Seniors, Commencement is May 17th and it’s time to get out into the real world: start in Oakland. Hip restaurants, cool hangouts and a vivacious mix of cultures make Oakland the perfect city to show around your visiting friends and families while you celebrate your achievement.
Anchored by the stunning Grand Lake theater, the shopping, dining and nightlife on Grand and Lakeshore Avenues are some of the best in Oakland. Start by taking a long walk around beautiful Lake Merritt, which features a 3.4 mile walking, running and biking trail around its circumference, and gondola rides. The area also has a wealth of barber shops and nail salons to get slick-looking for graduation parties.
The Alley– 3325 Grand Ave.
The stuff of Mills legend (mainly for not carding minors, formerly), what makes this hallowed dive so charming is its nightly entertainment, old-school pianist Rod Dibble. He’ll accompany you singing any old cabaret tune, jazz standard or showtune (they have songbooks), as long as you belly up to the piano and look him in the eye when you start to sing. Bring your friends and feel free to get sloppy; you’ll be in good company.
Walden Pond Books– 3316 Grand Ave.
Someone’s dog is usually waiting in front of this cozy new and used bookstore, and it’s right next to Café Di Bartolo. It’s a great place to browse and find out what’s happening in the city.
Day of the Dead Café– 3208 Grand Ave.
The décor alone makes this coffeehouse and hot dog joint worth a visit, from rhinestone and glitter-covered decoupage Virgin Mary votive candles to laughing skeleton figures holding Coronas. Owner Smoky Bones books live music every so often, too.
Arizmendi-3265 Lakeshore Ave.
This worker-owned cooperative bakery delivers fresh baked artisan breads and pizza right into your hot little hands. It’s an Oakland obsession.
Los Cantaros Restaurant & Taqueria– 336 Grand Ave.
Senior News editor Ashley Guillory says: Their chiles rellenos (stuffed peppers) are the best!
Michael Mischer Chocolates– 3352 Grand Ave.
This German transplant elevates chocolate to an art form, with flavors like pear, chipotle, tamarind, lavender and champagne, using real ingredients. Also serves luscious and equally inventive gelato; opens at noon everyday.
Parkway Speakeasy Theater– 1834 Park Blvd.
Eat pizza and pub food while you watch movies from the comfort of a sofa. Admission is $5 for matinee and $7 general. On Sat. and Sun. matinee times, all ages are admitted, but at all other times the Parkway sells beer, so you must be 21 or older.
Fairyland– 699 Bellevue Ave.
Opened in 1950, this storybook amusement park is said to be a model for Disneyland. Adults are only admitted with children, so make sure to bring little ones. Open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
DOWNTOWN AND JACK LONDON SQUARE
Downtown Oakland is both an historic and happening hub of African American culture and homes an abundant and savory Chinatown- explore it.
Gingerbread House– 741 5th St.
This soul food-Creole-Cajun haven has to be seen to be believed; it looks like it belongs in Fairyland rather than the warehouse district under I-880.
Home of Chicken and Waffles– 444 Embarcadero W.
Choose from endless combinations of all the classic soul food you can think of. The waffles are buttery confections that dissolve like heaven on your tongue. Plus, it’s open until four a.m.
Yoshi’s Jazz Club and Japanese Cuisine– 510 Embarcadero W.
This truly world-class jazz club is an Oakland institution. See http://www.yoshis.com/calendar for music listings.
Everett and Jones– 126 Broadway
The holy grail of Southern barbeque, with a nationally renowned house sauce and live music Saturday nights.
Ferry at Jack London Square– at Clay St. Pier
Six dollars each way for adults to San Francisco, and 14 dollars roundtrip for adults to Angel Island State Park, a gorgeous day trip destination.
Paramount Theatre– 2025 Broadway
Tours are given Saturdays at 10 a.m., but you can always walk through this art deco masterpiece.
Koryo Sushi– 4390 Telegraph Ave.
Watch chefs at Koryo craft sashimi, teriyaki and tempura from any table. Have a cheap but potent toast with five shots of sake for 10 dollars.
Lanesplitter Pizza and Pub– 4799 Telegraph Ave.
A wide selection of great beers on tap and kick-ass pizza (vegan available too!) packs in an attractive, if hipstery, crowd.
Mama’s Royal Café– 4012 Broadway
This place, popular with Mills students, is breakfast paradise: juicy omelets stuffed with goat cheese, smoked salmon, local vegetables, you can’t go wrong. Bring cash.
Tanjia– 4905 Telegraph Ave.
Great for intimate group dining, this Moroccan gem invites you to lounge on cushions and watch the nightly belly dancing show at 8 p.m. A bit pricey, so get the parents to spring for it.
Café Eritrea D’afrique– 4069 Telegraph Ave.
This top-rated Ethiopian and Eritrean restaurant is inexpensive, delicious and a block from MacArthur BART. Try the Ethiopian honey wine, made in Oakland.
Barney’s– 4162 Piedmont Ave.
Seriously creative gourmet burgers, with great vegetarian options. Super close to campus.
Fenton’s– 4226 Piedmont Ave.
The only ice cream joint in the Bay that rivals East Coast creamery. Expect a fat line but a fatter reward, literally.