The New Downtown 

Uptown has become the East Bay's entertainment mecca.

This diverse stretch of Oakland boasts some of the Bay Area's most gorgeous buildings, from the historic Fox and Paramount theaters to the luxe emerald façade of the former I. Magnin department store of old. Yet for decades Uptown had been known largely as a place to pass through on the way to somewhere better. But with the renovation of the Fox, a large condo development, and a burst of art galleries and nightspots aplenty for upscale dining and hipster-diving alike, there's never been a better time to stop and stay awhile.

Anchoring the Uptown is the legendary Fox Theater (1807 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 510-452-0438, TheFoxOakland.com), a former movie palace that had been closed for years but recently received a $90 million upgrade. With its gilded interior in the style of 1920s-era East India and Morocco, the Fox is the most handsome indoor venue for live music in the Bay Area — with great sightlines and plenty of accessible bars to boot. With the nearby Uptown Nightclub and cozy Café Van Kleef, the Uptown is officially an entertainment destination.

For a caffeinated pick-me-up with a side of culture, hit Mama Buzz (2318 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 510-465-4073, MamaBuzzCafe.com), a quintessential cozy coffee joint where the locals come not merely for the java jolt, or to chill and chat on the leafy outdoor patio, but to explore whatever new exhibit is gracing Buzz Gallery, adjacent to the cafe. It's also the nexus of Oakland's Art Murmur, an artistic feast featuring fabulous art, free drink, and funky-people-watching galore that's held on the first Friday night of the month. Within a few blocks of Mama Buzz you'll find half a dozen other participating galleries, including the über-crafty Rock Paper Scissors (2278 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 510-238-9171, RPScollective.com), where you can buy cool clothes and art alike, and multimedia space 21 Grand (416 25th St., Oakland, 510-444-7263, 21Grand.org).

Hungry? Grab a beer, burger, and divine fries at Luka's Taproom & Lounge (2221 Broadway, Oakland, 510-451-4677, LukasOakland.com) — or perhaps you prefer oysters and wine? — and follow it up with a game of pool. It's the ultimate neighborhood hangout. Newcomer Mua (2442a Webster St., Oakland, 510-238-1100, MuaOakland.com) is giving Luka's some stiff competition. The spacious bar and restaurant has a loungey vibe, $10 cocktails that will leave your mouth tingling, sophisticated eats (small plates rule here), and a DJ. If authentic Japanese with a touch California A-list cool is your cup of tea, check out Ozumo (2251 Broadway, Oakland, 510-286-9866, Ozumo.com). Another new kid on the block, this architecturally sumptuous spot not only offers nearly every Japanese dish under the sun — top-grade sushi, nabemono, robata, and noodles, to name a few — but a sake menu you could happily spend years sampling without a repeat. Feeling more Southern than Eastern these days? Head a few doors down to brand new Picán (2295 Broadway, Oakland, 510-834-1000, PicanRestaurant.com), where a meal starts off with honey-buttered cornbread and only gets better: fried green tomatoes, barbecued ribs, fried chicken, shrimp, and grits ... the list goes on. Or perhaps you're more in the mood for Flora (1900 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 510-286-0100, FloraOakland.com), brought to you by the folks from Doña Tomás, boasts a glam art deco appeal. Flora's California cuisine is among the best around, and the long, sexy bar boasts some of the best-named — and perhaps the best? — cocktails in town. 

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