A couple of years ago, The New York Times published a list entitled ‘The 45 Places to Go in 2012.’ Oakland, CA, ranked #5, between London and Tokyo. It was the highest ranking city in North America. Higher than New York City. Higher than Los Angeles or Oakland’s popular older sister, San Francisco. A joke? No way! I assume it was a shock to many — or even most — readers across the country. Perhaps even to those who live in Oakland, but maybe it’s because we’ve become so accustomed to having world-class restaurants, top-notch shopping and architectural gems at our disposal. Sometimes we forget that not every city has so much going for it, with none of the attitude of the usual suspects on those ‘Where to Go Now’ lists… Yes, London and Tokyo have their charms, but the men and women behind the Oakland locales featured here have helped the city earn its ranking on that NYT list. They are the baristas that whip up the perfect latte each morning, or the ‘treasure hunters’ who scour the globe for beautiful treasures so you don’t have to. They’re creative, inspiring risk-takers, and I’m glad they’re my neighbors.
Juhu Beach Club
Juhu Beach is a beach destination in Mumbai known for its high concentration of Bollywood stars’ homes and something that beckons to Preeti Mistry on a regular basis: ‘yummy, snacky, street food,’ as she calls it. With a wealth of experience under her belt, Preeti, former Executive Chef at Google HQ and the de Young Museum, and Top Chef contestant, opened Juhu Beach Club with partner Ann Nadeau in 2013. Her unique culinary point of view is both Indian and American. The chef explains that she’s not setting out to replicate what one would eat in India, rather she is inspired by her experience living in the Bay Area. In fact, when people ask Preeti which Indian region the food is from, she answers, ‘Oakland.’
Preeti found the Bay Area offered little in the way of Indian cuisine other than the traditional Naan N Curry-style joints, and she felt compelled to push the boundaries and create dishes inspired by both her Indian upbringing and her American adolescence, spent eating all types of food. Preeti describes the menu as Indian street food and explains that, ‘Our food is seasonal and made with care. We make almost everything in house, including all of our masalas that are roasted and ground fresh for all our dishes. The menu is fun for those who want to sample and share many different street food items or come in to have a soul-satisfying dish of their own.’
Juhu Beach Club, 5179 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA, USA +1 510 652 7350
Owners Bradford Earle and John Streit once lived at opposing ends of the 40th Street corridor in Temescal, and walked the stretch to each other’s homes frequently. They noticed that there was a large community that was woefully underserved when it came to local food and beer options. They found a space between them that had the right bones, and the two combined their talents and backgrounds to create Hog’s Apothecary in 2013. Their concept? Bradford tells us, ‘We like to call Hog’s Apothecary an American Beer Hall. We wanted to evoke the communal nature of the European beer halls while putting our own twist on it. Our ethos is summed up by our motto “Locavore meets Loca-pour.”‘ Hog’s carries 32 beers, one cider, five wines, and one root beer on draft and about 15 to 20 beers by the bottle. They focus on locally crafted beers, coming from breweries no further than San Diego to the south and Seattle to the north.
The menu carries the same local philosophy; all of their food is sourced from local farms and they are committed to whole animal butchery, with no parts of the animal going to waste. The menu varies day to day, but expect house-made sausages and other hearty main dishes.
Hog’s Apothecary, 375 40th St, Oakland, CA, USA +1 510 338 3847
Two Jacks Denim
When asked what makes his menswear shop unique, Tommy Mierzwinski tolds us, ‘All of our products are made in America. And unlike other shops, our mainstay is denim. We stock brands we believe in, brands with a story, brands not found in department stores. Every product has a story.’ So does the store itself.
‘Two Jacks’ refers to two writers with a great influence on Tommy’s life — Jack Kerouac and Jack London — both rugged individualists and adventurers who chronicled life in America in two different generations. ‘Kerouac was from Lowell, MA, and London spent his boyhood in Oakland. I grew up not far from Lowell and I live within walking distance of Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon, where Jack London was known to have knocked back a few,’ muses Tommy.
Situated in the historic Packard Lofts building, the feel of Two Jacks Denim is rugged and industrial, with fixtures made by local craftsmen, salvaged wood and vintage furnishings. A vintage typewriter, a Call of the Wild movie poster, and scattered photos of his influences allude to the shop’s inspiration and ground the space.
Two Jacks Denim, 2355 Broadway, Oakland, CA, USA +1 510 788 5832
Timeless Coffee Roasters
Timeless Coffee Roasters is a charming coffee roaster/coffee bar/vegan bakery and is the brainchild of RJ Leimpeter. RJ is a former head roaster for San Francisco’s popular coffee brand Sightglass and dreamt of opening the business for years. RJ tells us that he chose the north end of the avenue — where he has lived for the past ten years — as it was quieter and didn’t have many places to grab a bite and a great cup of freshly roasted coffee. He teamed up with Violett Slocum, a vegan pastry maker and chocolatier extraordinaire, to bring her picture-perfect treats to the menu, and Timeless opened in late 2012.
This neighborhood spot quickly gained cult-status among Oaklanders — vegan or not — and rightfully so. Violett’s chocolates, cookies, biscotti, carrot cake, and Hostess-inspired baked goods are not only easy on the eyes, but are truly mouth-watering. If sweets aren’t your thing, stop by and grab a vegan ‘beef’ potpie or mac-n-‘cheese’ for lunch or hang out over brunch and savor the ‘chicken’ and waffles and one of the best cups of coffee in Oakland.
Timeless Coffee Roasters, 4252 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA, USA +1 510 985 1360
Excerpts reproduced with permission from This is Oakland by Melissa Davis