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Oakland's Jack London Square

Oakland’s downtown waterfront neighborhood is a bustling hub with shiny new restaurants and shops.

  • a bowl of tagliatelle and a glass of nero d'avola on the counter at Centouno, image
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    A bowl of tagliatelle and a glass of nero d'avola beckon on the counter at Centouno.
  • exterior of Loakal in Oakland's Jack London square, image
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    At Loakal, their boutique is filled with handmade items by some 90 indie designers.
  • dish with sausages at Brotzeit, image
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    Brotzeit, a biergarten, makes its own ham, sausages, bacon, and burgers, as well as its sauerkraut, sauces, and pickles.
  • pizza and glass of beer from Forge in Jack London Square, image
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    Head to Forge for Neopolitan-style pizza and a brew to wash it down.
  • two women sipping wine on East Bay Winery Bike Tours, image
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    Discover urban wineries and enjoy a bike ride on flat, safe routes with East Bay Winery Bike Tours.
  • USS Potomac at Jack London Square, image
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    Originally called USCG Cutter Electra, the ship was renamed USS Potomac in 1936 and became Franklin Delano Roosevelt's presidential yacht.
  • warmly dressed man at Baia Pasta holding a bowl of pasta, image
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    Baia Pasta uses organic American flours to make their artisanal brass-extruded pasta.

Oakland’s downtown waterfront neighborhood started as a port
and has been a bustling hub ever since. Today, stocky, certified-historic warehouses with art deco brick facades rub shoulders with shiny new restaurants and developments—including Plank, a 34,000-square-foot building and a 15,000 square-foot beer garden scheduled to open in the fall that will include bocce courts and a bowling alley. Area code is 510.

Pizzas come out of the wood oven at Forge with toasted, toothsome dough that has a sour twist, an excellent foundation for fun topping combinations such as cauliflower, garlic, red onion, and ghost pepper salami. The uncomplicated salads come large and, for all the hip, urban-loft decor, a meal at the restaurant feels relaxed. 66 Franklin St., 268-3200,

Up front, Loakal shows Oakland-made wares such as bold earrings and pins laser cut from book covers, created by Yes & Yes Designs. Nearby, at Studios Eleven, visitors peek into artists’ studios where they might see a series of close-up paintings of baseballs by Terry Furry or a video installation on a bank of 1950s TV monitors. 560 Second St., 747-9957,

Perched right on the shore a short ride east of the square’s main mall, Brotzeit serves house-made sauerkraut and sausages such as nutmeg-and cream-spiced bratwurst that pair perfectly with crisp and malty German-style altbier (a top-fermented ale) concocted at nearby Linden Street Brewery. 1000 Embarcadero, 645-1905,

Music venue and Japanese restaurant Yoshi’s has held down a spot on the Square since 1997 with its combination of world-class artists onstage and comfortable seats at the tables. The next few weeks will see shows by big-voiced singer Irma Thomas, the “soul queen of New Orleans” (July 24, 26) and funky Bay Area native Sydney Nycole (July 31). 510 Embarcadero West, 238-9200,

The torta fritta—fluffy pockets of dough that diners stuff with slices of salumi—is a big hit at Centouno, a new Italian restaurant with a country tavern feel. 101 Broadway, 433-5030.

Once Franklin D Roosevelt’s “floating White House,” the 165-foot USS Potomac passed through multiple owners—including Elvis Presley and drug smugglers—and then sank before undergoing a 12-year renovation. Today, visitors walk the teak floor of the fantail where FDR would fish and serve his guests dirty martinis. 540 Water St., 627-1215,

Join East Bay Winery Bike Tours to sample the work of the Square’s vintners—such as the fruit-heavy sauvignon blanc at Urban Legend and lush zinfandels at Dashe Cellars—then eat a picnic and pedal to more tasting rooms in Alameda or Berkeley. 655 Third St., 285-7884,

Shoppers enjoy the sight and aromas of the textured spinners, accordions, lilies, and other shapes that Baia Pasta makes from premium flour and dries in the kitchen just beyond the box-packed storefront. 431 Water St., 336-6044,

Photography by Eric Smillie (Baia, Potomac, Brozeit); courtesy of Centouno, East Bay Wine Tours, Forge, Loakal

This article was first published in May 2014. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.