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Taste Your Way through Fruitvale
If you haven’t received your formal invitation to visit Oakland, we invite you to engage in a local, cultural exploration of the beautifully diverse Fruitvale neighborhood, located in East Oakland.
As we peruse the heart of the Fruitvale District, notice the sights, smells, and sounds of things you wouldn’t necessarily notice on rapid transit. Largely regarded as the Latinx area of Oakland, Fruitvale has undergone many social, cultural, political, and developmental changes, which we will explore on this self-guided, walking tour.
This corridor represents a growing cohabitation of various ethnic, social, and political cultures living side-by-side. The community hosts annual celebrations like Dia de los Muertos, Dia de la Independencia, and Cinco de Mayo, honoring an array of cultural practices throughout the year. Take note of the murals around you, which tend to speak to current events and give an idea of the pulse of the people at any given time. Notice the changing faces of the Fruitvale neighborhood, with it’s ever-expanding African-American, Latino, and Asian influences amidst a backdrop of marimba and other traditional music playing throughout the streets.
Your eyes, ears, and taste buds are definitely in for a treat! Let’s get started.
1. Long Live Oscar Grant Mural
3401 E 12th St, Oakland, CA 94601
We’ll start at the Fruitvale BART Station, infamously known as the location that represents the tension between power, race, and class, not only in the Fruitvale neighborhood but in the city of Oakland at large. Part of Oakland’s locally-known history and culture, Fruitvale Station proudly remembers Oscar Grant and the tragic events of New Year’s Day 2009 when Oscar’s life ended abruptly at the hands of a local police officer. In 2019, local artist Senay “Refa One” Alkebulana created a mural at the station, calling attention to a movement around the country that pushed back against police shootings of young Black men. We highlight this history to remember and demonstrate the importance of the people who are the foundation of our city.
2. Nieves Cinco de Mayo
3340 E 12th St # 2, Oakland, CA 94601
From the mural, take your time walking through Fruitvale Village, a mixed-use development with space used for office, retail, and residential tenants. Fruitvale Village is a transit-oriented development (TOD) project that is now a nationally renowned model. The ground floor of the Village is home to locally-owned retail spaces, such as the dual-spaced Nieves Cinco de Mayo, where you can try a fresh-pressed juice or smoothie to energize your upcoming walk.
“The owner, Luis, came to the U.S. in the 1980s from a small town in the state of Jalisco, Mexico. When he got here, he had many jobs but ultimately decided he didn’t want to work for anyone. He started out with an ice cream cart during the 1991 Cinco de Mayo festival in Oakland’s San Antonio Park, owning many restaurants since then, but decided to open his first shop about 15 years ago,” says the store manager and his daughter, Griselda. His daughters, born and raised in Fruitvale, help him at the shop in their own ways. Be sure to say hi to Gris on your tour and enjoy their signature Mangonadas and wide ice cream selection.
3. Taqueria Guadalajara
1001 Fruitvale Ave, Oakland, CA 94601
Continuing through the E. 12th Street corridor, we move onto the first taco truck on the tour, Guadalajara, a community staple since the 1980s. Guadalajara Restaurant & Tequila Bar is a family-owned restaurant that is locally known for its family-friendly environment. Let it be known that this restaurant is a central destination for quinceañeras, group celebrations, and late-night, post-party meals. Since becoming a local favorite, they have grown to add many taco trucks to their repertoire, including one parked in the restaurant’s parking lot and the other on the corner of E.14th St & 45th Ave. Choose from their extensive array of tacos, burritos, and homemade salsas during your visit!
4. Ghost Ship Memorial
1305 31st Ave, Oakland, CA 94601
After enjoying a bite from the Guadalajara menu, let’s continue up Fruitvale Avenue towards E.12th Street, near the border of the Fruitvale and Jingletown neighborhoods. Walking up E.12th Street towards Derby Avenue, we are reminded of the tragic Ghost Ship warehouse fire. As we approach 22nd Ave, we can see a recent mural from artist Norman “Vogue” Chuck of San Leandro, dedicated to the victims of the deadly Ghost Ship warehouse fire. The mural, created in 2017, includes the names of the 36 people killed in the fire and 36 whites doves, one for each victim.
The remnants of the iconic creative hub remain from the 2016 fire. This history calls us to remember how art unifies people from all walks of life and how local governance, residents, and newcomers alike have a shared responsibility for safety, community, and diligence to look out for one another’s wellbeing.
5. Aguachiles El Tamarindo
3053 International Blvd, Oakland, CA 94601
From here, you’ll walk two neighborhood blocks towards Derby Avenue, taking in the abundance of nature amidst lovely residential homes, witnessing how Fruitvale got its name. Historically, this land boasted several orchards and fruit trees, which line the sidewalks on the way to our next taqueria.
