Ask longtime Oakland residents for the geographic constraints that define the city's Uptown district, and you'll hear everything from the sliver of space between 14th and 17th streets to the blocks that stretch from 12th to 25th.
Ask them when it first received the moniker Uptown (despite being located in what other municipalities would consider decidedly downtown), most will reference the renovation of the Fox Theater or the turn of the new millennium as benchmarks. But ask which area of the city most encapsulates Oakland today, with its juxtaposition of old and new mixed with rapid gentrification, opportunity, and possibility, and there's no ambiguity: It's Uptown Oakland.
Before the area was officially dubbed "the arts and entertainment" district of the city, Uptown's potential felt largely unfulfilled, with abandoned storefronts and longtime mom-and-pop shops. Although beloved by locals, the neighborhood failed to entice visitors from the surrounding communities, especially San Francisco. Now one of Oakland's hippest hoods, Uptown, with its robust mix of dining, shopping, and nightlife, has been luring San Franciscans from their oceanside enclave.
If there's one thing Uptown has proved over the years, it's a district that's always primed for reinvention—and poised to defy definition.
The Best Restaurants in Uptown Oakland
Having just snagged an illustrious Michelin nod for its playful, irreverent style and excellent food, Hi Felicia (326 23rd St.) is without a doubt the hottest fine dining restaurant in the East Bay. Their multi-course meals have Mexican, Japanese, and Southern influences—and a vibe that disrupts everything you thought you knew about tasting menus. // Unleash your inner carnivore beneath the neon glow of swanky, diner-inspired Palmetto (1900 Telegraph Ave). The modern steakhouse serves hearty meals like grilled pork chops with huckleberry barbecue sauce and grilled steak with cream of mushroom sauce, alongside creative and classic cocktails. // At chef Kyle Itani's Itani Ramen (1736 Telegraph Ave.), counter service and slurpable cuisine keep the vibe relaxed, but the seasonally changing menu shows finesse and an intimate familiarity with Japanese food. Daily "genki" happy hour specials (from 3-5:30pm) and a dessert and snack vending machine sweeten the deal. // As the unofficial centerpiece of The Hive, Calavera (2337 Broadway) immediately beckons with exposed brick, soaring ceilings, an open kitchen, and a meticulously organized wall of spirits. Adventurous diners will get a kick out of lengua tacos and guacamole topped with Oaxacan chapulines (grasshoppers), but less esoteric dishes such as the queso flameado made with sotol, still satisfy. It's hard to go wrong with one of the bar's tequila and mezcal selections, but the Salt Air Sandia is a favorite for a reason. // The OG Uptown Japanese-inflected diner Hopscotch (1915 San Pablo Ave.) churns out unexpected riffs on more traditional menu items. An uni topped oyster and a burger with griddled beef tongue remain among the can't-miss options. // Chef Kyle Itani’s third Uptown venture, Yonsei Handrolls (1738 Telegraph Ave.), crafts approachable sushi, no chopsticks required. Five taco-sized rolls with fillings like soy-cured ahi tuna and kimchi fried rice with spam and eggs come with every omaka set, unfussy compliments to a handful of starters, sake, and cocktails. // Chef-owner Nelson German's alaMar (100 Grand Ave.) is the perfect place for $1.25 oysters and drink specials on game day, girls' night out, or a relaxed evening over craft-your-own seafood boils. // The Oaxacan-infused Agave Uptown (2135 Franklin St.) features a colorful folk art mural, authentic renditions of dishes such as enmoladas, chicken mole negro, and an impressive array of mezcals. In line with its location in the Kapor Center for Social Impact, Agave attempts to build on the center's mission to narrow gaps in opportunity and access for underrepresented communities. // The same team behind Bar 355 opened the rustic Cal-Italian spot, Parlour (357 19th St). With a focus on the open kitchen's wood-fired oven, which churns out roasted chicken and seasonal pizzas with perfectly blistered crusts. // At Kingston 11 (2270 Telegraph Ave.), Caribbean flavors collide in dishes such as salt fish fritters and jerk chicken, which involves marinating and smoking the poultry for hours. Weekends bring a lively crowd for island-inspired libations and classic roots and reggae music. // Ramen and unexpected izakaya (think deep fried octopus donuts and aged mochi oysters) are on call at the minimalist resto-bar Shinmai (1825-3 San Pablo Ave). // The most recent addition to chef Paul Canales’ Oakland empire, Occitania (422 24th St.) is a send up to southern French food in the hip Kissel hotel. Find comforting fare like escargot, steak frites, and chestnut tagliatelle and bright, bold cocktails on the menu at lunch, dinner, and brunch.
