Posts Tagged ‘uptown’

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Restaurant Report: Winter 2011

February 25, 2011

Wow, look at what happens when you take a few months off! Last time I posted on neighborhood restaurants was last May (good grief) and there’s been plenty happening since then. Here’s a very quick rundown of what’s opened or is opening soon in the ‘hood…

Temescal/Pill Hill

  • Homeroom, a new macaroni-and-cheese restaurant, is now open at 40th and Shafter. We have yet to try it but it sounds tasty and has been met with great fanfare—even my sister in Denver heard about it (though in fairness, she does work for the American Cheese Society, so it’s her kind of place!) Full report once we make it there.
  • CommonWealth has been open at 29th and Telegraph for a while now. Check out the details here. [Side note: One review of CommonWealth describes its location as “where Uptown meets Pill Hill.” Discuss.]
  • Remedy has been open since forever at Telegraph and 43rd, but I realized I forgot to include them in the last list. Which is bad, because they’re awesome!

Piedmont Avenue

  • Shimizu Sushi is now open at Piedmont and Echo. Haven’t been yet, but have heard good things!
  • It’s actually been quite a while since I’ve wandered down Piedmont, so I have a feeling I’m missing some changes. (Or maybe it really has been quiet?) Updates after we get a chance to walk down that way!

Grand Lake/Lower Grand

  • Ikaros (Greek) on Grand and Caña (Cuban, with a cabaret license, it looks like?) on Lake Park are both open as of this month. Yum! [Yes, I know the Ikaros link doesn’t work yet, but hopefully it will soon…]
  • Lin Jia Kitchen has been open on Lakeshore for a while now in the old L’Amyx space; still on the list of new places to try!
  • Room 389 opened this fall where the Golden Bear used to be.
  • Mimosa (at Santa Clara and Grand) has closed again after a brief revival, and is reportedly going to reopen under a new owner as a larger Ethiopian restaurant later this spring. Hopefully the third time’s the charm!
  • Sadly, Di Bartolo Café has closed, but happily,  Boot and Shoe will be taking over their space, expanding to include a patio and reportedly opening for brunch and lunch. Mmm doughnuts…
  • The Flip Side on Lakeshore, a project by the owners of Flavors of India, will be serving up gourmet burgers. (This is the old Adam’s location.)
  • Restoration of KwikWay on Lake Park is well underway at long last! Hoping they’ll be open by the summer, but that might be overly optimistic. Last I heard, the plan was still to do an upscale version of the old burger joint, but we’ll see.
  • Zoey’s Afghan Bistro has sadly closed, not too long after it opened.

Uptown/Upper Broadway

  • 3000 Broadway is now open at, umm, 3000 Broadway. Still haven’t been, but very curious!
  • Plum has been open for a while now, and is slated to open a bar soon. We checked it out when they first opened and are headed for a second visit soon, so I’ll write that one up soon.
  • Next door to Plum, the Punchdown opened quietly last fall in Franklin Square Wine Bar’s old space. Still need to check this one out too!
  • Next door to Mua, Nex is open. Check out the review here. (Can you tell how long it’s been since I’ve done one of these updates?!?)
  • Café Randevu is open too, just across the way from Mua and Nex. They have an eclectic menu spanning a number of cuisines.
  • Bar Dogwood, a new venture by the former owner of the House of Shields, is now open for  “cocktails and cured meats,” which is definitely up my alley! It’s at 17th and Telegraph.
  • Shuga Hill, the soul food truck-turned-restaurant that was originally eyeing a location at 29th and Broadway, has instead settled on a location at 27th and San Pablo that seems to be coming along nicely.
  • Xolo, the new taqueria from the Dona Tomas/Flora crew, is still under construction. Still. They’re also working on a bar in the space between Flora and Xolo.
  • Just up the street at 18th and Telegraph will be Oakland’s own branch of Brooklyn’s Weather Up. They’ll also be serving up cocktails and snacks.
  • Rudy’s Can’t Fail Café is opening its second location next-door to the Fox Theater. Apparently my wish for cocktails and brunch (no, not together…well, sure, why not together??) has been heard!

