While not lacking in amenities, the Jack London district has felt like a perennial underperformer on Oakland's small-business scene for years, given the area's potential. But that's beginning to change. Souley Vegan and Beer Revolution have drawn crowds to their corner of Broadway and 3rd Street, and more innovative businesses are following suit.
At long last Linden Street Brewery (95 Linden St., 510-812-1264, LindenBeer.com) has opened a tasting room at its remote location (still a quick bike ride up 3rd St. from Beer Revolution, where its beers are often on tap). Owner and head brewer Adam Lamoreaux does just two standard beers, the Urban People's Common Lager and the Burning Oak Black Lager, but he does them very well, and beyond a few other friendly taps in town, this is the place to enjoy them. The setting, a brick-walled and minimally reconfigured warehouse near the port, is a frequent party venue and an attraction of its own.
Also on the libations front, the family-owned Tudal Wine Group, which runs a winery in Napa, opened a tasting room of its own called Cerruti Cellars (100 Webster St., 510-550-2900, CerrutiCellars.com) in a former cold-storage warehouse dating to the 1920s. The location is around the corner from the long-running Oakland produce market, where family patriarch George "Baci" Cerruti, a first-generation grower from Genoa for whom the tasting room is named, used to shop in the early Thirties.
What better to pair with local wine than artisanal, organic, locally sourced pasta? Baia Pasta founders Renato Sardo (former executive director of Slow Food International in Bra, Italy) and Dario Barbone, already introduced to eager Oakland foodies through events like the Eat Real Festival, Guest Chef, and Pop-Up General Store, recently moved into a new production space in Jack London Square (431 Water St., BaiaPasta.com), from which they'll also run a weekly pasta CSA. Mangia, Oakland-style.
Back on Broadway, new venue Vitus (201 Broadway, 510-452-1620, VitusOakland.com), which took over for Duke's R&B and is owned by local musician and entrepreneur Damon Gallagher, offers live music most nights of the week, top-shelf (and reasonably priced) bar food courtesy of a well-pedigreed chef, plus frequent pinball tournaments. The result is a booster shot to nightlife in the neighborhood, joining Yoshi's, Merchant's Saloon, and soon-to-open "boutique cabaret" The Night Light (311 Broadway, 510-282-1413), in the former Sweet Jimmie's space.
Most of the hype, however, belongs to Haven (44 Webster St., 510-663-4440, HavenOakland.com). In naming Oakland its number-five international destination this year, even The New York Times pimped it. Sure, Daniel Patterson (Coi, Plum) maintains a high profile, but the food does the talking. The restaurant serves New California cuisine including whole-animal and whole-vegetable preparations, and offers a warm atmosphere. Along with Chop Bar, which opened in 2009, plus Encuentro and Bocanova, Oakland's dining renaissance now has a strong presence on the waterfront.
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