Modern Guide to Alameda: A Small Island on the Path to Revitalization
Alameda Theatre. (Courtesy of Architectural Resources Group)

Modern Guide to Alameda: A Small Island on the Path to Revitalization


Only accessible by water, tube or bridge, the island of Alameda has managed to keep a quiet existence. In the 20 years since the shuttering of the defining Alameda Naval Air Station, the area has retained its small-town mystique while hosting a community of longtime denizens and young families, all of whom have carefully watched from across the water as surrounding locales boomed.

But now, Alameda's time warp elements—think vintage arcades and a World War II–era aircraft carrier museum—are being paired with more modern spots: a number of art galleries, craft breweries, and waterfront cafes dreamed up by islanders looking to help Alameda grow without selling the soul of the city.

The area is also becoming a food-and-drink destination thanks to East End Park Street restaurants serving authentic fare from as far away as Lithuania and Ethiopia, plus the solidified reputation of the West End's Spirits Alley, a popular stretch of U.S. Navy hangars turned urban tasting rooms.

And with the long-awaited $500 million redevelopment project underway at the Navy base site, now known as Alameda Point (plus hotshot companies such as Google's Makani Power having settled in town), Alameda is continuing on its inevitable path to revitalization.

The Best Restaurants in Alameda

Trabocco Kitchen and Cocktails

After running a trattoria in his native Italy and establishing himself stateside with a 19-year career at Il Fornaio, chef Giuseppe Naccarelli set out to bring authentic Italian dining to his new coastal home of Alameda. Despite its shopping center address, Trabocco is transporting with decor evocative of the Italian seaside as well as a menu of wood-fired pizzas, stuzzichini (small plates), Abruzzo-style gnocchi, and a loaded seafood spaghetti. Sip from a selection of 10 house cocktails featuring Alameda-made spirits, as well as wine blends exclusive to the restaurant. // 2213 South Shore Center (Alameda),


An Alameda institution thanks to its famously stacked cheeseburgers, the tiny but lively Park Street location even delivers meals to the Lucky 13 bar next door. Owners Dan Nichols and Michael Boyd continue to expand the business, having added Scolari's at the Point—adjacent to Rock Wall Winery at the Alameda Naval Air Station—and a roving Airstream food truck. Order fried chicken (choose white or dark meat) with Nashville hot sauce, pork belly collard greens, and biscuits. // 1303 Park St. and 2301 Monarch St. (Alameda),

Burma Superstar

This Bay Area favorite is one of the smallest yet most popular restaurants on the island—put your name in early to snag a table for dinner. Fans live and die by the tea leaf and rainbow salads. // 1345 Park St. (Alameda),

Abigail's Moroccan Cuisine

The waterfront Abigail's is unassuming, set in an office complex with signage advertising the locale as a cafe and deli. This rings true for lunch when sandwiches are served, but come 6pm Saturdays, the family-run venue transforms with the introduction of glitzy belly dancing performances and multi-course dinners. Try the Moroccan mint tea, but also go ahead and bring a bottle of whatever you're in the mood for—Abigail's has a sweet BYOB policy with no corkage fees. //1132 Ballena Blvd. (Alameda),


Neptune's is your new go-to weekend spot—the bright interior, coffee window, and inviting back patio are prime for slow mornings. Chef Naomi Elze-Harris has compiled a menu of fresh takes on standard brunch and lunch fare, including shrimp and cheesy grits, lumpia, and chilaquiles. // 630 Central Ave. (Alameda),

Ole's Waffle Shop

A Park Street mainstay since 1927, Ole's draws patrons with its authentic retro feel and friendly wait staff. Grab a seat with the regulars at the bar to order the signature waffles (you can also buy the mix online). For date night, check out Wine and Waffles, the diner's counterpart next door. // 1507 Park St. (Alameda),

Mama Papa Lithuania Restaurant and Tea House

This rustic restaurant pairs Medieval-style tables, wrought-iron chandeliers, and a beer garden with authentic Old World dishes such as an electric-pink summer borscht. For dessert, try the seven-layer honey cake. //1241 Park St. (Alameda),

American Oak

A destination for whiskey lovers, this upscale, saloon-style gastropub pairs a sophisticated menu of comfort food (think New York steak accompanied by grits) with an impressive selection of some 300 malt, rye, bourbon, and Scotch labels from 150 distilleries. //2319 Santa Clara Ave. (Alameda),

Q's Halal Chicken

Kabob lovers rave about the budget prices and big flavors at this unassuming Middle Eastern spot across the street from the Alameda Theatre. Favorites include the gyro salad, and chicken and lamb rice bowls. // 2306 Central Ave.(Alameda),

