A Modern Guide to Oakland's Piedmont Avenue: Movies, Hot Tubs, Ghosts + Grub
Landmark's Piedmont Theatre, Oakland's oldest. (Courtesy of Frameline)

A Modern Guide to Oakland's Piedmont Avenue: Movies, Hot Tubs, Ghosts + Grub


Piedmont Avenue, with its vibrant mix of locally owned boutiques and famous ice cream shops, offers plenty of opportunities for a day of fun.

Whether it's strolling through a graveyard, catching a flick at Oakland's oldest theater, or sipping scorpions under the watchful eye of an animatronic hula dancer, the stretch of street between Pleasant Valley Avenue and MacArthur Boulevard offers a healthy mix of places to chow down, cut loose, and spend some cash.

Play: Arts, Wellness + the Outdoors

Mountain View Cemetery serves as the final resting place for a number of Oakland notables.

Designed by Frederick Law Olmsted—the architect behind New York City's Central Park and the Capitol Grounds in Washington DC— the expansive 223-acre Mountain View Cemetery(5000 Piedmont Ave.) serves as the final resting place for several local notables, including writer Frank Norris and artist Thomas Hill. Although easily explored solo, join a two-hour docent-led tour the second and fourth Saturdays of each month for an in-depth look at the cemetery's history and architecture. // TheLandmark Piedmont Theatre(4186 Piedmont Ave.) opened more than a century ago (making it the oldest operating theater in Oakland) and specializes in a mix of indie and limited-release art house flicks on two screens. // For a relaxing afternoon in the Town, head to Piedmont Springs (3939 Piedmont Ave.), where you can melt your problems away with a massage or facial, or lounge in one of four private outdoor tubs. // Other wellness hot spots on Piedmont Avenue include Pink Light (4454 Piedmont Ave.) for acupuncture, organic facials, and major feel-good vibes; and Cultivate Detox (4333 Piedmont Ave.) for gentle gravity colon hydrotherapy perfect for first-timers. // Looking for a more intense approach to wellness? Piedmont Avenue offers no shortage of places to get an endorphin rush with a targeted sweat sesh—reformer Pilates studio X-Core recently opened a Versa Climber-equipped location on the same block as The Dailey Method and Roxanne Graziano Studio—but the best by far is locally owned spin studio Ride Oakland(4448 Piedmont Ave.). Ride gives national cycling chains a run for their money with frequent themed classes (Bruno Mars versus Michael Jackson, anyone?), workshops for new riders, and beloved—and beat-obsessed—instructors whose classes often book up as soon as they're available.

Eat + Drink

Elevated American

Chef James Syhabout continually draws rave reviews with the prix fixe menu at Commis(3859 Piedmont Ave.), the only restaurant in the East Bay with a two-star Michelin rating. The eight-course tasting menu (a splurge at $165 before the wine pairings) highlights precise presentations and unexpected flavor combinations: Past dishes have included a bee pollen–dusted caramelized financier, charcoal-grilled lamb served with wheatgrass, and a frozen Meyer lemon marshmallow coupled with chervil and gin aromatics. // The oft-packed Homestead (4029 Piedmont Ave.) features all of the hallmarks of a trendy Bay Area restaurant (open kitchen, exposed light bulbs, dim lighting), but has the warm personality and culinary chops to pair with its looks. Much of the charcuterie, cheeses, and assorted condiments are made and/or preserved in-house, and ingredients shine in dishes such as fried rabbit topped with a fermented chile sauce and ahi tuna crudo served with a chive crepe and marinated cucumbers. For a little taste of everything, stop by at the end of the week for Sunday Supper, a three-course, prix fixe menu that's a steal at $58, including service charge. // Another closure shook the East Bay dining scene when 40-year-old Baywolf served its last dinner in 2015, but The Wolf (3853 Piedmont Ave.) serves nicely as the hotter younger sister of that East Bay institution—the owners also run Rockridge's Wood Tavern and its next-door sandwich shop Southie. The vibe is a little hipper, California cuisine gets a little je ne sais quoi from French influences (dishes span from octopus and Brussels sprouts openers to mains like lamb sugo served over egg pasta and seared day-boat scallops), and the cocktail and beer lists lean heavily on booze produced by local purveyors.

