- Aubrey Douglass
At the northeast corner of Oakland’s Lake Merritt sits the Grand Lake neighborhood. The district’s central streets, Grand Avenue and Lakeshore Avenue, are the commercial hub for much of the surrounding area, attracting locals and Lake Merritt visitors alike.
The Grand Lake area is both intimate and urban, with a mix of residential and commercial properties, many that were built in the early 20th century. Grand Avenue’s wide streets and multitude of businesses creates an urban atmosphere which pairs perfectly with Lakeshore Avenue’s more small-town quaint appeal. This area has all that you could desire, from hip food spots to independent shops to meet your everyday needs.
Rolling Dunes Crêpe House
Start your day off right by visiting a veteran café located on Lakeshore Avenue, Rolling Dunes Crêpe House. Explore the residential area by parking up in the neighborhoods above the northeast section of Lake Merritt and make your way downhill to this commercial street. Serving both savory and dessert crêpes, along with classic breakfast dishes such as benedicts, Rolling Dunes is sure to satisfy any morning goer. Enjoy unusual art and the open dining area before heading out to neighboring stores and the nearby lake.
After enjoying a morning bite along Lakeshore head back up the street to stop in shops such as Urban Indigo. This small-scale store has hands-down the most amazing gifts and knick-knacks around. From jewelry to humorous cards, you are sure not to be disappointed by their collection. Often it’s hard to walk into Urban Indigo without making a purchase, so be prepared when entering this picturesque store.
Before heading down to Lake Merritt, be sure to grab a donut across the street at Colonial Donuts, another long-standing business. While you’ll feel stuffed from breakfast you are sure to cherish the snack later on when relaxing alongside Lake Merritt. The section of the lake located in the Grand Lake neighborhood attracts an eclectic group of people. With its beautiful white structure once serving as a pier along with spacious grass, many flock to the Grand Lake neighborhood for slack lining, yoga and tai chi. You may stumble upon street musicians as well as casual vendors selling anything from succulents to books. If not there to partake in outdoor activities, it is prime location for people watching. This section of the lake is a great hangout spot to relax with a book and enjoy the urban lake.
The Farmers’ Market
If you’re visiting on Saturday be sure to stop by the weekly farmers’ market located in a small park on Lake Park Avenue, between Grand and Lakeshore Avenues. Taking place between 9:00 am and 2:00 pm, this large-scale farmers’ market is full of vendors. From delicious fruits and vegetables to artisan crafts, it’s the perfect spot to grab a bite for lunch and enjoy a Saturday. Strategize your time by arriving a little late; typically after 1 pm stands start selling their foods at discount prices allowing you a bit more pocket money for later on in the day.
Walden Pond Books
After a quick snack or lunch, head to Walden Pond Books located on Grand Avenue to browse through notebooks and a great selection of new and used reading material. This independent bookstore has been located here since 1973 and is a staple of the surrounding community.
Finally, in terms of nightlife, both Lakeshore and Grand Avenue have a variety of bars and restaurants to choose from. However, one that seems to take the cake for dinner is Mijori. This Japanese restaurant is small-scale but oozes a welcoming atmosphere. Take a seat at the bar or a table for complementary miso soup, edamame and a hot towelette before you even order. Enjoy a delectable bento boxes or share platters of sushi while relaxing amongst Mijori’s wooden décor.
If you are looking to continue your night, head up Grand Avenue to check out the various bars located on the long street. The Alley, Penrose and Grand Oaks Restaurant & Sports Lounge are great locations to hang out and enjoy the Grand Lake area nightlife. Additionally, head further up the street to Grand Tavern for an American pub atmosphere located in an old house.
By Aubrey Douglass