The western end of Alcatraz Avenue, the point where North Oakland, South Berkeley, and Emeryville meet, feels like one of the East Bay’s hottest neighborhoods. I should know—I live there, and it seems as if every week brings the opening of a new restaurant. Here are some of the best places to eat. Area code is 510.
Actual Cafe At this bike-friendly restaurant and coffee shop you can’t go wrong with the seasonal salads such as grilled okra and summer squash with spinach, or dandelion greens, and watermelon-mint vinaigrette. For something meatier, step next door to its sister restaurant, Victory Burger. 6334 San Pablo Ave., Oakland, 653-8386, actualcafe.com.
Alchemy Collective Cafe This coffee spot started in closet-size storefront on Martin Luther King Jr. Way, but its popularity forced it to move. After a sip of their complex espresso you’ll understand why they’ve earned a good reputation. 1714 Alcatraz Ave., Berkeley, facebook.com/alchemycollective.
Easy Creole The homey atmosphere and affordably priced, delicious dishes, such as spice-rich bourbon red beans with slices of Louisiana hot link sausage, make it easy to come back here. Besides, you’ll need more than one go to sample the wide variety of house-made hot sauces. Also: bottomless grapefruit lemonade. 1761 Alcatraz Ave., Berkeley, 858-5063, easycreole.com.
James and the Giant Cupcake Sea salt caramel—a moist chocolate cake topped with vanilla buttercream, caramel, and flakes of sea salt—is the go-to at this pristine bakery. Owners Caleigh Schrey and Eurydice Manning have more than 75 cupcake flavors in their repertoire and something new is always popping up on the rotating menu. 6326 San Pablo Ave., Oakland, 596-8834, jamesandthegiantcupcake.com.
Prizefighter This boxing-themed bar prides itself on its cocktails, four of which—including Mutiny on the Bounty, made with gin, elderflower liqueur, cherry tea, and mint—come only by the glass punch bowl. Ordering one is a unique experience, just be sure to bring some friends because each one is a knockout. 6702 Hollis St., Emeryville, 428-1470, prizefighterbar.com.
This blog post was first published in July 2014. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.