Just the facts
Main strip: Washington (between 8th and 9th) >> Who dwells here: Anyone lucky enough to snag one of the rare pieces of residential real estate >> Population: Downtown as a whole is home to 23,000 >> Founded: 1877 >> Main architecture: 1880s into early 20th century >> Neighborhood giant: The mini-food hall, Swan’s Market >> Best sandwich: The Italian combo at Ratto’s International Market and Deli, opened in 1897 >> Where to mingle with locals: Miss Ollie’s, Friday farmers market, The Trappist.
Though there are Victorians sprinkled throughout Oakland, this slice of preserved late century architecture is brochure-perfect. Many of the buildings within this six-block stretch look fresh off an 1870s remodel. Back in the day, this was the place to be seen in Oakland, the center of hoighty-toighty society, having the best restaurants, shops and hotels on cobblestoned streets. And it still is—although it took a serious amount of restoring to bring it back from neglect after the 1906 earthquake. Today, indie retail shops are opening. Chefs at informal eateries are cooking up recipes from their old countries, whether that be Mexico, Barbados, Italy or Vietnam. At the old Swan’s Market, a food hall is coming to life with Mexican Cosecha, wine tasting with Periscope Cellars, and Rosamunde’s sausage and beer. The Friday’s farmers market is one of The Town’s best, with all the local characters buying their delicious provisions.
The inside inside scoop
Miss Ollie’s is most famous for its herb-stuffed fried chicken (which is big enough to share). This Caribbean-style dish is only available on Tuesdays at lunch—just be sure you’re close by around lunchtime.
If you only have three hours
The shops have great merchandise, but what’s more amazing is the person working the register is the owner. All are 100 percent Oakland born and raised businesses. Check out modern furniture store Sobu, Flora Cultural Society, and a mix of heirloom and local goods at Marion and Rose’s Workshop. What’s the connection? These shops are all a part of the innovative Popuphood small-business incubator, sprinkled along Oakland’s “Victorian Row” (9th Street).
Yes, The Trappist has a fantastic selection of beer—about 20 on tap from California to Belgium. But they also have the world’s best deviled eggs. We’re not kidding. You may only have three hours, but you could spend a whole evening in this gastropub.
How to get here
Freeway exit: From San Francisco, take 1-80 E to 1-880 S, continuing onto West Grand Ave. and turning onto Broadway; from the South Bay, take 1-880 N (exit toward Broadway/Downtown); from Berkeley, take 1-80 W to 1-580 E, taking 1-980 W (exit at 18thStreet)
BART Stop: 12th Street/City Center
Bus lines: 12, 14, 20, 31, 40, 58L, 1R, 72R, Broadway Shuttle