From the November/December 2010 issue of National Geographic Traveler
Oakland is to San Francisco what Brooklyn used to be to Manhattan: grittier, less expensive, and overshadowed by its glitzier sibling. But that’s starting to change. Foodies head specifically to Oakland for places like Commis, the only East Bay restaurant other than Chez Panisse to boast a Michelin star. The newly renovated Oakland Museum of California shows off expanded galleries for its massive collection of California art. Also restored: the Fox Theater, a 1920s gem, now a live music venue.
Visit Jack London
Jack London Square combines piers, lawns, restaurants, and shops to create a perfect setting for a waterside stroll. The soon-to-open two-story Jack London Market houses vendors of everything from meat and seafood to wine and cheese—Oakland’s answer to San Francisco’s Ferry Building.
Brunch at Camino
Chez Panisse alum Russell Moore cooks up wood oven-baked eggs and duck fat-roasted potatoes in Camino, a former furniture shop now sporting an open fireplace (in Italian, camino means “hearth”) and long wooden communal tables.
Cruise Lake Merritt
The oldest (1869) wildlife refuge in the United States, Lake Merritt is an unexpected oasis, complete with egrets and black-crowned night herons, near downtown. Walk its newly landscaped 3.4-mile perimeter; stop for a snack at the Lake Chalet, a renovated boathouse; take a sunset cruise on an authentic Venetian gondola as a costumed gondolier serenades you with Italian love songs.
Drink Your Vegetables
At Penelope, the signature drink is a blend of silver tequila, fresh beets, apples, pear, and lime. Across from the Fox Theater, the art deco eatery Flora crafts cocktails with unusual ingredients like absinthe and agave nectar.
Buy Tees From a Truck
Track down the 1966 Clark Cortez motor home turned portable clothing shop run by community-focused arts collective Oaklandish and express yourself as natives do: with a T-shirt touting Oaklandish’s popular roots logo.