20 January 2011

Oakland Marathon neighborhood tour - # 6 - Rockridge south

When I moved back to California from Seattle in 1990, the Rockridge area quickly became my "hood".  Not that I really lived there then or since, but I used BART to get to San Francisco where I worked, and the nearest BART station to where I lived was Rockridge.

Oaklanders are well aware of Rockridge even if the rest of the world isn't.  It is Oakland's version of Noe Valley in San Francisco, but with better weather.

I've arbitrarily divided the area into Rockridge south and north, with this being the "south" edition.  (I've never heard anyone refer to a south or north Rockridge.)

While I don't think there's a precise definition for what Rockridge encompasses, everyone thinks of College Avenue as being its "Main Street", and includes the residential areas that lie both to the west and east of College.

These neighborhoods are close to heaven, if you are someone like me, who thinks the Craftsman style of architecture is about as good as it gets.  (Oakland, and not just Rockridge, have amazing examples of the Craftsman style.)  Every now and then, however a lone Victorian can be found among the early 20th century homes, representatives of an even earlier era when there weren't many houses in the area.

College Avenue begins here at Broadway
College Avenue, like the previously mentioned Telegraph Avenue, breaks off from Broadway and ends on Bancroft Avenue on the south side of the Cal campus in Berkeley.  Unlike Telegraph Avenue, there isn't a business district on College Avenue close to the campus, although north of Rockridge the Elmwood area on College at Ashby is a lovely neighborhood and business district in Berkeley.

On Broadway, across the street from where College Avenue starts, is the California College of the Arts, formerly known as the California College of Arts & Crafts.  Several businesses oriented toward art students are here, along with restaurants, coffeehouses, and other enterprises.

Looking north on College close to Broadway

Rockridge branch of the Oakland Public Library

A leafy sidestreet off of College Avenue

Market Hall on College Avenue just south of BART
You don't need Whole Foods if you live in Rockridge.  The Market Hall complex at Shafter and College (immediately across from the BART station) offers a remarkable array of individually owned shops that offer produce, pasta, baked goods, meat, fish, cheese, wine, coffee, and more.  Great people watching from a sidewalk table at Peaberry's Coffee.

And one of Oakland's best loved restaurants calls Market Hall home: Oliveto.  Bring your wallet but be prepared for a great meal.  The food and service are outstanding.  I've eaten here twice - terrific.  As with Chez Panisse in Berkeley, the downstairs cafe is less expensive.

Chico readers take note that the Craig Thomas+Maria Venturino husband-and-wife team that own the splendid Red Tavern, previously cut their teeth at the renowned Citron restaurant in Rockridge (south), which they sold when they moved to Chico.

Besides Oliveto and several other top restaurants that include À Côté and Pizza Rustica, College Avenue south of BART has lots of less pricey restaurants of many persuasions, and  bookstores, dive bars, antiques, a thriftshop, and so on.  One of my favorites is Ben & Nicks, kind of a dive bar with windows, deep and dark booths, and pretty darn good food. 

If you don't want to walk, take the AC Transit 51 line which runs the length of College and much, much more (to Alameda and Berkeley).

I close this post with a most unattractive picture: the Hwy. 24 bridge over College Avenue in the middle of which is the Rockridge BART station.  On the other side is Rockridge (north).  The now grown-up trees have helped to soften the late 60s gash on the neighborhood.

Oakland Marathon neighborhood tour - navigational links:
Backward to: Temescal

Forward to: Rockridge north

Oakland Marathon website

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