I’ve found that when asking people advice about visiting their city, it’s best to ask them where they’d take a friend. In “5 Things,” I’ll ask some of my favorite bloggers and photographers in cities all over the country to share insider travel tips on where to eat, shop, stay, and play in their neighborhoods (plus, what to pack to make the adventure complete). This week, Emily Nathan, the founder of the the travel and lifestyle company Tiny Atlas and its magazine, Tiny Atlas Quarterly, shares her favorite spots for a visit to Oakland, California.
5 Things: Oakland, California
My husband and I moved to Oakland from San Francisco (like so many others here) when we wanted to buy a house and start a family, 10 years ago. We live in a neighborhood called Piedmont Avenue. Piedmont Avenue itself is the center point of the neighborhood. The Ave (as locals call it) is a long commercial street that seems like a small-town Main street. There is a great independent movie theater, many delicious restaurants and cafes, and lots of book stores, along with a library, a school, a hospital, multiple grocery stores, a gas station, a church, and a surprising number of nail salons. (I don’t go to the salons much, but it’s good to know!)
When we were looking at houses, our agent took us by the movie theater and a delicious Sicilian eatery (Dopo) to show us what we might do in a typical week. I remember doing a run-through of this potential lifestyle when we found a house we liked within our budget: We parked near our prospective house (now our home) and walked the few blocks to dinner and a movie and then back to the car. We were sold. Forget the fog and the circling for parking for 45 minutes and the houses we simply couldn’t afford—we were out of there.
I mentioned Dopo, which is literally one of the closest restaurants to our house—and so tasty, too. The main neighborhoods we tend to eat out in are Piedmont Ave, Grand Lake, Temescal, and Rockridge. These images are from Grand Fare market, which is a new high end food market and cafe on Grand Lake (which is another long commercial street with a beautiful old movie theater at the start nearest Lake Merritt which is great to walk around and stop along the way at the playgrounds, boat house, Fairyland, and other fun attractions). The florist at Grand Fare has beautiful flowers, and the outdoor cafe is a true oasis in the middle of a pretty busy street.
There is a new Blue Bottle coffee shop right near out house in a renovated historic building, the W.C. Morse. My husband is a coffee lover, and he read about Blue Bottle coming into the neighborhood in some local blog about a year before it opened. It was a long wait, but well worth it. Like most great coffee shops, it is now a neighborhood anchor, and a gorgeous one at that.
On Piedmont Ave, another anticipated opening happened when the owners of Kronnerburger decided to open another one of their delicious restaurants closer to their own home, in Oakland. The Piedmont Ave neighborhood had developed last century when there was an inter-city train line that went from a station on the avenue over the Bay Bridge into San Francisco. What was once the train station is now a beautifully renovated Kronnerburger. Our favorite drink there is a signature bubbly margarita.
Another neighborhood in easy-walking-distance from our house is Temescal. Temescal is pretty well known locally (and has been reported about in the New York Times frequently) for a walking alley filled with local artisan shops that is on the backside of the larger Telegraph Avenue. On Telegraph, Pizzaiolo is another neighborhood anchor. I love the sunlight that pours from Telegraph Ave into Pizzaiolo at sunset. Even while the restaurant is known for it’s delicious fresh pastas, outrageous meatballs and wood fired nettle and sausage type pizzas, the chef, Charlie Hallowell, always blows me away with the salads. They are always seasonal, and the flavor contrasts are incredible.
Dopo, 4293 Piedmont Ave, (510) 652-3676
Grand Fare Market, 3265 Grand Ave, (510) 899-9610
W.C. Morse Cafe, Blue Bottle, 4270 Broadway, (510) 653-3394
Kronnerburger, 4063 Piedmont Ave, (510) 410-7145
Pizzaiolo, 5008 Telegraph Ave, (510) 652 4888
The shops in Temescal are really special. Many local designers have nurtured new businesses that continue to expand and thrive, starting from Temescal Alley and Telegraph Avenue.
