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Oakland California's Best Hot Spots

Chef-owner Tanya Holland at Brown Sugar Kitchen.

Photo: Steve Kepple

It may not have the skyline of San Francisco or the culinary pedigree of Berkeley (yet), but this former industrial powerhouse is forging a new, edgier identity thanks to emerging neighborhoods, a buzzing nightlife, and a renovated waterfront that promises to become one of the most ambitious gastro-destinations in the country. In fact, if you judge a city’s appeal by its restaurants, Oakland just made the big leagues: in June renowned chef James Syhabout (formerly of El Bulli, Manresa, and the Fat Duck) opened the small and refined Commis, which just received the city’s first Michelin star. Now sophisticates are making the pilgrimage across the bay to eat and explore.

Next Great Neighborhood

A stretch of once decrepit waterfront has been transformed into Jack London Square, now Oakland’s go-to district, with a series of landscaped promenades, converted loft apartments, and an ever increasing number of restaurants. The most exciting openings are coming this fall: Chef Daniel Patterson of San Francisco’s Coi introduces the rustic Bracina, a cavernous dining spot with a wood-burning oven; then there’s Jack London Market (55 Harrison St.; 510/645-9292; jacklondonsquare.com), which will have a two-story food hall set to be the East Bay counterpart to San Francisco’s Ferry Building. Indeed, the two venues are connected by a boat service that crosses the bay in only 30 minutes. Next door to the ferry terminal, the recently renovated Waterfront Hotel (10 Washington St.; 510/836-3800; jdvhotels.com; doubles from $129) is a 1960’s motel–style property with 143 nautically inspired rooms overlooking the marina.

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