Located on the corner of International Boulevard & 31st Avenue, Aguachiles El Tamarindo opened in April 2017 as a family-owned business. Since 1985 they have operated food trucks and restaurants here in Oakland under the Mi Grullense name. The founders were one of the handfuls of pioneers who brought food trucks to Oakland. Their son, Edgar, had the idea for a seafood truck since there were no food trucks specializing in Mexican seafood. They began as a seafood truck with Mi Grullense’s famous tacos. They are now trendsetters in Oakland, with their quesabirrias, a Mexican dish comprising birria-style cooked beef folded into a tortilla with melted cheese and served with a side of consommé for dipping, being the most popular item at the moment. In addition to their colorful food truck, their expanded menu offers items you will not see anywhere else, including the Hot Cheetos burrito, Spicy Shrimp Boil, and Baja fish tacos—basically offering you outstanding food with a great photo to match! This restaurant is a crowd favorite and is rapidly growing in popularity across the city.
6. Native American Health Center
3050 International Blvd, Oakland, CA 94601
As we head out to our next locations, hopefully, full and satisfied, we will pass the Native American Health Center (NAHC). NAHC is a nonprofit, Federally Qualified Health Center proudly serving California’s Bay Area Native Population and other underserved communities. Caring for the Bay Area since 1972, NAHC has worked at local, state, and federal levels to deliver resources and services for the urban Native community. As an Urban Indian Health Project, through their relationship with the Indian Health Service (IHS), they are dedicated to providing high-quality medical, dental, behavioral health, community wellness, and social service programs. Note the beautiful mural on the side of their building, honoring the Native foundations of Oakland and our nation as a whole.
7. Red Bay Coffee Roasters
3136 International Blvd, Oakland, CA 94601
We will continue to E.14th Street, southbound towards Fruitvale Avenue and make a quick stop at our next location, Red Bay Coffee Roasters.
Red Bay Coffee Roasters was founded in 2014 by Keba Konte, an artist and food entrepreneur born and raised in the Bay Area coffee and hospitality industry. Red Bay Coffee advocates for sustainable products and policies to benefit the formerly incarcerated, women, people of color, and disabled populations. Before 2020, they hosted regular events at their roasting facility on E.12th Street, including my favorite event, celebrating the most recent album release of R&B artist, Jidenna. You are halfway done with the tour by this time, so try the Cold Brew or take any of their exclusive roasts to go!
8. Taqueria San Jose
3433 International Blvd, Oakland, CA 94601
As you arrive at the corner of E.14th Street and 35th Avenue, we will stop at our final taqueria, which will provide a space of refuge and tasty tacos. This taqueria, around since the 1980s, serves an array of dishes ranging from the traditional taco to Caldo de Res, or beef soup. Pair any of these delicious plates with a Michelada beverage, and relax on the back patio. If you’re lucky, you’ll be serenaded by a local, guitar-toting singer who frequently performs at the restaurant. Here you’ll have some of the tastiest carnitas tacos you’ve ever had, so get ready for a flavorful ride!
9. Churros Mexicanos
3352 E 12th St, Oakland, CA 94601
At this point, we have walked through the heart of Fruitvale, sampled three tasty taco truck offerings, and learned about a whole generation of development in the local neighborhood. We have one last sweet surprise for you! It wouldn’t be complete without stopping to get a churro relleno, or filled churro, from one of the best churro spots in the city! We will return to the front of the Fruitvale Public Market to visit Churros Mexicanos, where you will choose from your preferred filling: vanilla, chocolate, dulce de leche, or strawberry.
As we end here, you have now seen all of this walking tour, but only a portion of what the lovely Fruitvale neighborhood has to offer. You have walked up to 1 of 4 square miles of the entire neighborhood, spanning from Fruitvale Street to 38th Avenue and E.12th to Foothill Avenue.
Don’t stop here—be empowered to explore more of Fruitvale and patronize the local businesses. While this tour will provide some contextual background and starting points, we encourage you to engage in more research to get to know Fruitvale personally. You will learn more about the personal and communal stories of the people of this neighborhood who are foundational to the growing community. In the changing tide of the Bay Area, we honor our pasts while continuing to be diligent stewards of just and harmonious progress, which Fruitvale is an exemplary reminder of.
Share your favorite spots of this tour via Instagram and tag @visitoakland for a chance to be featured in our social media stories.
About the Author
Acacia Woods-Chan of Ethnic Ties crafted this experience in partnership with The Cosmopolitan Project. The Cosmopolitan Project (TCP) is a division of Made In Color, an Oakland-based creative agency. TCP specializes in building community and amplifying stories that are typically untold, undersold, or marginalized. We connect our clients to the communities they know and love by creating hyperlocal content that is deeply rooted in community, inclusivity, and culture.
Acacia, an Oakland-based tour guide, is proud and honored to show the world the local places she has called home for a lifetime. After having been displaced from Oakland in childhood, she returned to The Town and began working with local communities to support the people’s cultural, social, and economic empowerment.
Her experience as a teacher at Castlemont High School gave her much insight into community development through education. She is taking her experience in economic and community development and cultural tourism to share with you the incomparable and unique gems Oakland has to offer the world! If you are interested in reserving a spot on a guided tour of Fruitvale or other parts of Oakland, please visit Ethnic Ties.