Exploring Downtown Oakland
I was born and raised in Oakland and with any city on the progressive side, there have been some changes in this eclectic and vivacious city. But If I had to sum up the history, people, and overall vibe of Oakland in one word, it would be authentic! That for certain never changes. Oakland does not follow trends, rather, Oakland is the trend setter and that has been apparent with the number of authors, painters, musicians, actors, and medical and technological innovators who have called Oakland home. Oakland will seduce you with its’ art and music scene and outdoor cafes. Residents of Oakland and frequent visitors are spoiled by the wide availability of international cuisine. Foodies and vegan foodies alike love Oakland and appreciate the soul of this diverse urban community.
There’s so much to see, do, eat, and celebrate in Oakland that one must explore it in layers, so let’s start with downtown. Downtown Oakland is divided into four areas, Old Town/City Center, Uptown, Chinatown and Jack London Square. Visiting Oakland from San Francisco is quite easy. BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) is the primary rail/subway system that spans the San Francisco Bay Area and is a very user friendly means of public transportation. From BART, exiting 12th street/City Center or 19th street station will put you on Broadway, which is a good starting point to experience vegan eats, beer gardens and local hangouts.
Located between the 12th Street City Center and 19th street exits are some of Oaklands notable historical buildings such as the Fox Theater, Paramount Theater, the Tribune building, and the Pardee Home Museum, just to name a few. If you are looking for some cool urban gear, locals and visitors alike head to Oaklandish for locally inspired t-shirts and hats. An urban store where the merchandise sports Oakland and Bay Area hip icons and trendy slogans, Oaklandish also gives back to the community. They strive to create quality inner-city jobs while also donating a portion of profits to help grassroots nonprofits that are also committed to helping the sustainability of Oakland’s community.
For a quick bite, Ike’s Love and Sandwiches offers up hearty vegan sandwiches with quirky names such as, The Pilgrim and Captain Kirk. Your non-vegan friends will also be full and satisfied with the non-vegan menu choices.
Hella Vegan Eats is an all vegan eatery and beer garden connected to a classic car showroom. The owners/chefs are a colorful duo and their creativity shows in their neighborhood, flavorful creations. Who else would have thought of making a burrito with vegetable potstickers? Well they did and it is hella good! Murals, diner style comfort food, and classic cars…it just works.
Another Oakland vegan hot spot is Souley Vegan Soul food restaurant, where macaroni and cheese, greens and corn bread, and barbecue tofu are tasty staples.
No major city is complete without at least one good Chinese food restaurant and the fact that a small section of downtown Oakland has a longtime thriving Chinese community, says it all. Check out Golden Lotus Vegetarian and Nature Vegetarian in China Town for authentic vegan friendly and vegan Chinese cuisine.
Jack London Square, named for the famed author Jack London, is at the end of Downtown along the Bay. Plan an evening out at Yoshi’s Jazz club and Japanese restaurant located in Jack London square to hear renowned jazz musicians in a relaxed and intimate setting. The connecting restaurant serves up traditional Japanese fusion cuisine with a few tasty vegan friendly options.
Oakland is quite walkable but there is also a free shuttle that runs regularly which makes getting to destinations quick and easy. The “B” shuttle, which stands for Broadway runs every 10 minutes during commute hours and lunch time and every 15 minutes otherwise. Check out this site www.meetdowntownoak.com for a guide to more Oakland hot spots and the shuttle schedule.