Anchored by a library, a playground and a Saturday farmers’ market, Oakland’s Lakeshore Avenue (AKA Grand Lake) District is one of the city’s most vibrant neighborhoods. It’s also a great place for kids and families.
I lived nearby for over 12 years, and my now-9-year-old has been enjoying Lakeshore since he was a newborn. Our favorite spot on the street, hands down, is the wonderful Arizmendi Bakery, home to cheddar scones, blueberry muffins, nutty cinnamon rolls and — trust me, I’ve researched this in great detail — some of the best sourdough-crust artisanal pizza in the city. I’m also a big fan of their coffee, from the small local roaster Due Torri.
Here are some of our favorite places in the Lakeshore District for families, in no particular geographical order:
The Saturday Farmers’ Market at Splash Park features 44 local farmers and 30 specialty food purveyors along with a bounce house and slide; and the Lakeview Branch of the Oakland Public Library has family story-telling sessions every Saturday at 10:30 a.m., and Toddler Story Time and Baby Bounce on Wednesdays. Both are right by Lake Merritt tucked near the freeway overpass.
Up at the far eastern end of Lakeshore, Zagat favorite Shakewell (“best people-watching in the East Bay”) turns out intriguing Mediterranean-inspired dishes like Tempura-fried cauliflower with Thai basil and romesco, and Lamb and beef kefta (meatballs). I asked the hostess whether it’s a family-friendly spot and she explained that while the restaurant doesn’t have a separate kids' menu, “we have kids come in all the time.”
Lakeshore Avenue has a few good shopping destinations for families: in addition to the big retail players (including Baby Gap and Footlocker), it’s also home to Adventure Toys and the small, but colorful kids’ resale shop Silver Moon Kids.
Order-at-the-counter rules in this neighborhood, and hurried parents will find many affordable take-out options. The Burrito Shop competes with a Chipotle across the street, and the Cheese Steak Shop, with its sinful curly fries and juicy Philly-style sandwiches, has seemingly been there forever.
Families dig Flipside, which serves organic, grass-fed burgers from the reputed natural Golden Gate Meat Company; and the much-loved hot dog & sausage joint Top Dog.
Lakeshore Natural Foods is another of my favorite destinations: their baby-and-child homeopathic and naturopathic medicine selection rivals that of much larger stores, and their staff can handle any question you throw at them. Of course, Trader Joe’s is another excuse to visit Lakeshore, while Gymboree offers fun play classes for the littlest ones. Check out Monkey Yoga Shala for kid-friendly yoga on Thursday mornings.
We’re spoiled with two varieties of fro-yo spots, too: tart and trendy (Yogofina) and old school (Yogurt Deluxe). There is a Chase Bank and a Wells Fargo ATM; and as for parking, it’s relatively convenient, with a two-level free garage adjacent to Trader Joe’s.
Among Lakeshore’s other restaurants, Spettro is a popular Italian eatery that draws crowds for its funky, family-friendly vibe (and a legendary Peanut Butter and Bacon Pizza); and Flavors of India features dependable North Indian items. The ubiquitous Starbucks, Peet’s and Noah’s Bagels can be found here, as well.
Jonesing for junk food? Don’t tell anyone, but I recommended Colonial Donuts with a side of Super Lotto tickets.
(All photos Lisa Tsering except farmers market, all rights reserved; Grand Lake Farmers Market pic from yelp)