1.5 hours up to the wine country to taste what you can right here!

Beer is also on the rise here in Oakland. Many brewers have begun to brew and distribute right in our backyard. Look for my recommends below.

Old Oakland/Uptown
Over the past 8 years or so, Old Oakland and the Uptown area of Oakland (both considered downtown) have undergone a revival of their rich architecture and inviting entertainment scene. First, art galleries began to flourish followed by restaurants and the revamping of many of Oakland’s historical Art Deco buildings. Old Oakland, also known as the Historic portion of Oakland, used to be home to the city’s downtown center while Uptown was known as “auto row.” Now you can find a sprinkling of pop-up galleries and restaurants in both places.

Flora: Yummy restaurant. The classic drinks with a twist are amazing, not to mention their excellent service. Just be sure to call ahead for a reservation. This place is perfect if you’re going to a concert at the Fox — it’s right across the street!

B restaurant: Great décor, yummy food and innovative drinks (prepared by, hands down, the most consistent and innovative bartender in Oakland, Marjan).

Rudy’s Can’t Fail Café: Classic American diner fare prepared with seasonally fresh, often locally sourced ingredients. They have every kind of burger imaginable and are one of the few places open past 10 (1:00am in fact). Co-owned by Green Day’s Mike Dirnt.

Hibiscus: You don’t find a Caribbean-Creole inspired restaurant too often in this neck of the woods. It’s a nice change from the American/Californian cuisine you seem to find on every block.

Commonwealth Club: This place is quaint and delicious. If you’re in the mood for an English pub with some traditional fair, this is the place for you.

Flora: An upbeat atmosphere with drinks that make you feel like you’re in the 1930s.

The Den at the Fox: Lounge attached to the historic Fox Theater. Go in for a drink or apps before heading in for a show.

Trappist: Belgium bar with 28 rotating taps and over 100 specialty bottles.

Dogwood: Just down the street from Flora, you can enjoy tasty cocktails and sample fine meats and cheeses from their charcuterie bar. This is a well-lit and comfortable bar with communal tables so you can cozy up to your neighbors.

Oakland/Brooklyn Bar-name TBD: Yet to be named, owners Christopher Foott and Glenn Kaplan, both Oakland natives, are opening up a sister bar to Brooklyn’s Weather Up as a way to introduce some of the style and elegance of Brooklyn and New York with the honesty of Oakland. Because of its mission, it’s already a winner in my book! 1741 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland, CA

Mua: The one thing I love about Oakland is that it’s very diverse. Mua is no exception, attracting a broad array of amazingly nice and energetic people. The owner is an artist, and the space certainly portrays his sensibilities. It’s lofty and rustic but filled with pieces of his street art. During the early evening, you can get food here and at night dance your heart out to one of the DJs who plays here. In addition, there are two bars, a happy hour and one killer MUA Manhattan!

Luca’s: Perfectly located at the downtown and Auto Row intersection, Luca’s is a comfortable place to catch a brunch or burger. At night, you can dance away to some DJs and music.

Café Van Kleef: Eclectic bar with a full lineup of music, notorious for their freshly squeezed Greyhounds.

Era Art Bar and Lounge: This off-the-cuff two-story bar feels very much like your great grandfather’s library. The upstairs space can be privately rented for a get-together. On special occasions, like the World Cup, you can even squeeze in to watch the game. But mostly, this place functions as a dance club. Very classy.

The Hat Guys: If it’s a hat and the Hat Guys don’t have it, it probably doesn’t exist. In other words, they have an amazing variety. They’ll size any hat to your head and repair and clean your favorite old hat for you.

Feelmore510: This place is classy! You’d never expect it given the vibe of downtown, but I’m totally impressed. They have a classic collection of adult books, DVDs and toys. This is a great place if your shopping for adult products but don’t want to feel embarrassed.

Bloom Screen Printing Co.: While not technically open to the public all the time, you might be able to get ahold of the owner for a sneak peak and potentially shop a one-of-a-kind print from this Screen Printing Company. They work with a number of illustrators and designers in the Bay Area to print multiple or limited editions in the old art of screen printing. You can also hire them to print your own work.

Oaklandish: In the heart of Oakland lives a place we call Oaklandish. After years of word of mouth and rolling around to street fairs in their Oaklandish mobile, they finally have a storefront to call their own. If you’d like some t-shirts or onsies to commemorate your time or dedication to Oakland, this is the place to go. They’ve even started a city pride website for a variety of cities. So, if you don’t live here, you can still benefit from the coolness that they offer.

