Badass Block: Grand Avenue Between Lake Park and Mandana
There are certain blocks in this city that seem like mini-universes. Each week, we'll highlight a stretch of pavement where you could spend an entire day and night. Next up? Grand Avenue between Lake Park and Mandana
Where to see a concert and a movie:
Just follow the giant illuminated rooftop sign and you'll find yourself at one of the oldest and grandest theatres in Oakland. The historic Grand Lake Theatre first hosted vaudeville and silent movies back in 1926; now, you can watch big blockbusters and small indie films alike at this elegant theatre. For a special treat, show up Friday and Saturday evenings when a Mightly Wurlitzer organ, usually hidden beneath the floor, rises for a brief concert before the show. If that's not enough, Grand Lake even dishes out very affordable (and tasty!) popcorn and snacks. For those just passing by the front, make sure to look up at the theatre’s marquee sign which has regularly been known to display timely political messages in addition to film titles.
Where to stop for pizza and vino:
Don't head to Boot & Shoe Service expecting to get your heels resoled. The second restaurant of Chef Charlie Hallowell (of Pizzaiolo), features excellent pizza, delicious pastas, well crafted cocktails and tasty desserts. The open dining area gives you a clear view of the kitchen featuring a tile-front pizza oven where pies are prepared to perfection and the adjacent lounge is the perfect place to enjoy a glass of wine before or after your meal.
Where to leave your business card:
The Alley, founded in 1933, is one of Oakland’s last piano bars. Sit down for an affordable steak, strong drinks and peruse the 40,000 to 50,000 business cards from visitors stapled to the walls. Look for official cards from Jerry Brown and Gregg Allman as well as other local celebrities. As the night wears on, you’ll eventually find yourself at one of the seats surrounding the piano where pianist Rod Dribble is ready to accompany you to whatever tune you like.
Where to summon your inner Thoreau:
Walden Pond Book Store is a neighborhood gem that's provided Oaklanders with their reading material for over 40 years. About 60 percent of Walden’s more than 100,000 books are used and the store gladly buys back novels from its customers. The bibliophilic staff are very helpful and can guide you among the teetering piles of fiction, non-fiction, and specialty books to find what you're looking for or make a recommendation. Walden's Pond also maintains a rare book collection in an upstairs storage room that once hosted readings by Isabel Allende and other literary greats.
Where to snag kosher treats:
Jews and gentiles alike flock to Grand Bakery for the scrumptious black-and-white cookies, macaroons, Russian tea cookies, and challahs. The bakery, which also serves as the local meeting spot for the Jewish community, has been certified by the Vaad Hakashrus of Northern California for meeting strict Orthodox standards. But if you don’t feel like waiting in line for snacks (especially on Friday mornings when they're busiest) then you can find their sweets in more than twenty local markets including Andronico’s, Diablo Foods and the Piedmont Market.