Block Party


The Other Side of Piedmont

More Shops, Restaurants and Attractions

    A little while back, Block Party took a stroll down the southernmost end of Oakland’s plush Piedmont Avenue. Recently, BP got a chance to peruse the offerings of Piedmont’s northern climes. What did BP find? Posh duds, cool creams and a spooky tour.


1. Fentons Creamery
    This venerable ice cream parlor is a whopping 114 years old but hasn’t aged out of its family-friendly charm. E.S. Fenton founded the shop in 1894 and it moved to its present location in 1961. Decorated ’50s-diner-style (complete with wire-back “sweetheart” chairs and huge vintage black-and-white photos of the parlor posted on the walls), the eating spot features 59 homemade ice creams, sherbets and yogurts to choose from and a dizzying array of sundae concoctions. You’re not likely to walk away hungry, but full meals (hamburgers, fries, salads, pastrami sandwiches, the works) are on offer, too. Enjoy the outside patio on a hot day, and ask for a scoop of homemade deliciousness with your full breakfast weekend mornings.

4226 Piedmont Ave., (510) 658-7000,, 11 a.m.–11 p.m. Mon.–Thu., 9 a.m.–midnight Fri. and Sat.,  9 a.m.–midnight Sunday.

2. Dopo
    Rustic Neapolitan-style pizza is what draws customers to this homey four-year-old Italian eatery. But don’t ignore the rest of the menu (which changes daily). Owner Jon Smulewitz honed his craft at Oakland’s own Oliveto, and his offerings feature everything from house-made chicken liver pâté and salumi to spicy octopus salad and a selection of pesce crudo (sliced raw fish for those of you who don’t speak Italiano). Big storefront windows and a series of skylights ensure that the restaurant is flooded with light, allowing full view of the open kitchen. Come early to avoid the line snaking out the door.

4293 Piedmont Ave., (510) 652-3676, 5:30 p.m.–10 p.m. Mon.–Wed., 5:30 p.m.–11 p.m. Thu.–Sat., closed Sundays.


3. McMullen
    This super stylish newcomer to Oakland’s fashion scene is the spot to shop for top national designers like Diane von Furstenberg, Catherine Malandrino, Rebecca Taylor, Malene Birger and Lauren Moffatt as well as local talent, such as fashion designer Michele Janezic (whose line, Janezic, includes a vintage-inspired ethereal blouse offered at McMullen for $310 on a recent visit) and jewelry designer Kathy Kamei, whose gold-and-silver pendants celebrate life with tiny bubble designs. Don’t come here for everyday work duds, but rather for cocktail attire or night-out-with-the-girls garb.

4395 Piedmont Ave.,  (510) 420-6906,, 11 a.m.–6 p.m. Mon.–Sat., noon–5 p.m. Sunday.

4. Black Swan Books
    Stepping into this vintage bookstore is like stepping back in time. A row of LPs is stacked across from the door, with classic children’s books featuring towheaded Swedish children up to mischief with a pair of red shoes on the cover of a 1930s children’s book nearby (Snip, Snap, Snurr and the Red Shoes, for the curious or exacting). Peruse the period maps pulled (sadly) from older books. If you’re cruising for a map of San Diego when it was just a small hamlet, or one of an old-timey Kansas City, head here. And don’t forget to check the bins out front for bargains.

4236 Piedmont Ave., (510) 428-2881, 11 a.m.–6 p.m. Mon.–Tue. and Thu.–Sat. and noon–6 p.m. Sunday.


5. Catch a flick at the Piedmont Theatre
    The oldest operating movie theater in the city of Oakland, the Piedmont Theatre showcases indie and art-house films and even some first-run Hollywood offerings. The interior is funky in a good way, without all the teenybopper madness of the multiplex. Saturday night features giveaways from local merchants just before each screening, and from time to time, nearby eateries offer discounts and other deals to cinemagoers.

4186 Piedmont Ave. (510) 464-5980,, check Web site for showtimes.

6. Take a tour of Mountain View Cemetery
The very impressive Mountain View Cemetery, located at the very end of Piedmont Avenue just across Pleasant Valley Avenue, has been home to Oakland’s dearly departed since the mid-19th century. Designed by famed landscape architecture visionary Frederick Law Olmsted (who also designed New York City’s Central Park and Stanford University), the cemetery features sweeping vistas and a canopy of live oaks and stone pines. Take a three-hour tour the second Saturday of each month at 10 a.m. to visit the final resting spot of local luminaries such as architects Julia Morgan and Bernard Maybeck, Oakland Mayor Samuel Merritt, novelist Frank Norris and thousands of other Oaklanders.

5000 Piedmont Ave. (510) 658-2588,

—By Elise Proulx

—Photogrpahy by Amy Perl

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