Category Archives: restaurants & bars

Random Thoughts on Thursday…

Today I’ve got a smattering of stuff… a random collection of things I’ve been thinking about recently including local independent radio, amazing restaurant deals in Oakland, and the upcoming 2nd annual Oakland Marathon…

  1. KUSF (90.3 fm) has gone the way of classical as of this past Tuesday…  I said, “WHAT?!?”  It’s true, it’s true.  Another great independent college station down the tubes.  Or at least into the tubes.  While the University of San Francisco’s station has been broadcasting via the FM airways for over 30 years, it will now be moved to an internet-only format. You can see a recap of events and listen to an archive of an interview with relevant parties on KQED’s site:

    So please, support your local independent radio.  Here’s a recent write-up on the ever-excellent KALX. And here are a few of my other favorite local stations:

      • Pirate Cat Radio 87.9FM http://www.piratecatradio.com/listen.php This is a true pirate radio station. I actually had to look up their number on the dial because I’ve only ever heard their broadcast from a particular photo studio in San Francisco – their broadcast range is postage stamp sized. In fact, they may not even be broadcasting that way anymore because they’ve had some trouble with the FCC (they simply won’t obey!)… it may be only internet now. But they play super interesting stuff consistently.
      • KFJC 89.7FM http://www.kfjc.org/netcast/index.php This is Foothill College’s radio station. Great stuff with a focus on new music.
      • KUSF 90.3FM http://kusf.org/index.shtml Similar to KALX, but broadcast from the University of San Francisco… similarly cool off the beaten path programming… lots of local bands too.
      • KZSU 90.1FM http://kzsulive.stanford.edu/Another college radio station… this one out of Stanford University. Even those Peninsula geeks can rock!
      • KPFA 94.1FM http://www.kpfa.org/ One of our Bay Area public radio stations, it’s mostly political, but they do have some good music shows. I’m particularly fond of their Thursday nights with Bonnie Simmons and Derk Richardson. But I’m old. ;)
  2. flora oakland, cocktails at flora, art deco flora

  3. Next week is Restaurant Week in Oakland. What is Restaurant Week you ask? (I’d never heard of it before either, but perhaps this is the first year?  Anyone?) In any case, it’s a week long event sponsored by the Oakland Visitor Convention Bureau in conjunction with Visit California.  Basically it’s about getting folks to come spend their hard-earned dollars in Oakland, while getting great values at an incredible variety of top-notch restaurants.  And locals can sign up too… Here’s a list of all the deals being offered:
  4. All I can say is Flora, Camino, Wood Tavern, Oliveto… the list goes on and on.  It’s going to be hard to decide where to eat~!

  5. The Oakland Running Festival! It’s coming again (March 26/27) and it’s going to be awesome.  Please check my posts from last year which have lots of information about this excellent event:

    I’ll be writing more about this in upcoming days (because I’ll by plying you for any hard-earned dollars not spent on Restaurant Week!), but I’m going to be running in the festival this year (last year I was a spectator), and I’m going to be running with Team Ella Baker Center.

    The Ella Baker Center is a local non-profit human rights organization working to “promote justice in the system, opportunity in our cities, and peace on our streets.”  I wrote a bit about them last year (Ella Baker Center Murals) and am extremely excited to be supporting their organization this year.  They’re hoping to raise $25,000 with approximately 100 runners, so if you’re interested in running with them, click this link: “Oakland Love Runs Deep“.

    I went to their kickoff party at Somar last night and it was incredibly inspiring. A representative from Corrigan Sports (the organization responsible for bringing the marathon back to Oakland… after a 25 year hiatus) recapped the 2010 event, saying that 98% of participants had a positive experience, 90% of participants came away with a more favorable view of Oakland, and thousands of dollars were raised for local organizations.  This is a super-positive event and I encourage everyone to get involved.  There are lots of ways to participate:

    • As a runner – there are races for everyone: 1/2 marathon, full marathon, relay race, twilight 5k, and kids’ fun run, and you can run for a cause too (bonus points!)
    • As a spectator – crowds lined the streets last year to cheer on the runners. It was truly inspiring.
    • As a volunteer – over 1,000 volunteers are needed to help orchestrate this huge event. Click here for more info

    More reading:  Corrigan Sports Enterprises Brings You the 2nd Annual Oakland Running Festival

Temescal Winter Art Hop Recap…

So we had a blast at the 1st Annual Temescal Winter Art Hop last Friday night… I thought it was just going to be a smaller offshoot of Art Murmur, but there was more to it than that.  The idea was to pick up a “passport” listing all of the participating establishments – galleries, eateries, retail shops, etc. – get a stamp at each one visited to fill your passport book, and then drop off the completed book for a chance to win cool prizes!

I know, I know… it sounds a little dorky.  But we embraced our dorkdom and had a great time doing it.  And I have to say, it really was a clever way to introduce newer/smaller establishments that haven’t been on my radar, because we had to fill that book!

We pretty much hit them all… we needed 10 stamps for the book to qualify for the prize drawing and I think we each got 13!  We were going for bonus points, and it looks like it paid off because I got an email yesterday saying I’d won the prize from Smokey’s Tangle, which fittingly enough, is where our evening began.