Fox Theater: By far the most amazing resurrection of architecture (my opinion only) that Oakland has seen in quite some time. Thanks to Phil Tagami and the Friends of the Oakland Fox, this 2800-seat Art Deco theater came out of its 40-year hibernation in 2009. It has since become a unique venue to see live music of all kinds. Go take in a concert the next time you’re in town.

The Uptown: Another great venue for live music. This place is small, loud and in the true heart of the arts district and rock culture. The best part about it is that the stage and music area are separate from the bar, so you can enjoy dancing and the crowd or a drink and a seat.

Paramount Theater: Paramount theater, built in 1931, is another historic Art Deco gem in the middle of downtown Oakland. This place hosts a number of fun activities throughout the week, including movie classics every Friday night, comedy nights, kids’ performances and music.

25th Street Collective: 25th Street Collective is a local business incubator, artisanal sewing collective and soon-to-be storefront for sustainable start-ups including Cole Coffee and a wine tasting place. They take place in Oakland’s First Friday Art Walk called Art Murmur.

Johansson Projects: A great gallery with a talented curator on staff. Go during a time other than Art Murmur, though, because it gets super crowded. Be prepared to have your eyes opened to stuff you may like and art you will like; the selection is just that good.

Creative Growth: Love the openings and show at this gallery/artist studio, famous to Oakland for its unique mission alone: Creative Growth Art Center serves adult artists with developmental, mental and physical disabilities, providing a professional studio environment for artistic development, gallery exhibition and representation and a social atmosphere among peers. They also bring in a number of resident teacher and collaborating artists.

Art Murmur: Made up of over 17 galleries and artist workshop spaces, Art Murmur set out with a mission to increase awareness of and participation in the Oakland arts. Every First Friday of the month, member galleries are open to the public from 6 to 9 pm with vendors and an array of patrons crowding the streets in support.

Oakland Museum: The Oakland Museum recently got a CLASSY, major face lift. Between the landscape terraced areas, modern open design and Museum Store, they have also incorporated new social outreach attractions such as the Oakland Standard. This is a “not to miss,” whether you are a local, a visitor or simply someone who wants something fun to do. And it’s free the first Sunday of every month!

Washington Inn: If you’re looking for someplace unique and charming (with a bit of old charm), this is the place. Close to the ferry that can take you into SF, Jack London Square, Chinatown and Old Oakland.

Jack London
Jack London used to be Oakland’s main port with access to a natural estuary leading to the San Francisco Bay. Named after the well-known author Jack London (who was responsible for writing the book White Fang. You remember the movie with Ethan Hawke!).

You can catch an easy ride across the bay to San Francisco at the ferry terminal (always worth the ride if you’re up for the city and don’t feel like driving; plus, there’s a bar on board!)

Chop Bar: I recently fell in love with this place. Walk right up to the bar through the roll-up garage-style door, and get ready for a delicious meal of comfort-style food. The service is great, and the vibe relaxed.

Encuentro: Meaning “to meet or gather,” Encuentro’s small, inviting space with a warm staff and tasty food is a perfect spot to gather with friends and enjoy a glass of wine. Eric Tucker (executive chef at Millennium Restaurant in San Francisco), creates an eclectic mix of organic/sustainable vegetarian fare and wines for you to choose from. The staff is helpful and lovely, the wine list reasonable and the food is always spot on.

Bocanova: A Pan-American grill (with a Latin influence) located in the heart of Jack London’s shopping district. I recommend sharing many plates. The drinks are unique and always inspiring.

Everett & Jones BBQ: Feeling like a bit of BBQ and you want to try something traditional? Everett & Jones has been around in Oakland since 1973 and very successfully provides us with amazing BBQ, music and good times.

Beer Revolution: This hole-in-the-wall beer place feels more like a college-style tasting room than a bar. But who can pass up over 40 beers on tap and a patio (rare to find in the Bay Area) to lounge around on? And it’s dog friendly!

Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon: It’s said that Jack London spent quite a bit of time at this bar, but it got its name from being the first and last place you could get a drink before hitting the ferry back to the dry town of Alameda. It’s been around since 1883 and is now a National Literary Landmark. The bar is still functioning with most of the old tables, gas lights, and memorabilia still intact. The quirkiest part is that the floor is slanted at quite a drastic angle from the 1906 earthquake. You’ll never quite know if it’s you (from drinking too much) or the floor that’s keeping you from seeing straight!

