When I was in high-school, my home-town tripled in population in one year (which was record-breaking for North America). It was fascinating watching the soul and spirit of the town ebb, flow and grow. For Daniel Scovill and Adam Winig, this fascination is more of an actionable passion. Since 2003, they have been designing, developing and building as the Principal Owners of the architecture and design firm Arcsine, but today, they’re stepping back from their blueprints to tour us through Oakland, a town that continues to inspire them as it grows.
Adam’s attraction to Oakland is an electric one: he loves the up-and-coming energy it radiates and how — despite the countless things there are to do, see, eat and drink–, it feels like a small city. For Daniel, Oakland continues to lure him in with the variety it boasts: from the gritty and vibrant port and street art, to the incredible food and beverage offerings, entrepreneurial businesses, and the secluded trails in the Redwood Regional Park. Oakland always has surprised and gems to be discovered, and due to the location, being smack-dab in the middle of the Bay Area, it’s been an amazing place to grow their business. Today, Adam and Daniel are sharing their favorite Oakland locales and the places that inspire them throughout town, broken down by region. –Sabrina
i. Region Name: Jack London Square
Situated along the Oakland/Alameda estuary, Jack London Square is a cultural hub and a symbol of the city’s history as a seaport. From summer night markets and outdoor movies to kayaking and bicycling along the waterfront, Jack London Square is a hot spot for dining, boutiques and year-round events. It’s one of Oakland’s most identifiable landmarks.
Jack London Square is the ideal place to meet up with friends for food and drinks. Stroll along the waterfront, rent a bike and explore the Bay Trail, or just relax outside and watch the boats go by on the water.
Every Sunday, Jack London Square waterfront is home to this great outdoor farmers’ market that offers the best of California’s agricultural bounty. You can find fruits, vegetables, as well as freshly baked breads and pastries, delicious specialty foods and fresh flowers.
If you love Italian food, make sure you stop by Lungomare. The menu offers a blend of Tuscan and Ligurian specialties: a mix of seafood, house-cured meats, rustic pizza and fresh pasta, with dishes locally sourced whenever possible. It also has an awesome cocktail bar and the most incredible waterfront views.
i. Region Name: Old Oakland
The old Victorian style buildings in “original” downtown area date back to the 1860’s. In the past few years a lot of new bars and boutiques have cropped-up in the historic district, making it a great stop to explore and shop.
Stroll the pop-up and new shops of Old Oakland.
Crown Nine has beautiful jewelry designed by the talented Kate Ellen. A favorite piece from there is a bronzed nail that she found in her building from circa 1900 and fashioned into a bracelet.
Umami Mart is an amazing Japanese store for bar and kitchen goods. They have the most stunning range of glassware and bar tools for the budding mixologist.
Also check out the Old Oakland Farmers’ Market on Friday mornings along Ninth Street.
The Front Bar at The Trappist is one of our favorite watering holes (in the world). Whether you go for a Monk’s Lunch in the middle of the day, or an evening for several rounds; this intimate establishment will make you a Belgian and specialty beer aficionado after the first sip.
Wine and whiskey lounge District offers an eclectic selection of wine, whiskey and small plates and they constantly roll vintage movies on the walls.
Try the grilled vegetable tacos and grilled vege torta in the market-hall like setting of Cosecha. And their aguas frescas are always on!
ii. Region Name: Downtown
The Downtown area is Oakland’s Central Business District, bustling with restaurants, bars and nightclubs.
If you’re into radio and podcasts, you’ll find the home base of many within a small five block radius; (99% Invisible, Snap Judgment, Youth Radio, Popup Archive, Radio Ambulante, Radio Bilingüe, Making Contact, etc.)
E.M. Wolfman General Interest Small Bookstore is a brilliant little independent bookshop with a small art gallery in back. Poetry readings, obscure titles, and always a great conversation to be had with the proprietor & founder, Justin Carder.
Forget the tacky tourist t-shirts and pick up something cooler from Oaklandish. Their original designs are hand printed here in Oakland and proceeds support their ongoing public art and action campaigns.
Radio is our favorite dark downtown bar. Even after the slick new storefront glazing was added, the black shades were installed. Grab a beer, play some pinball and enjoy the some freshly spun Whitesnake records on the speakers.
