A Perfect 36 Hours in Downtown Oakland
by Ari Takata-Vasquez
In case you haven’t heard me say it before, I don’t leave Downtown. I only live four blocks away from the shop so basically if I can’t walk there, I’m not going. I figured since Downtown is my stomping ground, I should make a list of my favorite places. I love being in Downtown during the summer for a few reasons; we basically get sun until 9pm which makes every outdoor eating/drinking place even more lovely, music seems to be everywhere, and we get tourists from all over the world (shout out to the all the Australian and French visitors!). In honor of that wanderlust, I made the perfect itinerary for places to go to if you’re planning an overnight trip or are looking to get to know Downtown Oakland a little bit more.
p.s. Generally, I like to eat my way through life so this list is pretty much planned around food. Enjoy!
10 AM Caffe 817
photo via instagram
This sweet cafe is owned by husband and wife, Emily and Scott Goldenberg. Not only are they superhuman cafe owners and parents to ridiculously cute kids, they’re opening a kids shoe store, too! If you like dining al fresco, they have a great outdoor seating area where you can enjoy your coffee. They also have the best steel cut oats (seriously, I’m not sure what makes it so amazing but I have cravings for their steel cut oats specifically) and their breakfast toast with prosciutto and poached eggs is the perfect way to start your day.
817 Washington St, Oakland
fresh flowers from the farmers market & oatmeal from Cafe 817 image
The farmer’s market on Washington and 9th happens every Friday morning and is a must for fresh produce, flowers, and other artisanal crafts over the weekend. Oakland's very own, Red Bay Coffee even does a pop-up at the corner of Washington and 9th so if you’re not a morning person your caffeine needs are still covered.
Washington St. at 9th Street, Old Oakland
12 PM Cookiebar Creamery
photo via @VisceraStudio instagram
What’s more summer-y than ice cream? Make a stop by Cookiebar after the farmer's market (you earned it after all that walking!). You can make the most incredible ice cream sandwich with their fresh cookies and unique ice cream flavors like Thai iced tea, Ube, or banana Oreo.
521 8th St, Old Oakland
1 PM Rio California
Rio California is a hidden gem in Preservation Park. This Brazilian restaurant has a great outdoor eating space where you can enjoy the beauty of the neighboring Victorian houses (converted into office space). When you go, you have to get the Feijoada; it’s a national Brazilian dish made with hearty beans, pork and beef stew over rice, farofa(a toasted cassava flour), and collard greens. Rio is only open on weekdays for lunch so make sure you plan on taking an afternoon nap.
1233 Preservation Park Way Downtown Oakland
2PM Take a stroll in a park
If Preservation Park isn’t enough beauty for you, enjoy the sunnier side of the bay in one of our awesome open spaces including almost a dozen parks in Downtown. There’s Snow park, Lafayette Square, the sculpture garden on 19th, and the newly redesigned Latham Square (just across the street from the shop) that’s literally the heart of Downtown. It’s where our main arterial streets, Telegraph and Broadway, meet and it’s smack dab in the middle of 12th and 19th street BART stations.
3 PM Shop Downtown
Lola, Viscera's shop dog wearing her #shopsmall bandana via instagram
Boutique shopping may not be your first thought when you visit Downtown Oakland, but we actually have over 60 local independent shops in Downtown. There are ton of places I could recommend (see more here) some of my favorites are Show & Tell, Kosa Arts, Umami Mart, Two Jacks Denim, Urban Stitch Boutique, Owl n Wood and of course Viscera.
5 PM Wood’s Bar & Brewery
And just like that it’s happy hour! Enjoy the outdoors from inside Woods. It’s just a couple blocks away from the shop and it’s one of my favorite destinations for a beer and empanada (shout out to our favorite bartender, Molly) after work. They have super unique brews with their MateVeza (made with yerba mate) being a signature beer. My favorite is their Girl Scout cookie beer event where they make beers inspired by the original cookie flavors AND then pair it with the actual cookie. How can you go wrong? Their space is meticulously designed and is the best indoor-outdoor space in downtown.
1701 Telegraph Ave. Uptown Oakland
6:30PM Ala Mar
Now prepare yourself because it’s about to get real. Ala Mar is in my list of top 5 favorite restaurants ever and coming from someone who’s favorite hashtag is #fattienotfoodie, that means something. Chef Nelson German’s restaurant is a blend that cannot be expressed with words but in short it’s a great experience with family style dishes and a warm atmosphere. Absolutely everything on the menu is delicious, but my favorites are the blistered brussel sprouts, peel n’ eat shrimp, and braised oxtail. Pro tip: The more the merrier! Bring lots of friends so you can try everything on the menu and be sure to get bread to sop up the amazing sauces and stews.