Cafe Jolie

This French eatery is frequented for its breakfast menu and sidewalk seating. If you have trouble choosing between the five omelet options, go ahead and customize your own. //1500 Webster St.(Alameda),

KoJa Kitchen

This buzzy food truck-turned-restaurant has been opening outposts all over the Bay Area, and you can now get the inventive Korean-Japanese bowls, "burgers," and tacos at Alameda Landing. // 2680 5th Street, Suite D (Alameda),


This upscale bistro sets the mood with an intimate wood interior, plus al fresco dining across the street from the Alameda Theatre. Try the truffled burrata caprese to start, and choose from entrees such as the locally sourced steamed halibut or housemade gnocchi. // 2320 Central Ave. (Alameda),

Dragon Rouge

Set on the Oakland Estuary, this spot draws both Alamedans and Oaklanders with outdoor patio views of the Park Street Bridge and Vietnamese staples. // 2337 Blanding Ave. (Alameda),

Cookiebar Creamery

It turns out Alameda is big enough for two wildly popular ice cream parlors—while 75-year-old Tucker's is an East End classic, Cookiebar dominates the West End with its ice cream cookie sandwiches. Standout flavors include purple ube, Vietnamese coffee, and the 1606 (peppermint, cookies 'n cream cookies, Oreos, and fudge). //647 Central Ave. (Alameda),

Alameda's Craft Beer & Spirits Scene

All the Booze

Hangar 1 Vodka

As its name suggests, this Alameda native pays homage to the city's history as a naval hub with aviation-themed details, a model propeller plane, and light streaming through the OG hangar windows. The distillery has grabbed headlines recently with its limited-edition Fog Point vodka made with Karl the Fog himself, but its recently revamped tasting room and visitors' center is the real draw. Discover all that goes into distilling your favorite spirits during a guided tour of the 60,000-square-foot facility, then head to the vintage-inspired, foliage-filled tasting room to sample six vodkas, including the popular Buddha's Hand Citron. //2505 Monarch St. (Alameda),

Forbidden Island

Forbidden Island may be home to the liveliest Friday night in town. The tiki bar is the real deal, serving top-notch tropical cocktails and flaming punch bowls made with some 150 rums and fresh-squeezed juice. Order a mai tai at the bar beneath the thatched, dollar bill-covered ceiling, or opt for the dog-friendly patio. The jukebox plays vintage surf tunes—after all, Alameda is an island. // 1304 Lincoln Ave. (Alameda),

Faction Brewing

"Come for the beer, stay for the view." This repurposed airplane hangar's slogan rings true, with 20-plus original brews and a spacious front patio where crowds often spill out for the stellar vista of San Francisco's skyline. Wacky murals dominate the interior, and the tasting room stays busy serving pints and flights—locals love the island-exclusive A-Town pale ale. //2501 Monarch St.(Alameda),

The Rake at Admiral Maltings

Sidle up to the sleek bar, settle into a booth, or hit the patio with one of 20-plus local beers on tap, all created with Admiral Malting's own California-grown malt, which you can see being made through windows that overlook the malting floor. //651A W. Tower Ave. (Alameda),

Almanac Barrel House, Brewery, and Taproom

Almanac's former Navy warehouse now offers a spacious setting to enjoy its farm-to-barrel brews, complete with long communal tables, TVs, a sunny patio, and kid-friendly space. //651B W. Tower Ave. (Alameda),

Rock Wall Wine Company

Father-daughter duo Kent and Shauna Rosenblum are heavy hitters in the Bay Area winemaking scene, with Shauna having grown up at Rosenblum Cellars, the winery Kent ran until 2008. Rock Wall in a converted hangar with Shauna as head winemaker. Stop in for samples in the tasting room or a glass on the back deck where views stretch across the Bay to SF. //2301 Monarch St. (Alameda),

St. George Spirits

Long before Monarch Street was christened Spirits Alley, St. George Spirits stood alone as the sole liquor producer at Alameda Point—St. George began whiskey here back in 2004. Tour the sprawling industrial space to get a behind-the-scenes look at the old-timey copper pot stills, or book time at the tasting room to sample six St. George classics, such as the California citrus vodka and absinthe verde. // 2601 Monarch St. (Alameda),

Alameda Island Brewing Company

Well known for its Island City IPA, Alameda Island Brewing Company was opened by brewer Matthew Fox in 2015, after he was stationed in town with the Coast Guard. The site has since grown to include the new Monkey King at the Brewery, a food counter that opens onto the patio and serves nine kinds of chicken wings. //1716 Park St. (Alameda),

