Holiday 2014 – A Closer Look at Downtown Oakland

January 1-4, 2015

After dinner at Rivoli we returned to the apartment for a quiet New Year’s Eve, watching a movie and waiting for midnight and the start of what should be another great year for our family. The next day, after a relaxing morning, Kris and I made our way over to Walter’s to watch football for the afternoon while the girls went out for some shopping. Meeting up later in the afternoon, we all journeyed to Alameda for dinner at Speisekammer, a German Restaurant Lydia and Walter were acquainted with. Here is my review for Trip Advisor:

We visited Speisekammer just after the New Year as a party of six. My wife and I had just spend six months in Europe, with a month or so in Germany, a country we’ve visited many times. Our travels have convinced us that it is difficult to find a place here in America that truly duplicates the feel and flavor of a European destination but I can say the Speisekammer comes pretty close. Overall the food was excellent, nicely prepared with large portions. Most of us ordered the half portions of the entrees and were glad to have done so given how big the serving was of each.

They have a large and diverse selection of German beers on draft and my only minor complaint would be that the service was slow. I’d ordered a second beer to accompany my entree and it didn’t arrive until after the plates had cleared. Then again, slow service is a common element of European dining. Maybe they were just trying to make the setting more authentic? Anyway, we’ll return the next time we have a hankering for German food.

Both Jessica and Kris had to work on Friday so Joanna and I took advantage of the down time to get in a short bike ride from their apartment. Much like in many parts of Europe, cycling in the Bay Area is very user friendly and we followed a route I’d explored before, heading up 14th street out of downtown Oakland, turning right on to Mandela Parkway and following it to the outskirts of Emeryville, where we picked up Hollis Street and continued north towards Berkeley on 7th Street.

Friday Bike Ride

Friday Bike Ride

Berkeley is a commuting cyclists paradise. Quiet neighborhoods full of older houses, traffic calming measures on most streets, with some specifically designated as Bicycle Boulevards. When we got as far as Gillman Street, we turned right and rode the short distance to San Pablo, one of Berkeley’s main streets. We turned right and rode south taking it and a slightly different route back to the apartment, one that spun as around the edge of Lake Merritt, Joanna’s favorite destination for walking our dinky dog.

Bicycle Boulevard

Bicycle Boulevard

Later in the afternoon I went back over to Walter’s to watch UCLA play Kansas State in the Alamo Bowl. Joanna met me there and just before the end of the game, we returned to the apartment to meet Jessica and Kris who had returned from work and ordered burgers from Flipside to be delivered. Featuring all natural certified Angus Beef that is ground fresh daily, they’d ordered a variety to split, including one of my favorites, the Islander with grilled pineapple, Swiss cheese, grilled onions and teriyaki glaze. For many years there was a small takeout place on Centinela in my neighborhood named Mago’s that served, among other offerings, Teriyaki Burgers and Avocado Teriyaki Burgers. I’ve been hooked on them to this day.

Flipside Menu

Flipside Menu

Our plan for Saturday was to go to the Farmer’s Market in Alameda and then head over to Faction Brewing for beers and gourmet Corn Dogs. We’d pick up something fresh to cook for dinner that evening, grab a cup of coffee and then enjoy the afternoon sun. The market though was a bit small with few tempting offerings and when we called Faction to check about the Corn Dogs vendor, they advised that this was just a Sunday feature. So, we drove up to REI at San Pablo and Gillman, did some shopping there, then hit Berkeley Bowl to pick up ingredients for dinner and returned to the apartment to relax.

Later that evening we all went out for a stroll to explore the neighborhood and visit a couple of local watering holes. Our first stop was Diving Dog Brewhouse, a beer bar, brewery, and brew-on-premises venue that allows customers to brew beer on professional brewing equipment; they provide the recipe, equipment, ingredients, and instruction for you to craft your beer. If you just want to drink, they offer thirty rotating taps and a nice selection of wine.

Diving Dog Brewhouse

Diving Dog Brewhouse

From there we walked back to Bar Three Fifty Five, known for their interesting and very reasonably priced cocktails. It was still pretty early, not even 10pm, so there wasn’t much of crowd. I’m sure it gets packed as the evening melds into the wee hours, well past our bedtime. We walked back to the apartment and watched a movie, a nice way to end a long but enjoyable day.

Bar 355 Menu

Bar 355 Menu

We finished up our Oakland stay by making the journey out to Faction Brewing Sunday morning, arriving just before noon to beat the crowds that fill the place up in the afternoon. The corn dog folks weren’t scheduled to come until 1pm or so giving us time to enjoy a couple of Faction’s well crafted brews, sitting outdoors with stunning views of San Francisco across the bay and large ships being loaded with containers.

Faction View of the City

Faction View of the City

The brewery sits inside an old hanger, this being the former Alameda Naval Air Station. After our first round or so some of Jessica and Kris’ friends stopped by and joined us for the rest of our stay. Once the Corn Dog guys, Sticks, started serving we placed our orders and split three sausages and garlic fries. These were big hearty flavorful dogs and only our desire not to be gluttons kept us from going back for another round.

Faction Brewhouse

Faction Brewhouse

We finished up at Faction and made our way back to the apartment. Dinner that night would be a quick bacon based Spaghetti Carbonara, Jessica and Kris handling the cooking duties. It was great to see them work as a team in the kitchen and the results were equally satisfying. A bottle or so of wine made the meal even better and with the next day a workday, we all retired a little early to prepare for the week ahead.

Faction Patio

Faction Patio

It had been a very good stay in Oakland, full of fun activities and a chance to get to know this new neighborhood even better. We’d be returning in a couple of weeks and looked forward to that visit, knowing we’d get to do even more exploring. The next week would take us north to Clearlake and Oregon. Who knows what adventures would await us?

Links

Speisekammer: http://www.speisekammer.com/

Bicycle Boulevards: http://www.cityofberkeley.info/bicycleboulevards/

Lake Merritt: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Merritt

Flipside Burgers: http://www.fsburger.com/

Mago’s: https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=639469502748131&id=178909495470803

Alameda Farmers Market: http://www.pcfma.com/market_home.php?market_id=1

Berkeley Bowl: http://www.berkeleybowl.com/

Diving Dog: http://www.divingdogbrew.com/

Bar 355: http://www.yelp.com/biz/bar-three-fifty-five-oakland

Faction Brewing: http://factionbrewing.com/

Sticks Gourmet Corn Dogs: http://www.stickscorndogs.com/

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