San Francisco has a little sister, and her name is Oakland. Oakland is sort of Jan Brady to San Francisco’s prettier, more popular Marica. Popular perception is sometimes misleading, as Oakland has a lot to offer besides its proximity to Berkeley. Below is a list of Oakland’s diverse charms, all just a short, pleasant and relaxing ferry ride away from the Green Tortoise. The ferry will deliver you to Jack London Square, Oakland’s newly renovated tourist attraction. Here you’ll marvel at Oakland’s rich cultural history, enjoy her varied restaurants, venues, and bars, and wonder why they named a section of a city after a dead author who wrote about wolves. (Answer: as a child, Jack lived in Oakland with his adopted family.)
JACK LONDON SQUARE FARMERS MARKET
If you happen to step off the ferry on a bright Sunday afternoon you’ll be greeted by the square’s famous farmers’ market. There’s everything from bright beads to homemade soap to my personal favorite, cooked on the spot Tamales! Oh man, one won’t be enough. Not for me at least. My personal record is four in one day. I’m not condoning that kind of reckless excess, but I’m not necessarily condemning it either. After perusing the square, you can rent a kayak and paddle yourself silly.
YOSHI’S JAZZ CLUB AND RESTAURANT
No longer unique to Oakland, this world famous jazz club just opened another venue in San Francisco’s legendary Filmore District. Both are worth your time, but Oakland’s Yoshi’s is the original, and somewhat more distinct. It is indeed a far cry from the dark, smoky nightclubs where jazz was conceived, but you’ll enjoy the lush atmosphere, stunning acoustics, and delicious (if not somewhat pricy) sushi. Dozens of legendary jazz musicians have played here over the years, from Pharaoh Sanders to McCoy Tyner to Dizzy Gillespie, to the ‘younger’ jazz crowd, like James Carter, Kenny Garrett, and John Zorn. Mos Def played a couple weeks ago. And coming up on April 25 and 26th blues legend James Cotton will by dropping by.
MERCHANT’S AND HEINOLD’S FIRST AND LAST CHANCE
What to do after vibing some jazz at Yoshi’s? Jack London Square’s two most prominent bars are a quick minute’s stumble away from one another. Merchant’s is my personal favorite. It’s the very essence of dive; the walls are covered from floor to ceiling in drunken scrawl, the pool tables are perpetually slanted, and the bartenders are often as tossed as the patrons. Heinold’s First and Last Chance Salon is a local favorite, well known for all the historical kitsch that adorns its walls, and notorious for its’ deeply slanted floor. After drinking in there for a few hours, you might think the earth is as slanted as the bar you’ve been drinking in. It’s just an illusion though; everyone knows the earth is perfectly flat.
HOME OF CHICKEN ‘N’ WAFFLES
Yes, chicken and waffles. This restaurant is quickly becoming an institution. On weekends they’re opened until three in the morning, so when the bars close at two and you can hardly see straight, consult this establishment for vision correction. It’s southern style soul food served with a unique Bay Area twist. They just reopened their lounge last winter, and between fancy mixed drinks and kickin Bay Area Soul a la Sly, Tower of Power, and Earth, Wind and Fire, you’ll be in for a real good time. You also won’t leave hungry. There’s nothing like being filled to the brim, waddling down the main drag into Oakland’s brisk summer nights…