Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Oakland: An Ode (of Sorts)

I started working in downtown Oakland almost a year ago, but I'm still amazed that it's where I spend 75% of my waking weekday hours. Recently, I've been feeling a little guilty for giving it such a hard time--not that my displeasure is totally without cause, as anyone who reads a newspaper would surely agree--and so I've decided to focus on the aspects of it that I do enjoy. After all, I wasn't wild about Midtown Manhattan, either, and yet with the benefit of hindsight I now fondly remember lunch in Bryant Park, prawn sandwiches from Pret, the Treats Truck, the Naked Cowboy, and the screams of teenage girls outside the TRL studio, which were audible even in my 33rd floor office (okay, maybe not that last one. Or that second to last one). And so, Downtown Oakland, I won't wait to reflect on, and appreciate, your attributes. The following are my favorites:

Interesting architecture Downtown Oakland is home to some remarkably beautiful buildings. Whenever I have time to go for a walk in the afternoon, I like to stop and admire the green I. Magnin building at 20th and Telegraph; the restored Fox Theatre just around the corner; that cool building that reminds me of the Flatiron right where Broadway and Telegraph split apart; the storefronts on the "Historic Oakland" blocks; and the old Oakland Tribune tower.
Very, very good coffee I've always loved Peet's, and so would be happy even if the one across the street from my office were the only shop in all of downtown from which to procure robust cafe au laits. BUT, lucky, lucky girl that I am, there's also an incredible, independent, tiny coffee shop tucked just around the corner. In fact, Modern Coffee is so wonderful, the New York Times even deigned to mention it several weeks ago. Plus, it sells amazing pastries; between its koiugn-ammann and Peet's Semifreddi's almond croissants--and not to mention La Farine's frangipane, which are only two BART stops away--it's a good thing I'm still running 20< miles a week.

Used bookstores In this arena, Downtown Oakland really shines. I'm not a big shopper, but I've recently dropped more cash at Bibliomania, the Bookmark Bookstore, and De Lauer's (blast them for reliably stocking my kryptonite, Hello! magazine!), than I have even at that other favorite money pit of mine, the Village Market. Penury in exchange for funky $1 paperbacks of Lorna Doone and The Summer Game? I'll take it.

Guacachips The one junk food item for which I go truly weak in the knees (I consider croissants and ice cream to be distinct food groups, and thus don't count them as junk food). I've never been able to find them for sale in San Francisco. I have found them for sale in two stores in Downtown Oakland, both within 300 feet of my office. Commence upping of the weekly mileage.
El Chip del Diablo
Really good Mexican food Southern California-style shrimp veggie burritos (with extra guacamole) from La Calle, and featured in Sunset no less? Check. Baja-style fish tacos from Cosecha? Check. I've been making up for several years of East Coast-induced-good-Mexican-food-exile by eating my way through both of these restaurants.

Ratto's This place reminds me of Haig's, the international food section of Wegman's, and the Marin French Cheese Company all rolled into one. Hands down my favorite soup, sandwich, and Ritter sport spot.

Ferry commute Now that the evenings are getting light again, I can enjoy perhaps my favorite aspect of working in Downtown Oakland--taking the ferry home to San Francisco. I don't always have time to make the trip, but when I do, the fifteen minute walk down to Jack London Square, combined with the twenty-five minutes riding across the Bay to the Ferry Building, is a wonderful way to end the work day. Throw in a cable car ride to Van Ness and a two mile stroll home, and I return to the Inner Richmond in very good spirits indeed.
Best Part of the Commute
Keep impressing me, Downtown Oakland, and you'll make me just as wistful for your existence as 45th and 6th did!

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