(Tory Putnam/CUESA)

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


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, is drawing 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, jubilating 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 absinthes 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. // BYO food and dog to the tasting room at Federation Brewing (420 3rd St.), where you can sample quality brews like their Batch One Pale Ale, Ceremony Saison, Low Boy oatmeal stout, and In the Weeds pale ale. // For strong drinks, DJs and arcade games, head to The Night Light (311 Broadway): The bar downstairs maintains a chill vibe, while live music rages on upstairs. // Beer Revolution (464 3rd St.) has plenty of beers, from ciders 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 is also BYO eats. // The diveyest 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.

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

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

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