Building 43 Winery

Husband-and-wife team Tod Hickman and Meredith Coghlan craft their wine varietals using California-grown grapes. Go for $10 tastings and live music at the dog-friendly urban winery. //2440 Monarch St. (Alameda),

Lucky 13

The East Bay counterpart to the historic Lucky 13 in SF's Duboce Triangle, this corner bar ensures the same no-frills experience. The cash-only dive prides itself on its beer selection and jukebox choices, while patrons also appreciate the pool table, photo booth, and pinball machines. You can order a pint at the bar or on the patio, and if you're feeling bold after a few rounds, Lucky 13 Tattoos is upstairs (and open until 9pm on Fridays and Saturdays). //1301 Park St. (Alameda),


Say prost at this German bar and restaurant, where specialty beers from historic German breweries dominate the menu and decorative steins accompany Bavarian flags on the walls. Live music often adds to the jovial atmosphere, but come fall, revelers crowd into the front beer garden for one of the Bay Area's most festive Oktoberfest celebrations. //2424 Lincoln Ave. (Alameda),

The Hobnob

Pull up a stool at The Hobnob, where owner Amy Voisenat draws on her experience as chef at San Francisco's Curve Bar and Restaurant to produce American small plates, craft cocktails, and a mean brunch. By day, you can nosh on truffle fries over a Connect Four battle, and on Thursday nights, it's best to grab a drink before stepping up for karaoke. // 1313 Park St. (Alameda),

Fireside Lounge

Gather your buds for a night at this welcoming West End watering hole, originally opened in 1942 and equipped with a cozy fireplace (of course). Here, entertainment comes in the form of local performers and open mic nights, while rotating happy hours cover microbrew Mondays and whiskey Wednesdays. //1453 Webster St. (Alameda),


Julie's Coffee and Tea Garden

An East End favorite, Julie's is known for organic coffee, loose-leaf tea, and iced herbal drinks, all served either indoors among rotating local art or out back in the garden where wooden tables are surrounded by foliage and patio accents available for purchase. Enjoy WiFi- and laptop-free weekends (8am to 2pm). They've also planted a seed at their newer Temescal location. //1223 Park St. (Alameda),

Mosley's Cafe

Hard to find on foot but impossible to miss by water, this one-of-a-kind dockside cafe opened in 2015 as a welcome addition to the Grand Marina, serving Oakland's Bicycle coffee, gluten-free pastries and sandwiches, and beer. The six-seater waterfront bar faces Coast Guard Island across the way—snag a stool and watch the boats glide by. //2099 Grand St. (Alameda),

Fun Things to Do in Alameda

Arts & Culture

USS Hornet Museum

Before docking for good as a floating museum, the USS Hornet aircraft carrier saw a lot of action—in addition to serving in World War II and the Vietnam War, the ship recovered the astronauts from the United States' first two lunar landings after their splashdowns back to earth in 1969. Step aboard this national historic landmark to wander exhibits covering everything from the moon missions to women in the military. On the hangar and flight decks, you'll find a number of retired aircraft from the 1940s through the '80s, including the U.S. Navy's first supersonic jet fighter, a World War II torpedo bomber, and an SH-3H SeaKing, the all-weather helicopter used in anti-submarine warfare. // 707 W. Hornet Ave. (Alameda),

Pacific Pinball Museum

To the delight of pinheads everywhere, the Pacific Pinball Museum features upwards of 90 fully restored machines all set for free play (except a few coined games in the front lobby); find your favorite, whether it's the 1992 Addams Family game, the display-only Montague Redgrave parlour bagatelle from 1887. The interactive museum also goes beyond the fun and games by blending history, science, and art with tours and classes open to budding pinball wizards, plus rotating exhibits, murals and artworks on display. The nonprofit also owns an additional 1,500 machines that simply don't fit in the small space. //1510 Webster St. (Alameda),

Alameda Theatre & Cineplex

Adding to the Bay Area's list of restored movie palaces, this 1932 Art Deco theater reopened in 2008, nearly 40 years after the curtains last closed. Today the cineplex draws moviegoers with its historic neon sign, ornate lobby, and dining options—fill up at the Cinema Grill next door, order beer and wine at the snack bar, or have preordered food delivered to your reserved theater seats. //2317 Central Ave. (Alameda),

High Scores Arcade

Level up at High Scores, where $6 gets you an hour of free play on dozens of classic arcade games, Donkey Kong and Galaga included. The shoebox-sized space is all about play—no bar, no TVs, no WiFi—just the likes of Pac-Man and Atari. Should anyone need further proof that vintage video games are still popular, husband-and-wife team Shawn and Meg Livernoche also run a location in Hayward. // 1414 Park St. (Alameda),

