Block Party Goes to Jack London Square

Get to know JLS: Here's where to eat, play, and Shop.


Bicycle Coffee makes pedal-powered deliveries to restaurants and businesses in and near Oakland.

Chris Duffey

Perched along the Oakland Estuary, the strait that connects Oakland and Alameda, Jack London Square and its surrounding neighborhood teem with historic hot spots and tourist-friendly attractions. In recent years, the area south of gritty Interstate 880 has started to attract more than just out-of-towners looking to sidle up for a drink at Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon; these days, Oaklanders are enjoying a new wave of buzz-worthy restaurants, urban wineries, and artful festivals in the area.

For more two-wheeled fun, pair a bike ride with an urban winery tour. East Bay Winery Bike Tours outfit you with wheels, helmet, and an itinerary that takes you along scenic paths to find the area’s best urban wineries in Oakland, Alameda, and Berkeley. Along the way, expect a break for a picnic that might include homemade focaccia bread, organic fruit, and chocolate treats. 510-285-7884,

Shopping in Jack London Square requires some planning, but it’s worth it. Every second Saturday of the month, the Jack of All Trades show fills the square’s sidewalks—or, from January to March, the bottom levels of the six-story Harrison building—with one-of-a-kind finds: sound-wave jewelry, sweet-potato– peach pie, wooden greeting cards.

Alternatively, mark your calendar for the popular Jack’s Night Market on a first Friday for clothing, art, and live music and entertainment during the warmer months. 510-645-9292,

Need a pick-me-up? Grab a cup of joe from the Bicycle Coffee headquarters on Second Street. If you like what you taste, pick up some freshly roasted beans right there. The company also makes pedal-powered deliveries to restaurants and businesses in Oakland, Berkeley, and Emeryville.

Restaurants reign in Jack London Square, where diners can get a glimpse of bobbing boats and the Bay Bridge from tables inside venerable establishments such as Scott’s Seafood Restaurant and Kincaid’s Bay House, or on a nice day, from the sunny decks of noteworthy newcomers Haven, Forge, and Bocanova.

But for a taste of something new, head just outside the square onto Broadway for Centouno Taverna. Opened in December 2013, the Italian establishment is inspired by owner Fabio Dalle Vacche’s family trattoria that operated for more than 40 years near Parma, Italy. The menu is the real deal, featuring a selection of his mom’s recipes such as torta frita with cured meats, pesto al Genovese, and frittelle di miele (deep-fried apple rings). Wash down the rich flavors with a glass the house Zin, among other drinks from the rustic bar. The cozy space is at once homey, with its handmade wooden tables and red-checker curtains, and upscale with a private dining area. It’s also historic: The restaurant is located in what was long known as the Overland House, a favorite haunt of London himself. 510-433-5030,

For another set of authentic flavors, go to the northeast corner of the district on Oak Street, just below I-880, for fresh Mexican fare at Nido. Crunch on crisp house-made tortilla chips dipped in guacamole or dunked in a chile negra salsa; sink your teeth into the cemita—a delightfully messy lunch sandwich packed with pulled chicken drenched in Oaxacan red mole; and bring an appetite (or friends to share with) for dinner dishes that could include a chipotle-rubbed chicken and colorful veggies, or slow-braised beef served with rice, beans, and pico de gallo. Bonus: The farm-to-table restaurant can also adapt its meaty menu for vegetarians and vegans.

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