Saturday, May 30, 2009

Reflections on Uptown

reflection of the Fox

The other week I went to Sears to pick up a garbage disposal for our new kitchen. I had my trusty point-and-shoot camera with me in case I saw any interesting signs, but I also got a better look at the empty lot that Living in the O and A Better Oakland wrote about a while back.

I haven't been in the area for a while, just passed through on Broadway, and all I can say is wow! Uptown is looking up. With the restored Fox Theater, the Uptown Apartments, and countless restaurants nearby, Uptown has never looked so good while I've lived in the East Bay. If I were looking for a place to live, the area is very appealing. Not only is there lots nearby, but it's hecka accessible to BART.

And I'm so glad that the efforts of Becks, V Smoothe, and others paid off, and that the city and developers won't be putting a surface parking lot in the empty lot. It's between the Fox, the Uptown Apartments, Sears, and Flora, and while there's a open park space at the other end, having a parking lot in the middle of this would be an eyesore (not to mention a waste of money as noted in the above blog posts.) I just wish they could keep the space open, and extend the park at the other end. Or make it a permanent open air market space for farmer's markets, craft markets, etc. That would make it an awesome space.

signs: Oaks Motel

The Oaks Motel

Just north of 35th on MacArthur is The Oaks Motel. It looks to be of a similar vintage to the Colonial Chapel, with faux scroll lines instead of faux wood grain.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

signs: Colonial Chapel

On High St. near Brookdale is the Colonial Chapel funeral home. This one's a two-fer. They've got one sign on the roof which isn't anything special except it has a great clock. The other sign in the parking lot has lots of classic elements: neon, another clock (not as nice as the one on the roof, though) and the crowning touch, faux wood grain on the sign. What's not to like?

Colonial Chapel funeral home

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

signs: George & Walt's

George & Walt's Bar

George & Walt's is a bar along College in Rockridge. I haven't been there in years, since before my friend Dave died (he lived a short distance away), but I remember it as a worn out place, somewhat incongruous with the rest of Rockridge (well, except the liquor store a couple doors down). Despite that, it appears to still be a going concern. Their sign gets points for not only the classy typography, but some neon and of course the iconic martini glasses.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

signs: Rossi's

Rossi's Flowers

Along Fruitvale near International is Rossi's Flowers. The other sign on the building says "Tony Rossi & Sons". I don't know if the Rossis are still owners of the business or not. In any event, they get bonus points for the stylish design of their name on the sign.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

signs: Launderville


The neon tubes on this sign near Zza's on Grand are in bad shape, an all too common fate for them. At least the rest of the sign is in good shape.

Monday, May 18, 2009

signs: The Alley

The Alley

This is another classic sign on Grand. Unlike a lot of neon signs these days, it looks like it might actually still work. Anyone know?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

small but mighty

Back when I started this blog, I looked around for other Oakland blogs, and besides the amazing A Better Oakland, one of the first ones I found was monteskewed. Monte is (amongst other things) pastor of a small church in the Dimond district, Fruitvale Presbyterian. There a lot of blogs out there, but very few that have interesting content and are well-written. The fact Monte's blog is about Oakland and Christianity was a big bonus.

Fruitvale Presbyterian

When I decided to leave Resurrection Lutheran in Dublin, a big part of the reason was that K and I wanted to be able to worship together. I'd been at RLC for 9 years or so, and doing media for most of that. It had grown to the point where many Sundays felt like work (I was doing the media on a volunteer basis) not worship, and was ready to move on. After I left RLC, I added Fruitvale Presbyterian (FVPC) to our list of churches to check out. When I found out Monte had accepted a call to a church in France, K and I bumped it up in the list.

FVPC is a small church, but mighty in their acts. Monte gave a great sermon on love. Love is central to Christianity (or should be); Jesus answers the question of 'what is the greatest commandment?' with "love God, love your neighbor". It's the filter I view a lot of things through, particularly when a person claims such-and-such an act is 'Christian'. If it doesn't pass the "love God, love your neighbor" test, it's pretty suspect in my eyes. FVPC does their best to live out "love your neighbor" by being active in the community around them. I don't know yet if it's the right church for K and I, but it's definitely worth checking out if you live in the area.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

signs: Howden Building

Spice Monkey is a yummy little restaurant on Webster (read a brief review here.) Besides the food, of note is the building it's in, the tile-clad Howden building. The space Spice Monkey is in is labeled Robert Howden & Sons.