I think that’s it for now. I’ve undoubtedly missed a few openings and closings in these neighborhoods since I’ve been a bit out of the loop this fall and winter, so feel free to add them in the comments. And I promise to update this in a more timely manner next time around!

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Dine About Oakland: CommonWealth

February 14, 2011

Yeah, yeah, yeah, still here. And our kitchen is still not done, so still no time for writing. But one of my new year’s resolutions was to try to shake the dust off this blog and get it up and running again…though given that it’s already February, I’m not doing so well on that front! I’m going to try starting with some bite-sized tidbits in the interim, though.

So for now, here’s a happy Valentine’s post on CommonWealth, one of Oakland’s newer restaurant pubs, which is rapidly becoming one of my favorite neighborhood haunts (and that’s not just because we still have no working stove and they have shepherd’s pie!) CommonWealth opened last summer not long before our wedding, so although we sent some of our wedding guests there to watch World Cup games, we didn’t actually go ourselves until many weeks later. For most of 2010, they had pretty limited hours, and were often closed when we wanted to go. (This is, incidentally, one of the biggest frustrations of living in an up-and-coming gourmet hot spot in the shadows of downtown; lots of restaurants debut with weekday lunchtime hours, which I understand but which we can never make, so I get all excited and then have to wait for weeks for nighttime or weekend hours…augh!) But happily, with the arrival of 2011 came expanded hours so that CommonWealth is now open every day of the week, and every night except Sunday! In recent weeks, with no easy way to cook, we’ve headed there for all sorts of tasty goodness. (They also now have a gorgeous new façade, so if you haven’t been to go check it out, go take a look!)

The little storefront CommonWealth is in used to be a coffee shop, and it’s very tiny for a bar. But they’ve packed it with tables and lined the windows with stools, so we’ve never had a problem finding a place to sit (though I will say that they are more and more crowded with each passing week…) On the drinks front they just serve beer and wine, but they always have a great and largely local selection of those (plus interesting sodas, coffee, breakfast, and lunch, too). They also offer wifi, so there’s usually a small laptop contingent.

There’s a basic menu of sandwiches, salads, and soups, but the real treats are usually the specials. Shepherd’s pie pops up regularly, and a few weeks ago they even had a veggie haggis version. We’ve tried mac and cheese, pasties, sandwiches, and my favorite, their excellent beet salad. Dessert was also delicious: a chocolate stout float with cookie ‘n’ caramel sauce on the side! Really, how can you beat that? Beer on tap is often local and always interesting and varied; it’s never been the same selection twice, even when we’ve been there two nights running. There’s also a bottle list that is pretty consistent, plus an assortment of wines, sodas, and other drinks if alcohol isn’t your thing.

My favorite thing about CommonWealth, though, is that they are also an exceptional coffee shop, something that our immediate neighborhood is sorely lacking. (Yeah, I know we can walk to Piedmont or Grand Lake or Telegraph, but the nearest coffee shops on each are a mile away, and even Farley’s East is a ten-minute walk. Need an indication of just how much our ‘hood needs some good local coffee shops? Just go take a peek at how packed Whole Foods Café is from opening to closing every day! ) So it’s good to have coffee a bit closer to home. We’ve taken the dog over a couple of times, and you can either sit outside when the outdoor table and chairs are there as long as you don’t take the alcohol out, or have one person sit inside at the window, since the window sill is a perfect little counter. They have excellent currant scones, and they actually know how to make scones, which is not to be taken lightly. (Okay, I admit it, I’m a scone snob! My mom made us wonderful traditional cream scones growing up, and now I really can’t stomach what many coffee shops, particularly certain national chains, try to pass off as “scones.” But these are terrific!) They also have great coffee—they use Oakland/Emeryville-based Roast and also sell beans. And they make perfect Gibraltars—also not to be taken lightly! (Random factoid: I only recently learned that Blue Bottle invented the Gibraltar, which is named after the Libbey Duratuff rocks glass it’s served in. Granted, a Gibraltar is really just a true short cappuccino—that is to say, not the “short” cappuccino you can order at Starbucks, which is actually what the rest of the world would consider a normal cappuccino—or a tall cortado, which no one but the one barista who briefly worked at the Peet’s by my office two years ago seems to know how to make. But still, both D. and I have happily embraced this new coffee development—it’s a much easier way of ordering a not-too-milky espresso drink without having to specify “a cappuccino with an inch less milk than you were planning to put in.”) There’s also a brunch menu on weekends and a lunch menu on weekdays, though we haven’t ventured into that territory yet.

