Old-Fashioned Ambience 

A famous ice cream parlor, drool-worthy magazine shop, and enough cafes to keep you awake for days beckon you to Piedmont Avenue.

Oakland's Piedmont Avenue is a vibrant district with no shortage of strong caffeine, gourmet noshes, and beckoning storefronts. Its residential streets are a mix of single-family homes and multi-unit apartments, so the demographic steers toward working folks, art students, and young families.

Philippa Roberts (4176 Piedmont Ave., Oakland, 510-655-0656, PhilippaRoberts.com) is best known for boasting a jaw-dropping selection of beautiful brushed-silver and semiprecious-stone jewelry by its namesake designer. But you'll find plenty of other gift ideas here, too: several other lines of gorgeous jewelry, darling baby clothes, handcrafted candles, vibrant ceramic tableware, and more.

The Bay Area has no shortage of ice cream parlors, but few have the old-timey feeling of Fentons Creamery (4226 Piedmont Ave., Oakland, 510-658-7000, FentonsCreamery.com). Though it has undergone a fancy makeover since it opened 115 years ago, it retains an old-fashioned ambience. You won't find fancy flavors at the Piedmont Avenue establishment, which is known for its almond Rocky Road — Fentons invented the flavor — gargantuan banana splits, heaping portions, and an atmosphere that makes it a great destination for a post-movie dessert or a family outing.

Love magazines? Skip Borders and head to Issues (20 Glen Ave., Oakland, 510-652-5700, IssuesShop.com), whose deceptively small storefront stocks a dizzying selection of magazines and newspapers that could almost make you forget the Internet. A mom-and-pop place with a firm local following, it carries big-time glossies and obscure oddities, plus T-shirts, cards, vinyl, and gifts. You won't leave empty-handed.

Dopo (4293 Piedmont Ave., Oakland, 510-652-3676) is the perfect neighborhood trattoria, with the intimacy of a storefront yet enough seats to give you a fighting chance of avoiding a wait. The menu features tasty house-cured salumi and pâtés, a cheese platter, and a selection of pesci crudi, vivid little raw-seafood salads. The rest of the compact menu — with its über-thin-crust pizzas and lasagna that's both delicate and comforting — tastes equally great.


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