Monday, July 11, 2005

Best parts of Downtown Oakland

I'm starting out with this post, my first post to my first blog. This blog is intended for my friends and family, but I will try to keep it of general interest for anyone curious about foreigner life in Shanghai.

I'll start this with a list and some pictures about my favorite places from my old neighborhood, downtown Oakland. Downtown Oakland is the only place in the Bay Area with a concentration of places worth going to. I'll admit my list tends towards eating and drinking, which is partially because that's what I like, and partly because that's what the area is best for. So without further ado:

Bird Leg and the Tight Fit Blues Band:

Bird Leg is a charismatic Blues Harmonica player who only has several teeth. Every Wednesday night at Pat's Bar (15th and Franklin) from 8-11, he MCs over a Blues event with a regular band. Various guests drop by to take over or accompany for a song or two, and some of them are amazing. My favorite is "Preacher," who can tapdance with a beer bottle on his head.

Cam Huong

A Vietnamese deli on Webster between 8th and 9th, that serves good pho and takeout, along with a pretty good collection of packaged crack seed and excellent fruit smoothies. The raison d etre, however, is the excellent banh mi, a Vietnamese sandwich. They sell for $2.25 and the taste is excellent, especially lathered in chili sauce. Go for the BBQ pork!

Jahva House

I'm not a cafe person but this cafe, near the corner of 14th and Alice is definitely my favorite - with the caveat that it closes early many days of the week. It's owned by Dwayne Wiggins of Tony Toni Tone who it's worth mentioning is also a really excellent solo act even if he doesn't perform often. It's attached to the Oakland Arts and Ballet company, and bunch of lofts upstairs. The interior is eclectic international, but it still manages to look really cool. Depending when you go it's a hangout, an internet cram rooom, or just a cafe.

As of 2007 it seems that this place has closed down.

Lake Merrit

Right next to downtown Oakland is Lake Merrit, the first national park (half a year before Yosemite). There's a three and a half mile path around, it's all surrounded by skyskrapers and cool old buildings. It's a popular resting spot for birds migrating between Mexico and Alaska, and the scoping on a warm Sunday afternoon is impossible to beat.

Orient Market

A Chinese store on 7th, between Market and Franklin. Probably it's better to get produce at the stores on 8th and 9th, but if in a hurry Orient market is fine. The things to get are: mochis with bean paste stuffing, well-priced French brandy and prestige alcohols, plum wine intended for Japanese export, Hot Shin Hyung Ramen, Lemon & Honey Tea Jelly, Wasabi peas, live crabs (or live frogs and turtles if such is your interest), Schweppe's Grapefruit soda and other canned sodas and juices.

Parkway Speakeasy

A movie theater, mostly they play 2nd-run movies and art-house cinema for $3-$5, and increasingly they host one-night events. The attraction is that you sit on a bunch of couches or barstools to watch the movie, and the concession stands sell pizza and beer. The inane movie introductions are strangely amusing.

Shan Dong Mandarin Restaurant

A Korean-influence Chinese restaurant on 10th, between Webster and Harrisson. The pork or vegetarian buns are less than a dollar and make the ultimate snack, or a light lunch (you might want two). The meals are more expensive but excellent - the hand-pulled noodles, as shown, are my favorite in the Bay Area.

Radio Bar

Right next to the Tribune tower, this is a chill bar with a DJ off in the corner and friendly bartenders who are occasionally given to "Coyote Ugly" type flourishes. The pan-Asian interior is pretty cool in its corniness.

Shanghai Restaurant

I'm sure the actual food in Shanghai will blow away Shanghai Restaurant, but still this is my favorite restaurant in the Bay Area. It's a little inconsistent but the food is excellent and the waitresses are very friendly (and perfectly willing to give honest appraisals of what's worth ordering and what isn't). Highlight include the pork in Sichuan style, the Steamed dumplings (pictured), Shepherd's Purse and Tofu Soup, and the Braised Eel. They serve stinking Tofu, it really smells horrid. Out of respect for their neighbors, they won't cook any until after 6:00.

The Sweet Booth

My favorite of the 300 places that sell Bubble drinks in downtown Oakland, inside the Pacific Center on 9th and Webster. There's also a good crack seed store across the way.

The Ruby Room

I like the dark bars, and Ruby Room (On 14th near the corner of Madison) is about as dark as it gets. If the photo seems boring, it's because it's the only place there was enough light to take any sort of picture - it can be difficult to see the person sitting next to you. Anyway the music is always good, it's always busy, there's always a fun crowd, and it was the ultimate neighborhood bar.

Yung Kee

Yung Kee is a restaurant on the corner 8th and Webster. As a restaurant the insides are entirely grote and the food is often so-so. However the BBQ meat is the best around, I particularly like the BBQ pork, and it's hard to go wrong with any BBQ dish. Get the meat to go, or try the BBQ pork & tofu plate, or a BBQ-meat crispy noodle.

1 comment:

Mags said...

Thanks for the info! I'm trying to find a spot for my birthday bar fest this December, and I'm trying to narrow it down between Radio Bar and maybe a place in Rockridge. But now you threw me for a loop with this Ruby Room ...