A New Gourmet Ghetto

New restaurants have turned Temescal into a foodie destination.

North Oakland’s Temescal neighborhood is a leafy enclave of bungalows, apartment houses, and duplexes bisected by a healthy dose of noteworthy restaurants and unusual retailers. Deemed “a new Gourmet Ghetto” in 2007 by The Wall Street Journal, Temescal has rightly earned a reputation for its food. Hipsters and the stroller crowd mob the corner of 51st and Telegraph Avenue daily for Bakesale Betty’s famed fried-chicken sandwiches, while yuppies swarm Pizzaiolo for wood-fired pizza and foodies flock to Doña Tomás for strong margaritas and yupscale Nuevo Mexicano cuisine. Once an Italian farming community and later a transportation hub, Temescal is home to a large Eritrean and Ethiopian community and serves as a gateway to a Korean commercial district.

Dive-bar fans take note: This former bait shack looks inconspicuous, but the Kingfish (5227 Claremont Ave., Oakland, 510-655-7373) boasts plenty of seedy charm — not to mention shuffleboard. Cold draft beer and TVs tuned to sports are other highlights of this neighborhood joint, which recently reopened after some cosmetic upgrades.

Sunday mornings in Temescal have become a destination thanks to its Farmers’ Market (5300 Claremont Ave., Oakland, UrbanVillageOnline.com), in the Claremont DMV parking lot. This charming high-quality market runs year-round and is stocked with organic produce stalls, flower stands, artisan food-makers, prepared food huts, and local crafts. Stand in line for a cup of Blue Bottle Coffee and shortcakes from Bakesale Betty, or pick up a screen-printed T-shirt or locally made knitted hat.

The most Spanish of East Bay tapas joints has become an overnight sensation. Convivial Barlata Tapas Bar (4901 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 510-450-0678, Barlata.com) is the real deal with its emphasis on delectables from the sea: squid, octopus, sardines, anchovies, shrimp, tuna, mussels, salted cod, and the like. Patatas bravas, olives, cured meats, sausages, and Catalan-style vegetables round out the small-plates selection. An all-Spanish wine list enhances the experience.

Beloved and historic Studio One (365 45th St., Oakland, 510-597-5027), the public community arts center recently got a four-year, $12.7 million renovation to emerge as a modern facility where art students can learn everything from painting to pottery and glass-bead making for a reasonable price.

A trip to Temescal isn’t complete without a foray into Genova Delicatessen & Ravioli Factory (5095 Telegraph Ave., Ste. A, 510-652-7401, Oakland). At lunchtime, it’s always crowded, so the drill is to grab a number and then place an order at the shiny deli case overflowing with cured meats, condiments, and cheese, all ready to be piled high onto daily fresh-baked bread. Scrumptious sides, too, and the sandwich makers have honest-to-goodness Old World charm.

Try some Oakland Seoul food at Sahn Maru (4315 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 510-653-3366), a critics’-recommended, must-visit stop on any sampling tour of Temescal’s Korean restaurants. The dish to try is the black goat stew, though the dak gui and pan-fried dumplings will satisfy most curious palates. Don’t fret over the overwhelming menu — the helpful servers will steer you right.

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