Once just a divide between downtown and East Oakland, the Lake Merritt–adjacent Grand Lake neighborhood is now a destination-worthy cultural hub thanks to the lake's $122 million renovation.
With a booming restaurant scene, historic theater, and one heck of a beautified lagoon, you'll come for the nature but end up staying for the food. Here's everything to do in Oakland's Grand Lake 'hood.
Where to Eat in Oakland's Grand Lake
Score half-off small plates during Shakewell's happy hour.
Best brunch in town: Try your best to pick between authentic chilaquiles with pickled red onions and black beans or the savory French toast (or both!) dipped in a porcini batter and pair it with the fried donuts and a side of people-watching from the cozy front patio of Grand Lake Kitchen (576 Grand Ave.). // Two Top Chef alums serve up boldly spiced tapas—like fried stuffed olives, grilled calamari, and jamon croquetas—from a wood-burning oven at Shakewell (3407 Lakeshore Ave.), their Lakeshore Avenue restaurant. While it can be tempting to fill up on small bites, consider saving room for one of the sizeable bombas, a wood-fired paella that gets a delightfully crispy crust from its time in the oven. On Tuesdays, the restaurant hosts family-style fried-chicken dinners, which you can pair with a pitcher of beer or sangria. // Sister restaurants Boot & Shoe Service (3308 Grand Ave.) and Penrose (3311 Grand Ave.) sit conveniently across the street from each other, doubling your chances to snack on their famous wood-fired flatbread and sip a well-balanced cocktail. // It'll feel a little bit like you're dining at a friend's cozy house (in the best way possible) at The Grand Tavern (3601 Grand Ave.), which occupies an old reverted home on Grand Avenue. Vegetarians and gluten-free diners will even find something to love on the menu, which clearly marks dishes appropriate for visitors with dining restrictions. Favorites range from the social skins chips—served with jalapeno chutney, garlic aioli, and ketchup for dipping—to slow-cooked butternut squash to gluten-free fish and chips. // Grand Lake newcomer Bardo Lounge and Supper Club (3342 Lakeshore Ave.) made quite a splash when it opened in early October with mid-century decor, a 1960s-inspired cocktail menu, and reinvented small bites from classic cookbooks in the downstairs lounge and a prix fixe menu in the upstairs mezzanine. Reservations are required for the multi-course prix fixe meal, but curious visitors can experience the dinner party vibe in the lounge and bar anytime by snacking on pork belly pot pie, deviled duck eggs, or broccolini casserole washed down with a Papa Bear or California Drifter cocktail. // Get your deep-dish Chicago-style pizza fix at the Oakland outpost of San Francisco pizza joint The Star on Grand (3425 Grand Ave.), and enjoy the cornmeal-crusted pies in surprisingly airy digs alongside a glass of wine or artisanal cocktail. // It's definitely not the newest or sexiest restaurant on the block, but Grand Avenue stalwart Ikaros (3268 Grand Ave.) delivers with authentic Greek dishes ideal for sharing over a bottle of Greek wine or beer, live Greek music on Tuesdays, and brunch with a—you guessed it—Greek spin. // While probably best-known for being one of the few spots in Oakland you can still score unlimited mimosas during brunch, Cana Oakland (530 Lake Park Ave.) manages to blur the line between Cuban restaurant and party spot, serving a solid lineup of tostones, ropa vieja, and cubanos to contend with its bustling bar scene (featuring a sugarcane press) and weekend dance floor. // Lin Jia Kitchen (3437 Lakeshore Ave.) features Asian fusion food in light and airy space. Don't skip the Korean fried chicken, Cantonese noodles, or lunch specials. // New-ish pub and grill Aisle 5 (3320 Grand Ave.) filled Grand Lake's need for a laid-back hang for catching a game and some grub, with an open and inviting space, wood-fired pizzas house-made from scratch daily, multiple flat-screen TVs, and craft beer available from 20 taps by the pint or jumbo flight. // At this second location of San Francisco's Proposition Chicken (3260 Lakeshore Ave.), expect comfort-food favorites such as fried or rotisserie-style chicken, biscuits, and barbecue tofu, plus healthier sides ranging from Brussels sprouts to house-made bone broth.
Grand Lake Bars
Natural wines line the shelves at Ordinaire.