the Howden building

Robert Howden & Sons

It's a funky little space, with tile-covered stairs and a fireplace. It looks like it could have been a hotel, but sounds more like a hardware store. Anybody know what it was?

food: Spice Monkey

Spice Monkey Cafe

We're still without a kitchen, so last night my wife and I tried a new restaurant for us, Spice Monkey. In short, we loved it. The food was great, and there were lots of vegetarian options for me (even a couple of vegan options). It's described as "eclectic fresh California fusion cuisine", and eclectic definitely covers it. But the odd combinations work well together. The music they played was similarly eclectic, but worked well together, too.

plum tart

They had a decent wine list, but we selected from their very good beer list (Boont Amber for K, Mirror Pond Pale Ale for me). To top off the evening, we had an amazingly delicious plum tart. We'll definitely be going again.

Friday, May 15, 2009

signs: Fruitvale Hall

Fruitvale Hall

Just down from Bonanza is Fruitvale Hall, with a large 'Bingo' sign on it. The eagle on the flag pole is included for Dave over at Fragmentary Evidence.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

signs: 1/4 lb. Giant Burgers

1/4 lb. Giant Burgers

Yesterday on my way to Economy Lumber to get some stuff for our kitchen remodel, I snapped a shot of the 1/4 lb. Giant Burgers sign that Patrick suggested.

On the way home by a different route, I discovered that it's part of a chain, at least a small one. There's another on MacArthur in the Laurel district, and one on International. Which lead me to another sign discovery, Tom Spaulding's The NorCal Explorer. Besides some shots of signs in Oakland, he's got a ton of classic signs from Fresno and all over. If you like vintage signs, it's worth checking out.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

signs: Bonanza


This sign was just posted by dc over at Fragmentary Evidence yesterday, and I happened across it today. They've got a better picture of it, plus more nice photos from their ride home.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

signs: Saturn Records

Saturn Records sign

On my way back from the Red Cross this afternoon, I stopped to snap a picture of the Saturn Records sign. The store may be gone, but the sign lives on, at least on one side. The other has been painted over.

Monday, May 11, 2009

new feature: Oakland signs

Acme Fire Extinguisher

What can I say. I'm a sucker for classic neon signs, and Oakland has a bunch of them. But it's got a lot of other interesting signs, too. So I'm starting a new feature for the blog, Oakland signs. I'm starting with a well-known one, Acme Fire Extinguisher on Fruitvale. It's been photographed by many (Thomas Hawk has a great set of sign photos from Oakland and elsewhere in the East Bay.) It's been portrayed in paintings. It's been touted as where Wile E. Coyote buys his fire extinguishers (though if that were true, they'd probably blow up in his face, or push him into one of his own traps for the Road Runner.) So with out further ado, I present the Acme Fire Extinguisher sign.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

36 Hours in Oakland

Amidst all the bad news about the world in general (swine flu paranoia, anyone?), there's a nice travel article about Oakland in the NY Times, titled 36 Hours in Oakland, Calif. It's a short article, but manages to mention Everett & Jones, the Grand Lake Theater, the Fox Theater, Mama's Royal Cafe, the Oakland rose garden, Flora, Luka's Taproom, and more.

too many choices

My wife and I planned to go to the Paramount for their movie classics night (including the mighty Wurlitzer) last night, proceeded by dinner at one of the numerous places in uptown we've been wanting to try, like Flora, or Mua. Or maybe someplace on the way, like Camino. But because of the rain, we decided to skip the movie and stay a little closer to home.

There aren't any new restaurants for us to try in Montclair (though several we love, like Italian Colors and Montclair Bistro), so we headed over to Glenview. We considered Bellanico, but passed because of the very limited vegetarian options. We settled on Marzano and were fortunate enough to get seats at the bar near the pizza oven, reminiscent of our trip to Sidebar.

Marzano has a very different feel than Sidebar. It's small, and crowded to the point where wait staff must have to take dancing lessons to get around. The food is very good, and there were plenty of non-meat options for me. It's nicely decorated, with big glass bottles serving as lamps, and what I suspect are manufactured beams decorated to look like normal solid wood beams.

We had a nice bottle of wine, the oven-roasted asparagus, and a margherhita pizza. Dessert was especially good, something chocolate. Watching the food be prepped and the pizza oven be tended was fun, and it's a joy to eat surrounded by people who are happy and enjoying themselves. We'll definitely eat there again, but there are too many new restaurants (or in some cases, new to us) for us to try first.