Some New and Old Faves at Jack London Square
The waterfront shopping and dining district is gaining velocity — again.
After some leisurely shopping and dining at Jack London Square, take to the water in a kayak from California Canoe & Kayak.
Photo by Lance Yamamoto
Named after Oakland’s well-known literary son and Oakland High School graduate, Jack London Square is steeped in seafaring and accompanying watering hole history. The Call of the Wild author was a regular at the still-in-operation Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon (est. 1883). More than a century later, you can still find a good beer (and glass of wine) on the square, as well as dine finely, shop locally, and explore Oakland’s past.
From handcrafted jewelry to backpacks, soaps, and artisan food items, the Oakland Supply Company curates some of the best American-made goods to make shopping local easy. The brick-walled, rustic-meets-modern shop is an offshoot of Oaklandish (you can find the full array of Oaklandish goods there, too). Unique gifts are expertly laid out in this high-ceilinged, light-filled space. 1444 Broadway, 510-251-9500, OakSupply.co.
Narrative offers affordable vintage goods with an emphasis on mid-century modern with the promise that each carefully chosen item tells a story. Divided into distinct stylistic sections (like “modern industrial”), the eclectic shop offers an ever-changing display of home décor and other treasures. Don’t forget to check out the art studios in the back of the shop. 560 Second St., 510-250-9044, NarrativeOak.com.
The Oakland outlet of Heliotrope, the SF skin-care company, offers high-quality products made in small batches with organic ingredients. The cozy shop offers custom blends to cater to your personal needs and refills to cut down on packaging. Body lotions, oils, hair-care products, travel sets, and aromatherapy spray mists are some of the self-care offerings. 308 Jackson St., Suite 1, 415-643-4847, HeliotropeSF.com.
Take a kayak tour of Jack London Square and watch the moon rise over the glassy surface of the estuary. The leisurely paddle from California Canoe & Kayak starts at sunset and extends an hour and a half or so. No previous experience is necessary, and kids 14 and older are welcome. Stand up paddleboard, or SUP, tours are also available from the square to Treasure Island. You can also rent kayaks and SUPs to go at your own pace. 409 Water St., 510-893-7833, CalKayak.com.
The 500-mile Bay Trail runs through Jack London Square from the Oakland Ferry Terminal on Clay Street to Estuary Park and Aquatic Center. The 1-mile waterfront stroll traverses the boardwalk, sidewalks, and granite paths. Peruse the neighborhood, pack a picnic lunch, or sit on a bench and watch the boats roll by. If you are feeling especially ambitious, walk past the square and into neighborhoods beyond. Plans are in place to connect the trail from Lake Merritt to Jack London Square. 415-778-6700, BayTrail.org.
A slice of U.S. presidential history is moored in the square’s waters. Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s beloved “Floating White House,” aka the USS Potomac, is available for dockside and cruising tours around the bay. The historic yacht was the site of informal meetings with European royalty and other dignitaries and was even used as a decoy for a clandestine rendezvous with Winston Churchill to plan the Allied partnership. 540 Water St., 510-627-1215, USSPotomac.org.
East Oakland mom-and-pop favorite Grocery Cafe took over the Hahn’s Hibachi space at the mouth of the square last year. Here you can find home-style Burmese fare — from a zippy tea leaf salad to more esoteric dishes, like oxtail masala or veal osso buco, and some vegan options, too. The prices are affordable and the service is friendly. 90 Franklin St., 925-566-4877.
One of the newest additions to the area’s dining scene, Belcampo opened a meat-centric flagship in July. The Oakland outlet of the restaurant/butchery is tailored to the city’s international flavor — Korean barbecue beef ribs, Argentinian mixed grill, Thai lamb larb. But don’t forget the staples, i.e., the 21-day, dry-aged burger or the more expensive 100-day variety. All of the meats served and sold here are sustainably raised on the company’s Mount Shasta farm. 55 Webster St., 510-250-9491, Belcampo.com/restaurant/oakland-restaurant-butcher-shop.
Chop Bar is a reliable neighborhood spot with hearty entrees, local beers and wines on tap, and wooden communal tables that invite conversation (a bit of a walk from the square proper). It’s open all hours of the day — in the mornings for coffee, late at night for creative cocktails, and in between for lunch and dinner. The succulent meatloaf and burger are always safe bets, but make sure to check out the oxtail poutine for a real treat. 247 Fourth St., Suite 111, 510-834-2467, OaklandChopBar.com.