Grab and Go
One part "permanent pop-up" and one part punk rock, Abura-ya (362 17th St.) is a sliver of a restaurant putting a California spin on Japanese fried chicken and other izakaya-esque fare. While the array of options for the four- or eight-piece fried chicken can be daunting, you can't go wrong with the barbecue, teriyaki, or garlic miso dry rub. Round out the meal with our personal fav, deviled avocado bites. // Bare Knuckle (351 12th St.) doesn't mess around with pizza, especially the wood-fired, from-scratch Neapolitan kind. Make sure to show up when doors open—the restaurant has a tendency to sell out of its limited-run pies. If you like things spicy, keep an eye out for the TNT pizza with Thai chilies. // At Belly (1901 San Pablo Ave.), expect Korean-Mexican fusion influenced by Los Angeles street food: kimchi-stuffed tacos, steak and eggs burritos, and loaded fries, plus house-made nectars. // Quesadillas Suizas, breakfast burritos, and crispy beef tacos are among the highlights at Xolo (1916 Telegraph Ave ), a Mexican taqueria from the same team behind Tacubaya and Doña Tomas. // New York export The Halal Guys (2214 Broadway) delivers with chicken, gryos, and falafel platters and sandwiches doused in its signature red and white sauces (which are now available by the bottle). // Get your hands on toothsome breakfast pastries, buttery sweets, and seasonally changing lunch sandwiches made on crusty-loafed slices at Firebrand Artisan Breads (2343 Broadway). // The second location of Beauty's Bagel Shop (1700 Franklin St.) is a essential outpost for Montreal-style wood-fired bagels topped with silky cream cheese and smoked salmon and sandwiching fried chicken. // Uptown has two competing hot chicken joints, World Famous Hotboys (1601 San Pablo Ave.) and Hotbird (1951 Telegraph Ave). The only way to find your spicy chicken sandwich soulmate is to try them both (plus fixin’s like waffle fries, cheesy grits, beans, and greens). // Craving a burger or a weiner with all the fixin’s? Lovely’s (2344 Webster St.) has you covered. Pop in for a Coney Island dog (that’s with chili and cheese for the uninitiated) or make your original fried onion burger vegan with an Impossible patty. // Shwamarji (2123 Franklin St.) brings tasty Jordanian-style eats to Uptown with its savory chicken shawarma and crispy falafel.
Swank tropical hideaway Sobre Mesa (1618 Franklin St.) joyfully crafts Afro-Latino tapas and refined cocktails that nod to chef Nelson German’s Dominican heritage. Don’t miss brunch, when dishes like braised oxtail hash are served in the lush lounge. // Escape to the South Pacific at The Kon Tiki Room (1900 Telegraph Ave.) for tropical drinks of the frozen and fruity variety, and elevated finger foods like mini corn dogs served with chili and thyme honey, and fish sticks with miso creme fraiche. // The slim, bobble-hung Viridian (2216 Broadway) has hyper-seasonal cocktails, Asian-inspired dim sum and desserts, and a soundtrack so bangin’ they had to make their curated Spotify playlists public to soothe the masses. // Art, cocktails, and inventive bar food collide inside Mua (2442 Webster St.), an industrial space, rumored to be a postgame favorite of Warriors players. Stop by for the daily happy hour when you'll score the best deals on small bites such as shiitake crostini and crispy polenta, plus seasonal cocktails and wine and beer. // The Spanish-inspired Duende (468 19th St.) offers an array of pintxos and tapas, plus larger dishes meant to be split between two to four diners. Order the patatas bravas and buňuelos de tres quesos to accompany one of the bar's list of half dozen sherries to start, and don't skip a paella de carne and bottle of Spanish wine for the table. // Mockingbird (416 13th St.) specializes in sophisticated yet approachable seasonal cuisine, ranging from fried Brussels sprouts served with blue cheese to grilled whole branzino. Grab a spot at the roomy 20-seat bar and sip a cocktail made with locally produced spirits. // Although Classic Cars West (411 26th St.), the classic car purveyor cum art gallery with a beer garden and vegan restaurant, is currently only open for special events and First Fridays, it’s worth sleuthing out a time to stop by.