Drexl is our current love affair! Before a show at the Fox, after work, or for an evening of cocktails, have one of the talented mixologists do a “Dealer’s Choice” with one of the unique gin varieties from neighboring Alameda’s own St. George Spirits’. Then take your drink up to the mezzanine and play a round or two of skee ball.
Head over to Ratto’s International Market & Deli for lunch. It’s a perfect place for a wonderful sandwich and street side seating in Old Oakland. The market has the charm of the early 1900’s and the place is 4th generation family owned and operated.
Sobo Ramen is a quaint ramen café that focuses on local food sources, including custom noodles, and even includes vegan and gluten-free offerings. Prepare for a long line if you drop in for lunch on a rainy day.
ii. Region Name: Uptown
Eat, Drink, and enjoy a show at the historic Fox Theater. This gem of Oakland brings great concerts to downtown Oakland in a stunning example of 1920’s architecture.
Check out Oakland First Fridays and Oakland Art Murmur on the first Friday of each month, where they close off the streets for art studios, pop-ups and food trucks. Enjoy the art and people, it’ what Oakland is all about!
Also, be sure to stop by FM on 25th Street. A collective of brilliant artists and exemplars of young Oakland artists.
Shop: Owl-N-Wood is a Danish-inspired spot is with gorgeous furniture and murals that sells select vintage clothing and accessories.
Modern Coffee – a taproom for coffee! With rotating featured roasters, Modern serves up coffee and espresso as it should be. You will learn about new roasters from all over and the friendly crew at Modern will welcome you like you are an old-time regular!
Grab one of the best cocktails in the East Bay area in the art deco setting of Flora. They also offer classes if you want to learn how to make your own.
Also stop by Plum Bar for a cocktail for yourself –or share a punch bowl with a friend (or four).
Check out Rudy’s Can’t Fail Cafe, a popular diner that has deep roots in the punk-rock scene. It’s actually named after the Clash song and part-owned by Mike Dirnt from Green Day.
Duende is Chef Paul Canales’ Basque-inspired restaurant. You’re sure to find incredible dishes that celebrate local, seasonal food and Spanish flavors. Paella, amazing art and sculpture, and lovely Calvados cocktails are to be enjoyed! Paul will likely drop by and have a chat with you. Ask about the progressive Jazz and flamenco events up on the mezzanine, and buy some Spanish wine from their Bodega before heading home.
Oakland’s hotel renaissance is yet to begin. In the meanwhile, go Airbnb and live like a local.
Boot & Shoe Service for breakfast, a pastry and coffee, or exquisite pizza and other superb dinners. Go early with the kids or later in the evening with friends and it never disappoints. Sometimes we even go there late, with our sketchbooks, and sip on a Black Lodge in the back with the amazing bar staff. Be sure to doodle a sketch or write some prose on the back of your receipt, roll it up tightly, and tuck it into a crevice between the brick on the café side.
Brown Sugar Kitchen in West Oakland, get the grits with poached eggs and a waffle with their homemade butter and apple cider syrup.
Portal Oakland at Lake Merritt. After a Saturday morning stroll around Lake Merritt, drop in for brunch on the patio. Have their bottomless mimosa or a tasty cider and enjoy the incredible brunch selection of all stripes, as well as heaps of vegetarian options.
Rowdy yet refined, Penrose offers wood-fired Californian cuisine & a creative cocktail menu in a striking space with communal tables.
Grand Lake Theater. Movies on Friday and Saturday nights in the main theater start with an organist playing classic tunes and scores from movies. The art-deco architecture and neon marquee is a landmark of Oakland.
Take the kids to the planetarium and museum at the Chabot Space & Science Center, and then go stroll the trails in the surrounding Redwood Regional Park. Also go at night to look through their collection of telescopes.
Go to the Oakland Museum of California on a Friday night for half-price gallery admission, street food trucks and live DJs. OMCA’s brilliant galleries share the rich history of California.
Discover the charming pedestrian alleys of Temescal Alleys. Stroll the shops, feast on the best filled donuts around, and get your beard trimmed at the barbershop.
Your head may explode with all the options at Eat Real Festival, and certainly your belly will. An annual food & drink festival held in September that you definitely don’t want to miss.