Having grown up in the East Bay, my affection for the Bay Area runs years deep. Twenty some odd years spent exploring the different neighborhoods afforded me plenty of opportunity to connect with the unique mishmash that is the Bay Area. But I can honestly say it wasn’t until a year ago, when I settled into my current digs in the Temescal neighborhood of Oakland, that I really felt at home. Temescal packs a unique punch, as it’s chock-full of community and variety. Flanked by two large streets (Broadway and Telegraph), the area is certainly auto accessible, but it’s in meandering and wandering through the side streets and alleyways, on foot or by bicycle, that you truly recognize just how much Temescal has to offer. It’s just plain lovely.
With its (very) laid-back atmosphere, Arbor Cafe isn’t exactly the quickest place to grab a cup of coffee on the go but damned if it doesn’t play host to you for as long as you need. Seriously. I’ve spent the greater part of eight hours in that coffee shop. A huge cafe, Arbor is always packed with eclectic tables, chairs, and people. And in a testament to its awesomeness, despite having a single, lonely power strip dangling in the middle of the room, friendly patrons here are always more than willing to share or swap out access.
Beauty’s Bagel Shop
Beauty’s Bagel Shop is on Telegraph, a block from MacArthur BART station, located away from the main drag, but on weekends you’ll spot this local fave from the line snaking out the door for its Montreal-style bagels, bagel sandwiches, and other goodies, like borscht, deviled eggs, and other delicious deli items. Although I haven’t been adventurous enough to try the “After School Special” (a bagel topped with chopped liver, Swiss cheese, and mustard), it’s creeping up on my to-do list.
Other Temescal Cafes
Coined as Kimchi Row, Telegraph in Temescal’s overwhelming food theme is decidedly Korean. If you’re looking to grill up some meat, dig into a hot stone casserole of bibimbap, or ooh and ahh over amazing assortments of banchan, this is the neighborhood for you. The options includePyeongchang Tofu House,Casserole House,Bowl’d BBQ Korean Stone Grill, Sahn Maru, Seoul Gomtang, and Koryo BBQ on Telegraph, and Ohgane on Broadway.
Mama’s Royal Cafe
You know those heavy white plates and mugs? The ones that can take years and years of washing and bacon grease? Mama’s Royal Cafe has ’em. Plus all the hot sauces you could want. In essence, it’s the classic diner serving up tasty breakfast and lunch specialties. But on top of a hangover-worthy menu, Mama’s also weaves in some serious history into the ambiance. Having opened in 1974, it quickly became a destination for punk rockers and creatives alike. So much so that former employee Mimi Pond recently released the graphic novel “Over Easy” based on her experience working here.
When I heard the good news about a bar going into a vacant space on 40th Street, I was secretly hoping for the low-light, peanut shells on the floor, budget friendly kind. However, Hog’s Apothecary won me over pretty quickly. The fare is excellent(its seasonally sourced sausage sandwiches are a good place to start) and the list of beers is extensive. My favorite part? Despite the slightly fancier vibe, it still has a shuffleboard table, communal tables, and giant statue of a dancing hog, which make for a very jovial atmosphere.
After having her first Cuban sandwich at Cholita Linda, my sister texted me to claim that she could stop living – she’d found the perfect sandwich. To which I responded, “nom nom nom.” Now, I’ve never used that phrase before, but Cholita Linda inspires it out of me. Having started as a tented farmers’ market staple, Cholita Linda only recently opened its brick-and-mortar shop on Telegraph. Its tacos – including the famous crispy Baja fish tacos – and other dishes are nom-worthy, too! At $3.50 a taco and just under $10 for a filling sandwich, it’s also one of the cheaper dining options in the area.
With the option to layer the coppa and salami sky high, Genova Delicatessen doles out a damn fine Italian sandwich. Open since 1926 (and having survived past damage from the 1989 earthquake), this classic Italian deli is a longtime neighborhood staple. Genova has certainly garnered a following, too, which becomes obvious when you spot the ridiculously long line. But the meat-to-bread ratio is legit, the ingredients are high quality, and when you’re thinking, I feel like a sandwich... a trip to Genova is well worth the wait. Plus, waiting gives you time to admire the refrigerator cases filled with meats, colorful antipasto, and Italian desserts.
