Oakland's Hillside 'Hoods 

Fine dining, quaint storefronts, and neighborhood charm characterize the Glenview and Montclair districts.

Oakland often gets a bad rap, but the quaint neighborhoods of Glenview and Montclair zap any stereotypes of the city by the bay. Glenview is a sleepy little district at the foot of the Oakland Hills that's become a foodie paradise in recent years. Up the hill, Montclair almost feels like a separate small town, with its family-friendly vibe and old-school shops.

Foodies from afar are flocking to Bellanico (4238 Park Blvd., Oakland, 510-336-1180, Bellanico.net), which traces its roots to SF's Aperto, for its unsurpassed cicchetti, antipasti, and primi dishes. Most heavenly is its panna cotta, a rich, feathery, and barely simmered union of sugar, vanilla, gelatin, and (lots of) cream; it's as silky as the finest we've ever experienced.

Hobbs' applewood-smoked bacon usually shows up at places too hoity-toity to cook breakfast, but at Blackberry Bistro (4240 Park Blvd., Oakland, 510-336-1088, BlackberryBistro.com) you can have a few of the thickly cut, sweetly smoked rashers with your eggs over easy. Owner Robert Dorsey decided that high-priced bistros weren't worth the hype, so he opened up a sunny, unpretentious cafe where the omelets are as soft as custard, the biscuits all but float off the plate, and the shrimp and grits would satisfy the most finicky Southerner.

The Chabot Space & Science Center (10000 Skyline Blvd., Oakland, 510-336-7300, ChabotSpace.org) offers earthlings a glimpse of the world beyond. In addition to an IMAX theater and educational exhibits, the center lets visitors peer through its telescopes every Friday and Saturday evening for wow-worthy close-up views of Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, and other astronomical phenomena. A perfect date.

Residents can live here for years without knowing about this gorgeous spot, which features one of the most dazzling bay views in the East Bay. The Cascades, inside Joaquin Miller Park (3300 Joaquin Miller Rd., Oakland, 510-531-9597, Oaklandnet.com/JoaquinMillerPark), is a 242-step granite staircase, flanked by redwoods, that ascends a waterfall, a reflecting pool, and two fountains. The best view is from the top, where it's easy to jump across the narrow stream to a little island and perch on bench-size boulders underneath the Woodminster Amphitheater's art deco statues. From here the cargo ships on the bay and Marin County's peaks are tiny, so bring binoculars.


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