Globally-Inspired Eats

It's all about uber fresh seafood at Geta(165 41st St.), an affordable sushi spot that highlights the quality and umami of the fish. Cozy up to the tiny sushi bar and be sure to check the specials scrawled on the chalkboard or taped to the walls before ordering. The sushi chefs will guide you through your order, whether you opt for an array of nigiri or the special Lion King roll, a baked crab roll topped with salmon. // Mistura Rotisserie (3858 Piedmont Ave.) packs plenty of Peruvian punch in the form of spice-marinated rotisserie chicken, tender lomo saltado, and refreshing ceviche, best paired with a house-made purple corn chicha morada and capped off with an order of crumbly alfajores. // Four words: late night happy hour. If you can't sneak out of work early enough to hit the early evening specials, head to Itaba Kitchen and Sushi Bar (3920 Piedmont Ave.) for a 9–11pm late night deal of $5 beers and shots (we're talking the good stuff, including Knob Creek and Hendricks) and $7 cocktails. Avoid getting too inebriated with a couple of hand rolls, tonkatsu, or grilled salmon sake kama in ponzu sauce. // Many a lover of a killer happy hour deal shed a tear when Piedmont Avenue's Adesso closed in 2017, but luckily sister restaurant Dopo (4293 Piedmont Ave.)—from the same owners—is still around to satiate any inclination for Italian. The daily-changing trio of tasting menus showcase seasonal ingredients and house-made cheeses and pastas in dishes with a Sicilian slant (don't miss the trapanese cuscus imported specifically for the restaurant), which are best enjoyed alongside a negroni, Italian spritz, or amari. // The Saap Avenue(4395 Piedmont Ave.) took over that shuttered Adesso space, swapping in Laotian for Italian but keeping a strong focus on the bar program. The infinitely Instagramable space (don't miss the "Hella Saap" mural) doesn't slouch when it comes to the food and drinks—try the Scotch-spiked riff on a Thai iced tea paired with the fried chicken wings, or lighten things up with the rice ball salad. // It may not look like much from the outside, but Messob Ethiopian Restaurant (4301 Piedmont Ave.) never fails to hit the spot. Whether you're looking for a veggie sampler (order the vegetarian messob), beef kifto, or lamb tibs served alongside a basket of warm injera, make sure and try it with a glass of honey wine—a polarizing sipper you'll either love or hate. // Much like its sister location in Rockridge, pint-sized Italian space Belotti Bottega (4001B Piedmont Ave.) specializes in fresh-made Italian, with all of the pastas, sauces, and desserts made in house daily. Try snagging one of the few barstools, or order some next-level pappardelle and wild boar sugo to dress up an evening in.

Beer and Cocktails

The bamboo-bedecked tiki hideaway The Kona Club(4401 Piedmont Ave.) is a must-hit for dangerously strong drinks and tropical decorations galore—ranging from blowfish light fixtures to a topless metal hula girl whose hips sway from side to side. Order a macadamia nut chi chi or split a scorpion bowl with friends before trying your hand at giant Connect-Four or Jenga. // Hunting lodge-themed watering hole The Lodge(3758 Piedmont Ave.) comes complete with taxidermy and plenty of wood paneling. Although the interior wood-and-stone bar is inviting, grab one of the frequently changing boozy slushies and head to the outdoor patio when the weather warms. // Cato's Ale House (3891 Piedmont Ave.) has long served as Piedmont Avenue's no-frills destination for good beer and solid pub food. The ever-changing tap lists often features hard-to-find craft brews on its 23 taps (including fresh keys of Pliny tapped every Tuesday at 2pm), and local bands provide free live music three times a week. // Long in need of a dedicated classy cocktail space, Piedmont Avenue finally has a haven for the mixology-minded with the Commis-run CDP Bar(3859 Piedmont Ave.). Located next door to the lauded restaurant and focused on brandy and sparkling wine, the 24-seat space often serves as overflow for diners waiting for the prix fixe menu next door, and you'll often encounter a wait unless you come at open (which ensures imbibers aren't jockeying for elbow space at the bar). While you won't find the Commis menu, you can still ball out with caviar service, or keep things slightly more subdued with oysters over shaved melon ice, a hen liver mousseline, or hand-cut beef tartare.

Coffee, Sweets + Snacks

East Bay institution Fentons Creamery(4226 Piedmont Ave.) has been delighting kids—and the young at heart—since it opened in 1894. Try the black and tan, a Fentons original, made with vanilla and almond ice cream layered with chocolate fudge and caramel sauce, then topped with house-made whipped cream, toasted nuts, and a cherry. Or order off the secret menu, where you can find a grilled PB&J, adult-size mac 'n' cheese, and olive salad sandwich. // If you're looking for something a little lighter, take a quick walk to Lush Gelato (4184 Piedmont Ave.), which specialized in made-from-scratch gelato highlighting locally sourced ingredients. The flavors change frequently, but standouts include Guinness and chocolate waffle pieces, Cowgirl Creamery fromage blanc cookie dough, and fresh mint with chocolate chunks. // For a solid caffeine fix that's also vegan-friendly, head to Timeless Coffee (4252 Piedmont Ave.). The coffee shop not only pulls a mean espresso, but also specializes in animal-free baked goods and chocolates such as banana cream pie and s'mores peanut butter cups, plus a monthly-changing menu of heartier fare that can range from gluten-free chicken and waffles to chicken pot pie. // Adjacent to Snow White Cleaners and Alterations, Snow White Coffee (3824 Piedmont Ave.) packs plenty of personality into its pint-sized space: In addition to serving locally roasted coffee from RoastCo. and pastries from Starter Bakery, the staff knows how to let loose with the tip jars, with patrons often using their money to vote on everything from the best fitness fad (thigh master or shake weight?) to mashed potato preferences.


