Category Archives: pill hill

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

New Oakland Youth Center Mural Project – the movie!

Here is my first movie. Ever. So cut me a little slack please… have a heart.

After watching it full screen on my big Apple studio monitor, sizing the movie down for YouTube is disappointing… much of the detail is lost here. For this reason I’ve posted a slightly larger than recommended file size. Ideally, you should let it load for a minute or so before watching. Or better yet, click on the YouTube logo in the lower right hand corner to watch directly there in a larger window. If anyone has suggestions for sharing larger high-res movie files, please send my way. Thanks.

Oh, and the grand opening party was a smashing success. Standing room only turnout. I’ll post more photos this weekend. But for now… back to the day job (the one that pays the bills, the work work).

A transforming stretch of Telegraph…

So I’ve been running back and forth between my place and the new Oakland Youth Center, in my endeavor to document the new mural that’s been developing all week.  REMINDER: Grand Opening Party this Thursday January 14th starting at 3pm onward with freestyle rap, dance cyphers, live painting, arts performances and more. Check it out at Telegraph & 28th Street! Here’s the blank wall that’s being transformed as I type…

blank wall for mural

Did you hear I’m making a movie?!? It’s true, it’s true.

And it’s extremely exciting because, at the risk of dating myself here, let’s just say I didn’t grow up with flip video cameras and kid-friendly computer applications like iMovie. Hell, I had a programmable typewriter in college. A typewriter!  You get my drift?

In any case, it’s been back and forth, back and forth between my little corner of West Oakland, called Ghosttown, and the neighboring corner of North Oakland called Pill Hill, where the Center is located. For those of you unfamiliar with these neighborhoods, they border the MacArthur Maze, Ghosttown just southwest, and Pill Hill just southeast. Here’s a map…

Wikipedia says Ghosttown is “known for its violence and blight.” Jeeezzz… they forgot to mention the drugs & prostitutes. It doesn’t say much about Pill Hill, but the area takes its name from the two huge medical centers found in its boundaries: Alta Bates Summit and Kaiser (which is currently undergoing a huge expansion), in addition to a growing number of alternative medicine practices (Oakland medical hub draws more alternative healers).

In my mind they both strike me as sort of no-man’s lands… and perhaps this is due to their inescapable proximity to the monstrosity of the maze. Here’s a shot under part of it…

macarthur maze, freeway underpass, under the maze

Feels oppressive, doesn’t it?

And what’s really disheartening to see are all the gorgeous Victorian’s immediately adjacent to this freeway. Here are a couple… This first one looks like a foreclosure (just one of hundreds, if not thousands, in Oakland) but what a beauty. It’s an interesting style that is not particularly common. C’mon you architect types… send me some info!

oakland victorian, adjacent to macarthur maze

The windows of this lovely look right out onto the freeway just across the street.

oakland victorian, macarthur maze

You can imagine the once thriving connected neighborhood that likely existed there before they plowed a freeway through the middle of it. I’d like to do more research on this. If anyone has any reading recommendations, please send them my way…

I really wanted this post to be about the Telegraph stretch of Pill Hill because so much is happening there right now… it’s literally undergoing a transformation.

But first a couple points of interest in its Ghosttown neighbor across the freeway…

I’ve already written about Ghosttown Farm and the mural across the street… May Peace Prevail on Earth. If you remember, I asked on my post for some assistance interpreting the god-like imagery, and sadly no knowlegable readers chimed in. But lucky for me, I crossed paths with the creative force behind the mural, Desi… who just so happens to be the leader of the Community Rejuvenation Project, now working out of the new Oakland Green Youth Media & Arts Center. Can you say small world?!? Desi explained that the four masks or faces represent gods of the four elements. Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. Now we know.

One other point of interest marked on the map is the old Calou Building. Do you know it?  It’s gorgeous.  Here’s a pic…

calou linen service, calou artist lofts, calou building in oakland

I don’t know what style of architecture it is, but it has some lovely brick work and a striking slate roof… you don’t see that too often anymore. I had hoped to do a whole post about this building, but Google and Wikipedia have really let me down here. After numerous searches I was unable to uncover anything about the history of the building itself or the linen company that was originally housed there. It’s listed as an Oakland Landmark in the Oakland Heritage Alliance’s compiled list, but it doesn’t even include the date built. This is probably the first time the web has really let me down. The only sites that turn up are realtor’s ads for lofts in the now converted building.  Not a great time to be selling real estate.  Especially in areas characterized by “blight and violence.”

Now let’s scoot back under the freeway to Pill Hill…

So there’s the new Oakland Green Youth Media & Arts Center… But there’s more!

The whole block between 29th and 30th streets has been razed to make way for a new residential development that’s slated to begin construction any day. Looks like it’s going to be big!

There’s a new family BBQ joint at 34th street called Phat Matt’s BBQ. Their motto is “So good it’ll make you want to slap yo momma!” I had a pulled pork sandwich there the other day and it was fabulous. Plus I love their back-story… husband and wife team, homemade sauces and rubs all developed without salt due to the dietary needs of Phat Matt’s wife. Check them out any day except Mondays.

phat matt's, phat matt's bbq, telegraph ave

Then there’s the new Oasis Food Market highlighted in last week’s East Bay Express article Neighborhood Comes Together Around New Market by Emilie Raguso.  It’s a great article full of information about this transforming neighborhood and the new identity that’s taking hold there… I’m going to excerpt from her article briefly:

“Oasis Food Market has it all: an unmatched supply of oils, grains, and canned goods; a mouth-watering eat-in deli offering soups from scratch, juicy shawarma, olives, feta, and a bevy of stuffed vegetables; fresh-baked breads and honeyed pastries handcrafted on site; and a full halal butcher shop complete with hanging carcasses in a chilled case. And, of course, there are fresh fruits and vegetables, cheeses, juices, and, somewhat less expectedly, a Western Union counter, post office boxes, household goods, traditional Arab clothing, water pipes, and flavored tobacco.

Stepping through the shop’s doors feels like stepping into another country.

Oasis food market, oasis market on telegraph

halal butcher shop, oasis food market

olive counter, oasis food market

Oasis has a full bakery and in addition to baking their own breads and pitas, they produce a mind boggling variety of baklava desserts. I was eye-ing them while snapping a few photos and waiting for my chicken shawarma plate… the baker kindly offered samples for me to try while explaining they roll all their own filo dough out on-site… no frozen filo! All I can say is… delicious.

baklava, oasis food market