I’d like to think that I was the first one to call Oakland the Brooklyn of the west coast, but I think that’s a pretty big claim to make — even if I have been saying it for the past several years. Just as the soaring prices in Manhattan have pushed the aspiring creative class further and further out into Brooklyn, Oakland has become the answer to San Francisco’s notoriously steep cost of living. As many of my friends were born out of Oakland’s thriving music and deejay scene, I knew it was just a matter of time before the world caught on to the creative cool that makes the city so unique.
If Oakland is the new Brooklyn, then Temescal is the new Williamsburg. Take it from Melissa Davis, who launched her book, This Is Oakland: A Guide to the City’s Most Interesting Places, with photographer Kristen Loken. As a current resident and former regional editor for Lucky Magazine, covering Northern California, Davis can dish about all the best nooks and crannies around town. Did I mention she was also a former fashion editor for Harper’s Bazaar and Mademoiselle magazine? You know her style is fly, which is why she’s the perfect Guest Guide contributor for AOS. We are thrilled to have her!
Here, Davis tells us what makes Temescal special and which spots are at the top her list. Trust me, you definitely want this list!
Neighborhood spotlight: TEMESCAL
Temescal was initially known for trend-setting restaurants, but other shops and services have recently joined in the mix. Temescal Alley, a row of former horse stables, now houses cool shops and services and is getting tons of buzz. It’s definitely one of the top destinations for anyone wanting to experience something fresh in the city.
True Temescal pioneers, Thomas Schnetz and Dona Savitsky opened their restaurant in 1999 before the neighborhood was the hotbed of cool that it is today. This stylish spot serves up top-notch Mexican food and has a gorgeous patio for dining al fresco.
Dona Tomas / 5004 Telegraph Ave. / Oakland, CA 94609 / 510.450.0522
Juhu Beach Club
This is not your typical Indian food joint. From the hot pink walls to the inventive menu, co-owner and chef Preeti Mistry has created an experience like no other. I love the Holy Cow and Chowpatty Chicken Pavs (sliders) and always get the soft-serve Straus ice cream with the fennel candy sprinkles on top for dessert.
Juhu Beach Club / 5179 Telegraph Ave. / Oakland, CA 94609 / 510.652.7350
If you love mac-n-cheese (and who doesn’t?), this is your place. Homeroom serves up 10 different scrumptious varieties of mac-n-cheese, from Dungeness Crab Mac to Jalapeno Popper Mac. The restaurant has a sweet retro school theme and also serves up awesome classic desserts, like “ ‘oreos’ and milk” and peanut butter pie.
Homeroom / 400 40th St. / Oakland, CA 94609 / 510.597.0400
Minds Eye Vintage
Minds Eye may be tiny, but they always seem to have what I want. They always have a great selection of perfectly worn-in boots, cool vintage turquoise jewelry and old-school tees (for guys and girls). A must-visit for the vintage lover!
Minds Eye Vintage / 486 49th St. / Oakland, CA 94609 / 510.529.6519
Charlie Hallowell’s Pizzaiolo has become an iconic Oakland spot. The former Chez Panisse cook opened the restaurant in 2005 and has been packing them in ever since. It’s no surprise – mix delicious food with excellent service and a warm, inviting atmosphere, and how can you go wrong?
Pizzaiolo / 5008 Telegraph Ave / Oakland, CA 94609 / 510.652.4888
Temescal Alley Barber Shop
One of the first businesses to move into Temescal Alley’s former horse stables was Temescal Alley Barber Shop. These guys give an awesome haircut and shave– and always have a great story to share. Get there early though- customers add their name to the chalkboard which fills up quickly.
Temescal Alley Barber Shop / 470 B 49th St / Oakland, CA 94609 / 510.761.5074
This beautiful, light-filled corner spot in Temescal Alley houses owner Lauren Wolf’s own jewelry line, as well as other jewelry lines and accessories. I love the vibe- very earthy, boho and organic. Also, check out the back corner which Lauren uses to showcase artwork from favorite, often local, artists.
Esqueleto / 482 A 49th St / Oakland, CA 94609 / 510.629.6216
If there was an official sandwich for the city of Oakland, it would be Bakesale Betty’s fried chicken sandwich. Aussie Alison Barakat opened the iconic lunch spot in 2005, and the sandwich has inspired copycats across the country. It’s simple enough- Acme roll, free-range fried chicken, and a secret spicy slaw- but it has kept Oaklanders coming back for more…and more. (Go early- the line can snake down the block!)
Bakesale Betty / 5098 Telegraph Ave / Oakland, CA 94609 / 510.985.1213
This Temescal Alley donut shop keeps it simple- just filled donuts and only 4 fillings to choose from, but I promise, you can’t go wrong! I love the Mexican Chocolate filling and any flavor jam from Inna Jam. Owner Hannah Hoffman learned from the best- her mother was the pastry chef at Chez Panisse for 16 years.
Doughnut Dolly / 482 B 49th St / Oakland, CA 94609 / 510.338.6738
This is not your typical bookshop. Owner Erik Heywood truly curates a gorgeous selection of tomes in his light-filled space. He sells primarily vintage books in excellent condition and usually less than 100 books are in the shop at a time. Also be sure to check out the prints and accessories he sells- he has a great eye.
Book/Shop / 482 D 49th St / Oakland, CA 94609 / 510.907.9649
Jewelry designer Marisa Mason’s shop is also her studio, so (bonus!) you can often catch the artist at work. She works primarily in brass and rose bronze and uses gorgeous natural stones. Her pieces look gorgeous layered- and they’re affordable enough to do so!
Marisa Mason / 470 D 49th St / Oakland, CA 94609 / 510.325.0019
Crimson Horticultural Society
One of the most beautiful shops in Oakland, Crimson sells a variety of plant life (think tillandsia and succulents), fragrances and candles, and gorgeous natural curiosities, like feathers, taxidermy, and mounted butterflies. Bonus: They also offer floral and garden design services.
Crimson Horticultural Society / 470 49th St / Oakland, CA 94609 / 510.992.3359
Melissa owns the Oakland-based public relations agency, Ruby Press. Before moving west, she worked as a fashion editor in New York City at Harper’s Bazaar and Mademoiselle magazines. Soon after arriving in California in 2000, she became San Francisco city magazine 7×7’s first fashion editor and was the regional editor for Lucky magazine, covering Northern California. She lives in Oakland, CA with her husband and son.
Image by Melissa Davis