So, in a nutshell: local beer, local coffee, shepherd’s pie, scones, no wait, and six blocks from my house. What’s not to love?? If they had outdoor seating where you could have a beer too, it would be practically perfect!

Grade: A
Price: $-$$

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Dine About Oakland: Nex

July 14, 2010

This weekend, I wasn’t up for a real night out, but we still wanted to show our support for local restaurants. So, with some friends, we headed out to a brand-new spot that we could walk to: Nex, the latest venture from Hi-Suk and Sanju Dong, the husband-and-wife team behind Mua and Soizic. We had high hopes since we like Mua’s food a lot, but often find it too loud for a weekend dinner. Nex has been billed as more restaurant and less club, but with a similar vibe, which sounded perfect. And though I never made it to Soizic, which is now closed for “reinventing” as someplace new, D. was a fan in its heyday. Nex is at Webster and Broadway right next-door to Mua, in the space that was briefly the short-lived Café Noir. While Café Noir was trying to juggle the coffee shop-pizza joint identity, though, Nex is a bit more upscale and decidedly a dinner spot.

On its first Friday night, the place was pretty quiet, which was also a nice change from Mua, where you can sometimes wait well over an hour for a table on the weekends. That’s not to say it was empty, though: clearly people are beginning to hear about it, and a number of people popped over from Mua to peek in and see what was happening. Interestingly, the crowd had a slightly older leaning; we were probably the youngest people there, which was a funny shift from Mua, where I sometimes feel pretty old. (One of our friends guessed that this might have been the Soizic crowd checking out the new place.) And on a fun side note, about half an hour into our meal, in walks Jerry Brown. Turns out he and his wife are pizza-and-wine fans too. (They also live a couple blocks away in the other direction, so I imagine they had the same walk-to-dinner idea we had.) This also led to a funny exchange at the door, when a group came in to check the place out and decide whether to stay for dinner. As one guy examined the menu, the other kept poking him, saying “Hey. Hey! Isn’t that the governor? Over there?” Finally the first guy, who was more concerned with the pizza list, responds, “Oh. Nah, he’s not the governor right now.” A pause. “Well, then are we eating here or not?” Shrugs. “Let’s keep looking.” And they leave.

Too bad, though, since they missed some good food! Since there were four of us, we gave the menu a good workout, trying:

  • Grilled asparagus with bacon and a poached egg: Excellent. We added this in the end at the advice of the server, who clearly knows what he’s talking about. Egg was perfectly done, and asparagus was just right. Highly recommended. Mmm!
  • House salad with butter lettuce, nectarines, and goat cheese: Also great. D. was initially pushing for the farro salad (which looked great at the table next to us) but after a few bites of the house salad, conceded that it had been a good pick.
  • Gnocchi: Meh. This was the one weak dish. The sauce was a very simple, sweet tomato sauce that overpowered the gnocchi. This turned out not to be bad, though, since the gnocchi were mushy and glutinous. We couldn’t decide if this was a preparation issue (undercooked, one of us wondered?) or a recipe issue (I’ve made gnocchi at home before, and I know that the delicate balance of flour and potato can make all the difference between tender little dumplings and mushiness, so possibly this dish can just be written off to a new restaurant still getting its bearings; they were also listed as being made with mascarpone, so possibly that was contributing too).
  • Nex pizza: The house specialty, this pizza is topped with anchovies, goat cheese, caramelized onions, and olives. We had an anchovy-lover among us, but even he thought this was a little over the top. The cheese, anchovies, and olives are all super salty, so if you got a bite with all three, it was just a bit much. (In contrast, the bites with just one or two and the onions were delicious, so I might order this in the future and ask them to leave either anchovies or olives off.) The crust was good, though, which is our big criterion for good pizza. I had high hopes since we’d liked the crust at Café Noir, and they’re using the same oven. While the pizza isn’t as good as spots like Marzano or Pizzaiolo that specialize in wood oven pizza, it was up there with the crusts at most of the other places in town. Crisp with bubbles…yum!
  • Forest pizza: This was a daily special pizza that featured fiddlehead ferns, hen of the wood mushrooms, and a cheese I’m blanking on (fontina, maybe?) This was probably my favorite, but I also love fiddleheads since you don’t see them too often around here.
  • Roasted cauliflower: D. really wanted to try this, so we threw it into the mix, and were really glad we did. While the dish is simple, it was excellent, and really showcased what a wood oven can do with vegetables.
  • Tarte tatin: Okay. This apple tart was quite tasty, but it was not a tarte tatin in the slightest, which was a bit of an issue for D., who’s a connoisseur of tarte tatins and has been through about a dozen recipes over the last few years trying to make the perfect one. A traditional tarte tatin features apples caramelized in butter and sugar until they’re a deep caramel color, covered with a pastry crust, baked in the same pan until the apples and crust meld, and then inverted and served like an upside-down cake. Nex’s version has lovely baked apples sitting delicately atop puff pastry, but there’s no caramelizing to be found. My vote: keep this on the menu—it’s yummy, especially with the cream alongside—but change the name to “apple tart” to avoid deeply disappointing tarte tatin fans. Meanwhile, our search for a great tarte tatin in Oakland continues…
  • Funnel cake fingers: This was probably the most interesting dish of the meal. Essentially, it’s sweet french fries made of funnel cake batter, served with chocolate (listed on the menu as spicy, but the chocolate we got seemed not to be) and fruit sauce. This is a variation on the fritter/doughnut theme that so many restaurants around town feature right now. We order it every place we see it, too, since both D. and I love really good doughnuts. I didn’t love this version simply because there’s more outside than inside to the treats, and I love the soft inside of bomboloni and zeppole and the like. However, these got points for being creative and unusual, and they really did taste like funnel cake, which was fun. So basically, we probably wouldn’t get them again, but were glad we ordered them once.
  • Cocktails, wine, and beer: We were pleased with the lists for all three of these. Beer is only in the bottle, but they have a great selection. Manhattan was similar to (though not quite as sweet as) the version served next-door at Mu, which I like a lot. Prices on par with most other spots of this flavor in town.

Overall, I was pleased with our first meal at Nex, especially since we were there just days after they opened, so it’s likely to keep getting better. The most exciting part is that the mood is pretty mellow compared to Mua; while we really enjoy Mua (and other spots like Shashamane across the street), these places start spinning music by 10 on weekend nights and become loud and hip. And, well, we’re old! (Okay, not really, but we’re not twenty-somethings anymore and sometimes Mua is just too loud for what we need on a Friday night.) So Nex is a great addition to the neighborhood. I have a feeling as they refine the menu in the coming weeks and months, they’ll get the few kinks out, and it will be the perfect spot. The server (who was great, and even IDed some of the fabulous 80’s they were playing to settle some debates) also reports that the owners are exploring adding outdoor tables, too, which would be great. In fact, the only slightly bittersweet part is that we’re back to having no coffee shop in the immediate neighborhood (unless you count Whole Foods Café, which I don’t, but apparently half the neighborhood does since it’s always packed!) Won’t somebody please open a coffee shop here??

On the opening front, though, I was excited to see that Café Randevu is on the verge of opening across the street from Nex, too. Our little corner of Oakland is slowly turning into a culinary hotspot!

Grade: A-
Price: $$-$$$

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What we’ve been doing: Dining about Downtown Oakland

July 9, 2010

This weekend, many Oaklanders are trying to organize eat-outs in support of Downtown and Uptown Oakland restaurants to help support our local businesses in the wake of last night’s violence following the Mehserle verdict. So in the spirit of that effort, I’ll share some of my favorite downtown eating experiences from the past five months. (These restaurant reports are so overdue that I’m not even going to write them up on their own; when we make repeat visits to these spots, they’ll get their own posts, since things may well have changed in the past six months.) But in the meantime, here’s a little taste of the spots we tried this spring.

Please go out and eat this weekend!

