Lindsay Olson, aka The Urbanist, was born and raised in Oakland, CA, where Esqueleto’s flagship opened in 2011. Though she’s lived all over the place, from rural Ohio to Brooklyn to Buenos Aires, Oakland always managed to draw her back. Here are five of her favorite local spots.
Fun fact: Lake Merritt, technically a tidal lagoon, is the United States’ first official wildlife refuge. It’s not uncommon to see mallards and pelicans diving for fish as you jog past the Oakland Civic Auditorium (now the Kaiser Convention Center) and you might have to fend off a Canada goose or two on your way to the Lakeview branch of the public library. The “necklace of lights” circling the lake’s circumference illuminates at dusk, adding a warm twinkle to a sunset walk. The lake truly encapsulates what I love about this city: that refreshing mashup of natural landscape and urban architecture.
Located just around the corner from our Oakland store in the Temescal neighborhood, this restaurant has been a go-to favorite of mine since it opened eleven years ago (even more so now that I live right upstairs!). Their rotating menu features the freshest locally sourced produce and meat, always seasonal, and always so incredibly tasty. You can never go wrong with the Pizzaiolo cocktail, a delicious concoction of amaro, campari, house-made tonic, and lime, followed by the most perfect margherita pizza and a glass of wine. I can’t wait for their outdoor movie nights this summer!
Maple Street Denim
Julie Harleman opened Maple Street in 2014, and she is nothing short of a denim master. Aside from carrying the best selection of brands I’ve seen anywhere, Julie’s expertise takes your jeans shopping experience to the next level. She’ll ask what you’re looking for and grab four or five pairs in your size (she can just tell), and you’ll want to buy all of them because they fit like a glove. And it’s nestled right in the heart of historic Old Oakland, the most beautiful part of downtown, right across the street from Swan’s Market, where you can grab lunch afterwards.
A relatively new bar, Mad Oak carries the attitude of an Oakland Original. The vibe is laid back, unpretentious, but classy, with a diverse and relaxed crowd, most of which remains glued to the screens on a night that the Warriors happen to be playing. They boast a rotating tap list featuring 40 beers, but will skillfully whip up your favorite classic cocktail if that’s more your speed. With rows of picnic tables and a roof deck, there’s no shortage of outdoor space, which is really how beer and basketball are best enjoyed, according to this fair weather fan.
Middle Harbor Shoreline Park
A long kept secret of mine, Middle Harbor is one of those few spaces left that still feels like a hidden gem, undiscovered and untouched by the ever growing East Bay population. It is the ideal spot for a sunny day picnic, flanked with my all time favorite views of San Francisco and the colorful shipping containers stacked at the Port of Oakland.