A Local’s Guide to Oakland

Sorry Ms. Stein but there is a THERE THERE in Oakland! My hometown is a great place to explore when you’re in the SF Bay Area.

817 Washington St, Oakland, CA 94607, USA
On a lazy Saturday morning head to Caffe 817 in Old Oakland (downtown) for a breakfast of poached eggs, olive tapenade and toasted levain. Add a latte bowl or cappuccino for the perfect start to your day! After breakfast explore the neighborhood with its creative small shops.
5000 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611, USA
Designed by renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, Oakland’s Mountain View Cemetery, completed in 1863 is the final resting place for some of California’s most famous residents including Charles Crocker, Bernard Maybeck, Anna Head, Henry Kasier, and Julia Morgan. This is a beautiful place to jog, walk your dog, bird watch (lots of wild turkeys) or just sit and contemplate with a cup of coffee. From the top you have a view of San Francisco and the entire Bay. A very meditative spot. Guided and self-guided tours offered for those wanting to learn more about Olmsted’s vision, the architecture or the history of the cemetery & its “residents.”
5655 College Ave, Oakland, CA 94618, USA
In Oakland’s Rockridge district, the Market Hall houses Oliveto’s restaurant, a specialty food deli, bakery, coffee shop, pasta shop, florist and produce market. I love to stop by the Oliveto café before heading to San Francisco. Known for it’s seasonally inspired dinners, the downstairs café at Oliveto’s is open daily for breakfast. Yummy oatmeal served with cinnamon sugar and cream is my favorite. The breakfast pizza with a poached egg is a specialty and large enough to share. After breakfast wander along College Avenue visiting independent booksellers and unique small shops, hop on BART (Metro) to SF or grab a deli sandwich for lunch (roast beef & bleu cheese is fantastic) at the Market Food Hall.
Lakeside, Oakland, CA, USA
10,000 Steps, a historic walking tour created in 2006, explores downtown Oakland’s historic parks. These parks—Jefferson Square, Lafayette Square, Madison Square, and Lincoln Square – each occupy only one city block. Walking this “Invisible City” is downtown Oakland’s first permanent self-guided walking tour. By following engraved sidewalk markers, walkers can explore this historic city. Oakland’s first city plan, drawn in 1853 by Julius Kellersberger, was framed by seven oak-filled squares. Today, five of these squares continue to support the diverse communities who live nearby. Walking the Invisible City will lead you to these historic parks and vibrant neighborhoods near Oakland’s Chinatown.
4252 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611, USA
Getting nostalgic for a good old fashioned twinkie? Twinkies vegan-style at Timeless Café and Bakery in Oakland are waiting for you! This relatively new café offers espresso drinks with your choice of almond or soy milk, teas, vegan chocolates and vegan pastries. On weekends they serve waffles and other breakfast specialties. A cool relaxed vibe that serves deliciousness with friendly staff .... try it!
4070 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611, USA
Popular Piedmont Avenue in Oakland offers lots of places to eat but locals know that Baja Taqueria is the place to go on Saturday nights. On Saturdays, from 6 – 10 p.m. ONLY, the fish tacos are priced at just $2.52! Retirees, students and families flock to this place for the delicious & cheap tacos as well as the friendly staff. So what are you waiting for...head to the East Bay, grab a fish taco with your beer and feel like a local!
400 40th St, Oakland, CA 94609, USA
On a cold evening I craved some gooey goodness and headed straight to Homeroom for warm, delicious mac and cheese. This Temescal district favorite never fails to satisfy my cheesy cravings. With over 10 different varieties of mac & cheese on the menu you can find something to devour. I like the classic or vermont white cheddar mac but those that aren’t calorie-shy should try the Trailer Mac - cheddary mac with Niman Ranch hot dog and topped with crushed potato chips. Minty peas are a must as well. Sit down or take-out. Now there’s a mobile app so order online and drive-thru for pickup. You won’t find better mac & cheese anywhere! Open for lunch & dinner.
