Just the facts
Main strip: Piedmont Avenue >> Who dwells here: Grad students, dog-walking couples, families galore >> Population: 6,578 (including the greater Piedmont area) >> Founded: Late 1800s >> Architecture: Stately manors, Craftsman >> Neighborhood giants: Julia Morgan-designed Chapel of the Chimes and Frederick Law Olmsted’s Mountain View Cemetery >> Best ode to a potato: Gregoire’s crispy potato puff >> Where to mingle with locals: Fentons Creamery, Gaylord’s Caffe Espresso, Piedmont Theatre
Not to be confused with Piedmont, a small city in Alameda County, Piedmont Avenue is one long badass sidewalk of restaurants, shops and home bric-a-brac, stacked side by side, with nearly nothing vacant. Choices range from family-friendly, 1894-founded Fentons Creamery, which made a cameo in Pixar’s Up, and the Michelin-starred Commis (2009). Indie films screen at Oakland’s longest running cinema (1917), the Piedmont Theatre, while at the more modern Cato’s Ale House, sports screen on TVs as taps pour craft beers. Despite being part of the big city and having a high density of stores, Piedmont Avenue is very small-town, with a genuine magazine stand (Issues), a sewing shop with lessons (Sew Images) and a tobacconist (Piedmont Tobacconist). It’s a model street.
The inside inside scoop
At popular Piedmont Springs, outdoor tubs are kept at about 102 degrees. The open-air combo room has views of the sky (or stars) from the redwood tub.
If you only have three hours
Like unsolved mysteries and old cemeteries? Good news—Piedmont Avenue dead ends at the 226-acre memorial park designed in 1863 by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed New York’s Central Park. Because there’s so much of interest, docents lead tours on certain days of the month. Famous burials include Julia Morgan, Samuel Merritt, and Elizabeth Short (known as the Black Dahlia, a victim of an unsolved murder in 1947).
The Julia Morgan redesigned Chapel of the Chimes hosts a series called Jazz at the Chimes, where Bay Area musicians play in the designated, very well acoustic’ed landmark. Attendees can tour the chapel and cloisters pre and post show.
Shopping is dense with a nice distribution of antiques and vintage with quirk. Mercy Vintage is a well curated selection of designer vintage and unusual—same goes for Pimlico, only the focus is on accessories, like handbags.
How to get here
Freeway exit: Broadway Auto Row/Webster Street from I-580 E
BART stop: MacArthur station
Bus lines: 12, 49, 51A, 52, 57