For foodies, boutique junkies, and anyone crazy for collectibles, College Avenue in Oakland and Berkeley, Calif., is the Walk of Temptation. This two-mile stretch of neighborhood quirkiness and urban charm is bracketed by the renowned California College of the Arts and, at its north end, UC-Berkeley.
College Avenue was quiet until 1906, when the earthquake sent displaced San Franciscans to the East Bay. In the new wave of construction that followed, the craftsman bungalow became the home design of choice.
You won’t see many chain stores on College, but you will find more than 200 retail shops and nearly 50 restaurants. The shelves at The Good, the Bad and the Ugly are crowded with collectible pottery. The eccentrically retro Scout boutique has a trove of vintage picnic baskets, antique travel-related oddities, and modern pillows. Maison d’Etre is chock-full of 18th-century French furniture, newer signage, and dinnerware.
Market Hall public market has one of the finest gourmet delis anywhere. In the same building, you can eat at the superb Oliveto café and restaurant. Or head to À Côté for savory, affordable small-plate French fare. Nearby, Grasshopper serves delectable Asian food.
End your tour at the Julia Morgan Center for the Arts, a community performance showcase and the architectural jewel of the neighborhood.
Where it is: Take BART’s Pittsburg/Bay Point line to Rockridge station. If you’re driving, take Highway 24 to the Claremont or College Avenue exits.
When to go: Any day of the week, though some businesses are closed on Sunday.
Who will like it: Shoppers with good walking shoes and an appetite. Kids (toy stores are plentiful), architecture buffs, bibliophiles, art lovers.
Illustration by Michael Klein
This article was first published in September 2003. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.