Oakland’s Rockridge neighborhood manages to be both homey and yet tony. Among charming cottages and bungalows and well-used sidewalks, you’ll find exclusive dress shops, high-end restaurants, and eclectic retailers. There are far too many shops and restaurants worth visiting to mention here; you could spend a good couple of days exploring all that this picturesque neighborhood has to offer. You’ll find the perpetually crowded pizza joint Zachary’s, the well-appointed Rockridge Home, and super pet store Redhound, plus a public library, salons, corner markets, plenty of cafes, grocery stores, and a host of other services.
Oakland’s best restaurant, Oliveto Restaurant (5655 College Ave., Oakland, 510-547-5356, Oliveto.com) is located in Rockridge, and executive chef Paul Canales does wonders at the helm with Italian-inspired antipasti, salads, soups, pastas, and sauces that incorporate local and seasonal ingredients. Equally adept at the grill and rotisserie, he’s a big fan of special themed dinners. The upstairs restaurant is for formal dining, while the downstairs cafe — equipped with outdoor seating for people-watching — offers an informal alternative.
European-style Rockridge Market Hall (5655 College Ave., Ste. 201, Oakland, 510-250-6000, RockridgeMarketHall.com) is a packed-to-the-gills, epicure’s delight of gastronomic goodies. The Ferry Building-esque gourmet emporium houses purveyors of coffee and tea products, meat and poultry, produce, pasta and cheese, flowers, wine, and baked goods. Located across the street from the BART station, it’s quite accessible, too.
If only all bookstores could be like Diesel, A Bookstore (5433 College Ave., Oakland, 510-653-9965, Diesel.booksense.com). This independent bookseller feels more like a community resource because of its frequent author readings and book signings. Staffers actually seem take pleasure in hooking customers up with books. If a work isn’t on the shelves, Diesel will order it — don’t be afraid to ask.
When it comes to working out the kinks, Namaste Yoga in Rockridge (5416 College Ave., Oakland, 510-547-9642, NamasteRockridge.com) can do wonders. Quality instructors teach more than thirty classes seven days a week in a stylish and appealing studio ripe for honoring the divine within. Styles range from Hatha and Iyengar to Pilates and Vinyasa. Find extra bliss in the Namaste boutique.
McNally’s Irish Pub (5352 College Ave., Oakland, 510-654-9463) is the perfect bar for just hanging out. You’ll feel like a local practically as soon as you step in the door. It’s dark and divey, and has a bumper pool table, TVs tuned to sports, and a jukebox. It’s got plenty of cold ones on tap, premium spirits on the shelf, and an Irish coffee that rivals SF’s famed Buena Vista.
Two words: morning buns. And La Farine (6323 College Ave., Oakland, 510-654-0338, LaFarine.com) supposedly invented them. Their sticky, finger-licking croissant dough dusted with brown sugar and cinnamon has been an institutional tradition since the French bakery opened in 1974. The charming shop also fashions splendid tarts, cakes, cookies, éclairs, and baguettes that look as good as they taste.
Sure, there are plenty of women’s clothing shops along College Avenue, but if you’ve only got time for one, make it Atomic Garden (5453 College Ave., Oakland, 510-923-0543, AtomicGardenOakland.com). This truly unique boutique stocks a small but exquisite selection of casual clothes, accessories, and home goods all made from organic, recycled, or sustainable materials.