This city guide comes to us from Lily and Max of Wild Minimalist, a zero waste online store. Lily and Max live in Oakland, CA—a city seeing a huge surge of growth from the tech boom in the SF Bay Area. Oakland has become a destination for foodies, artists and nature-lovers alike who want to experience the charm of the Bay Area without crossing the bridge into San Francisco. I'll be in Oakland for a few days next month, so I was thrilled to hear what they recommend!
-Kevin Feinstein Foraging Course: The author of Bay Area Forager has been researching local edibles for over 13 years and offers 2-hour guided walks through parks in Oakland and other East Bay locations. Learn how to identify edible wild flowers and plants that you can use in smoothies, salads and other meals.
-Temescal Alley: Once used as horse stables, Temescal Alley now houses artisan shops and eateries. Go to Crimson Horticultural Rarities for succulents and curios, Esqueleto for jewelry from local designers and vintage pieces, Homestead Apothecary for handcrafted tinctures for a healthy body and mind and Curbside Creamery for gourmet ice cream and soft serve with vegan nut-based options.
-Secret Stairways: Take a walk through the historic stairways of Oakland and Berkeley, developed in the early 20th century. The stairways were originally designed to get homeowners up and down the steep hills to streetcar lines. The street cars are gone, but the stairways remain (some with original street lights) and are a wonderful way to get your heart rate up while exploring a side of Oakland that’s off the beaten path. Be sure to pick up a copy of Secret Stairs East Bay to help guide your walk.
-Picnic at Lake Merritt: Also know as the “Jewel of Oakland,” Lake Merritt is a picturesque saltwater lagoon with a 3.4 mile walking and jogging trail around its perimeter. During warm summer days, Lake Merritt’s grassy shores are ideal for laying out picnic blankets and bird watching. Or, take a romantic evening stroll under the “Necklace of Lights”—pearly lights strung between antique lampposts that line the walking trail around the lake.
-Cafe Colucci: Get your fill of savory Ethiopian flavors at family-owned Cafe Colucci. Share an abundant veggie combo with eggplant served on a large stainless steel platter. The atmosphere is relaxed, giving you plenty of time to eat with your hands and feast on the injera (traditional Ethiopian bread).
-Ramen Shop: Located in the Rockridge neighborhood, the menu at Ramen Shop features local, seasonal ingredients and changes daily. The ramen noodles are handmade and there is always one vegetarian-friendly option. There is often a line for Ramen Shop on Fridays and Saturdays, so be sure to go early or drop into their adjoining cocktail bar for a drink.
-Nido: An intimate, homey spot for farm-to-table Mexican food from the central and Pacific coast. Nido translates to “nest” in Spanish and true to its name, the small restaurant is adorned with local building materials—including sections of shipping containers and wood pallets native to the industrial Jack London district of Oakland. The menu is seasonally driven and everything is made in-house—be sure to try the blue corn quesadilla with mushroom, rainbow chard and salsa poblana.
-Super Juiced: Located in Old Oakland’s Swan Marketplace, Super Juiced features 100% organic smoothies, juices, acai bowls and chia pudding. Try the Emerald Moon smoothie with housemade coconut milk, kale, spinach, pineapple, medjool dates, coconut chips and cinnamon. Super Juiced is a women-owned business on a mission to bring healthy food options to the Oakland community.
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-Grand Lake Farmer’s Market: Every Saturday from 9am - 2pm at the intersection of Grand Lake Ave and Lake Park Ave. There’s lots of seasonal produce to choose from, over 40 farmers, and a nice section of prepared foods by a small bistro area with live music. Be sure to stop by the dim-sum booth—the ladies there (a mother/daughter duo) utilize what’s in season (asparagus in the spring and sweet corn in summer) and will give you extra dim-sum for bringing your own container.
-Whole Foods Oakland: Great selection of bulk items (nuts, seeds, grains, flours, spices, etc) and store employees are more than happy to have you bring your own containers and reusable produce bags. You can weigh containers at the customer service desk and be sure to fill up a jar with their fresh churned almond butter. You can also bring a container to the meat counter and they will weigh and fill it for you.
-Oaktown Spice Shop: The mecca of all things spice related. Herbs, spices, tinctures and tools line two rooms, floor to ceiling, and are artfully displayed in glass jars. The wood paneling and vintage tools decorating the shop give it an old general store vibe and they will happily fill your glass jars for you.
-Pretty Penny: A favorite vintage shop with carefully curated women’s and men’s sections. For the ladies, be sure to check out the beautiful selection of dresses sorted by era and the shoe section in the back with a nice mix of leather boots, sandals and loafers sorted by color.