Hanging Out on Park Boulevard
On the southeast side of Lake Merritt, find current hip-hop, a blast to the past, and restaurants to ruin your diet.
Brighten your day at May Flowers.
Photos by Pat Mazzera
Just a few steps away from the southeastern shore of Lake Merritt, Park Boulevard slopes down through the Cleveland Heights neighborhood and terminates at 18th Street. And set among Victorians, murals, and redwoods, the small enclave of businesses on this final stretch of Park offers an eclectic glimpse into Oakland’s past and future.
Park Boulevard Records.
Rap nerds, take heed: Park Boulevard Records has a seriously deep collection of hip-hop memorabilia and albums on vinyl, cassette, and CD, with a focus on Bay Area artists like Luniz and Mac Dre. Owners Andrew “Noz” Nosnitsky and Jason Darrah are hip-hop critics and bloggers and sold records online for years before opening their brick-and-mortar store. Whether you get down with Philly Rap, G-Funk, or Dirty South, you’ll find some gems at Park Boulevard Records. The owners also buy and trade.
2014 Park Blvd., 510-879-7952, ParkBlvdRecords.com
Brighten your day at May Flowers, a family-owned and operated local florist creating beautiful arrangements for any occasion. Step inside the store and you’ll find a colorful selection of seasonal flowers and vases of all shapes and sizes. The staff is dedicated to doing whatever it takes to make customers happy, whether that means working with brides on the perfect bouquet, delivering a cheerful arrangement to an ailing relative, or designing tasteful centerpieces for corporate events.
1900 Park Blvd., 510-893-2628, OaklandMayFlower.com
Dive bars seem to be disappearing from Oakland, but Parkway Lounge is a refuge for those seeking a cold beer, a good game, and friendly locals. The bar is dim, and the walls are decorated with chalk drawings of Bruce Lee and Bob Marley, befitting the funky-dive aesthetic. With two pool tables, a wide selection of beers on tap, and screens broadcasting all the local teams, Parkway is a great neighborhood bar, and one of the last in a dying breed.
1850 Park Blvd., 510-451-7231
Walking down Park Boulevard, art is all around you. Murals decorate buildings along Park beginning at the old Parkway Theater, closed since 2009, and continuing for several blocks. Though not as compact as San Francisco’s Balmy Alley, the Murals along Park are as beautifully rendered and politically stirring as their more famous cousins across the bay. Community Rejuvenation Project created the mural on the front of the Parkway Theater, named Spiritual Release, as well as one down the street in front of O’Reilly Auto Parts named Peace of Mind. Yuen’s Automotive, at the corner of 19th and Park, has two faces of its building decorated with a tribute to Oakland musicians.
FM Smith Park.
FM Smith Park is named for Francis Marion “Borax” Smith, an Oakland entrepreneur and father of the Key System who made his considerable fortune in borax mining. The park was dedicated in 1969 and featured a 20-member team of iron mules that harkened back to Smith successfully hauling borax across Death Valley on a mule train. Today only four mules remain, but the park sports two play structures, a basketball court, shady redwoods, and a wide expanse of sloping grass perfect for picnicking.
1969 Park Blvd., 510-238-PARK
Rooz Cafe, in its current location for the last eight years, is an easy-going neighborhood coffee shop and cafe. A giant cat painted on the wall outside greets visitors, and pen-and-ink drawings by local artists decorate the interior and are available for purchase. Rooz offers a variety of sandwiches for lunch and breakfast, a full menu of coffee drinks, and many craft beers on tap and in bottles. Dogs are welcome, as well as fans of ’60s and ’70s era rock ’n’ roll.
1918 Park Blvd., 510-123-4567
Casa Vallarta Restaurant.
If you’re looking for comfort food, Casa Vallarta Restaurant is the place to go. This family-owned Mexican restaurant promises great food at affordable prices, with a menu that includes favorites and specialties: tamales, menudo, birria de res—a spicy beef stew, and mulas, which are small, handmade tortillas filled with meat and topped with pico de gallo and fresh avocado slices. And if you like a little chorizo in your eggs, Casa Vallarta is also open for breakfast.
1910 Park Blvd., 510-834-8915
L&S Super Burrito and Seafood is not the place to go if you’re watching your waistline. But if you love fish and chips, Philly cheese steak, and golden fries smothered in cheese and jalapeños, L&S will hook you up. The restaurant is small and mostly specializes in carryout, but portions are large and filling and will feed your most hedonistic culinary impulses.
329 E. 18th St., 510-625-1700
Published online on Jan. 18, 2017 at 8:00 a.m.