San Francisco itineraries

One day if I go to heaven, I'll look around and say, "It ain't bad, but it ain't San Francisco."
- Herb Caen

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How Locals Spend a Sunday: Looking Afar and Wide in West Oakland

by Julia Cosgrove

Always a hopping vibe. Photo: Courtesy of Plum Bar

When she's not inspiring/taunting us with spectacular photos and prose from travels far and wide, AFAR's editor-in-chief, Julia Cosgrove, discovers the magic happening right in her neighborhood of West Oakland.

WEST OAKLAND, California – My boyfriend and I live in an old loft building in West Oakland, an industrial neighborhood just on the other side of the Bay Bridge from San Francisco. He's a photographer, so our place is big and open and airy, which makes it a great studio space. I grew up in Berkeley and I've always had a soft spot for Oakland, but since coming back to the Bay Area from New York in 2005, I've watched this city put itself on the map as a destination for great food and emerging art. It's also unpretentious and legitimately diverse, which I love.

Subrosa

I'm traveling a lot these days, so when I'm actually in town, the first half of Sunday is about relaxing. We usually get Four Barrel lattes at Subrosa, a tiny new coffee shop down the road, or at Blue Bottle's roastery in Jack London Square. If I'm feeling decadent, I might stop at Miette's headquarters to buy chocolate or ginger cupcakes for dessert later in the day. We love brunch at Tacubaya (the fried egg, ham, and black bean torta is to die for) or at Brown Sugar Kitchen, chef Tanya Holland's modern soul food spot around the corner from our house. Sometimes we grab old-school Italian sandwiches at Genova, a deli I've been going to since I was a kid.

I try to take a yoga or Pilates class on the weekend with my teacher, Kristin Lovelace, who just opened a beautiful new studio, Innerstellar, in Berkeley. We also try to hit Bibliomania, a funky used bookstore in the Uptown district of Oakland, as often as we can. Rock Paper Scissors is a fun DIY collective in the neighborhood where I buy handmade prints, cards, and jewelry. Because of the proximity to California College of the Arts, we have some very talented young artists in the area. 

Alameda Flea Market

On the first Sunday of every month, the Alameda Flea Market is another top event. It's a sprawling market on the old Alameda Navy base. Hundreds of vendors spread out as far as the eye can see. I always leave with something: Danish modern chairs, Russell Wright cream-and-sugar sets, vintage magazines from the '60s, and a beautiful bentwood ice bucket. On gorgeous days, the views of San Francisco are unmatched. Speaking of views, I also love hiking in Tilden, a regional park in the Berkeley hills I've been exploring since I was seven years old. Lots of great trails for walking, running, and biking slice through the hills, and the park is only fifteen minutes from our house.

The second half of Sunday is about preparing, physically and mentally, for the week ahead. I catch up on email, post highlights to AFAR's website, and make to-do lists. Sometimes I cook big meals with many ingredients out of the Canal House cookbooks and invite a friend who lives in the neighborhood to join us for dinner. I feel so spoiled when I shop for groceries in Northern California. I do some of my shopping at Market Hall in Rockridge (the cheese selection is really diverse — they even carry Époisses, my favorite über-stinky cheese from Burgundy). I divide up the rest between the amazing Berkeley Bowl grocery store and the Temescal Farmers' Market, where I load up on apples and citrus for the week, as well as little gems, kale, and whatever else looks good from the vendors that day (including Cowgirl Creamery).

Boot & Shoe Service

When I'm feeling less than ambitious about cooking, I convince my boyfriend to go to Boot & Shoe Service, chef Charlie Hallowell's Pizzaiolo spinoff, another Oakland favorite that is, alas, closed on Sundays. Charlie is the former Chez Panisse pizzaiolo, and his food is specacular. He does fantastic things with beets and asparagus in the spring, and the wood-fired pizzas with Bufala mozzarella and sausage make me cry. The tonic water is homemade and the cocktails are divine.

We're also big fans of the restaurants CaminoPlum Bar, Trueburger, and Haven, the newest from Daniel Patterson's crew. It's dizzying to think of all the new places that have opened here in the last few years. And the great thing? More just keep coming.

MAP IT

See the locations for this perfect Sunday. (Google Maps)

Photos, from top right: Courtesy of Subrosa; courtesy of Alameda; courtesy of Julia Cosgrove.

Julia Cosgrove

Julia is a Berkeley native and editor-in-chief of AFAR magazine. Follow her on Twitter. She travels for the feeling that comes from challenging herself. And for the sheer fun.

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