NFT San Francisco Oakland (Overview Map)

Oakland (Overview Map)

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 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.


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No Collared Shirt Required

By Dan Bollwinkel
No one puts Dan Bollwinkel's golf game in a corner. A self-described anti-golfer, Dan has come to show you that golfing doesn't have to be high-class, tidy or bereft of beer swilling. So, come! Golf with the workingmen, swing with the athletically eccentric. Golf by the projects, downhill, with festive company and a liquor license. Here, you ain't nobody's caddy.


On Our Radar:

Posted By:  Valerie Ng
Photo:  Valerie Ng

Taco Grill
Scrumptious even without the lard "Healthy Mexican" is oft regarded as an oxymoron. Without the lard, it just isn't authentic. One place that seeks to buck that trend is Taco Grill, located in, of all places, Fruitvale. Located in the Fruitvale Public Market, part of an effort to revitalize the neighborhood, it bills itself as offering a health-conscious and sustainable Mexican dining experience. The tortillas are crafted from organic corn, and Niman Ranch and Rocky Free Ranch chicken in the carne and pollo asada, carnitas, and chorizo. Most of the menu consists of standard fare, but the specials are well-priced at $6.50 and includes a choice of beverage. If you're still concerned about the taste of the food without the lard, don't worry, it's excellent. So go ahead and indulge without the guilt.

Posted By:  Valerie Ng
Photo:  Valerie Ng

Brown Sugar Kitchen
Normally, I don't like having to go out of my way to go to brunch. It's too much trouble for my favorite meal of the day, and it's a waste of fuel. But after discovering the Brown Sugar Kitchen, tucked away among former warehouses in West Oakland, with its nondescript brown facade, I realized that sometimes it might be a good thing for good food to be kept in a secret location, free from crowds and excessive noise. The delicious Southern-inspired dishes are comfort foods at their best--it's hard to choose from a menu that includes crispy chicken with waffles accompanied by apple cider syrup, poached eggs buried in creamy cheesy grits, and a delicious selection of home-baked pastries. As much as I try not to drive, I've realized that there are some things worth burning fuel for. Good thing I drive a hybrid.

Posted By:  Kwan Booth
Photo:  Kwan Booth

Dia de los Muertos
In American culture, death is a somber event: everyone decked in all black, long faces, tears and shit, that one scummy cousin trying to score a grief fuck. But in Mexican culture, death is a time for celebration, a time to honor the passing over into the spirit world. You don't cry that your homie died, nah, you're glad that they're up out this hell hole. Dia De Los Muertos is the annual celebration of these spirits and it's the best goddamned party in the Fruitvale. This year the event takes place on Sunday October 26th and everyone's welcome--living, dead and somewhere in between--to listen to the Mexican Banda musicians, watch performances by Latino and Native American dancers, grub on choice traditional foods and check out the elaborate alters constructed along the length of International Blvd near the Fruitval BART station. Death done right.

Posted By:  Valerie Ng
Photo:  Valerie Ng

La Taza de Cafe
With restaurant robberies becoming an epidemic throughout the Bay Area, particularly in the East Bay, I was a bit on edge in preparing for a recent night out. My friend and I selected La Taza de Cafe for its highly-rated traditional and innovative tapas and live entertainment. It didn't take me long to feel at ease in the classy establishment, located in a converted house on a quiet stretch of Grand Ave. All night, I felt as if I was relaxing in someone's home. The tapas were pricey, although the all-you-can-eat menu of Cuban specialties on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings and Sunday brunch are reasonable. And while I'm still bit wary when dining out, I know I can rely on a homey setting and delicious food to keep me at ease.

Posted By:  Kwan Booth
Photo:  Courtesy of The Crucible

The Crucible
The Crucible is like that one little cousin who's always setting shit on fire. Every time you turned around--lighter in hand, I-didn't-do-it expression on face, flames everywhere. Undercover pyromaniacs and Mad Max wannabes throughout the Bay know this West Oakland hot spot as a fire starter's playground, but for the rest of us it probably only invades our conscious during the yearly Fire Arts Festival, when I'm positive that the glow from the 40 foot flaming robots and dragons out front can be seen from space. But in addition to its various flaming festivals, this nonprofit offers weekly classes in glass blowing, blacksmithing, welding, bike repair, alterations and just about everything you need to create your very own Thunderdome, then burn the fucker to the ground. And don't be intimidated if you don't fit the big burly metalworker stereotype. The Crucible offers classes for the entire family taught by largely female instructors. Seriously Hot-For-Teacher. Be sure to stop by the Fall open house on Saturday, Sept. 6.

Posted By:  Dan Bollwinkel
Photo:  Dan Bollwinkel

Montclair Farmers Market
It's a tiny little farmer's market but it's still pretty cool. Every Sunday the fresh veggie peddlers and the go-getting entrepreneurs who are taking their recipes for all manner of canned, jarred, pickled, vacuum-sealed and otherwise packaged home recipes to the public line up on a busy strip of upscale Montclair Village and do their thing. We found that two laps around the entire circus yielded enough free samples of fruits, veggies and homemade ephemera that we should have skipped lunch. And did I mention the rotisserie chicken van? If you ever come across one of these bad boys consider yourself in flavor country. Hot, fresh whole roasted chickens at your fingertips for just a few bucks. And if you aren't into animal flesh, the van was flanked by several Indian food tents, and a falafel stand. And another barbeque joint, I should mention.