Temescal Art Galleries, temescal winter art hop

Smokey’s Tangle

So this little gallery has been around for awhile, opening in February of 2009, but somehow I had yet to step inside their door until last Friday. I was surprised at the tiny size of their space as I’d been hearing about the gallery for some time. We walked past the striking sculpture in the display window (Andrew Dilberger) to be greeted a photographer standing on top of a table in front of a small holiday photo booth strung with clip lamps and xmas lights.  Do you want to have your picture taken? Hell yes!  So we donned some twinkle lights and spun them round for the slow exposure, and although I think we look pretty dorky, that seems about right.

If you click on the photo, it will take you to the whole series on their Facebook page.

4707

Next door is a similarly sized tiny gallery space.  It looks like these guys have been around just as long, though again, this was my first visit.  They had a psychedelic display in the window by Raymie Iadevaia… all wallpapered flowers, funky mirrors, and more.  See their blog (click link above) for the artist’s statement.  Inside was a small show of a handful of artists, each exhibiting no more than a few pieces… some great stuff, and one in particular I loved was a graphite drawing by Kara Joslyn.

Slate art & design gallery

Now this gallery has been on my radar for a while and I’ve been meaning to check it out for months… They too opened in 2009 and seem to be a bit, um how do I say this? maybe more upscale and um… well-financed? than their funkier counterparts across the street.  The space is larger with a lovely bank of floor to ceiling windows… very clean and contemporary and seems just about the perfect size for a substantial solo show, which is what we saw Friday night.

slate art & design, carol inez charney

The current exhibit, through January 29th, features big bold beautiful photographs by Carol Inez Charney. I love this stuff… colorful abstracts seen through and in the reflections of dripping and sheeting water. In fact, I have a whole series of images very similar to this, although I have to say that mine are not this good. Waah. You can see the Slate displayed series here.

Let’s see… what else?

We went to the Creative Reuse Center, which I’ve already written about here, but it sure looked pretty spruced up a bit for the holidays.

Then we followed the sidewalk chalk directions down and around the block to the Oakland Under 100 show at the Temescal Art Center.  To be honest, I didn’t even know there was an art center in Temescal (other than Studio One), so this was a great find.  Sounds like they specialize more in performance art than visual art, offering various physical/expression classes and workshops.  Interesting.

Oakland Under 100, temescal winter art hop

We had to go back to the car to drop the Wonderarium we purchased at Under 100.  What is a Wonderarium? you ask.  Well, it’s basically a terrarium in a glass ball.  The one we bought was a tiny scale model of a much much larger one proposed to be installed as a floating art/science exhibit on Lake Merritt.  You can read all about it here:  3,000-pound “wonderarium” could float on Oakland’s Lake Merritt.

On the way to the car we passed the new cafe… Good Bellies. It looks great, and having been open just under a month, they’ve already got 5 stars on Yelp!  They offer locally roasted coffee, locally produced gelato & frozen yogurt, pastries, and assorted sandwiches.  They also had a really interesting photography exhibit curated from 1970’s photographs obtained from the Library of Congress. Very cool.

Hmmm… are you still with me?  Just a bit more, as I’m running out of steam myself here, but I can’t wrap this up without mentioning the awesome little shop Lot 49. Talk about curating… The shop features furniture, art, and objects with, as they say, “a funky edge of cool.”  And it’s so true.  Right now they have a great display of vintage cameras that I was immediately drawn too. Some sweet mid-century lounge chairs also caught our eyes… and the prices all seemed really reasonable.  Do check them out!

The Mixing Bowl

I’ve recently spent some time in my old old hood of Temescal, so my next few posts will focus on the short stretch of Telegraph between 51st and 40th…

First up – The Mixing Bowl. Located on the same block as Betty’s Bakesale, Doña Tomás, and Pizzaiolo, this little gourmet cafe seems more in line with its upscale neighbors than its predecessor the Temescal Café.

mixing bowl temescal, mixing bowl cafe, mixing bowl oakland

I remember when the Temescal Cafe first opened… I lived just around the corner on Clarke at 49th. The only restaurant on the block was the Ethiopian Asmara, which is still there and celebrating their 25 year anniversary in just a couple of weeks.  G&G Hardware was still selling anything and everything hardware and houseware related… it was one of those old school hardware stores that carried all kinds of stuff, like kitchen appliances, bakeware, country mailboxes, and more.  Next door was a small fresh produce market, which was actually a wonderful thing to have in a walkable neighborhood like Temescal.  I can’t remember what else, but what I do remember, is there was nowhere walkable to grab a quick cup o’ joe.  The Temescal Café was going to be our salvation.

Or not. I tried tried tried to love the new cafe. But there were just too many funky things about it.  Their prices were certainly good, but the food was just ok, the art and decor a bit haphazard, and their service extremely inconsistent.  But enough about the old…

The Mixing Bowl opened a couple of years ago and though I no longer lived in Temescal, a friend did.  She groaned about the opening, complaining about the lack of wi-fi and how it just wasn’t the type of cafe she and her community wanted.  I had to disagree… I told her if she and her friends wanted an internet cafe, then they should open one.  The owners of The Mixing Bowl had a different agenda in mind, which I fully supported… food.

