(Tory Putnam/CUESA)

A Modern Guide to Jack London Square: Hearty Eats, Strong Drinks, History on the Side

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Named for the Bay Area born-and-raised author of The Call of the Wild and White Fang, Jack London Square is a slice of history in Oakland—and it's having a thoroughly modern moment.

Once home base for seafarers and fraught with the public houses that kept their spirits up, the waterfront was reimagined as a tourist attraction in the 1970s. Today, the area melds memories of the many eras gone by, with retro coffee shops sharing sidewalk space with sparkling new condos, industrial warehouses, and art galleries. The waterfront is speckled with ferries and sailboats, and an array of cool bars, music venues, and restaurants—ranging from grab-and-go to upscale—draws urbanites from around the Bay Area.


Jack London Square may be all grown up, but we still catch the spirit of rowdy old sailors in the air, partying into the wee hours of the night. Here's where to eat, drink, and have a good time in the 'hood.

Where to Drink Like a Sailor in Jack London Square

Jack London's Square's location on the waterfront and history as a stomping grounds for sailors continues to inform its more intoxicating offerings.

Heinold's First and Last Chance Saloon (48 Webster St.). is a drink of JLS history. Built in 1883 from the timbers of an old whaling ship, the place was originally used as a bunkhouse by the men who worked the oyster beds. It was later transformed into a saloon for seafarers, and so it remains today as a place to sample local liquor and obscure absinthe or just for shots of fernet to chase with a wide selection of beers including Fort Point Kolsch and Racer 5. // Newcomer Sláinte (131 Broadway) has the warmth of an old Irish pub—you know, the kind where you stay for hours drinking, eating, playing darts and telling tales. Go for the traditional Irish breakfast (eggs, beans, black and white pudding, sausage, boxty, and soda bread) paired with a Spot of Tea (earl grey–steeped vodka with mint, lemon, honey, and soda). Time your visit for a night with live music and tip your hat to the lads playing traditional Irish tunes. // The divey-est of all the bars in Jack London might be Merchant's Saloon (401 2nd St.), where a gutter beneath the bar once provided a convenient place for drunken sailors to relieve themselves without giving up their stools. But there's also a jukebox, tons of attitude, cheap drinks, and an eclectic but inviting crowd. // The Jack London Square area is blossoming into its own little ale trail, now officially dubbed the Jack London Brewing District, with a number of breweries and within striking distance. BYO food and dog to the tasting room at Federation Brewing (420 3rd St.), where you can sample quality brews like their Behind You! Blonde Ale, seasonal After Hours chocolate stout, Low Boy oatmeal stout, and In the Weeds pale ale. // Beer Revolution (464 3rd St.) has one of the East Bay's best selection of beers—from IPAs to stouts—on draft, but we love it for the gluten-free options, such as Mission Trail's Gold Mine, a cider made from nectarines, and Tag and Jug's Deep Water dry cider co-fermented with zinfandel. This dog-friendly watering hall is also BYO eats. // A visit to Independent Brewing Company (444 Harrison St.) feels a bit like hanging out in your friend's living room, if your friend also brewed delicious beer, held daytime vinyl dance parties, and let your kids and dogs inside. // From the brewery formerly known as Linden Street sprang Oakland United Beer Works, which is planning on a two-tiered Jack London hybrid brewery and taproom space to open to the public soon. // Original Pattern Brewing Company (292 Fourth St.) melds a vintage-inspired aesthetic with old world–style beers for a refreshingly original (cue symbol crash) take on your typical taproom-brewery experience. Pop culture junkies will love beer names like "Are You Not Entertained?" and "You Down with OPB?" // Brand spanking new Tiger's Taproom (308 Jackson St. Ste. 4) brings the community together over a love of beer, with not just drafts of craft brew, but also frequent events ranging from food truck visits, to an information session on malts, to trivia night.

*If beer and shots aren't your thing, take a walking/tasting tour of Jack London Square's many wonderful urban wineries and tasting rooms.

Click through for activities, art galleries, and historic sites in Jack London Square.

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