Irish Monkey: This is a small-end local winery, but a great place to do some tasting. I went there with a friend, and we both enjoyed the wines they had available. The founder is Irish (go figure), with some great wines to taste.

Urban Legend Wine Cellars: There is no pretentiousness to this warehouse wine tasting room located in Jack London. You’d be surprised; after talking to the owner, you learn that literally everything to produce the wine is done onsite, excluding the growing of the grapes. The wine is reasonable and the atmosphere a breath of fresh air.

Yoshi’s: Who doesn’t love the perfect mix of music and food? This place is well known amongst locals as a world-class jazz house and an excellent place to get fresh sushi.

JC Cellars: Another great tasting room located right here in Oakland. Impressive wines specializing in Syrah and Zinfandels. Forget about Napa when you can indulge in exceptional wine right here in the bay. It’s open Thurs through Sun, noon to 6pm.

Miette Pâtisserie & Confiserie: I go in here whenever I want to be teased by the sweets and candies and relish the amazing confections.

The Waterfront Hotel: This modern marina-style hotel is a Joie de Vivre property, California’s largest boutique hotel collection. Modernized to meet the expectations of the Joie de Vivre look, it’s a great option if you’re in the Jack London area.

Swarm Gallery: You must have a visit to this airy and lovely gallery space just a hop, skip and a jump away from the hubbub of the pier. The gallery encompasses the true collaborative nature that is the art scene of Oakland: a gallery in front and artist studios in back.

Jack London Market: This has been in the works for a couple years now, but I’m giving you a heads’ up on the secret. The Jack London Market is sure to be a phenomenal place once fully realized. The first two floors will be home to a daily market overflowing with the area’s best fruits, vegetables, meat, seafood, coffee, baked goods, cheese and prepared foods. The market will also be the perfect spot for a quick snack or a leisurely lunch with a glass of wine; it’s a hub for culinary shopping, events and education.

Eat Real Festival: For the past 3 years, Oakland has celebrated local, sustainable and quality food at an outdoor food event called Eat Real. If you happen to be here in late September, go! Eat some fresh organic food; participate in a fermentation contest; drink a local handcrafted beer, wine, or agua fresca, or just sit back and watch some music or a food demo.

Take a Bike Ride: Take a mellow bike ride or stroll along the waterfront.

Alameda Flea Market/Alameda Point Antiques Faire: Just a short tunnel ride away, located on an old naval station in Alameda, is where you can find tons of Oakland residents on the first Sunday morning of the month. This is one of the best flea markets I’ve been to, sometimes boasting over 800 vendors!

Trapeze Arts: Have you ever wondered what it’s like to fly through the air (safely)? Well, Oakland has our very own Trapeze Arts School. Take a class, watch a performance or just stop in to check out their store.

Temescal is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Oakland, California. Most of the houses were originally built and occupied by Italian families, and it has recently undergone demographic and developmental changes. Over the past 5 years, it’s been transforming from an otherwise drab stretch of commercial street (Telegraph) into a family friendly and diverse cultural center that any neighborhood would be proud of.

Pizzaiolo: Huge fan. Charlie the chef is a product of the infamous Chez Panisse in Berkeley. This is probably my favorite place to go in Oakland. They have an outdoor patio with chickens in the back. All the food is delicious. It’s pretty busy but worth the wait for the meatballs alone. Catch their summer movie nights out in the back.

Bakesale Betty’s: Every weekend, you can be sure to find a line down the block for this out the door bakery and sandwich shop. But the food is worth it. They are known for their fried chicken sandwich and delicious pies. The coolest thing is that you can grab your sandwich and sit outside at one of the many ironing boards they use as tables.

Scream Sorbet: This is not the icy type of sorbet that you may think of when you think of sorbet. Imagine non-dairy ice cream that’s as creamy as the real stuff. An always changing menu with a few staples. Delicious.

Sacred Wheel Cheese & Specialty Market: How sweet it is. A place dedicated to cheese and all the things you might pair with it. Spreads, mustards, cookbooks, etc. This place is a must for a quick snack. They have tomato soup and grilled cheeses. So simple but so good.

Aunt Mary’s: Homemade biscuits and a unique menu for a brunch place. This isn’t your greasy spoon, but rather a fresh take on the southern breakfast. Delicious and worth the short wait.