TRUEBURGER (Uptown)
D. still hasn’t been here, so this is just my take; my parents and I stopped in during a visit in March, not long after Trueburger opened. We had milkshakes, burgers, and fries, in classic form. Overall, our take was that Trueburger is good, though not the best burger-n-fries we’ve ever had (but then, that’s a pretty high bar!) Burgers were tasty, but they’re only cooked one way and the day we visited, this was well-done (though I think it’s typically more like medium, so I’ll try again at some point). Fries and milkshake were both tasty; next time I’ll try some milkshake mix-ins. My parents thought it was a bit pricey; I thought it was just right given the restaurant’s commitment to using sustainable meat, dairy, and produce. I’d probably still rather get a burger at Wood Tavern, where I can have it alongside a Manhattan and pretend I’m having a fancy meal. But Trueburger isn’t trying to be Wood Tavern; it’s more like a high-end version of In-N-Out. As someone who doesn’t eat fast food meat because of issues with its questionable sources, I love that there’s now a spot in my neighborhood where I can finally satisfy the burger-and-shake craving. Yay! They are apparently in the process of getting a beer-and-wine license, too, so we’ll check it out again after that’s in place.

Grade: B+
Price: $-$$

HIBISCUS (Uptown)
Okay, so it’s been so long since we had dinner here (just after they opened!) that I almost shouldn’t include this report at all. But it was tasty, and I hear it’s gotten even better since then, so I’ll put this in for now, and write a real report once we’ve tried them again. We tried Hibiscus the week after a friend who knows her Caribbean food had given it an overwhelming thumbs up (one of the only places in the Bay Area that passed muster for her!) So we gave it a pre-Fox run one Saturday. Tasty spots included the split pea fritters, the seafood and grits [it’s crab now, but I seem to remember it being shrimp when we visited, though that may be my memory playing tricks on me], and the fried chicken, although I remember thinking that in the future we should try not to load up on quite so many fried dishes. The fried plantains, which I ordered on a whim, were good but a little much with all the other food. Ah, well. And while the salad was good as simple green salads go, it seemed inordinately expensive for lightly dressed greens. (I don’t think the version we had is on the menu anymore, though.) The only really odd spot was the phone call we got with five minutes to go before our reservation. It’s the restaurant, wondering if we’re coming. I assure the woman that we’re outside locking up and will be there in a moment. Weird, but I’d made the reservation online, and maybe people flake out on online reservations a lot. So I head inside, where the woman behind the bar is telling someone that she just talked to me and I claimed we were parking, but she’s sure I was just saying that and we’ll be late. Err…?? I pipe up that yes, in fact I’m here. She just looks at me for a minute and then seats us; service was lovely from there on out. But so strange. Still has me wondering!

Grade: A-
Price: $$-$$$

LAKE CHALET (Uptown/Lake Merritt)
Oh, Lake Chalet, how I long to love you! I was so excited when this spot opened: housed in the historic city boathouse and renovated as part of the Measure DD project along the lake, it’s gorgeous, with a drop-dead beautiful view. The drinks are excellent. But for some reason, it’s plagued with inconsistency on the food front. We first tried Lake Chalet a month after it opened, and had a bizarre mix of fabulous and pretty blah dishes, so we hadn’t made it back. But this spring, D.’s mother and sister hosted my bridal shower there, and Lake Chalet did an outstanding job. The food was wonderful—I’m still dreaming about the fish and chips!—and the meal convinced me that they had finally figured things out. In fact, we were collectively so impressed that several of us independently made plans to go for dinners and brunches in the weeks that followed. And sadly, we all had the same experience: decidedly mediocre meals. Overcooked eggs, cold soggy french fries, ingredients that just didn’t meld. It just wasn’t there. It’s odd, because generally special events are taxing enough that an otherwise good restaurant might falter; it’s not usually the other way around! I’m now thoroughly convinced that Lake Chalet can do exceptional food; they just need to figure out where the hangup is, whether it’s in the kitchen or in the menu planning. Notably, the restaurant is huge, with 450 seats; that’s potentially a challenge. (The funny part is that almost everyone said “well, I guess I’d still come back here anyway, since the view is so good and the drinks were great.” C’mon, we can have a higher bar than that!) But fair enough. I’ll jump on the bandwagon: I still recommend this spot for drinks with a view, and hey, try the food and you might luck out. (Honestly, I hesitate to even make a list of the things we liked there, since the preparation can vary from visit to visit. So just explore the menu and see what happens.) Fingers crossed that in the months to come, they work out the kinks, because I think this spot has the makings of greatness. Update, 07/13/10: Lake Chalet’s chef has left, and the Chalet empire, which also includes Park Chalet and Beach Chalet in San Francisco, has hired a new executive chef to oversee all three restaurants beginning this summer. So watch for some changes…