100 Grand Ave. Oakland
Every Friday evening The Oakland Museum partners with Off The Grid for a blend of food trucks and live music in the museum’s courtyard (plus you can dance off some of that dinner). It captures some of the richness of Oakland, there are so many different people in the space eating, drinking, talking, and dancing with one another. It’s also a family friendly event, so bring the kids (and/or fur-babies).
1000 Oak St., Oakland
Have a nice little nightcap at Drexl. This industrial-modern bar has a cool, mellow vibe plus a live DJ on Friday nights. While my go to drink is the ‘Rye of the Tiger’, their skilled bartenders can make a custom drink for you. Just give them a short-list of your favorite flavors and they’ll whip up something perfect just for you.
382 19th St, Oakland
What’s better than late night dessert? Stop by Shooting Star and get a crepe, boba, or my personal favorite—a mango, coconut milk and sago float. This spot is open until 2pm and in addition to having dessert, they have a full menu of entrees and appetizers. If you need a greasy snack to absorb some of the alcohol get the salt and pepper chicken wings, they’re bomb (again, #fattienotfoodie).
1022 Webster St, Oakland
9AM Donut Savant
Our intern Karis enjoying Donut Savant for her birtday
If you’re up, head over to Donut Savant for a freshly made cron’t (the Oakland answer to the New York croissant-donut hybrid—cronut). They were on Thrillist’s list of 33 best donut shops in America, and they don’t play.
1934 Broadway, Oakland
This is probably my favorite brunch spot in Downtown Oakland. Chef Kyle Itani (also the owner of the new ramen spot, Itani’s) creates classic dishes with an asian flare. My personal favorites are the Kimchi fried rice or the Tonkatsu sandwich with fries. Their donuts are also delicious, in case you didn’t wake up in time to head to Donut Savant. The donuts are super light and fluffy and come with a butterscotch spread (yes, drool now). They make me super nostalgic because they remind me of malasadas (a Portuguese donut popular in Hawaii) from home. If you’re in need of a herradura (hair of the dog) to nurse that hangover go for the wagonwheel. It’s a hot coffee drink with whiskey and house whipped cream and a fresh mint leaf.
1915 San Pablo Ave, Oakland
Take a walk down to the waterfront for the Jack of All Trades Market where you can find a ton of of unique handmade goods, food, and art. It’s also dog friendly, so bring your furry friends to enjoy the fresh air. During the summer, Jack London Square is extra beautiful so take in the scenery and just watch the boats float away along with all your stress.
Jack London Square
3PM Blue Bottle
Make a coffee pit stop at the original Blue Bottle. In case you didn’t know, Blue Bottle started in the Bay Area. Don’t be intimidated by the line, the coffee is worth it and the baristas are pros so the line moves pretty quickly. My go-to is an Americano but they have just about anything you’d want as long as it doesn’t involve any sort of Starbucks-esque syrup.
300 Webster St. Oakland
3:30PM Oakland Crush
This great little bottle shop has a well curated selection of wines. The owner, Erin Coburn, is an expert so even if you’re not much of a wine person she can find the right bottle for you. The great thing about this shop is that you can drink it there! It’s a beautifully designed space with gorgeous burl wood tables and bar seating. It’s a great place to share a bottle with some friends and hang out. This space is dog friendly so your pooch can come along, too!
420 3rd St, Oakland
5PM Lake Merritt
Head over to the lake and take in some more natural beauty. Lake Merritt is not actually a lake at all, but a tidal estuary that connects with the Bay. You can just sit under a tree and people watch. It’s a great running spot too, so if you’re into exercise and such you’ll be in good company. If you don't feel like walking, you can also take the Free B from Jack London to Uptown, just look for these green stickers.
Mua is in a former warehouse and has that sort of cool industrial vibe that people imagine when you say ‘Downtown Oakland’. My recommendation is to get a bunch of appetizers to share with friends. Without doubt, get the crispy polenta, brussel sprouts, ahi tartar, and vegan mac and cheese (even if you’re not vegan). They also have a live DJ most nights and have fantastic service. The go-to drink here is a gin fizz because how can you go wrong with that on a summer night?
2442a Webster Street, Oakland
9PM Little Giant
That’s right, you get not one, but two, ice cream shop recommendations on this list! If you haven’t guessed it, I’m a huge ice cream fan. Little Giant ice cream is another favorite spot on sunny days. Their fresh waffle cones are a must. It’s also right in the Uptown area so you can go and eat your ice cream in the sculpture park and maybe you’ll even spot some cute dogs. While I have a hard time not ordering my go-to coffee ice cream made with Bicycle coffee, the Dirty South is a close second favorite. If you go on their “Sun-day fun-day” you get free toppings, so duh.
1951 Telegraph Ave., Oakland
What are you favorite places in Oakland?