Jack London Square on Oakland's waterfront (©Jack London Square)
Less than 10 years ago, few locals lived in or visited Jack London Square except to take the ferry or catch a show at Yoshi’s. Now, thanks to an influx of condominiums, hot new restaurants and indoor and outdoor activities, Jack London is a go-to destination for dining, bar-hopping, entertainment and urban living.
Jack London Square’s history lives alongside new development to create a lively mix of ancient dive bars and eclectic restaurants. With the upcoming arrival of a residential/commercial project dubbed Brooklyn Basin and the anticipated local food haven Water Street Market, Jack London Square has even more excitement in its future.
Haven offers a family style prix fixe menu of inventive comfort food. The lounge menu includes salads, small plates and house-made pastas. A new neighborhood mainstay, Chop Bar, serves sustainable gastropub fare for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with beer and wine on tap. Spacious Overland bucks all the hip trends with its live country and bluegrass and hearty menu of stuffed burgers, sandwiches, simple sides and St. Louis-style pizza. For dining al fresco, enjoy the scenic patio at Bocanova, which serves Pan-Latin cuisine and innovative cocktails. Another newcomer, Jack’s Oyster Bar & Fish House, features a raw bar and fish-centered dishes in a modern atmosphere. For those who don’t eat anything with eyes, Souley Vegan will satisfy a hankering for greens, black-eyed peas, grits and okra gumbo.
Jack London is known for its high watering hole ratio, beginning with Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon, Oakland’s oldest bar. Opened in 1883 as a seaman’s first and last chance for a drink before work, the bar hasn’t changed much since Jack London studied there. Beer aficionados will appreciate Beer Revolution’s 50 rotating taps and hundreds of bottles. Wine connoisseurs should stop at Encuentro for tapas and a glass of organic, sustainable wine from domestic and European vintners. Or, enjoy local zinfandel and Rhone-style wines at Rosenblum Cellars, located steps away from the ferry terminal. Even Oakland Juice and Co., which specializes in organic juice blends, has a cocktail bar with cold-pressed infused cocktails. Blue Bottle, however, does one thing well: coffee. It’s worth the wait for a simple drip coffee or cappuccino.
Jack London Square’s spacious waterfront makes a perfect outdoor market setting. On Sundays, shop for organic produce, baked goods, and specialty fare at the Farmer’s Market. On the second Saturday of the month, the Jack of All Trades market features a mix of local artists, artisans, antique collectors and DIY workshops. In the summer, Jack’s Night Market, a bazaar with local crafts, fruit purveyors, music and street performers, takes place the third Friday of the month. Every day of the week, small shops such as Quantity Postcards and the Peerless Coffee Co. invite customers.
Friday night fun continues with Dancing Under the Stars, where experienced dancers and newcomers alike gather for free salsa, swing or cha cha lessons followed by a dance party. Outdoor enthusiasts can take kayak or paddleboarding lessons with California Canoe & Kayak, or explore the Bay Trail, Lake Merritt and beyond with a bike rented from Bay Area Bikes. For some friendly competition, the expansive Plank offers 18 bowling lanes, three bocce courts, two billiard tables and video games—oh, and beer, of course! Finally, a trip to Jack London Square isn’t complete without a visit to Yoshi’s, the Bay Area’s premier location for jazz music. Its Japanese cuisine does not disappoint.
Jack London Square is easily accessible via I-880 from the Oakland International Airport. Approximate cab fare is $35. The ferry terminal and Amtrak station, both located in the heart of Jack London Square, take passengers to San Francisco, Angel Island State Park and, in the case of Amtrak, pretty much anywhere else. Jack London is also a few blocks from the 12th Street BART station.