Grade: B [A based only on drinks, views, happy hours, and special events]
Price: $$-$$$

COCINA POBLANA (Jack London Square)
I’m somewhat embarrassed to say that, although I’ve eaten at Cocina Poblana in Emeryville a couple of times, I had never set foot in the Oakland restaurant until last year, when bizarrely I went to two group events in quick succession there. Both were excellent, and when D.’s family wanted to plan a welcome dinner for our wedding earlier this year, we got in touch with owner Lito Saldana. He suggested we all come by for a tasting, so we did. Now, we went to several tastings over the course of wedding planning, and usually “tasting” means “sample a few of our strongest dishes.” At Cocina Poblana, it means “sample everything on our menu and see what you like!” Quite literally. We had food for four at the tasting, and then they packed up the leftovers and sent it home with us to make another two lunches and four dinners. Insane! And amazing! The restaurant specializes in food from the Puebla region of Mexico, home to mole sauces and other tastiness. Lito described each of the moles the restaurant offers, including its history, as we tried each in turn. (We each had different favorites, too, so you should really try them all.) The chile relleno was one of the best I’ve had. The pork melted right off the bone. The homemade tortillas? Fabulous. We did host our dinner here in the end, and we’re still hearing about how amazing the food was. I offer this little review with the very big caveat that I have still never eaten a normal meal here, but we plan to do this soon, since Lito and his team can clearly cook! And the margaritas are to die for (I love the cucumber and tamarind, but really, you should taste them all to find your own favorite!)

Grade: A
Price: $$-$$$

MISS PEARL’S JAM HOUSE (Jack London Square)
This is another spot we tried for the first time as we were debating where to host a dinner for friends and family staying at the Waterfront Hotel. I’ve been intending to check out Miss Pearl’s for a while, so it was great to finally make it there. We had a late weekday lunch here, so the restaurant was relatively quiet, with only a few people left. We tried the catfish po’boy, the cubano, the crab cakes (no longer on the menu), and the steak sandwich. All were good; the po’boy was especially tasty, as were the sweet potato fries, which they brought in abundance. The service was pretty strong except when they forgot about us near the very end of our meal (but in fairness, it was well beyond the lunch hour at that point, and they were clearly transitioning to the dinner staff). The dinner menu is a bit different, so we’ll have to go back at some point and see what the vibe is like then, but I’d definitely go back for lunch.

Grade: B+
Price: $$-$$$

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Saturday, May 22: Come paint the town (Uptown, that is!)

May 12, 2010

Please come to the first City Canvas Community Paint Day at Westlake! Join City Canvas, a new East Bay arts organization, for painting, food, and drinks in the parking lot between Westlake Middle School and First Congregational Church on Harrison. We’ll be painting murals designed by Oakland artist David Stern-Gottfried in collaboration with eighth-grade students at Westlake Middle School. In June, these murals will be on display for First Friday (location TBD, so stay tuned!) and then installed on traffic signal boxes throughout the Westlake/Uptown area. Thanks to Westlake Middle School, Open Circle, the City of Oakland Public Art Program, Benjamin Moore Paints, and Whole Foods Oakland for their support of this project.

For more information on City Canvas and the Westlake project, check out our website.

Live in the neighborhood or own a business with a window for flyer-hanging? Click here to download a flyer.

A few notes:

  • Families are welcome, although painting activities will be geared towards adults and youth in grades six and above. (Westlake has a beautiful lawn, though, so feel free to bring along other outdoor activities for the younger crowd!)
  • If you drive, please try to park on the street as we’ll need the parking lot itself for painting.
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Restaurants coming out my ears (or: the spring restaurant report)

May 11, 2010

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve posted any restaurant news….which means there’s a whole lot happening to report! Here’s a quick pass at what’s coming up. (I’m quite sure I’m missing a bunch of stuff, since I haven’t been paying much attention to much of anything but work and wedding planning this spring….but I promise to catch up this summer!)