Coffee + Treats in Uptown Oakland
San Francisco favorite Humphrey Slocombe (2335 Broadway) unleashes its offbeat flavors from the shipping container storefront in the courtyard of The Hive, including Secret Breakfast, Blue Bottle Vietnamese Coffee, and Elvis (the Fat Years). // You can watch as the ice cream makers at Little Giant Ice Cream (1951 Telegraph Ave.) churn out new flavors ranging from a vegan matcha green tea ice cream to Mexican rocky road made with TCHO chocolate. Have your pooch in tow? They also make ice cream for dogs. // Swing in for a breakfast egg bake served with ciabatta toast and lemon mint maté iced tea at Sweet Bar Bakery (2355 Broadway), or pick up an afternoon treat from the artisanal display of tender ginger cookies, Champagne truffles, and indulgent cupcakes made with organic, local ingredients.
At Farley's East (33 Grand Ave.), order a double ristretto espresso and egg sandwich, borrow a magazine from the reading rack, and soak in some rays on Farley's outdoor parklet. // The nonprofit rescue Cat Town Café (2869 Broadway) removes the most vulnerable cats from East Bay shelters and socializes the felines, many of whom make it into the Cat Zone, where you can interact with up to 35 adoptable cats. The café is run by Rawr Coffee Bar, with Highwire coffee and espresso drinks as well as baked goods for the humans and toys and treats for the felines. // Awaken Café (1429 Broadway) first caused a stir with its anti-laptop stance, meant to promote actual conversations between patrons over lattes made with Strauss organic milk and Firebrand pastries. The roomy coffee shop also serves as a good gathering place near Latham Square, offering draft beer and wine until 7pm Wednesday through Sunday. // Grab a cup of artisan joe or a bag of beans from Red Bay Coffee Roasters’ (2327 Broadway) charming converted shipping container outside the Impact Hub.
The Best Bars in Uptown Oakland
Beer + Bars With Live Music and Games
Uptown Oakland has no shortage of outdoor spaces to kick back and enjoy a cold one, but nowhere does it quite as successfully as Telegraph Beer Garden (2318 Telegraph Ave). To plan a perfect Sunday, bring your crew, order a round of boozy Greyhound slushies from the outdoor bar, and come to terms with your inevitable sunburn as a quick hangout slowly melts into a day of drinking. // While the rotating gallery and impressive, mostly domestic draft brew selection at The Good Hop Bar & Bottle Shop (2421 Telegraph Ave. #102) are more than enough to satisfy beer lovers, the real star is the refrigerated section, which takes up an entire back wall and houses roughly 450 canned and bottled beers from around the world. // The longtime San Leandro brewery Drake's (2325 Broadway Auto Row) reimagined a former Dodge dealership in the buzzing Hive complex into an expansive, 350-seat pub and beer garden where you'll find 32 beers on draft (including a few guest taps), grub ranging from popcorn chicken to wood-fired pizzas, and plenty of space to stretch out near a fire pit on the dog-friendly patio. // Dying for a space to kick back, down a beer, and catch the game on one of 37 TVs or three projectors? The Athletic Club Oakland (59 Grand Ave.) more than fits the bill by not only promising to play every game on one of its screens, but by pairing this cornucopia of sports programming with a bar top made from a reclaimed basketball court, cages filled with inscribed baseballs (you can add your own message-adorned ball for $10, with proceeds going to charity), and a dedicated "sky booth" on the second level you can rent out for small groups. // Icon Peter Van Kleef transformed the Telegraph mainstay Cafe Van Kleef (1621 Telegraph Ave.) into a delightfully random watering hole more than a 15 years ago, way before the area was hip. It's not uncommon to find yourself leaning against a naked sculpture, sipping a freshly squeezed greyhound while a DJ whips up the crowd on the tiny dance floor. // Start downstairs at Drexl (382 19th St.) for a selection of drafts, a local whiskey flight, or a dealer's choice cocktail crafted at the whim of the bartender, then head to the mezzanine for a game of skee ball. // Nightly special events and drink names that aren't shy about sexual innuendo make gay bar The Port Bar Oakland (2023 Broadway) a much-needed draw seven days a week. Tuesday trivia night, drag night Wednesdays, and Thursday karaoke round out weekend DJ nights with shirtless go-go dancers. // Get your game on at the grown-up arcade and bar Emporium (1805 Telegraph Ave.) where they have everything from pinball to Ms. Pac-Man, and DJ nights that ratchet the party up to 11.