(Photo by Terri Loewenthal)
Venerable Watering Holes
The Cat House (3255 Lakeshore Ave.) feels like an upscale escape into a different decade, with art deco wallpaper, tufted velvet furniture, and a dog-friendly back patio that entices you to sprawl out in the sun. BYO food to pair with a mezcal-forward E&E or bourbon-based Coal Miner's Daughter from the cocktail menu, or tell the friendly bartenders what you like and they can whip up something to suit your taste buds. // At The Libertine (3332 Grand Ave.), you can find a surprising number of "Ds" (get your mind out of the gutter): drinks, a dance-party atmosphere, DJs, and—most surprisingly, a dill pickle in a shot glass. // Natural wine bar and shop Ordinaire (3354 Grand Ave.) pours vino crafted using organic farming methods and fermented naturally, meaning you'll get a buzz you can feel good about. The welcoming staff is more than happy to answer questions or offer recommendations for natural-wine neophytes. Swing by on a Saturday for $10 tastings featuring a different winemaker each week, or join the wine club for access to two bottles of specially selected wines each month. // At first glance, Heart & Dagger Saloon (504 Lake Ave.) feels a little rough around the edges in the same way the Mission's Zeitgeist may scare off more timid drinkers, but come with cash and decisive order and you'll have no trouble selecting a song from the decades-spanning jukebox, slipping in a game of pool or pinball, and easing onto the rock and roll bar's dog-friendly back patio. // You don't get more old-school than 85-year-old The Alley (3325 Grand Ave.), with its shingled exterior and interior, walls littered with business cards of years gone past, and lively sing-along piano scene. While local legend Rod Dibble sadly passed and no longer tickles the ivories, it's still worth a visit for the heavy pours, surprisingly good steak dinners, and a chance to belt out a classic inside a classic. // Similarly smacking of a different era, Smitty's Cocktails (3339 Grand Ave.) is a delightful neighborhood dive with shuffleboard, a pool table, a solid jukebox, and plenty of good people watching.
Coffee + Treats in Oakland's Grand Lake
Baked goods reign supreme at Arizmendi Bakery.
Grab-and-Go Snacks, Coffee, and Sweets
Grand Lake finally has a locally owned coffee shop to compete with Starbucks and Peet's: Wilde Brothers Coffee Shop (3206 Grand Ave.) not only roasts its own beans (best highlighted in a pour over), but also offers three different riffs on matcha, mochi muffins from Third Culture, and latte specials that highlight fun ingredients like orgeat and Nutella. // It's hard not to end up rubbing elbows with someone you know at baking cooperative Arizmendi Bakery (3625 Lakeshore Ave.), where locals line up (sometimes out the door) for the made-from-scratch bread, morning pastries, cookies, and pizza fired in the on-site ovens. Plan on grabbing to-go, as seating is limited and it can be especially difficult to jostle for a table on weekends. // Old-school and no frills, 24-hour Colonial Donuts (3318 Lakeshore Ave.) exudes that classic donut shop vibe, with reasonable prices for your fried favorites (try the apple fritters or old fashioned glazed), plus $1 donuts and frequent chess matches late into the evening. // Slip into the tiny Main Squeeze (3435 Lakeshore Ave.) for organic acai bowls, fresh-pressed juices, and super food–boosted smoothies such as the Maca Mama and Gold(en) Sun. // Satisfy your sweet tooth at Michael Mischer Chocolates (3352 Grand Ave.), where you'll find confections ranging from salted dark chocolate to seasonal flavors such as pumpkin milk and baked apple, plus affordable scoops of creamy gelato.
Shops + Activities in Grand Lake, Oakland
Urban Indigo serves as a one-stop shop for all gifting needs, with the prettiest window display to boot.
Hit the Highlights
There are two undisputed draws to the Grand Lake area, outside of the 3-mile-plus lakeside loop and lake itself. Follow the giant flashing marquee to the historic Grand Lake Theater (3200 Grand Ave.) on Friday and Saturday evenings, when a mighty Wurlitzer rises from the floorboards for a brief concert before the movie. And the Saturday morning Grand Lake Farmers Market (Lake Park Ave., 9am–2pm) is one of the best in the East Bay, and draws droves not only for its wide selection of local and organic produce and humanely raised meat, but also less-expected goods such as bone broth, chocolate almond milk, fragrant candles, and more.
If you want to keep spending your hard-earned cash on locally made goods or locally owned boutiques, you have a handful of top-notch options. Urban Indigo (3339 Lakeshore Ave.) is by far your best local bet for all of your gifting needs, with everything from dainty jewelry, wellness smudge sticks, cat coin purses, cozy plaid scarves, and candles featuring Prince and James Baldwin to office-not-so-friendly notebooks and desk placards stamped with phrases such as "Not today, Satan." Complimentary gift-wrapping makes the gifting even easier. // At Oak Common (3231 Grand Ave.), preppy and rocker fashion by Bridge & Burn and Curator collide on the racks, while Backstock Gallery beams film and video installations by emerging artists. // Peruse a handpicked selection of the finest craft spirits—with an emphasis on local producers—at Alchemy Bottle Shop (3256 Grand Ave.). // The upstairs space at Walden Pond Books (3316 Grand Ave.) hosts literary readings with writerly greats and holds an impressive rare book collection. // Bay-Made (3295 Lakeshore Ave.) not only offers local souvenirs and art but will teach you how to make your own, with classes great for beginners covering calligraphy, drawing, watercolor, and more. // Independent designers and well-crafted clothing are the focus for Alyce on Grand (3223 Grand Ave.), a women's boutique for one-of-a-kind pieces that will have people asking where you found that top or hand bag.