Temescal/Pill Hill

  • Little Mac, a macaroni-and-cheese restaurant (?!? sign me up!) that will also have craft beer and tasty sounding salads and desserts, is slated to open at 40th and Shafter this fall.
  • Commonwealth is due to open later this month at 29th and Telegraph, and will be a British-style pub. If they have good fish and chips, we will be regulars!

Piedmont Avenue

  • Sparky’s is indeed open. And it is indeed an extension of the burger place up in the hills.

Grand Lake
Grand Lake is kickin’ this spring!

  • Mimosa reopened as Mimosa Ethiopian Restaurant at Santa Clara and Grand.
  • YaYu Ethiopian is also now open on Lakeshore where Vine used to be.
  • La Taza de Cafe plans to reopen (yay!) where the Grand Lake Neighborhood Center used to be on Lake Park. There will apparently be a small Cuban takeout place next to a larger cabaret, says the Splash Pad newsletter.
  • Good Chemistry Baking, a gluten-free bakery, will open where Daily Delectables used to be.
  • Yogofina, another of the trendy tart yogurt shops, is coming soon on Lakeshore (and also to Montclair Village).

Uptown/Upper Broadway
…but not as much as Uptown!

  • Pakxe is going in at Broadway and 30th where Union Auto used to be on Auto Row. This is super exciting because it’s the first reuse of an auto space on the main Auto Row drag. (Mua also reused an auto space for their Webster Street place.) No clue what kind of food it will be, but the name suggests Laotian.
  • Plum, Daniel Patterson’s new restaurant,  is coming soon where Louisiana Fried Chicken used to be—and will be expanded in the coming months to include a bar where Franklin Square Wine Bar used to be. This is exactly what I was hoping for in this space. (Well, okay, I didn’t necessarily have a chef in mind, but broadly, it was the perfect timing to combine the two spaces and really make use of Franklin Square’s plaza, as FSWB was doing.) Go Uptown! Also, it is named after a William Carlos Williams poem that was one of my favorites in high school, which bodes well…
  • Xolo, the new taqueria from the Dona Tomas/Flora crew, is still under construction.
  • Uptown Café & Crêpes is now open at 21st and Franklin.
  • Bakesale Betty is open at Broadway and Grand! (Woohoo! Now if only they had weekend hours…)
  • More pizza! Hurray! (Because, in case you haven’t figured this out, D. and I really, REALLY like pizza.) Mua is expanding into the space where the short-lived Cafe Noir used to be on Webster, and will be making pizza for me (okay, and everyone else in town…) (Cafe Noir had a wood oven, so I presume it stayed with the space.) No details yet. (Incidentally, is this Uptown? Or Upper Broadway? Or still Auto Row? Curiouser and curiouser….one of our neighbors predicted we’d live in Uptown in ten years’ time, and I do have to say that it seems to be creeping this direction!)

And falling off the radar…

  • The third Pizzaiolo location in Uptown now has a “for lease” sign back in its window, which I presume means that project is toast. Boo. (But at least we’ll always have Boot and Shoe…)
  • Kotobuki Sushi on Piedmont has moved to Montclair.
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Building Oakland’s neighborhoods through community art

April 2, 2010

Community building and neighborhood identity are two of my favorite things to think about, and I’m very lucky to be surrounded by many friends who share these passions. We each have our own take on these ideas, and last winter, some of us found ourselves talking about how we might bring our diverse interests together into a single project, and specifically, a community arts initiative.

Over a year after we first conceived of this little project, we are extremely pleased to announce that City Canvas, our brand new community art organization, is finally ready for prime time! And I’m very excited that our very first pilot project is right here in my own neighborhood!

What is City Canvas?
City Canvas is a grassroots project intended to foster neighborhood identity across the East Bay through community-driven public art. A collaboration of professional and seasoned teaching artists, community builders, city planners, and arts administrators, the City Canvas team was brought together by our common desire to contribute to the vibrancy of our cities. Currently, our city faces high crime rates and heightened racial tensions, with few venues to come together and celebrate our individual and collective identity as Oaklanders—yet we know that Oakland is teeming with creativity, diversity, and youthful energy. City Canvas will create opportunities for shared visioning and creation of public art in neighborhoods across Oakland through partnerships with city agencies, neighborhood schools, businesses, residents, and local artists.

