I was told that Rachel is one of those people who knows all the best spots for family fun. She's putting her passion to use with the creation of a website called OOGIAH, where Jewish families can find Jewish activities and family resources, whether they're on vacation, moving, or just in need of a fresh take on their own surroundings.
So I asked Rachel, a mom of two, to round up her favorite East Bay spots and here's what she shared.
What recent discovery do you want to tell every new-in-town parent about? My son is obsessed with Beauty’s Bagel Shop in Temescal. He loves the plain bagels with cream cheese, and the unfilled deviled eggs, meaning egg whites. (They will let you buy them if you ask.) The overnights at Children’s Fairyland are not a new thing, but are really so fun, and it is such a unique experience to get to be there at night!
What's your favorite family dinner out? We really love Miss Saigon on Grand Avenue for their variety of noodles. The kids love the chicken and corn soup; we always add noodles to it too. I love the veggie rolls and great peanut sauce, and my husband is a fan of the vermicelli bowls. The kids love checking out the fish pond while we're there. We also love Summer Kitchen Bakeshop in Elmwood, followed by an ice cream cone at Tara’s Organic Ice Cream. You can try as many flavors as you like!
Cactus or Picante? We are a Cactus family all the way! Mole and watermelon agua fresca, need I say more? When we first moved here a friend of a friend introduced us to it, and we have been introducing other friends to it ever since. So perfect for kids and adults. The kids love the tacos, and the cabbage slaw in the salsa bar makes a great app for them too! (Editor's note: I vote Cactus, too. Here's my smackdown.)
Tell us about a great kid-friendly feature of your neighborhood. Dimond Park and La Farine go hand in hand! It’s fun to play at the park, explore the creek, or go for a swim, and then grab a flower shaped cookie afterwards at the bakery! They bake a great buttery challah too.
What's your favorite date night? We love Bocanova in Jack London Square. Lots of fish, quinoa and veggies are cooked up with a great flavors, and wonderful mojitos make this a place we revisit. We also enjoy taking our kids there, and watching the boats along the dock. Lake Chalet is another place that is great for the two of us, or our kids as well. We go there every year as a family after we see the Nutcracker by the Oakland Ballet.
Which East Bay birthday party venue is most worth sharing? We recently went to two birthday parties in one weekend at Bay Island Gymnastics. And then we scheduled one there for my daughter. The kids are on the move from the moment they arrive! They can do an obstacle course, jump in the foam pit and fly up high in a swing, which was fun for me too! There is a party room upstairs for snacks and cake time afterwards. You can decorate the room as well.
What's your favorite Saturday morning ritual? The kids and their dad love to head to the Piedmont High School field to kick the soccer ball around on weekend mornings. We also like to catch Shabbat Mishpacha, a family Shabbat service every month at Temple Beth Abraham. They have a kid-friendly service with music, dancing and a Torah parade. All followed by snack time and cinnamon challah!
What's your favorite toy store? You may not think of Ruby’s Garden in Temescal as a toy store, since they mostly sell new and used clothing, but they always have a great collection of the newest toys and books. And we really can never leave there without buying a new plush pal, t-shirt on sale or a even pair of shoes!
What's your favorite way to spend some alone time and treat yourself? The Isabella Nail Bar in Montclair is my go-to spot. It is so bright, clean and relaxing. I love to settle in on their cushion covered bench, catch up on some celebrity news and get a pedicure. The nail bar itself is a fun spot to sit at too. And once in a while it’s a fun day out for me and my daughter too!
Can you tell us about an amazing class your child has taken? Bay Area Children's Theatre runs such great drama classes for kids. The kids learn to put on a whole show in a matter of weeks. From memorizing songs to blocking and trying on costumes, they really get the idea of what goes into putting a live show together, at their level of course. Cinderella is the current show my daughter is working on, and we can’t wait to see her play a mouse!
What is your favorite Bay Area day trip? We have so much taking the ferry from Alameda to the Ferry Building in San Francisco. Looking around and buying some treats at our destination really are the icing on the cake of that trip, because the boat ride there and back are so much fun.
What do you do on random school closure days? We like to check in at our garden plot at the Lake Merritt Toddler Garden. We also like to visit the Chabot Museum with my budding astronaut, and Habitot which is still lots of fun for both of my kids.
Thanks for all that, Rachel! If you're interested in keeping up with Jewish activities for kids, please follow OOGIAH on Facebook!
Photo of Rachel and children: Tirzah Brott