Genova Delicatessen: A classic. Little known except to residents, this part of North Oakland used to be home to a large Italian population. This deli pays homage to that heritage. Take a ticket and wait to chat it up with a delicatessen as he makes you a sandwich of any kind under the sun!

Homeroom: You really can’t go wrong with a restaurant dedicated to mac and cheese! Oh man. It’s good. The décor is cute, too. It actually makes you feel like you’re in a classroom, complete with tables made from recycled gym bleachers!

Remedy: Welcome to the world of slow drip coffee and relaxed coffee bars. I was so excited that this place finally showed up in my neck of the woods. They serve Ritual coffee here (a Bay Area newbie since 2005) and a backyard garden patio with wifi.

Sub Rosa: This small yet classy coffee bar has great coffee and serves the best vegan tofu donuts ever. Small with sidewalk seating available. Four Barrel Coffee is served here.

Marc 49: A nice wine bar right in the center of Temescal. Great selection of wines with outdoor seating in the back. 4915 Telegraph Ave. Oakland CA. 510-652-2100

East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse: If you ever need to find extra frames, thread, paper or anything random and in mass quantity, you can find it here. This is the first place I look for crafty projects. You may not find what you need, but you’ll certainly find something else that will inspire you. Everything is recycled (hence the reuse in the name). It’s super organized and extremely fun to check out.

Hooper Vintage Skate Shop: Temescal’s most recent addition, this skate shop resides in Oakland’s old Hooper Chocolate Factory. You can’t miss it! The old sign for Hooper’s is still up. They sell mostly skateboards and apparel, but they’ve also got coffee and, and of course, chocolate. Telegraph Avenue and 47th Street, Oakland, CA

Scout Hardware: This store focuses on the home by selling not only home décor and vintage finds but lighting, fixtures and paint as well. All sorts of fabulous little vintage and faux-vintage tchotchkes can be found here.

1234 Records: Best punk store in the Bay Area. In need of records new and used; check them out. The owner will even pay fairly for some of your used records.

Manifesto Bike Shop: Manifesto sells new and rebuilt bikes, apparel, accessories and other awesome, cool stuff. Check out a newsletter for a list of upcoming events.

Temescal Street Cinema: During the summer months, Temescal hosts a variety of activities. This one is one of my favorites. Free movies, popcorn and music on Thursday nights. Check their calendar for a line-up of movies.

Pizzaiolo Summer Movie Nights: This restaurant also has summer movie nights. Grab a beer and pizza and sit on some bleachers for an awesome movie experience.

Temescal Fair: Okay, maybe this is only once a year, but it’s fun to check out nonetheless. Neighborhood fairs really get me in the mood for summer.

Slate Contemporary Gallery: Stop by this beautiful gallery to check out some of the latest from emerging Bay Area artists.

Lakeshore & Grand/Lake Merritt
These two streets border Lake Merritt. Over 3 miles around, the lake is home to a bird sanctuary, gondola rides, a biking and walking path, historic buildings and playgrounds. These two streets are just a short walk away from the lake.

Camino: I just can’t get over the brunch here! It’s so delicious. Dinner is great as well. Everything — from the long communal tables to the fireplace/wood burning oven featured as a centerpiece to the open kitchen — makes you feel like you’re you in someone’s kitchen. The chef, Russell Moore, is no stranger to the kitchen either. He is one of the many talented chefs who studied at Chez Panisse in Berkeley.

Sidebar: Amazing food, well-done drinks and probably the best burger I’ve ever had . . . and a wine list to match.

Easy Lounge: A favorite spot to chill outside with a pint of beer or a margarita. Best of all are the Farmers’ Market’s fresh ingredient drinks on Saturday’s. You can bring in your own food as well!

Heart and Dagger Saloon: Cheap drinks, a backyard and dogs allowed! Perfect for a slow Saturday afternoon.

Lake Chalet Seafood Bar & Grill: This is a relatively new addition to Oakland. It was originally designed as a pumphouse for the fire department, and later it expanded to a boathouse. The owners rejuvenated the boathouse and turned it into the only lakefront restaurant on Lake Merritt. The happy hours are great. Sit on the dock with some local beer from the Beach Chalet in San Francisco (their sister property) and nibble on some sliders, crab, oysters or tacos.

Lake Merritt: One of the things I love about Oakland is that we have a lake smack dab in the center. Lake Merritt is little over 3 miles around. Perfect for a walk, jog or bike ride. At night, the whole thing is lit up with lights running along the rim. You can stop at the bird sanctuary or a playground on your way around, too.

