As many of you know, I lived in Oakland for 20 years. Except for the first 15 months of my daughter's life, where we lived in San Francsico, Oakland is where I raised my two children. Those years were the best years of my life. It was bittersweet when we moved to Sonoma County last year, however, beautiful the place we live in is, it can't replace the energy and diversity, nor certain favorite spots here in Oakland.
That is why I like to sneak down to Oakland once a week or so and visit my friends and my old haunts, while trying some new ones. Yesterday, while in Temescal, I had the opportunity to re-visit Pizzaiola, a place that I had eaten dinner at, but not their morning coffee and beignets. I love the casual interior of Pizzaiola. The donuts (I wouldn't call them beignets) were delicious, but don't take my word for it, check it out for yourself at http://www.pizzaiolooakland.com/ %20The. The Temescal area of Oakland was slowly changing when I lived nearby in Rockridge, but recently it has jumped to a hot neighborhood. As people have figured out, it is less expensive to open a restaurant in Oakland, and probably less competition than SF. It is also cheaper to live here and the lifestyle and weather are great. The new eateries and businesses have followed and this Temescal neighborhood is on fire. Bakesale Betty's http://www.bakesalebetty.com/ was a really great addition a few years ago to the corner of 51st and Telegraph, offering baked goods and her famous Fried Chicken Sandwich (FCS) with spicy jalapeno coleslaw slaw. Once, while standing in line for the FCS, they passed out free brownies to patrons. Another time, when I was getting the FCS, I ordered two sandwiches and one cupcake, they gave me another one, knowing their were two of us. Their generosity is almost unheard anywhere. I think that it is great marketing! People do come back.
Piedmont Avenue is another hot neighborhood in Oakland. Home to Bay Wolf restaurant for over 30 years, other businesses have moved in recently, like Cesar's http://www.barcesar.com/ who has a sister restaurant next to Chez Panisse and more recently, Cafe Trieste, where the original is on upper Grant in San Francisco and Civic Center area with another on San Pablo in Berkeley and even San Jose http://caffetriestepiedmontave.com/. While you are on Piedmont Ave, go to the magazine and newspaper store around the corner from Pete's coffee called Issues http://www.issuesshop.com/. It has all kinds of magazines and books you never knew you needed. I found food magazines I had never heard of, so it is fun to browse and get ideas. P.S. Piedmont Ave. is not in Piedmont, it is Oakland!
Rockridge has been a great neighborhood to live in and to visit for years, but if you go, be sure to check out Market Hall http://www.rockridgemarkethall.com/ and Oliveto's http://www.oliveto.com/, my last posting on foodbuzz http://www.foodbuzz.com/foodies/profile/cafetrix has a delicious picture but here it is again (below).
Also, while you in Oakland, check out the music scene downtown (19th Street @ Telegraph) at the newly refurbished Fox Theater http://www.thefoxoakland.com/ and eat at one of the new eateries that have sprung up around it, like Cafe Flora http://www.floraoakland.com/flashsite/index.html from the owners of Dona Tomas and Tacubayu on 4th Street in Berkeley or the busy and popular Ozuma http://www.ozumarestaurant.com/ with traditionally prepared Japanese food. There is also a very casual place Luka's Taproom (on Broadway) with $1 Oysters on Monday nights.
To sum up the feeling when you enter Oakland, it feels like a cross between Detroit, Portland and San Francisco. A little more grungy than SF, but great food and culture, cool music and art scenes like Portland, and downtown has the same layout (but more employment) as Detroit. Go and have fun in these distinct, but great foodie neighborhoods in Oakland. Bon Appetite!