5004 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609, USA
Dona Tomas, located in Oakland’s trendy Temescal district, is the place to go when you’re craving delicious Mexican food and a killer margarita. A wide menu of Cocteles Especiales (special cocktails), cervezas and tequilas. On a warm evening I like sitting on the back patio with friends munching on warm chips with guacamole sipping a Margarita de Reyna. Patio seating is first-come, first-served. Inside tables are by reservation & walk-in but if weekend walk-in expect a wait. Hang out in the bar while waiting. Yummy food made with seasonal, fresh ingredients. Open for dinner (Tues.- Sat.) and weekend brunch (Sat. & Sun.).
5356 College Avenue
Oakland’s Rockridge neighborhood has plenty of restaurants but the newly opened A16 Rockridge is packed most nights. Seems to be a favorite of the locals living nearby. The cuisine is southern Italian but the real star is the cocktail menu. Food is a bit pricey so go with friends, split a pizza and enjoy the cocktails. Nice simple decor without a lot of noise so you can actually have a conversation! Good vibe but can be wallet buster if you get carried away with ordering. Original A16 is still located in San Francisco on Chestnut Street.
2735 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612, USA
Head to Z Cafe & Bar after work for some of house mixologist Mehdi Zarekari’s infused cocktails. The restaurant has a wide selection vodkas and hand shaken specialty martinis. Beer and wine also served. Happier hour cocktails ($5) are served from 4 PM Tues.-Fri., Saturdays 5 PM to 9 PM. Happy hour small plates ($5) include bourbon meatballs and fried green tomatoes. I like the hamburger off the regular menu. Good place to meet friends.
Piedmont Ave
Homestead, located on popular Piedmont Avenue, offers a limited breakfast menu from 8am-noon on Tuesday through Saturday. I love this place for it’s reasonable prices, relaxed atmosphere and friendly vibe. You don’t need to spend an arm & a leg for breakfast here. Homestead is primarily a dinner spot but opens for limited hours in the morning as a gathering spot for neighborhood folks. Great place to meet friends or co-workers before starting your day. The beignets & donuts are made fresh every morning & they also offer savory dishes like strada (similar to quiche) with a side salad. Fresh squeezed OJ and coffee drinks are also good. I like the granola with yogurt & fruit. Open for dinner at 5pm. Closed Mondays.
Broadway, Oakland, CA 94607, USA
Every summer Oakland’s Jack London Square hosts free outdoor movies. Movies are shown outside on the lawn area so bring blankets, a picnic dinner, family & friends and enjoy the movies! Great community event that everyone enjoys. Can get chilly so dress warmly. Also on Friday nights, Jack London Square hosts free dance lessons including the Chacha, Rumba, Salsa and Swing followed by a dance party. All are welcome. Come down to the waterfront and enjoy the summer fun!
66 Franklin St #100, Oakland, CA 94607, USA
Even on a chilly evening you can enjoy drinks and delicious thin crust pizza at Forge’s outdoor patio. Fire pits keep it cozy, happy hour prices keep it affordable. Great place to gather with friends. After dinner take a walk along the peaceful waterfront.
7087 Skyline Blvd, Oakland, CA 94611, USA
East Bay Regional Park District has many wonderful hiking areas. Huckleberry Preserve in the Oakland hills offers self guided nature trails (maps available in parking lot) where you’ll see a variety of California native flowers and trees such as bay laurel, oaks and manzanita. Huckleberry Botanic Preserve is an ecological jewel. You can take the 1.7 mile loop or take the longer hike where you end up at the Sibley Volcanic Preserve, another great hiking spot. Because of the fragile nature of Huckleberry Preserve, dogs, bicycles, and horses are prohibited, except dogs and horses are allowed on the Skyline National Trail section. Jogging is discouraged due to uneven trails & underbrush.
More from AFAR
Sign up for our newsletter
Join more than a million of the world’s best travelers. Subscribe to the Daily Wander newsletter.
AFAR Journeys
Journeys: Europe
Journeys: Europe
Journeys: Europe
Journeys: Europe
Journeys: United States
Journeys: Sports + Adventure