Arizmendi: Fresh-baked goods, like bread and pizza, come straight out of the oven and into your hands (ouch!). Grab some coffee, then park yourself at one of the outdoor tables and watch the people stream by in olfactory envy. It’s also nice to note that this is a co-op. 3265 Lakeshore Ave., (510) 268-8849

Mirabel: Vintage, new and used clothing makes this store a must-see. It’s not grimy like other vintage stores. This store carefully picks the best finds and sells them to you at a more than reasonable price. 3251 Lakeshore Ave, Oakland, CA 94610, (510) 419-0677

Michael Mischer Chocolates: Normally known for their handmade chocolates, I love that Michael Mischer sells gelato (very good to boot) as well as interesting flavors of chocolates like a BBQ and chocolate truffle made from the BBQ sauce of local favorite Everett and Jones. Neighboring businesses teaming up — gotta love it!

Urban Indigo: From home furnishings to handmade jewelry, Urban Indigo has something to satisfy every design craving.

Queen: Have you always wanted to decorate your bed or sofa with a pillow that has “Brown Sugar” or “Queen” stitched across it in flawless cursive? Who hasn’t? At this little storefront workshop of “distinctive home accents,” you’ll find pillows, drapes, shades, shams and bedspreads made to order. The lush shop window overflows with fabric samples and already-embroidered pillows that can be purchased as great last-minute, one-of-a-kind gifts. 3338 Grand Ave., (510) 208-3000

Gondola Rides on Lake Merritt: This is the coolest thing about Oakland. Who would have thought that we’d have a true Venetian Gondola Servizio on our Lake? On my own gondola ride, I discovered that the owners, April and Angelino (a true Venetian), loved Venice so much that they brought 2 gondolas back with them and decided to recreate the romantic experience directly for residents. The rides are complete with them singing traditional Italian melodies to you and your sweetie. You can access it through the boathouse at the Lake Chalet Seafood Bar and Grill.

Fairyland: For over 60 years, Fairyland has graced the shores of Lake Merritt. In its hey day, it was the first storybook park to pop up, inspiring many others to join the bandwagon, including the famous Walt Disney to draw up his own plans for the “Magic Kingdom.” Fairyland thrives today as a visionary place for children to explore a truly magical space of fun and fantasy.

Grand Lake Farmers’ Market (Saturdays): A great farmers’ market with fresh local produce from all around the Bay Area and beyond. 580 Freeway. Splash Pad Park, Lake Park Ave., (800) 897-3276

Grand Lake Theater: I can’t pass up writing about this historic theater. Sure, it’s just a movie theater — a dime a dozen, right? But this theater is a landmark. Built in 1926 in an Art Deco style, it still serves as entertainment from the outside as well as the inside. It’s also known for its progressive political marquee messages, which are super inspiring and entertaining.

Piedmont/North Oakland
This cute district, more commonly recognized for some of its history (Mountain View Cemetery, Fenton’s Creamery and a beautifully designed chapel from designer Julia Morgan) has recently started a bit of a revival in cuter and younger shopping to match the elegant and delicious dining.

Adesso: This place is one of my new favorite finds in Oakland. If you go there during happy hour, you’ll receive complimentary appetizers inspired by traditional Italian restaurant culture. Their cocktails are consistent, and and the house-cured meats and pate are excellent.

Tropix: If you’re up for Caribbean fare and an outdoor patio, look no further than this quaint restaurant nestled into a small spot toward the end of the block.

Commis: As the only Michelin-rated restaurant on this side of the bay (so far), Chef James Syhabout serves an amazing and decadent prix fixe menu complete with an amuse-bouche that will blow your mind!

Pizza Pazza: I love this little pizza place. Sometimes you can even catch live music happening on a Thursday or Friday night in the next room. Their pizza is delicious. 3905 Piedmont Avenue Oakland, CA 94611 (510) 653-0157

Fenton’s: This place has been a staple of Oakland since 1894! It acts as an old diner, but for the most part, it serves the area as an ice cream parlor. They are world famous for their ice cream sundaes. My personal faves are the homemade hot fudge and caramel sauces!

Ceasar: Right in the middle of a bustling Piedmont neighborhood, this is a great place to take respite on the outdoor patio or stay for a great cocktail and tapas.

Dopo: Yummy and delicious with an ever-changing menu and a varied wine list. Sister restaurant to Adesso, this also has roots in Italian cuisine.


