downtown oakland
Downtown Oakland circa 1910

Category — dining

The Crossroads Makes a Comeback

March 23, 2012

Not long ago, it seemed that 14th and Broadway was not going to enjoy downtown’s Renaissance. Despite (or perhaps because of) official attention, the crossroads of Oakland suffered from empty or low-quality storefronts, the departure of the Gap, and then some pretty disturbing criminal activity and threats against business from the local Occupy cohort. Weekly and special events like the East Bay Bike Party and the Running Festival departed Frank Ogawa Plaza, and even the historic Jack London Oak tree was threatened by urination.

But then Occupy dwindled to nothing and pent-up demand to hang out downtown started filling up restaurants again. And retail businesses, inspired by below-market leases for two clothing shops on either side of Broadway between 14th and 15th, began to see the potential of the area. As the Oakland Running Festival returns this weekend – with a new home base at Snow Park (19th and Harrison) – downtown welcomes several new businesses to the blocks surrounding 14th and Broadway. Perhaps even more exciting, it’s been announced that a tenant will fill the last remaining empty storefront at this key intersection, a tenant that seemed unthinkable just a few months ago: Chase Manhattan Bank.

  • Bittersweet Cafe: The chocolate-lovers’ coffee and dessert haven has opened in the same building as Oaklandish, on Broadway just past 14th. Artisanal chocolate, imported candy, rich desserts and of course coffee are sold within.
  • Awaken Cafe: It’s been open about a month at its large Broadway location and become a favorite hangout for civic-minded meetings thanks to its spacious and private seating arrangement.
  • Oakollectiv Expands: Well, not physically, but the clothing store opened by two European-born designers will begin to incorporate the works of additional local clothiers as Spring continues.

This key intersection is on the rise but two events centered in Uptown will be the highlights of the weekend. The Oakland Running Festival, whose signature marathon is Sunday morning, runs all weekend, centered at Snow Park. See the website for a full course and activity list – and beware of traffic and transit snarls.

A very special, once-in-a-lifetime screening of silent film masterpiece Napoleon will be at the Paramount this weekend and next. The 5.5 hour epic is lightened considerably by two intermissions and a long dinner break – and Flora will accommodate film buffs by opening this and next Sunday, in addition to their regular Saturdays, for lunch and dinner.

Whether you’re imagining conquering the world, or just trying to conquer that next mile, this DTO weekend is for you!

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First Friday reconvenes, and a cafe reopens

March 2, 2012

It’s First Friday, downtown’s monthly mass gathering of arts and culture worshippers, and even with exciting events for the weekend, there are still new shops to report on!

San Francisco’s 7×7 magazine inaugurates a First Friday column with a nice writeup of some of the highlights in the 23rd & Telegraph area. Take a look to plan your trip tonight, and also check out the official gallery listing at OaklandArtMurmur.com.

Oaklandish, in addition to hosting their monthly dance and art party tonight, is having a Spring Cleaning sale on almost all merchandise, starting tomorrow and running until last season’s wares sell out. In addition, the T-shirt company is debuting a new Art Murmur-themed top. Look for it tonight and at Grand Lake Market tomorrow!

Awaken Cafe, which earned a loyal following in its two years on 14th St., opened in a City-owned retail space on Broadway at 15th St. The large space offers plenty of room for socializing and meeting, unlike Awaken’s previous incarnation, and beer and wine (and champagne) join third-wave coffee and vegan doughnuts on the menu. Downtown residents are especially pleased by the early and weekend hours. Tonight the cafe celebrates its grand opening with music and fun. 1429 Broadway.

As regular readers know, there are more than a dozen restaurants, cafes and bars planning to open in the downtown area this year. One aspiring entrepreneur has turned to Kickstarter to fund what he hopes to be downtown Oakland’s first artisan bakery – and intrepid reporters have discovered that the erstwhile baker once worked as Michael Jackson’s personal chef, so that’s something. If Kickstarter – or carbohydrates – are your thing, check out the campaign.

Something else to anticipate is the Oakland Running Festival, on the last weekend of this month. The route has been rejiggered to reduce the traffic and transit blockades that snarled the city last year, but it will still have a major impact on travel throughout the day of the marathon (March 25th). Check out the map so you won’t be caught unaware!

The sun is back out and the buzz from 23rd and Telegraph is already growing louder. See you in Uptown!

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