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Shop, Eat & Play in Oakland

Tramping Through Temescal

Like many neighborhoods in what is now Oakland, Temescal started out as its own village, joining the city in 1897. Once home to many Italian residents, Temescal today has a thriving East African community, and Oakland’s Koreatown is another near neighbor. The character of the neighborhood is rich, with delish Korean barbecue joints popping up a few blocks from the retail hub at Telegraph Avenue and 51st Street. Temescal has seen some radical changes in recent years, with old-fashioned mom-and-pop shops and such landmarks as Genova Delicatessen mixing it up with hip new stores and restaurants. More, no doubt, are on the way.

Where To Shop

1.  Ruby’s Garden

    This sweet newcomer is a flower shop/kidswear boutique all rolled into one. Located on Shattuck Avenue across from the post office, Ruby’s is named after the daughter of Mae Chan Frey, one of the shop’s two co-owners (Mary Prince is the other). The little cottage is stuffed to the gills with hipster kidswear for infants through 6-year-olds and includes organic unisex baby T-shirts splashed with bright graphics from Oakland designer Penny & Maude. Ruby’s stocks a few items for grownups, too, such as Sharon Spain’s ladies T-shirts ($32 for a sleeveless shirt with bright green dahlias blazoned across the front). Take a gander at the store’s old-fashioned windup toys and fresh-cut flowers, too. Weekends at Ruby’s bring “Daddy Saturdays,” where kids and dads can make crafts on the patio when the weather is nice. And everyday brings coffee, tea and scones. Come early before Ruby’s runs out. 4925 Shattuck Ave., (510) 595-5325,, closed Sundays, Mondays.

2.  It’s Your Move Games and Hobbies

    Release your inner nerd and go hog-wild at this gamers’ paradise on Telegraph Avenue. It’s the spot to purchase everything from Yu-Gi-Oh! and Monopoly to games made in Europe (and not available at your average Toys “R” Us). This is the place, too, to meet fellow gamers. The store hosts a brainy Scrabble club at 1 p.m. on odd Saturdays of the month, MechWarriors meet 1 p.m. every Saturday with occasional tournaments, and various adult role-playing groups meet Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. Thursday is devoted to the illustrious game of chess, while weekends see kids getting into Dungeons & Dragons and Star Wars role-playing games. And singletons, don’t feel left out; the first Friday night of every month is devoted to you, with a single gamers event. 4920 Telegraph Ave., (510) 547-4386,, closed Mondays.

3.  Rent a Relic

    Say your car gets rear-ended at an Indian taco joint in the middle of the Nevada desert while returning from Burning Man (it happened to us), and it’s going to take the body shop a month (a month!) to repair it. So you need a rental but can’t bear to spend the arm and a leg that most auto rental spots charge. No problem; head to Rent a Relic. We got a fabulous deal on a stick-shifted, sunroofed domestic, and you can, too. At standard rates of $144 a month, this friendly shop is tough to top. The current crop of rentals hail from 2002, mainly of the Ford variety. Just look for the shop’s motif: a dinosaur on wheels. 4444 Telegraph Ave., (510) 601-6560,, closed Sundays.

Where To Eat

4.  S&S Seafood

    This fish-and-chips joint is utterly without flash, but its loyal clientele attests to the grub’s tastiness. On Telegraph more than 20 years, this seafood go-to spot has got everything from red snapper to sole to catfish to oysters (all fried, natch, along with sides of fries, cole slaw and potato or macaroni salad) on the menu, plus hush puppies and cakes and pies from Cassandra’s Wedding Cakes and Beyond in Richmond (complete with photo of the baker on all packaging). If you’re looking for a smaller bite, grab a sandwich (called “burgers” in S&S parlance) or  a cheeseburger instead of a full meal. Phone orders are welcomed. 4923 Telegraph Ave., (510) 654-5504, closed Sundays.

5.  Asmara

    Temescal has long been a landing point for immigrants from East Africa. So naturally there would be a killer spot for Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine in the area. Cozy Asmara certainly fits that bill and is one of the oldest Ethiopian eateries in the city. Since the mid-’80s, the restaurant has been serving up platters of tasty vegetarian and non-veggie food and injera under canopies of woven basketwork and brightly colored African art. The prices are extremely reasonable (most dinner entrees are less than $12). Try the combination platter for a little taste of everything.  5020 Telegraph Ave., (510) 547-5100,, closed Mondays.

6.  Koryo Wooden Charcoal BBQ

Grabbing a meal at this outwardly nondescript joint stashed in a minimall is an absolute pleasure. Praised as one of the best Korean barbecue joints in the Bay Area, it’s great fun to grill your own meal here on your tabletop hibachi. Your table will end up littered with a variety of small plates containing side dishes, or panchan, such as kimchi, daikon, sprouts, assorted pickles and even sweets. Beat the nighttime crowds and head in at midday; Koryo offers great lunch specials, such as barbecue beef and 11 sides for only $6.50. It’s also open late into the night (till 1 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays). 4390 Telegraph Ave., Suite J, (510) 652-6007, open daily.

Where To Play

7.  Temescal Tool Lending Library

    The 7-year-old tool-laden basement in the back of the Temescal branch of the Oakland Public Library is a godsend for intrepid do-it-yourselfers who don’t want to shill out the big bucks for a power tool they’ll only use a handful of times. The library’s friendly staff helps newbie handypeople figure out the right tool for the right job. Find everything here from an electric plumbing snake to a telescoping ladder to a tile saw. All you need is an Oakland library card and proof that you’re over 18 years old and currently live in Oakland, Emeryville or Piedmont. Beware of dreaded late fees, however. Some overdue tools sock a hefty $20 punch per day. Temescal branch, Oakland Public Library, 5205 Telegraph Ave., (510) 597-5089,, closed Sunday, Wednesday, Thursday.

8.  Temescal Arts Center

How could you not love this funky arts cooperative when it offers such fare as “Burlesquercise w/Bombshell Betty”? The co-op also hosts classes in yoga, Indonesian dance, acting, improv, butoh (stylized Japanese dance) and Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu (a type of martial art). The center’s online schedule divulges the full skinny on current classes available. Have you been dreaming of teaching your own class? Temescal Arts may be the spot for you to begin your teaching odyssey. The studio is also available to rent for rehearsals, parties and all sorts of uses. 511 48th St., (510) 923-1074,; see the Web site for scheduled classes.

9.  Temescal Farmers Market

    Too tired to fight the crowds at the Berkeley Bowl? Temescal boasts a lovely farmers market. Indulge in seasonal produce, artisanal cheeses, soy products, eggs, baked goods, flowers and even goat-milk ice cream. Much of the fare is organic, and you can feel proud buying from local vendors. Attendees rave about the Bakesale Betty’s products on hand. 5300 Claremont Ave., (parking lot of the Department of Motor Vehicles), (510) 745-7100, Sundays year-round, 9 a.m.–1 p.m.

—By Elise Proulx
—Photography by Amy Perl

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