Rhythmix Cultural Works

Occupying a converted brick warehouse near the Park Street Bridge, this artist-run nonprofit hosts theater, dance, and musical performances, while running classes in Cuban salsa, ZUMBA, and beginners' drumming. //2513 Blanding Ave.(Alameda),

2nd Friday Art Walk

For this monthly art walk, nearly two dozen creative spaces on either side of the Park Street Bridge unite to showcase artistry in Alameda and Oakland's Jingletown. Make your way down Park Street between 6 and 9pm to catch open studios at Autobody Fine Art, Jingletown Art Studios, Frank Better Art Center, and Studio 23 Gallery. // Various galleries and studios (Alameda and Oakland),

The Great Outdoors

Crown Memorial State Beach

While you've been freezing at Ocean Beach, East Bayers spend their sunny days laid out at Crown Beach, a 2.5-mile stretch of sand on Alameda. Once known as the Coney Island of the West for its now-long-gone Neptune Beach amusement park, the protected area now draws visitors with its relatively warm waters, shoreline bike trail, and the family-friendly Crab Cove Visitors Center. The waterfront is also a hot spot for windsurfers and kiteboarders—you can get in on the action with lessons or rentals at the Boardsports shack. // Eighth Street and Otis Drive (Alameda),

Mike's Paddle

See the San Francisco skyline from a new point of view during a standup paddle boarding session. Owner Mike Wang teaches beginner lessons, offers SUP yoga, and hosts monthly paddles around the Ballena Isle Marina and out to Treasure Island for more experienced SUPers. //1120 Ballena Blvd. #200, (Alameda),

Kayaking with Stacked Adventures

Getting out on the water is the best way to remind yourself that Alameda is, in fact, an island. Stacked Adventures leads kayaking excursions, workshops, and family paddling tours around the bay. //190 Central Ave.(Alameda),

Where to Shop in Alameda

Alameda Point Antiques Faire

When it comes to antiquing in the Bay Area, the Alameda Point Antiques Faire is a utopia of 800 booths selling vintage wares—you may just find the Holy Grail while you're here. The massive event is frequently included in roundups of the country's best flea markets, and some 10,000 shoppers from around Northern California reinforce its status every first Sunday by arriving bright and early to get first dibs. From Persian rugs and 1910-era buckled trunks to rows of vintage door knobs, every item for sale is at least 20 years old, ensuring the authenticity of your bragging rights. // 2900 Navy Way (Alameda),

Rocket Reuse

Though mostly devoted to used books, this cozy thrift shop also makes room for vinyl records, DVDs, CDs, and even VHS tapes sold for pennies on the dollar. Items in the red rocket display are deeply discounted, and you can try on vintage threads in the phone-booth-turned-dressing-room. For newer reads, cross the street to Books Inc. //1355 Park St. (Alameda),


The Alameda outpost of this Bay Area chain stocks an eclectic mix of funky furniture, hipster home goods, and quirky gifts that range from coffee tables to flasks and kitchen tools with snarky messaging. And if you're ever in the market for a pillow emblazoned with an image of a cat, Therapy is your store. //1428 Park St. (Alameda),

Modern Mouse

Modern Mouse exclusively carries handmade goods and gifts made by independent artists and small-scale crafters from around the Bay Area and beyond. //2223 South Shore Center (Alameda),

Dandelion Flowers and Gifts

Tucked away in the Park Street Plaza, Dandelion beckons passersby with a sidewalk tin bin of $5 mini bouquets. Further inside, the full-service flower boutique sells vibrant arrangements of seasonal blooms from Half Moon Bay and Petaluma. You'll also find handpicked baubles and trinkets, plus a tiny bowl of free poems. //1419 Park St. (Alameda),


With hundreds of collectible kicks, PRSTG is a must-see for any sneakerhead looking to buy, sell, or trade. Floor-to-ceiling shelves are lined with rare pairs of Nikes, Air Jordans, and Adidas. //1201 Lincoln Ave.(Alameda),

Tot Tank

A one-stop shop for all things kids, family-owned Tot Tank has been a Park Street staple for moms and dads since 2009. Personal shoppers and free car seat installations are among the extra touches that give this storefront an edge. //1413 Park St.(Alameda),


In tribute to The Great Gatsby's Daisy Buchanan, owner Barbara Mooney stocks her gift shop with a mix of pretty little things for the kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom. Don't miss the rows of greeting cards, ribbon spools, and washi tape on the crafting wall. //1347 Park St. (Alameda),

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