This is the outside of an ultracool, uber-trendy restaurant in the up and coming uptown Oakland district. You would never know it existed unless you were actually looking for it, as you can see by the nondescript building and clear lack of restaurant signage. I am not ultracool or uber-trendy enough myself to know about hidden little gems like these, but luckily husband and I have some friends who are. This is what we did with our friends Mike and Katie (Matie) last Friday night.
First, I feel it is important to address something. If you are familiar with Oakland (say, via the news) you may have formed a negative opinion of the city. I get it. You hear about the crime, but never about the culture. There is so much more to Oakland than what you hear about on tv. Recently, there has been a big push to bring back nightlife to the uptown area. You will find hipster bars mixed in with chic restaurants next to grand historical theaters. There are art galleries and nightclubs. If you are looking for an alternative to the San Francisco nightlife, this is the place to be.
There are just a few offerings of appetizers and main courses, but what they do here, they do well. The portions are not meant for sharing. The bar is well stocked. The service was spot on. The bartender made a mean grapefruit gimlet and our waiter had the most exquisite mustache I had ever laid eyes on.
We started off with a cheese course which was a heavenly blend of cheeses, strawberry compote, walnut butter, and bread. I then had the bavette (flank steak), which was cooked perfectly medium-rare. This was followed by a caramelized brioche and napoleon of tiramisu (which we all split). For some reason we were served what I would refer to as a hot pretzel bread after our meal, instead of before. This was an odd but tasty occurrence.
As we walked along through the streets to our next adventure, I found these posters on the wall from Oakland of long ago.
Our next stop that night was the fabulous Paramount Theater. This Art Deco building was built in 1931 as a grand movie palace. The entire building is reminiscent of old Hollywood, from the marquee outside to the gilded grid design on the ceiling. Every detail of this building is stunning. It is now considered a National Historic Landmark.
The Paramount of today is a popular concert venue and is home to both the Oakland Ballet and Oakland Symphony. This theater also continues to show older movies on Friday nights. We were there to see Apollo 13.
I have to admit, I was a bit worried that there wouldn't be popcorn, being that this isn't mainly a movie theater. However, I was impressed to find a concession area where they sold gourmet popcorn and beer, wine, and champagne. The night just kept getting better.
Going to the movie here is an experience. There were ushers at every entrance who welcomed us to the show and guided us around the theater. Once we were seated I realized that there was an actual organist who is playing live music before the motion picture started (You really have to get into the old timey spirit here. Maybe I should refer to it as the picture show?).
Before our movie started, we watched newsreels of historical significance and a cartoon. Then there was a raffle hosted live on the stage. Finally the movie started, and while the sound wasn't as great as in modern theaters, the experience alone made it all worthwhile.
Matie on the left, and me and my husband on the right.
The marquee light up at night.
If you are in the area, you should check these places out. If you are in town and looking to spend time like the locals do, then this is the spot for you.