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

The Best Eats in Jack London Square

There is no shortage of things to eat around here.

Square Meals

An Oakland staple, Everett & Jones(126 Broadway) is the place to go for tender ribs, flavorful brisket, juicy chicken, and house-made hot links. But save room for sides and say yes to candied yams and cornbread muffins. // Head to Nido for farm-to-table Mexican food and drinks—think mushroom empanadas or grilled shrimp alambre tacos, waiting to be washed down with a Blanco y Negro (organic horchata topped with iced coffee). Look out for daily specials and happy hour deals. // Get breakfast, lunch or dinner at Chop Bar (247 4th St., Ste 111), an early pioneer in the neighborhood known for its hearty salads, oysters, oxtail poutine, and seasonal house cocktails. // Bomb vegan soul food is a real thing. At Souley Vegan(301 Broadway), you can, uh, pig out on sizable portions of Southern-style fried-tofu bowls and Creole-style spaghetti topped with falafel. // Forge Pizza(66 Franklin St., Ste 100), located on the waterfront, is the place to indulge in crispy cheese curds and pizzas topped with cauliflower or, for the more daring, pork sausage, potato, and chili flakes. // Back in 1972, Yoshie Akiba and her two best friends opened Yoshi's, then just a quaint sushi bar, in North Berkeley. In its Oakland home (510 Embarcadero W), the restaurant has grown to become an award-winning jazz club and performance venue. Before a show, try the tiger shrimp tempura with spicy aioli or oysters with apple-tonkatsu sauce. // Feast amongst the Victoriana at The Fat Lady (201 Washington St.), a former brothel now serving scandalously thick-cut pork chops and calamari steaks. // Tucked away in an office building you'll find Montse's Cafe(155 Filbert St.), a go-to for killer daily specials and agua frescas, as well as hearty breakfast plates and sandwiches. // Middle Eastern food is the focus at Dyafa(44 Webster St.), a collaboration between chefs Daniel Patterson and Reem Assill that spins out inventive, spice-forward dishes in a beguiling interior complete with mosaic tile backsplash, jewel-tone chairs, and a branch entwined trellis overhanging the dining room. Start with za'atar-spiked flatbread dipped in creamy hummus or the batata harra (fried potatoes); move on to the sumac-spiced chicken confit or spicy whole-roasted fish; and wash it all down with an adventurous cocktail capitalizing on flavors usually reserved for food (think Medjool dates, Greek yogurt, and cumin) from the well-stocked bar. // Carnivores rejoice! Belcampo Meat Co. (55 Webster St.) serves up a slew of meat-laden menu items that you can feel good about, since the company only serves high-quality meats sustainably and compassionately raised on its NorCal farm. The black garlic–laced lamb burger has been known to make a convert out of the lamb wary, skewers let more adventurous diners dabble in beef heart, and the calamansi lime and chicken salad serves as a nice common ground if you've got designs on something lighter. // The square was hurting for Asian-influenced fare until the opening of Farmhouse Kitchen Thai Cuisine(336 Water St.), and the colorful setting—an energetic mixture of floral-printed chairs, a 3-D flower wall sculpture, and a bamboo-bedecked patio—perfectly matches the vibrancy of the food in dishes such as the 24-hour beef noodle soup, hat yai fried chicken, and slow-braised bone-in short rib. // While JLS mainstays such as Scott's Seafood(2 Broadway) and Kincaid's(1 Franklin St.) are old-timers for a reason (solid seafood, solid service, stellar views), Lungomare(1 Broadway) is still our choice for squid-ink pasta or seasonal risotto; anchovy-topped pizza; or a brunch laden with poached eggs, smoked salmon, and more from the buffet.

Coffee + Snacks

Thanks to Blue Bottle, Oakland is basically the home of Third Wave coffee. There's no stopping in Jack London Square without visiting the roastery (300 Webster St.), which houses a coffee bar, cupping room and pastry kitchen. // Rather take it to go? Snag a mini growler at Bicycle Coffee(364 2nd St.)—then bring it back later for a refill on the cheap. // Satisfy your sweet tooth with macarons, perfectly iced cupcakes, and impossibly buttery cookies at Miette (85 Webster St.).

Click through for more on where to drink and play in the neighborhood.

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