Icons of Oakland’s Grand Avenue

So yesterday’s test was a little too easy, eh? It seems the Pet Hospital sign was the real giveaway… and if that sign clued you in to this awesome stretch of Oakland, these signs should really ring a bell.

I start with The Alley, because it’s a real gem. A one of a kind. An Oaktown original.

I have to admit I’ve only mustered the courage to sing here a couple of times (with a little help from whiskey-on-the-rocks) because Rod Dibble’s regulars are really really good. These folks take their song stylings very seriously. It’s awesome. If you haven’t been, you simply must go.

More reading: Piano man Rod Dibble’s got ’em feeling all right by Peter Hartlaub (sfgate)
piano bar oakland, rod dibble's alley

Next up is The Grand Bakery. As yelper Russ E. said, “If you are a Jew and you don’t know about this place, shame on you.” Always with the guilt! But seriously, this place has incredible chocolate covered macaroons (my personal favorites), and is known for its other delectable Jewish treats like Challah & rugelach. Keep in mind they’re closed on Saturdays. It seems a source of frustration for many, but duh…

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Next up, Kingman’s Lucky Lounge. I don’t do the bar scene too much anymore, but when I did, I loved this spot.  Great ambiance. Cool clientele. DJ’s spinnin’ fresh tunes. And, of course, tasty drinks.

lucky lounge, grand avenue bars, oakland bars

Now the Coffee Mill I’m not quite as familiar with, but as I was heading across the street to shoot their sign, which I love, the woman next to me was telling her little girl that they have the best Chai Latte in the world. That’s quite a claim. They seem to be known for their delicious breakfasts more than their coffee. Any of you fans? Give me the scoop…
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Ah, Boot & Shoe Service. Can I just say that I have a big crush on Charlie Hallowell and his incredible pizzas? Yes, he’s married with child, and yes, I’m in a relationship too, but those fantastically thin crusts! To die for. Everything is amazing. A much smaller menu than his original Pizzaiolo, but that’s part of the charm.

Charlie Hallowell restaurants
Smitty’s. A dive bar. Pool table. Shuffleboard. Juke Box. Cheap beer. What more do you need to know?

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Walden Pond Books – a great independent bookstore. See my post from last year: Walden Pond Books – Oakland’s Oldest Bookstore including their Declaration of Independents, and my interview with Paul Curatolo, now manager for over 35 years!

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Bicycle Coffee Co. These guys set up at the Saturday Farmers Market. I haven’t had their coffee yet (organic, fair trade, shade grown, hand-picked, and locally roasted in small batches), but I dig their carts, and was captivated by their groovy logo.

More Reading: Q&A with Bicycle Coffee Co.’s Brad Butler and Brandon McKee by Alex Hochman (sfweekly)

pedal power, coffee cart, oakland coffee carts

And last, but certainly not least, the wonderful Grand Lake Theater. It’s one of my favorite things about our city and I wrote all about it awhile back in Grand Lake Movie Magic… Post includes the top 7 reasons this is, hands down, the best movie theater in the East Bay, the history of the theater, and a cool video about the mechanics behind their amazing lighted sign. Check it out!

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3 thoughts on “Icons of Oakland’s Grand Avenue

  1. Navigator

    Grand Avenue should be Oakland’s “Grand Blvd” but unfortunately it’s blighted and neglected. The area near Lakeside Park is particularly blighted and unkept. You have graffiti on sides of buildings and even in front of apartment buildings along with overgrown weeds and grimmy gum stained sidewalks. It really is sad. It seems that the city doesn’t care and the state of neglect continues.

    1. studiodeb333 Post author

      I hear your frustration, but the city isn’t necessarily responsible for all of this. Businesses and residents have to step up and do their share as well. I was on the Board of my Homeowners Association in West Oakland for 9 years and our Association paid to have the exterior of our building and surrounding sidewalk areas maintained, both from a janitorial and from a gardening perspective. We regularly paid to have graffiti removed, and removed it quickly whenever it appeared. We can’t expect the city to take care of all of our problems, especially given the financial strains its currently facing.

      It seems more and more neighborhoods are creating Business Districts that generate funds from fees to participating businesses and donations and volunteer time from interested residents. These resources are then used towards improvement projects in the neighborhood, whether blight clean-up, public art, etc. I’ve seen it work.

      Here in my current neighborhood of Dimond, volunteer residents are out picking up trash every weekend (in their bright yellow volunteer vests) – I always thank them.

  2. Navigator

    I agree with you. Volunteers need to step up for Grand Avenue. The area between 580 and Harrison needs to be spruced up. If neighborhood groups in the area don’t organize then it should be up to the city to call for volunteers to clean up and improve Grand Avenue. That street is way too important to Oakland to be neglected. We can’t have huge graffiti on sides of buildings and weeds growing from the sidewalks and street mediums. Jean Quan organized cleanups in East Oakland now it’s time to clean up one of the most prominet streets in Oakland. Perhaps the owner of this blog could document the cases of blight on lower Grand Ave so that we can address the problems.

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