Other Temescal Eats
Because there’re just too many to list, other neighborhood eats worth mentioning include the ever-favorite Burma Superstar , Marc 49 , Aunt Mary’s Cafe , Tara’s Organic Ice Cream , Bakesale Betty ,Abesha Ethiopian Food, Homeroom, Sacred Wheel, and Pizzaiolo.
The East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse
Filled with an ever-changing lineup of odds and ends, you can find some true treasures at The East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse. The Depot is dedicated to redistributing things that would otherwise be relegated to landfills. You never quite know what you’ll find, although you could often score some sweet vintage fabrics and beads, rare books and old magazines, used containers, and old board games. It’s a trove for any crafter or creative. Plus, teachers get a sweet discount for materials to be used in the classroom!
Temescal Alley is a fun pocket of businesses right off Telegraph. In the short time it takes to walk the length of the alley, you’ll find artisan donuts filled with “naughty cream” (crème fraîche and vanilla bean) and other tasty fillings hand-piped-to-order at Doughnut Dolly; succulents, ferns, and other cool flora at Crimson Horticultural Rarities; dudes waiting to get their hair and whiskers trimmed at Temescal Alley Barbershop; an extremely curated literary depot at Book/Shop; and an assortment of other storefronts filled with unique, artsy finds. Especially lively on the weekends, the Alley also buzzes with live music, art shows, and families during Temescal’s First Fridays.
Specializing in punk, indie, trash, and garage rock, 1-2-3-4 Go! Records has an expertly curated selection of new releases, old classics, and even some fun discount stuff. Having recently expanded the space to house even more vinyl goodness, the store also functions as an all-ages music venue. You can catch acts by local talent and traveling artists in the decently sized but intimate space in the back. And if one record store isn’t enough, Stranded,which sells new and used rare and small press vinyl, has recently moved next door to Cholita Linda for even more neighborhood LP pleasure.
Other Cool Places to Go
Mosswood Park is a haven of nature in the semi-odd location of the freeway underpass. But despite the unexpected location, it’s a great park with basketball courts, off-leash dog runs for both small and big pups, a community garden, tennis courts, and a huge grass area that hosts picnics, birthday parties, and music events like the annual Burger Boogaloo.
Oakland Tool Lending Library
The Temescal Tool Lending Library rents out all sorts of gadgets to help you make anything you have your creative mind set on. It’s an amazing system that showcases the usefulness (and real possibility) of communal sharing. From vise grips to power sanders, you have access to a wide assortment of carpentry goodies, and like any good library, you can borrow these offerings at no cost!
Some public pools have the reputation of being a lil’ worse for the wear, but the outdoor Temescal Pool is a surprisingly well-kept and affordable place to dip your toes and take a few laps. If you’re trying to get your swim workout in, there are lanes dedicated to both the slower strokes and the faster folks. But with plenty of recreational time carved out for families and more casual waders, there’s something for everyone! Bonus awesomeness comes June through October, when you can catch Bites off Broadway, a food truck posse doling out eats on Friday evenings. Fist of Flour Pizza and Go Streatery are just two flavor-packed trucks frequently seen in the lineup.
Temescal Street Cinema
Starting in early June and finishing off at the end of July, Temescal Street Cinema projects documentaries and short films onto the side of the Bank of the West on 49th and Telegraph – for free. With popcorn (also free)! It’s BYOC (C, as in chair, that is), and it’s a spectacular opportunity to see unique films and documentaries in a casual setting. In a nod to the roots of the community, the featured films are works by Bay Area residents. Community, unite!
Other Temescal Events
Temescal is one of the most popular areas in North Oakland because it plays host to an amazing assortment of businesses, but also because its residents foster a strong sense of community. I know I’ve found a special place. Well done, Temescal. Keep on keepin’ on.