Rockridge used to be the center of East Bay high-end restaurant culture but no more. All through last decade, the neighborhood grew older, better off — same thing that happened to Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto the decade before that — and things got stuffy. Oakland’s fun center shifted to Uptown, a setting more thrilling, more awesomely urban than the low, orderly storefronts of College Avenue. The Great Recession bit hard in Rockridge. The Water Lounge and Raw Bar space is still empty; so’s Citron (a recent report suggested À Côté owner Jack Knowles has plans to open a casual place there called Next Door, though the launch date is probably sometime in the second half of 2012, at the earliest).
This Sunday, though, Rockridge will be bustling again, with the side-by-side recurrence on October 9 of the Rockridge Out and About Festival and Market Hall merchants’ Picnic In the Street.
Out and About closes College to car traffic between Alcatraz and Manila, with bands at the main stage, a wellness tent and place for kids, even a runway for fashion shows. Meanwhile for Picnic, Market Hall is packing a chefs’ stage with local talent: urban farmer Novella Carpenter, cookbook author Rosetta Costantino, and Oliveto owner and Community Grains pitchman Bob Klein — sort of new West Oakland meets classy old Rockridge.
Market Hall tenants will be slinging food and drink, including iced drinks from the guys of Highwire Coffee Roasters (formerly known as Peaberry’s), burgers from Marin Sun Farms, pulled pork sandwiches from The Pasta Shop, and spit-roasted porchetta from Oliveto.
Also going down at the Picnic: a cookbook exchange — bring a used Alice Medrich or Mario Batali and trade it in for (or buy) a David Tanis or Mollie Katzen. Proceeds benefit the Rockridge branch library. Finally, artist Mattie Ignacio will be hawking her cheese-box art, reclaimed containers formerly holding chevre or brie made into something nice. All proceeds from that benefit Oakland’s Museum of Children’s Art (MOCHA).
Picnic In the Street happens along College Avenue between Shafter and Ocean View. Both events are free (bring cash for food and drink), and run from noon to 6 p.m.