Saturday, January 21, 2023

Part II: San Fran's East Bay: 10+ Artsy + Cool Reasons To Visit Berkeley, CA

By Jacquelin Carnegie - (Berkeley, California)
Right next door to Oakland on San Francisco's East Bay, Berkeley is best known for the legendary student protests at the university in the 1960s. While a laid-back lifestyle still prevails, the town of Berkeley is now a "foodie" mecca with a fantastic restaurant scene. Additionally, it has plenty of cultural offerings and year-round great weather. Here are some highlights:
Famed chef Alice Waters, of the renowned restaurant Chez Panisse, is often credited
(photo: Simone Anne)
with launching the "delicious revolution”--encouraging people to eat locally-grown, organic produce--turning Berkeley into the epicenter of "California Cuisine." Dine at over 350 eateries, here's a few suggestions:
Berkeley's "Gourmet Ghetto" Tour (Tel: 415/806-5970;
Begin your visit with a culinary walking tour. It's a great way to orient yourself and scope out a variety of good eats. The tour stops at several yummy spots in North Berkeley’s "Gourmet Ghetto." Be sure to check out: Saul's deli, The Cheeseboard Collective (pizzas & all things cheesy), Grégoire (French savories, known for their potato puffs) & Peet's (great coffee).
Gather (2200 Oxford St., Tel: 510/809-0400; - One of Berkeley’s top farm-to-fork restaurants. La Note (2377 Shattuck Ave., Tel: 510/843-1535; - A lovely French-style bistro with a charming outdoor patio; perfect for brunch.
Wat Mongkolratanaram - Thai Temple (1911 Russell St., Tel: 510/849-3419; Sundays, 10am-1pm) - For Sunday brunch, locals in the know head to Berkeley's Thai Temple for a delicious dish of mango sticky rice, coconut puffs, green curry, pad thai, & beef noodle soup. Dine at picnic tables in a tented backyard. It ain't fancy, but it's fun and all the proceeds benefit the temple. On arrival, exchange your cash for tokens ($1=1 token); dishes run 5-7 tokens, beverages 1-2 tokens. Get there early!
After a scrumptious meal, soak up some culture:

The Blank Tapes Botanical Garden
Berkeley Repertory Theatre
2025 Addison St.; Tel: 510/647-2949;
Since 1968, Berkeley Rep has presented cutting-edge plays. Many of the shows have gone on national tour, had on and off-Broadway runs, graced the London stage, and been turned into films. See those groundbreaking shows here first!
Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse
2020 Addison St.; Tel: 510/644-2020;
A great venue for music lovers. Over the past 40 years, Freight & Salvage has become world-famous for presenting folk and traditional American music such as bluegrass, blues, and jazz, along with Celtic and other world music. On any given night, you might hear a music legend and/or some rising star.
Cal Performances
Tel: 510/642-9988;
The University of California-Berkeley has a number of performing arts venues which present incredible music, dance, theater, and special events throughout the year. One of the best known venues is the Greek Theatre, a huge, outdoor amphitheater where everyone from famed actress Sarah Bernhardt to the Grateful Dead have performed.

Greek Theatre
UC Berkeley Botanical Garden - Redwood Grove Concerts
200 Centennial Dr.; Tel: 510/643-2755;
Strolling through this beautiful, tranquil spot, with one of the most diverse plant collections in the country, is a lovely way to spend an afternoon. On summer evenings, enjoy a diverse line-up of folk, pop, rock, blues, jazz, and world music concerts in an amphitheater surrounded by redwoods--bring a picnic!
Throughout the year, there are any number of artsy activities to keep you busy:
Chocolate & Chalk Art Festival
Each year, on a Saturday in spring/summer, the sidewalks along Shattuck Avenue in North Berkeley become canvases for aspiring artists to create chalk masterpieces. To keep up your strength as you stroll by, festival tickets entitle you to all kinds of chocolate goodies from local vendors; enjoy everything from chocolate éclairs & gelato to chocolate soup & chicken molé.
East Bay Open Studios
During two weekends in June, you'll see an amazing array of creative artwork in all mediums at over 400 local artists' studios. Check out: Berkeley Potters Studio (1221 8th St) & Berkeley Potters Guild for incredible ceramics.
Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive
2155 Center St.; Tel: 510/642-0808;
BAMPFA exhibits historical and contemporary international art and is a major center for film: current, cutting-edge, and retrospectives. 