The idea for City Canvas emerged from:

  • A commitment to the diversity and vibrancy of Oakland, its neighborhoods, its culture, its businesses, and its residents;
  • The knowledge that art is a universal language and that collaborative, creative expression helps build individual and collective identity;
  • A trust in the transcendent power of our individual and collective connections to the places we love;
  • A belief that every individual has a story, a voice, and the ability to share it with the world;
  • A love of public art that is bold, beautiful, and an honest representation of the community in which it lives; and
  • The desire to connect with and contribute to the beautiful city of Oakland.

What is the Westlake Project?
Our pilot project, a series of murals that will be installed on traffic signal boxes in the Uptown/Lake Merritt neighborhood, is currently underway. Through a grant from the City of Oakland Public Art Program’s Oakland Open Proposals (which in turn is funded by the Open Circle Foundation), City Canvas is currently working with an eighth grade leadership class at Westlake Middle School near Lake Merritt. As part of the class, the students will work with the community, create art that explores their identities as youth and as Oakland residents, and examine how they fit into the broader civic community.

Lead teaching artist, professional muralist, and Oaklander David Stern-Gottfried will adapt this art into a format to be painted and installed on a series of traffic signal boxes throughout the Uptown/Lake Merritt neighborhood. As part of the design process, students are actively engaging local residents and businesses, and an open paint day in May will provide an opportunity for interested community members to be directly involved in the project. Student work may also be featured in gallery settings as part of Oakland’s June First Friday Art Murmur. The murals will be installed in late June 2010, with a dedication to follow in the fall.

Westlake students work with artist David Stern-Gottfried on collages to represent their identities

How can you get involved?
Whether you live in the neighborhood or not, we would LOVE to have you involved! Community residents and businesses are invited to come and participate in the project. We also plan to present the finished canvases as part of the June First Friday celebration before they are installed on the signal boxes. (Know anyone with gallery or window space who would like to host the exhibit? We’re hunting for a great spot in the Uptown/Upper Broadway area.)

Westlake Community Paint Day
Saturday, May 22, 2010, 10 am to 1 pm, First Congregational/Westlake Parking Lot (entrance at light on Harrison across from Whole Foods)
Come help the City Canvas team, students, and their families paint the parachute cloth that will ultimately be installed on signal boxes. You don’t need to know anything about painting or have any art skills—we will provide all of the materials and will walk you through the process of translating the designs the students and artist have created into large-scale pieces of art. We will also provide refreshments and water.

June First Friday Celebration
Friday, June 4, 2010, 6 pm to 9 pm, Location TBD
Once the canvases are finished, they will be on display in early June so that students, their families, and other interested community residents can get a peek before they are installed on the traffic signal boxes in late June. There will also be a formal dedication of the boxes sometime in the fall.

Our partners
This project would not be possible without the hard work of a lot of key partners across the city. Among them are:

  • City of Oakland Cultural Arts & Marketing Division: CAM coordinates public art throughout the city, and funded our project through a competitive grant from the Open Circle Foundation.
  • City of Oakland Public Works Agency (PWA), Electrical Services Division: We have an active partnership with PWA, and are extremely excited to be working with their team for this project. We hope this can be a model project for other neighborhoods in the city hoping to use City-owned spaces for community art in the future.
  • Westlake Middle School, where administrators, teachers, and students have worked hard to make this project a reality. We hope to work with Westlake again in the future!
  • First Congregational Church, Westlake’s next-door neighbor and a supportive partner on this project.
  • Whole Foods Oakland, providing food and drinks for project workshops.
  • Benjamin Moore Paints, donating paint for the project.
  • Local businesses in the Westlake neighborhood, who are helping to ensure that the project is a success.

A very big THANK YOU to everyone who has helped City Canvas get off the ground!

Want to learn more? You can check out our website, which has more on City Canvas, the Westlake project, and our second project, an art class at King Middle School in Berkeley that will become a part of a much larger mural project on Shattuck Avenue. You can also contact us via the website (or via this site) for more information on how to get involved, or if you have ideas to share.