Cato’s: Cato’s has music a few nights a week. Sometimes you can catch the owner himself jamming out. The beers on tap are good, and there are a la carte nibbles and beyond available for your delight.


Rare Bird: I love walking in here. It’s like affordable eye candy. They sell clothing, home décor and artwork by local designers and gallery artists along with a fine collection of recycled goods.

Mercy Vintage: From the eccentric retro to the purely classic, Mercy Vintage offers high quality design and well-constructed fashions to inspire modern outfits everywhere.

Cougar Horse:  A brother-and-sister team opened up this independent clothing company that sells a bit of vintage and a bit of new, original screen-printed shirts, jewelry and records. 4454 Piedmont Ave , Oakland , CA 94611

Mountain View Cemetery: Have no fear when you hear the word cemetery. This beautiful, hilly and enormous parcel of land is a hidden gem. You can find tombstones and mausoleums as old as the early 1800s here. It’s quite peaceful for a Sunday hike or some artistic tombstone rubbings.

Piedmont Avenue Art Walk: Join this art crawl every third Thursday from 6pm to 9pm for art, shopping and dining. Anywhere on Piedmont Ave.

A Bed and Breakfast on Fairmont: This is the cutest craftsman-style B&B. Why not stay in a warm, cozy house complete with a wonderful garden and access to some amazing shopping and food instead of a big hotel? Nancy, the owner, will make you a delicious breakfast, maybe with some fresh ingredients from their organic garden or hens.

This neighborhood converges right at the base of Oakland and Berkeley. Its quaint shopping and restaurants make this a must-see. Plus, it’s home to the Dreyer’s Ice Cream international headquarters with its only retail space centered right on the main drag.

Oliveto: Classic and tasty, I always go to Oliveto when I feel like experiencing a warm winter night of tasty Italian and well-made Californian cuisine.

Somerset: Creative American comfort food with probably the best and most unique brunches (on the weekends) in the East Bay. You have got to try one of their homemade English muffins or a classic Mexican Coffee. (They have a full bar, too, so don’t be afraid to doctor that coffee up!)

Wood Tavern: Pork chop. That’s all I need to say. I’m not a big pork chop lover, but I’ve never tasted something as delectable as this. The drinks are consistent and outstanding, as well. If you want to be spontaneous and stop in for a bite without a reservation, there is always room at the bar (after a bit of a wait).

Bittersweet Café: Toward the middle of your shopping experience, you’re going to need a boost of caffeine, either coffee or chocolate. This place has got you covered. It’s super cute and filled with chocolaty goodness.

Barclay’s: Down to earth and inviting, being at Barclay’s is like being in your friend’s basement with a bar. With over 30 beers on tap, they have, hands down, the best selection of CA microbrews in the Bay Area. If you really like beer and you’re in for the long haul, you can join the beer club and get your name on a gold plate for drinking over a certain number of beers.

Ben and Nick’s: The place to hang your hat and watch a b-ball game while savoring a burger and a beer. Super relaxed atmosphere.

Atomic Garden: I wander around this store often. As this place is all about clothes, bath products and home décor that is recycled and sustainable, everything always feels so natural, clean and fresh.

Bella Vita: Everything in here is adorable. Inspired by vintage clothing, accessories and other items, this place has the air of a dainty wardrobe. They also sell sweet letterpressed cards, décor, baby and children’s clothes, wrapping paper and local artisan pieces.

Clementine: I randomly stepped in here one day because I noticed an amazing smell. While appearances may suggest that this small shop sells local art and vintage finds for tableware, it doubles as a floral shop. Step in for an order for your next event, and walk out feeling that you just stepped out of a field of wildflowers.

Diesel Bookstore: Known for their great array of books titles and authors, as well as their enthusiastic staff, Diesel is a very successful independent/community bookstore. They’ve even published their own book: Read ‘Em and Weep: My Favorite Novels by Barry Gifford.

Maison de Etre: You can find cool and unique home décor here, including linens, candles, modern baby stuff, furniture and sustainable, unique designs.

Rockridge Market Hall: You can’t pass by this amazing small coffee shop/market. I could spend a whole morning going through the selection of delicacies that Rockridge Market Hall picks out to sell. It’s the perfect place to stop for unique cheeses, salads, mustards, oils and chocolate before heading to the beach for a picnic.

Lake Temescal: A small urban oasis in the hills. Bring the kids for the sandy beachfront lake swimming area.