The team behind The Mixing Bowl, Grace Lee and Armando Koghan, are foodies. They care about food… the quality, the deliciousness, and ultimately the actual experience of eating it, which is why they opted for a wi-fi free zone, wanting to discourage a room full of people with attention solely glued to laptops. My friend found this maddening… I found it refreshing.

Grace Lee, temescal cafes

What’s also refreshing is their menu… it’s yummy California cafe fare to be sure – organic, local, sustainable – but with a strong Asian influence and some really interesting combinations. I particularly love their salads (Watermelon with pickled rind, shaved feta, and shiso vinaigrette… YUM!) and a popular favorite seems to be the Soba Noodle Salad (see Yelp below).

The sandwiches are equally good and reasonably priced given the healthy portions. Next time the line for Bakesale Betty’s (which I also love dearly) extends down the block, you may just want to pop into The Mixing Bowl for their Pulled Pork Sandwich or Korean Tacos… You won’t be sorry.

More recently the cafe has added a line of homemade country goods like pickled vegetables and jams.  Though I haven’t tried any yet, I will say the presentation is beautiful, as it is with everything here (check out their light fixtures fashioned out of antique mason jars… lovely!)

I’m also quite fond of the current art installation, which may be permanent as it seems to have been up for awhile now.  It features a series of large scale B&W historical photographs of the Temescal region and community from the late 1800’s to early 1900’s. It’s fascinating…

For example, we’re informed that the men above are garbage collectors setting off to ride throughout the town picking up their payments from individual property owners with whom they’ve contracted. And further, that the whole business of trash collection in the early part of the 20th century was dominated by men from the Italian American community, specifically of Genovese descent (I am assuming these Genovesians are also responsible for the wonderful Genova delicatessen, a fixture in Temescal for 80 years! – but that will have to be another post…)

shared ground, Oakland Baseball Club

The installation was made possible through the support and resources of the Oakland History Room (a program of the Oakland Public Library), Temescal historian Ray Raineri, and Shared Ground founder and Temescal community artist Jeff Norman. To learn more about Temescal history and Shared Ground’s local projects, visit SharedGround.org.

More reading…

The Mixing Bowl on Yelp

The Mixing Bowl on SFGate

The Mixing Bowl on Oakbook

Beer, bicycles, and my new favorite pub.

So tonight (correction: TOMORROW night – Thursday, thanks Veronica!) is the East Bay Express sponsored Pedal Powered Pub Crawl where hipster beer lovers can bike their way from pub to pub for bike friendly beer specials in Oaktown.  First stop is Beer Revolution between 5 and 5:30 to pick up your beer passport… then on to Merchants, Somar Bar, The Uptown, and finally the Stork Club around 8pm to qualify for prizes and more.

Sounds like a whole lot of fun, but I’m feeling a bit too old for this event, especially after the hangover I received recently at the hands of a 7.5% alcohol IPA the other night.  So delicious going down… so painful the next morning.

In any case, I was surprised to see that my new favorite pub isn’t on the list for tomorrow’s festivities… perhaps it’s a bit too small?  CommonWealth Cafe & Pub.  Introduced to me recently by a friend who proudly declared it her “favorite new place” discovered during the height of World Cup festivities, I have to admit, it’s now mine too.  You can’t help but love this place, with its Euro-heritage blended with a more modern Californian sensibility.

commonwealth cafe, commonwealth pub, commonwealth pub oakland

sunday brunch at commonwealth, bars on telegraph oakland

Opened on a stretch of Telegraph I wrote about awhile back (A Transforming Stretch of Telegraph), this small Scottish styled pub with its warm decor of Victorian velvet wallpaper, vintage beer barrels, and European bottles, features a tidy and delicious selection of handcrafted brews on tap, and fantastic salads and sandwiches (toasties) for lunch and dinner, all reasonably priced too! Each day also features one or two traditional pub-fare specials like Shepard’s Pie or Bubbles & Squeak, as well as soups of the day.

I haven’t been for breakfast yet, though I did order one of their delectable scones with cream and jam for dessert one evening, and it was simply incredible.  They also offer the full suite of espresso drinks pulled from their vintage Mr. Espresso machine, and other breakfasty offerings, not to mention a Sunday brunch that I can’t wait to try.

Pete & Ross of Commonwealth, commonwealth pub oakland

commonwealth cafe on telegraph, where to watch world cup in oakland

Located at 29th and Telegraph, just a hop skip and jump from my old loft, I can easily say this would be my new neighborhood joint if I still lived down the street.  The owners Pete & Ross are super friendly, the vibe is chill, the beer is fine (like FINE!, not just ho-hum), and the food is simply delicious.  In a neighborhood I previously referred to as a bit of a “no-man’s land,” CommonWealth is a more-than-welcome addition.  Be sure to check their schedule (see link above) as they are closed some nights.

More reading here…

CommonWealth on East Bay Express

CommonWealth on Bay Area Food Blog

CommonWealth on Yelp