Posted By:  David MacFadden
Photo:  David MacFadden

Today, June 6th in various Oakland locations: San Francisco has the traditional hold on the monthly first Thursday art crawl; but across the bay in Oakland, cutting-edge art is being shown on a non-school night, first Fridays. Hopping on the BART is even easier than it sounds--and that mass of water is just a physical boundary keeping you away from a thriving art community. Take a ride to the 19th Street station, walk a few blocks north, and you're there. 23rd Street, between Broadway and Telegraph Avenue is the Art Corridor; a handful of the galleries are stuck right here as well as nearby Grand Avenue and 25th Street (both near Broadway); More intrepid gallery-hoppers may venture further north toward the Temescal neighborhood. Be sure to check out Johansson Projects and Industrielle, as well as 21 Grand gallery, which has recently re-opened its doors for live music. It's all on Art Murmur's handy map. Try the nearby Flora, Luka's Taproom, and Franklin Square Wine Bar to stay hydrated with cocktails, beer, and wine, respectively. Last BART train heads back to San Francisco at 12:45am. It doesn't get any better or easier than that. So get out there. No Excuses.

Posted By:  Dan Bollwinkel
Photo:  Dan Bollwinkel

Piedmont Grocery
I don't throw the words "great American hero" around lightly, but the person responsible for the lunch and brunch buffets at the venerable Piedmont Grocery is indubitably one indeed. Think Vegas, or Reno--except with the sort of esoteric and fresh ingredients one might expect from the posh Piedmont boutique grocery. The food is incredible--it stands up to any number of critically acclaimed restaurants up and down Piedmont Avenue--yet unlike most items actually sold in the grocery store the buffet is quite affordable. The variety of dishes offered is staggering, and I haven't ventured into the salad bar yet for fear it might short circuit my brain (further). They charge by the pound, so it's really up to the conversation between one's eyes and stomach as to how much you pay for lunch, but find another place where I can walk out with stuffed mushrooms, chicken parmigiana, braised bok choy, and gruyere scalloped potatoes for under 10 bucks and I'll happily go there and write about it as well.

Posted By:  Dan Bollwinkel
Photo:  Dan Bollwinkel

Quinn's Lighthouse
Set along the busy shipping channel of the Bay betwixt Oakland and the quaint isle of Alameda, LJ Quinn's Lighthouse offers up only the sort of character one might expect from a restaurant and bar that has more parking spots for boats than cars. This place is full from head to toe with ephemera--and we're not talking about hokey TGIF Friday crap--genuine oddities donated from nautical passersby over the years. The floor of the upstairs bar and outdoor patio (with spectacular views of the waterway and the downtown Oakland-ish skyline) are typically covered in peanut shells as Quinn's indeed offers complimentary ground nuts to it's second floor patrons. And what sort of crowd might such an 1890's era saloon attract? A combination of bikers, yachters and people who generally prefer to live on boats in the event a quick departure is in order. Throw in Oaksterdam's loyal hipster types and there you have it. The menu also deserves mention, as comprehensive and scattered as the clientele, with portions intended for only the saltiest of mariners.

Posted By:  Dan Bollwinkel
Photo:  Dan Bollwinkel

Montclair Golf Course
Winding down the steep driveway, through a tunnel of ancient eucalyptus, one gets the sense that perhaps something pre-historic may lurk at the end of all the twisted asphalt and creaking branches. Well, I wouldn't go so far as to call the Montclair golf course, driving range, restaurant and bar pre-modern but this little enclave of eccentricity is certainly a throwback. Whether or not you have any interest in the pitch and putt or the driving range (it's kind of cool hitting balls into a wooded canyon, who knows how they get them back) the restaurant and particularly the large bar are typically filled with a truly bizarre cast of characters. The place is flat out hard to find; one usually has to be led there. Perhaps this explains why so many strange folk converge here to throw 'em back and play some dice. Tired of track lighting, pretentious bar staff and soju cocktails? Belly up to the bar at Montclair driving range, and soak in some stories about the days of yore. It sure kicks the shit out of TV.

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

The Food Mill
The selection of bulk items at the Food Mill is vast and impressive. They carry just about every type of grain, nut, dried fruit, legume, herb, and spice. Looking for teff flour? Amaranth? Cardamom pods? Juniper berries? Dried chamomile flowers? Find them here, in just the amount you want or need, along with staples like peppercorns, cocoa powder, split peas, brown rice, and dried currants. Even honey and peanut butter come in buy-what-you-like options. The Food Mill is a mecca not just for cooks who want fresh herbs and spices in specific amounts to ensure freshness and potency, but is also a haven for the health conscious who flock there for the plentiful selection of vitamins, supplements, and every type of vegetarian foodstuff available. Not sure if you should be buying carbonate, citrate, lactate, or gluconate calcium supplements? The knowledgeable staff will be all too happy to talk (and talk and talk) to you about which is best and why.

Posted By:  Dan Bollwinkel
Photo:  Dan Bollwinkel

Gateway Emergency Preparedness Exhibit Center and Garden
It’s a fascinating paradox that one of the richest real estate markets in the country and probably the world is located on top of an active fault line in a known natural fire corridor, and what a better way to celebrate this paradox than with an equally quixotic and expensive “Exhibit Center and Garden.” The Gateway Center is an exhibit station resembling the burned-out frame of a house—an homage to the Oakland Hills Firestorm of 1991—and a garden area composed of fire-resistant landscaping and a completely bizarre Stonehenge-like rock formation. If you’re interested in learning just how potentially doomed we are for living in the Bay Area, or you just want to check out the view or maybe perform a Druid harvest ritual or something, the Gateway Center is for you. Also great for picnics!

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