Dean’s Bed & Breakfast: This is a great bed & breakfast just a short walk away from the Rockridge College Avenue shopping district. It’s complete with a Japanese garden and a heated swimming pool.

Paradise Park
Located in a small strip of San Pablo, this neighborhood has a few standouts worth mentioning.

James and the Giant Cupcake: Always a staple of the Oakland landscape, this cupcake shop hits the mark with yummy ever-changing cupcakes for everyone’s desire. They even have something for the vegan in you.

Actual Café: Great place to stop for coffee and a bite during a tour around town. What I love about this shop is that they are dedicated to bikes, complete with a bike rack right inside (to keep your bike safe in any weather).

Pepples Donuts: You can find these creations popping up all over town. This donut shop is open 7 days a week and serves delicious 100% organic and vegan seasonal fresh fruit glazes made with real ingredients and no trans fats or GMOs. I never thought vegan could taste so good.

A Verb for Keeping Warm: This storefront/workshop is great for offering quick and informative classes on knitting, spinning and sewing your own clothes. The owners are so sweet. They not only offer an array of sustainable yarns but also a beautiful mix of printed fabrics (which are hard to come by).

Other Notables
There are so many places in Oakland worth a mention and such little time, so I wanted to note the following places whether they are in or close by our beloved town.

Rock Wall Wine Co.: This winery is based right under the tunnel in the island called Alameda. They have just started Friday night openings/tastings with music. The space is amazing. They open up their hangar doors and let in the breezes and scenery from the bay.

Hangar One Vodka: Again, another treasure based in Alameda and a place I love to frequent. This distillery offers tours and tastings of their vodkas and other spirits with interesting infused flavors like kaffir lime and Buddha’s hand.

Linden Street Brewery/Tasting Room: With excellent beer and genuine owners, this place fits in well with the Oakland vibe.

Brown Sugar Kitchen: Chef and owner Tanya Holland has hit the jackpot with this authentic southern/soul food kitchen located in West Oakland. By far the best fried chicken and waffles I’ve ever had. I love when they have the piano pulled out front on weekend mornings to serenade you while you wait.

Bellanico: Located on Park Blvd. in Glenview, this modern and authentic Italian restaurant is amazing. The wine list matches the impressive menu, with authentic and bold wine choices from Italy. You can choose wine pairings for a very reasonable cost and a coursed menu for lunch or dinner.

Chabot Observatory: Unleash your inner curiosity. Set amid beautiful redwood parkland in the Oakland hills is Chabot Space and Science Center. Perfect for a trip with the kids for a class, summer camp or show and romantic for first dates as you observe the night sky through one of the high-powered telescopes (during summer months only).

Hiking in the Oakland Hills: You’d be surprised to know that there is some amazing hiking right here in the Oakland Hills. If you’re down with a bit of nature and like to see the Bay from some beautiful heights, check out one of the dozens of trails. Try Joaquin Miller Park or the Claremont Hills right off of Skyline Blvd. My favorite (besides these two) is Huckleberry Botanic Regional Preserve.

Pixar: Now, it’s not like anyone can wander in here (tours are not allowed because of confidential high-profile activity), but it’s worth noting that Emeryville (only 4 blocks away from the Oakland border) is Pixar’s home. The wonderful company that brought you Finding Nemo and Toy Story. You’re bound to run into someone who works here while in Oakland given Pixar’s vast campus and size. Maybe some day we’ll be able to step on the sacred ground.

Claremont Resort and Spa/Parragon Bar & Cafe: Okay, so maybe this isn’t in Oakland, although it’s nestled right between the Oakland Hills and Berkeley (so it should be!). Though Berkeley claimed it, that doesn’t stop us from visiting. This place is rich in history. Dating back to the Gold Rush days, this place was built first as a castle and then as a hotel. After many rounds of refurbishing, it is one of the classiest places to stay and lounge that the Bay Area can offer. The view from the Parragon Bar & Café is stunning. I often go up here to watch a sunset and listen to some live jazz. Word has it that this is where Bill Clinton stays every time he is in town.

Rose Garden Inn: Not too far away, just a few blocks from Oakland, lies a quaint B&B called the Rose Garden Inn. There are 40 rooms here, but it still feels unique and comfortable. It sits just adjacent to a great yoga studio, Yoga Mandala, and a coffee house, so get ready for some major relaxation.