Dress Up for You and Your Home

Half the fun at Mercy Vintage (4188 Piedmont Ave.) is sifting through the color-coded racks for the perfect thrifted find—the other is knowing that owners Karen Anderson Fort and Rachel Cubra have done most of the work for you by culling the very best high-quality vintage treasures and old-school designer duds. The ever-changing inventory is hard to predict, but you can typically spy a waist-nipping retro frock or kimono-style throw on the racks. // A few doors away, Good Stock(4198 Piedmont Ave.) is the place in Oakland for all-natural skincare and makeup from beloved brands (Ilia, Drunken Elephant, RMS, Herbivore), plus well-crafted yet statement-making accessories that can veer from old-school sunnies to gem-encrusted rings to buttery soft leather clutches and pouches. // Completing the trio of must-hit stores on one short block, the (aptly located) next door Neighbor(4200 Piedmont Ave.) serves all your modern apartment, elevating your abode from drab to darling with patterned poufs, blush-toned flatware, and ombre-hued candles. Don't miss the stationery section, which makes old-school correspondence feel novel. // True to its name, Resurrect(4135 Piedmont Ave.) gives both consignment clothing and locally made goods new life, by showcasing gently loved clothing and cowboy boots alongside statement necklaces and earrings, pompom clutches, and whimsical stationery in the light-filled (and branch-filled) boutique. // For a curated mix of vintage finds and locally made goods, pay a visit to Rare Bird (3883 Piedmont Ave.), an eclectic store with a boho/western edge. In addition to stocking cozy Pendleton jackets, natural skincare from ByNieves, and nature-inspired jewelry, Rare Bird hosts frequent classes and workshops—ranging from metal jewelry stamping to screenprinting—taught by local artists at its Makers Studio. // On the hunt for a hip hostess gift? Swing by Nathan & Co. (4025 Piedmont Ave.), which also has a location in Rockridge, for kitschy kitchen utensils (mug emblazoned with "wench" anyone?), baby onesies, and all manner of one-of-a-kind pieces. Items range from the quirky (coffee foam stencils, a black and tan stool shaped like a turtle) to the practical (whiskey stones, supersoft blankets). // Piedmont newcomer Gold and Rust(4268 Piedmont Ave.) specializes in vintage, antique, and mid-century furniture and home decor. After popping up around Piedmont for a bit, the inviting boutique now finally has its own brick-and-mortar space for not only its thoughtful selection of homewares, but also a selection of gently-loved bags and clothing. // Kids clothing store Goat-Milk Kidware (4139 Piedmont Ave.) has cute down pat, and the hip new Piedmont location for this NYC brand specializes in 100-percent organic cotton basics for the wee ones in your life—perfect for gifting any eco-conscious mom-to-be.

Books, Comics + Magazines

Tucked into a side street off Piedmont Avenue, Issues(20 Glen Ave.) serves as a haven for print lovers, and features one of the largest selections of magazines in Oakland, including international releases, limited editions, and zines. You'll also find displays filled with letterpress stationery from local artists, glossy art books, and plentiful planners. Issues also hosts readings, signings, and live broadcasts. // For more than 25 years, Dr. Comics & Mr. Games(4014 Piedmont Ave.) and its well-versed staff have stocked plenty of materials to keep your inner geek busy, from racks on racks of comic books and graphic novels to a first-rate selection of board games both beloved and obscure. The indecisive will benefit from the shop's board game rental program: Your first rental is free, and you'll receive discounts for returning the games on time. // Piedmont Avenue sports a few different hot spots for bibliophiles, but by far our favorite is Owl & Company Bookshop (3941 Piedmont Ave.). You can peruse the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves packed with second-hand books (try to refrain from pulling a Belle from Beauty & the Beast), and often also score rare and antiquarian tomes—pick up a vintage Agatha Christie or sci-fi novel with a '70s cover for an instant conversation starter.

Related Articles
Now Playing at SF Symphony
View this profile on Instagram

7x7 (@7x7bayarea) • Instagram photos and videos

From Our Partners