Cocktails + Wine
Cozy wine bar The Punchdown (1737 Broadway) pours vino with a focus on organic, minimal-intervention winemaking. If you're a neophyte in the world of natural wine, flights and helpful staff make deciphering the sometimes daunting list of pours and bottles more approachable. // With its analog record players and shelves of vinyl, Bar Shiru (1611 Telegraph Ave.) launched the Japanese hi-fi listening bar movement that's slowly swelling over the Bay Area. Alongside music from their collection of soul, jazz, and groove records, the sleek, acoustically primed space serves up sophisticated cocktails and highballs, many revolving around Japanese spirits. // Industrial, graphic novel–inspired First Edition (1915 Broadway) is a massive space fit for a crowd with two mezzanines, two full bars, and that rarest of beasts, a roof deck. Choose from a selection of cocktails dedicated to comic heroes and villains, especially at happy hour (weekdays from 5pm to 7pm), when draft old fashioneds, palomas, and more are just $7. // Color-drenched Night Heron (1780 Telegraph Ave.) celebrates Oakland’s diversity through the work of local artists and low-waste draft cocktails, beer, wine, and low- and no-ABV options. Two specially curated bento boxes from next door neighbor Itani Ramen can be delivered directly to tables lit by woven light fixtures and neon art installations. // Seasonal cocktails are crafted with precision at the long polished wood bar at Bar 355 (355 19th St.), and frequent DJ nights with themed drink specials fit the hip, retro vibe. // Commune with nature while consuming cocktails: The Double Standard's (2424 Telegraph Ave.) outdoor patio is shaded by three towering redwoods, a remnant from the space's previous life as Ms. Kim's Backyard. Off-hour bartenders from nearby establishments are a fixture, and testament to the bar's reputation for combining a laid back atmosphere with an impressive spirits selection and drink menu. // Hello Stranger (1724 Broadway) has managed to lure a sizable chunk of the Oakland nightlife crowd with an exposed brick interior, an enticing nearly ceiling-height bar with a subtle boom box theme, DJ nights and dancing, and your choice of ways to rosé all day with the omnipresent varietal served frozen, sparkling, still, or spiked. // Cocktails capitalizing on seasonal ingredients—try the garden gimlet with gin, cucumber, basil, and lime—shareable bites, and two indoor bocce courts make Make Westing (1741 Telegraph Ave.) an ideal stop for low-key date nights during the week—and for scoping out a potential partner on the weekends when singles spill over from Fox Theater. // You’ll feel right at home at the quirky, inclusive, queer + women owned Friends and Family (468 25th St.), where the cocktails are on point (they even make their own vermouth) and the proceeds from your binge drinking are reinvested in the community. // Bury your toes in the sand while you sip on tropical drinks at Sandbar (2418 Broadway). It’s about as close as you can get to the beach without leaving Uptown.
Where to See a Show, Dance + Get Lit in Uptown Oakland
Concerts + Theatre
The Paramount Theatre (2025 Broadway), a 3,000-plus seat specimen of Art Deco design and a National Historic Landmark that originally opened in the 1930s, not only draws big name music acts and speakers but also hosts beloved classic movie nights that include a Mighty Wurlitzer organ serenade before the screenings. // In addition to popular improv classes for honing your "yes and" skills, at Pan Theater (120 Frank Ogawa Plaza) you'll find weekend live shows from trained comedians. // The New Parkway (474 24th St.) is both a place to catch a flick with seat-side food and drinks and a community gathering spot. Outside of film programming with frequent post-movie discussions and throw back nights, the theater invites locals to the mezzanine for poker, drink and draw events, trivia, and karaoke. // Originally opened in 1928, the Fox Theater (1807 Telegraph Ave.) shuttered in the 1960s and was dormant for more than 40 years until it finally reopened in 2009 after a multimillion-dollar renovation. Now, the popular 2,800-seat concert venue run by Another Planet Entertainment draws around-the-block crowds for a mix of mainstream and indie acts ranging from the Naked and Famous to Neko Case, with a smattering of big comedians also gracing the stage. // Eater named 100-year old Thee Stork Club (2330 Telegraph Ave.), whose 2022 redesign was inspired by the Madonna Inn, the best bar of the year for a divey maximalist style that draws live bands from near and far.
Glide your way around the Oakland Ice Center (519 18th St.) during public skate hours, join drop-in hockey play, or sign up for a figure skating class. // If you're new to rock climbing, grab a friend and sign up for an intro class at Great Western Power Co. (520 20th St.) to learn the ropes, then test out your climbing and belaying skills on more than 11,000 square feet of climbing terrain.