Well-Known Musicians/Musicians out of Oakland
The Lovemakers
Green Day recorded in Oakland (originally from the punk scene in Berkeley, close to Oakland)
Mike Dirnt
MC Hammer
DJ Shadow
Uriah Duffy (former bassist for White Snake and now a part of Jazz Mafia)
Digital Underground
Michael Franti
Tupac Shakur
Tre Cool

Whitney Smith: ceramacist
Sara Paloma: ceramacist
Ann Weber: sculptor
Judith Scott: deceased, part of Creative Growth initiative and well-recognized artist
Todd Hido: photographer
Melissa Kaseman: photographer
Ethan Worden: Mixed Media
Narangkar Glover: artist
Sara Applebaum: mixed media
Mari Andrews: mixed media
Patricia Gillespie: artist
Lisa Espenmiller: artist
Brian Caraway: artist
Carol Inez Charney: photographer
Patricia Thomas: drawings
Maya Kabat: painter
Bruce Beasley: sculptor
Nat Swope: screen printer
Jason Munn: screen printer

Clint Eastwood
Tom Hanks

Bobby Seale
Jerry Brown

Collectives and Galleries

Jack London

Suggested For You


  • Love to see this! Another music group of note that hails from Oakland is Rogue Wave. Art Murmur here is awesome! There’s also a gallery called The Hive that’s just down the street from Beer Revolution; Hive typically has openings Friday nights. Anyone who visits here HAS to see a movie at Grand Lake Theatre; it is indescribably beautiful. Also, $5 movie nights at the Paramount! Check out the taco truck Tamales mi Lupita in Fruitvale, Anthony Bourdain went there in an episode of No Reservations. Also, how was there no mention of the fact that the Blue Bottle roastery is right here in Oakland! Love their Louisiana iced coffee. There’s also a great new little cafe that opened up by me called Kitchen 388 on Grand at Staten.

  • oh PERFECT timing! i am going to Oakland for work in 2 weeks and am staying an extra few days to hang out :-) we are staying at the waterfront and i am excited to relax and check out some of your recommendations!!! the joie de vivre hotel chain in ca is amazing :D

  • Thank you so much for this! I just moved to Berkeley a few months ago, and I have been wanting to explore Oakland beyond what I’ve seen in Rockridge/Temescal. If you like Mexican food, definitely try Dona Tomas. And Article Pract is a great knitting store in the same neighborhood.

  • So excited to see this awesome guide of my hometown! I live in the Piedmont Avenue area and wanted to give a shout out to my very favorite tikki bar- Kona Club. This hidden gem is at the corner of Piedmont and Pleasant Valley across the street from Adesso. The interior is adorable kitsch and the tiki drinks are totally delicious. They also have an awesome jukebox, an animatronics hula girl, light up blowfish and a great pool table. Rumor has it that Trader Vic- the inventor of the Mai Tai- is buried in the Mountain View Cemetery next door, so it doesn’t get any more authentic than this!

  • I love to see REAL Oakland natives comments and responses. Although I love transplants perspectives and new opinions and appreciate their appreciation for Oakland, I always love to read natives takes on our city’s evolutions. Every area of Oakland should be celebrated and burrito trucks, pho houses and china town should be delved into analyzed for sure. I’m glad the music talent hailing from OAK was updated and there are many more to mention . I’ve been away for 9 years living in Brooklyn which oddly has a very East Bay vibe to it so I love reading up on SO MANY new developments on the foodie, art, music and creative forefronts. It’s a new city let me tell you. Born and raised in Oakland and Berkeley coming back is like re-learning a language at times. I think the BEST news in reading is finding out my beloved Fairy Land from my 80’s childhood still exists!! My father arrived as an infant in 1951 to the port of Oakland on a boat from the Philippines and my Mothers family have been Oakland German immigrants since to 1800’s with deep roots in Oakland and Berkeley. The city they arrived to is CLEARLY a new and fantastic city beyond a high-crime reputation. GREAT JOB AT REPRESENTING A FANTASTIC AND CULTURED CITY BEYOND MOST!

  • I’m a San Francisco native and I’ve never had a good reason to go out to the East Bay to explore but now I have a ton!! I knew Oakland had its own awesome culture. Now I know where to begin. Thank you!

  • Two truly amazing coffee places in downtown Oakland are Modern Coffee and Cafe Gabriela, both serving coffee made only from fresh-roasted beans. I got to work in Oakland for a few months and couldn’t live without their fantastic cappuccinos, high quality every single time, no exception. Both places also have great pastries, and Cafe Gabriela serves delicious sandwiches.

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