Just across the Bay Bridge at the base of the Oakland Hills, sunny, walkable Rockridge is one of Oakland’s most desirable neighborhoods. The community vibe is strong in this East Bay hamlet, where restored bungalows and gardens on tree-lined streets attract young families. The district is easily accessible from San Francisco via Bart. Exit at Rockridge Station, and you’re just a few steps from the main thoroughfare, College Avenue, a dog and baby stroller-friendly strip that makes an ideal place to spend a day eating, drinking and shopping.
The food scene here has gained enough acclaim to merit its own dedicated excursion, the Rockridge Food Tour, a two-hour outing offering a sampling of some of the neighborhood’s best eats along with cultural and historical insights. The foodie wonderland Market Hall anchors Rockridge. Under its roof are shops selling wine, produce, coffee, meat, fish, flowers and pasta. The Old World style marketplace is also home to the sophisticated Oliveto Café & Restaurant, open since 1986 and credited as the pioneer of the Bay Area’s whole animal craze.
Down the street, rustic Wood Tavern serves California comfort fare like crispy pork belly and the Wicked Good Seafood Stew. The beloved neighborhood bistro’s casual spinoff Southie specializes in gourmet sandwiches. The buzzy Ramen Shop, run by three Chez Panisse alums, makes its noodles fresh daily using a machine imported from Japan. Zachary’s Pizza is an East Bay icon, famous for its Chicago-style pies. You’ll also come across several familiar San Francisco hits across the bay in Rockridge: made-to-order cones at Smitten Ice Cream, meticulously handcrafted cups of Joe at Philz Coffee, gluten-free treats at Mariposa Bakery and Southern Italian fare at A16 Rockridge.
If caffeine is what you’re after, neighborhood stalwart Cole Coffee brews each cup to order. Beer drinkers will want to sip exotic suds at Trappist Provisions, a bar and shop that also serves food. Wine drinking gets cerebral at the Barrel Room, an education-focused wine bar where the wine flights and food focus on a specific region that changes quarterly.
If independent bookstores, vintage boutiques, record shops, art galleries and antique markets are up your alley, you’re in the right neighborhood. Find new and used titles at Pegasus Books or catch an author reading at Diesel, A Book Store. It’s easy to lose track of time in Nathan & Co., a whimsical boutique stuffed with a range of quirky yet tasteful gifts. The FloraCultural Society sells heirloom blooms grown from an urban garden under an Oakland overpass as well as plant-based candles and skincare.
Vintage hounds rave about the quality and affordability of merchandise at Pretty Penny Vintage. Handcrafted, eco-chic accessories and gifts, including children’s items and house wares, line the shelves at Atomic Garden. LP collectors should make a stop at Groove Yard, a record store respected for its knowledgeable owner and rare jazz vinyl inventory. Originally opened in a former Berkeley auto repair shop in 1970, Body Time inspired the Body Shop’s international retail empire. The store still concocts artisan skincare and bath, body and hair products custom made with perfume oils essential oils.