Berkeley Chocolate & Chalk Art Festival
Get Some Schooling:
University of California-Berkeley Opened in 1873, UC Berkeley was the first University of California campus. While the 60s' student protests drew attention, Berkeley has always been a prestigious place to study, known as a hotbed for intellectual thought; it still draws the best and the brightest from around the world. Your college days may be over, but you can still take a fascinating course in the continuing education program: UC Berkeley Extension.
Walking Tours: This is one of the best ways to explore the town.
Berkeley Historical Society - Offers 2-hour walking tours in the spring and fall.
(photo: Visit Berkeley)  
Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association - Has an impressive calendar of events, including a House Tour every spring, and a guide book of Berkeley Walking Tours, if you'd rather head out on your own.
Where To Stay:There are lots of places including some nice boutique hotels: Hotel Shattuck Plaza, Graduate Berkeley, Berkeley City ClubBancroft Hotel.
Getting There: Fly into Oakland or San Francisco, then take the BART (Richmond line) to downtown or north Berkeley.

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Part I: San Fran's East Bay: 20+ Artsy & Cool Reasons To Visit Oakland, CA

Oakland City Center (A.Holdsworth)
By Jacquelin Carnegie - (Oakland, California); Illustrated by Anthony Holdsworth
San Francisco's East Bay, just 20 minutes from the city, used to be an afterthought for vacationers. Now, the East Bay--particularly Oakland & Berkeley--has become a go-to destination unto itself. As the weather is near perfect year-round, anytime is the perfect time to visit.

As rents rose in San Francisco, a number of top-notch restaurants and art galleries relocated to the more-affordable Oakland, sparking a cultural renaissance in the city. And, as new life was breathed into old neighborhoods, a festive feel took hold with year-round street fairs, outdoor art festivals, and farmers' markets. Come check out the festivities for yourself! 
Oakland has several 
distinctive neighborhoods and, while a lot of the architecture is nondescript modern, throughout the city, there are architectural gems--beautiful Art Deco, Victorian, Arts & Crafts, and Millennial Modern buildings--now restored and turned into entertainment venues and restaurants. There are also two waterside highlights: Jack London Square on the Bay and Lake Merritt. Take a Walking Tour to learn more about each one: 
Old Oakland (A.Holdsworth)
Jack London Square - The city’s historic seaport is now a lovely, waterfront destination teeming with restaurants, cafes, and shops. (Yes, famed author Jack London grew up here.)
Old Oakland - In the 1860s, this was the downtown area with beautiful Victorian buildings, recently restored and filled with new bistros and boutiques.
Uptown - Art galleries and beautifully-restored Art Deco gems include the Paramount Theatre, the Fox Theater, and Floral Depot building.
Temescal District - Among the 1920s-era bungalows, there's a hip scene with galleries and eateries along Telegraph Avenue and Temescal Alley. 
Lake Merritt (A.Holdsworth)
Preservation Park - A circle of 16 Victorian houses now used by nonprofit organizations and for public events.
Lake Merritt - The largest urban lake surrounded by a nice jogging track, gardens, and a nature refuge. Boating options include riding on a gondola!! There's a weekly farmers' market and a few restaurants with great views.
For a look inside some houses: Rockridge Kitchen Tour - Marvel at the Craftsman, Arts & Crafts, and Shingle-style homes in the lovely Rockridge neighborhood.
All year long, there are artsy events throughout Oakland; a great way to discovery the art galleries and explore the different neighborhoods:

First Fridays (Telegraph Ave., btw 19th-27th St, 5pm-10pm): On the first Friday of every month, the art galleries stay open late and there's a street festival in Uptown with live music, food trucks, and vendors. Other events take place in Old Oakland and Jack London Square (Jack's Night Market).
Second Saturday Art Tours
Once a month, there's a free, guided tour led by Oakland Art Murmur. Learn more about the area's galleries, artists, and various art districts:
Telegraph Ave. (A.Holdsworth).
Check out: SLATEVessel Gallery, Mercury20, 25th St Collective
Temescal District

Be sure to visit the art galleries, cafes, bars, and shops in the Temescal neighborhood; sometimes there's even live music in the streets.
Fox Theater  (A.Holdsworth)