Standard & Strange is a gorgeous menswear shop (and one of the only ones in the East Bay: Hello all Father’s Day presents).
There are two awesome jewelry shops: Marisa Haskell’s store, Marisa Mason, is filled with her eponymous line as well as many like-minded labels, and is dangerously affordable. Esqueleto is a more luxury jewelry shop around the corner with the a wonderful selection of gorgeous and current labels as well as super unique vintage jewelry—including owner Lauren Wolf’s line. Esqueleto always has an art show up as well as lots of ceramics and beautiful gift objects in addition to all the gorgeous jewelry.
Also in the Alley are favorites Alie Golden, Crimson Hort, and book/shop. I am always inspired by the thoughtful book shelves, cabinets and the exquisite vintage books at book/shop in Temescal. The owner, Erik Heywood, has an incredible eye, and is the local patron saint of reading.
Back on Piedmont Ave, I love the gorgeous home shop Neighbor. They have such a great curated mix of textiles, furniture, exceptional office supplies, a little magazine shop outpost, a huge garden with some lovely succulents. They are also always welcoming and have DIY classes, too.
Standard & Strange, 5010 Telegraph Avenue, (510) 373-9696
Marisa Mason, 484 49th St, (510) 289-6002
Esqueleto, 482 A 49th St Suite A, (510) 629-6216
Book/Shop, 482 D 49th Street, (510) 907-9649
Neighbor, 4200 Piedmont Ave, (510) 594-2288
Everyone who is involved in food and travel in the East Bay is talking about creating hotels here. There are not many, and the ones that do exist tend to be outside the neighborhoods people live in and hang out in.
Berkeley’s famous Claremont (which recently went through a big remodel and is now part of the Fairmont hotels) is pretty awesome. A grand old white castle, it looks straight out of Dirty Dancing. But it now boasts the updated Limewood Restaurant and re-imagined stylish and bright public spaces. The other amazing thing about the Claremont is the massive heated pool.
Most locals send their visitors to Airbnb. You can find some beautiful houses in Berkeley and Oakland. When searching, try looking up the Piedmont Ave, Temescal, Rockridge, and Grand Lake neighborhoods.
Claremont Hotel, 41 Tunnel Road, Berkeley, (510) 843-3000
On weekends—even though my husband and I like to surf—we often go to local museums because my son is a non-stop thinker, and never really wants to go to the beach. One of his favorites is the Lawrence Hall of Science up in the Berkeley hills. It is super hands-on and has an incredible view of the entire Bay area. It also has this DNA climbing structure that all kids feel they must complete on their way in or out of the museum.
Another spot we visit—with bikes, since we have a lot of hills and bumpy sidewalks around our home—is a long path at the Port of Oakland.
A camera bag that’s lightweight and practical, but also looks good while fitting lots more—the mornings do often sometimes start out foggy but typically, the days warm up and the sun is out by 11 or so you need layers and sunglasses.
Tiny Atlas, the travel and lifestyle company I started in 2012, actually just designed a very cute bag that will protect a real camera. As a photographer, when I am not on a commercial job and I’m spending the day out and about I usually want to bring along my camera. The problem has been that I never have really had the right bag and it’s a drag to bring a regular day bag and a separate camera bag, especially if I am just running around with friends or family. So usually, I just bring my phone.
We collaborated with local outdoor design brand, Alite Designs, which is based in San Francisco. Tae Kim is the design director there and he worked with me, and other Tiny Atlas photographers, to create something beautiful, lightweight, and practical that’s available for pre-order on Kickstarter right now. I love the unique three-way carry system as well as the integrated foam base and the leather accents. This image was shot at the WC Morse Blue Bottle with the black wax cotton canvas bag.
Thank you so much, Emily! We’re just an hour away from Oakland and every day it seems like there are more reasons to visit. So honored you shared these recommendations with us.book/shop for SOLAS]