Every First Friday of the month (5-9pm), crowds of more than 20,000 people descend on Telegraph Avenue, from West Grand to 27th Street, for an epic immersive art and community street fair with gourmet food vendors, musicians, artists, and performers. You can't go wrong gallery hopping to get a feel for the city's diverse arts scene (try Rock Paper Scissors), but be sure to leave time for checking out the Great Wall of Oakland—a 100-by-100-foot projection installation that's hosted everything from Powerpoint karaoke to suspended dance group Project Bandaloop. // In addition to Starline Social Club's (2236 Martin Luther King Jr. Way) enviable location in a historic former saloon, the two-story restaurant and music venue's main strength is its impressive knack for eclectic programming and frequent DJ events. // Tour Uptown’s murals. Among the neighborhood’s public masterpieces are the homeland homage Welcome 2 Afrikatown, the evocative Intuitivism, and the celebratory Oakland Dreams. // Explore Uptown’s up-and-coming artists on a 25th Street Gallery Tour. The excursion hits three to four galleries and ends with a drink at a local bar.
Uptown Oakland's Coolest Indie Boutiques
At the flagship Taylor Jay (2355 Broadway), versatile, sustainable, and adaptable womens’ clothing will elevate your look whether you are a homebody or a mover and shaker. // It's a rare day when shopping for adult toys feels as high brow as selecting a piece of art, but Feelmore (1703 Telegraph Ave.) owner Nenna Joiner aims to remove the stigma and embarrassment that often comes from a visit to the sex shop by re-envisioning how the experience should feel. At the sex-positive space, toys are stylishly displayed on well-lit shelves, paintings celebrating the female form dot the walls, and stacks of vintage Playboys are available for purchase. // After more than a 15 years in business, it's no surprise that McMullen (2257 Broadway) continues to fill their expertly curated hangers and shelves with the top looks each season. This is the spot in Oakland to score covetable clothing from notable brands such as Tibi, Proenza Schouler, and Ulla Johnson, as well as duds from lesser-known designers destined to turn heads at your next event. // You'll likely recognize Oaklandish's (1444 Broadway) signature tree symbol from its popular line of T-shirts and other branded goods, but the shop also celebrates its city pride with apparel in Oakland sports teams' colors and a selection of made-in-Oakland goods. Stop by on First Fridays for a monthly party, and leave with colorful artwork or a supersoft hoodie in a complimentary tote with a free sticker. // Minimalist dressers will love the locally owned boutique Viscera's (1542 Broadway) selection of gray-scale clothing for both men and women from small, independent designers, plus 3-D printed jewelry customized and crafted in house. // Well-groomed gents flock to the Oakland location of Peoples Barber & Shop (2337 Broadway #101) in the Hive for straight-razor shaves that include an old-school hot towel treatment, hip haircuts, and "testosterone-charged gossip." // A comic book club, figurines and collectibles, and knowledgeable staff are just a few of the highlights at the well-curated comic and graphic novel shop, Cape and Cowl Comics (1601 Clay St.). // Stock up on streetwear style and kicks for the whole family, at feel-great-look-better boutique, Good News Apparel (352 17th St).
Shop holiday gifts from Oakland makers.
Still searching for perfect presents? Your first (and only) stop could easily be Mischief (3908 MacArthur Blvd), a 25-year old, family-owned business stocked with giftables from more than 200 Bay Area makers. // You’ll find creative gifts—everything from stickers and key chains to hoodies and art prints—by makers with deep ties to Oakland at E14 Gallery (461 9th St). // Metaphysically minded friends will love something from Queen Hippie Gypsy (337 14th St.), Oakland’s first Black-owned crystal and botanical emporium. // Stock foodie kitchens with delicious, hand-mixed blends from Oaktown Spice Company (546 Grand Ave.); barbecue sauce from Town favorite Everett & Jones (4245 MacArthur Blvd); and gift cards to Sakura Bistro (388 9th Street, 2nd floor) and Umami Mart (4027 Broadway). Plus, shop Visit Oakland’s shopping guide this season.
Why not stay a while? Uptown Oakland’s urbane new Kissel Hotel (2455 Broadway) is within walking distance of the neighborhood’s shops, scene-making eateries, and concert venues.
Thank you to our partners at Visit Oakland.
Leave a comment