Oakland Museum: Fridays/Off the Grid (5-9pm)
1000 Oak St., Tel: 510/318-8400, 
On Friday nights, this wonderful museum stays open late; there's a wide selection of Off the Grid food trucks on the 10th Street side entrance, along with live music and other festivities.
East Bay Open Studios (Spring & Fall/Winter)
During two weekends in the spring & again in the fall/winter, you can visit over 400+ local artists' studios showcasing an amazing array of talent in all mediums of the creative arts. [Check out: Cleo Vilett
Anthony Holdsworth]
Creative Growth
355 24th St., Tel: 510/836-2340;
Creative Growth is the oldest and largest art center for people with disabilities. The quality of the artwork done here is so phenomenal, several CG students have work in prominent museums. Stop by to view the changing exhibitions and/or arrange a tour of the site to get a better understanding of the scope of CG's services.
A host of street fairs, art festivals, and outdoor markets keep things lively all year long. Many of these events take place in Jack London Square. Here are just a few:
Farmers' Market (A.Holdsworth)
Farmers' Markets (Year long): On different days of the week, outdoor markets overflowing with fresh produce pop up in a number of locations: Jack London Square, Old Oakland, Temescal, and along the shores of beautiful Lake Merritt.
Oakland International Film Festival (Sept): To promote independent filmmakers in Oakland and worldwide. (During the summer, there's free Waterfront Flicks at Jack London Square on Thursday nights.)
Art & Soul (Summer): A street party with live entertainment, local bands, art installations, and food trucks with tasty offerings.
Foodies and wine aficionados are flocking to Oakland for all the hot, trendy restaurants. In just a few short years, some 60+ top-quality, restaurants have opened, including startups by several of San Francisco's top chefs. There are so many excellent choices you need to do a bit of research before making a reservation.
Dining: Here's a small sampling. 
Commis (3859 Piedmont Ave.) - Chef James Syhabout's Michelin-starred restaurant.
Le Cheval (1007 Clay St.) - French-inspired, Vietnamese cuisine and, go figure, very popular with Oakland cops.
Sweet Bar Bakery (2355 Broadway) - Soups, sandwiches & sweets; owner Mani Niall was once Michael Jackson's private chef.
Tamarindo (468 8th St.) - Traditional Mexican cuisine in a modern setting.
Lake Chalet Seafood Bar & Grill (1520 Lakeside Dr.) - On Lake Merritt, go for the views.
Chinatown: For some cheap & tasty eats, head to Oakland's bustling Chinatown. Try New Gold Medal (389 8th St.).
Oakland Restaurant Week - A great way to sample all Oakland has to offer with $20, $30 & $40 prix-fixe menus.

Foodie Phenomenon: In addition to the thriving restaurant scene, several, small, artisanal food companies making everything from chocolates to jams to kale chips and cured meats have set up shop in Oakland. Try some locally-made snacks.
Wineries: In Oakland alone, there are some 10+ urban wineries. Start with two good ones: JC Cellars & Dashe Cellars: Go for a Tasting and sample the local varieties.
East Bay Wine Tours: A fun way to discover some wineries as well as the beautiful East Bay area and get some exercise at the same time.
Along with the growing arts and restaurant offerings, there's a vibrant, nightlife scene in Oakland in some spectacular settings: 
The Paramount (A.Holdsworth)
Fox Theater (1807 Telegraph Ave.) - This former movie palace, opened in 1928, has been restored to its original Art Deco glory and now hosts top music acts from rock and R&B, folk to rap.
The Paramount Theatre (2025 Broadway) - Restored to its original, 1930s movie-palace splendor, The Paramount is now home to the Oakland East Bay Symphony as well as a venue for popular music concerts, variety shows, theatre, and classic films.
Yoshi's (510 Embarcadero West) - Oakland's legendary 
sushi & music venue offers great food and music ranging from Jazz to Mambo to The Blues & beyond!

Where To Stay: Hopefully, you're now convinced to plan a trip to Oakland. 
Choose from any number of nice accommodations
Lake Merritt (A.Holdsworth)

Oakland Marriott City Center (1001 Broadway, Tel: 510/451-4000) - Simple and centrally-located. 
The Washington Inn (495 10th St., Tel: 510/452-1776) - Nice boutique hotel.
Waterfront Hotel (10 Washington St., Tel: 510-836-3800) - Great Bay views.
Getting There: Fly directly into Oakland. Or, fly to San Francisco, then take the BART to downtown Oakland (12th St/City Center station), or take a Ferry or drive over the stunning Bay Bridge.