So my husband and I (despite the user name, I’m female ) have recently moved to the East Bay.
So many questions! I’ll start with the shaking - there was a little earthquake (4.2 or something) on July 20 and another smaller one the other day. Is it always like this? Should I be worried? How often can I expect these? I’m finding it a little disconcerting, but do veteran Bay Area folk not even really notice them anymore?
Any recommendations for restaurants, bookstores, miscellaneous things we should see? For what it’s worth, we’re in Alameda. We’ve already visited the Grand Lake Theatre in Oakland a few times - love that place!
I’m also looking for a good Asian Grocery store - mostly for staples like noodles and sauces. We’re close to Oakland’s chinatown - any stores in particular that I should look for?
So far, I’m loving the weather (sunny and in the 70’s all the time, apparently) and the plethora of fantastic produce stands. I love to cook and I’m pretty impressed with the wide variety of really good ingredients available.
So all you good folks on the East shores of the Bay - what does a brand new transplant need to know? thanks!
Depends on how you define “normal”. Typically 4.2 is in the hard to notice range for me at least.
For new books I’d try Cody’s in Berekely on Telegraph, and as long as you there visit Shattuck Ave for a bunch of miscellany. For used books try Greywolf in San Leandro on E14th (around 140th north of Bayfair Mall) they’ve got everything including reference and text books. As for restaurants, you’ll need to narrow that down a bit.
My personal favorite is Sun Hop Fat. There are two stores, one is just southwest of Lake Merritt in Oakland (E10th at 5th street). They have everything you’ll be looking for and fresh seafood too.
I lived in the Bay Area from 2001 to a couple of weeks ago. I noticed four earthquakes while I was there. Two of them were small enough by the time they got to me that I saw a news article about them later and said, “Oh yeah, that’s what that noise must have been”.
One effect of earthquakes that you might notice- they slow down the BART trains when there’s an earthquake, and sometimes they stop them for a while. It’s annoying if you’re commuting or trying to get to or from the airport.
On the subject of the airport- locals know to fly out of Oakland rather than SFO if you can. SFO gets orders of magnitude more weather delays than Oakland.
The area along College Avenue north of Rockridge BART has a lot of nice restaurants.
I’ve had good experiences with all the Asian grocery stores I went to in Oakland and SF.
It doesn’t rain in the summer. The weather in the winter is rather different, though (that’s when it rains), and be careful driving in the first rain of the season- the roads get very slick, and there are lots of wrecks.
Don’t ever drive through the MacArthur Maze if you can help it. It’s pretty much always a traffic mess, and not well labelled. KCBS (740 AM and www.kcbs.com) is a good resource for traffic reports- they do them every 10 minutes on the 8s (at 12:08, 12:18, and so on) all day and all night long. Do try to learn which freeways are bad at which times.
Don’t try to drive to San Francisco and expect to find parking. If you do find parking, it will be expensive and probably not near where you want to go. Unless you’re going somewhere on the fringes of the City (like the Cow Palace or the zoo), it’s almost always better to take BART and Muni than it is to drive there.
They’re shutting down the Bay Bridge for a while on Labor Day weekend to do some construction. If I were still there, I would make sure my Labor Day weekend plans didn’t include driving across it. I’d probably avoid driving on the other bridges, too- they’re likely to have more traffic than normal.
Microclimates. I came to Santa Cruz from the east coast in 1998, and this caught me by surprise. I don’t know about where you’re from, but on the east coast, the weather is generally pretty consistent over a large area- the temperature in New York will probably only be a few degrees different from the temperature in Washington. That’s not the case in the Bay Area. The climate is cool and foggy toward the coast, and hotter and drier inland. Walnut Creek has a totally different climate, especially in the summer, than San Francisco, despite the fact that they’re close enough that people commute between them.
Don’t wear shorts if you go to San Francisco (a flower in your hair is optional). It will usually be cool and foggy, and you’ll be freezing. Only tourists wear shorts in San Francisco unless there’s a heat wave going on.
I don’t know if you’ve tried going in the water in the Bay or the ocean yet, but it’s not like the beaches on the east coast. The water in San Francisco is very cold- 60 degrees in August wouldn’t be surprising- even though San Francisco is at about the same latitude as Richmond, VA. This is because the ocean off the east coast is near a north-flowing warm current (the Gulf Stream), but the ocean off California is affected by the south-flowing cold California Current.
Seriously - the ground is always moving, and you will be perpetually adjusting your pictures on the wall. Get some “museum wax” or “quake putty” to glue down any small fragile things you care about - a crystal vase on a tall skinny pedestal? Not a good idea. The problem isn’t so much that things will be flung from the shelves in a major quake, but that they will gradually “walk” toward the edge with each 2.whatever jiggle that you don’t even feel.
Another bit of earthquake safety advice: don’t hang pictures with glass over them over couches or beds. There can be earthquakes strong enough to knock them off the wall, and you don’t want them falling on you and breaking.
That said, Fenton’s is fine, but nowhere near the 40+ minute wait that is typical just about every evening.
The Oakland Chinatown has a really fun farmer’s market Saturday mornings.
We live by Lake Merritt, so we rarely find a need to stray far afield for whatever we’re looking for (and that’ll be even more true once the Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods open up soon). If you haven’t been to the Farmer’s Market there by the theater every Saturday, it’s well worth checking out.
Two other worthwhile movie theaters nearby are the Piedmont (part of the Landmark chain) and the Parkway (on the other side of the lake from the Grand). The latter serves beer, has couches, and delivers specialty food to you during the movie, and the former has raffles and giveaways every Saturday night (plus the film selection at both is consistently good).
You might want to stay away from southside Berkeley right now, though, because this is Welcome Week so it’s still going to be a bit nutty for the next month or so (parking/traffic/clueless freshman pedestrians, etc.)
And as for earthquakes–you get used to it (the 4.2 was shallow and near Piedmont, so even I noticed that one a bit). Whenever I go anywhere, I always do a quick survey and ask myself “Where would I go?” if a serious trembler hit. Not something you have to worry about much, but always a good habit.
I once told a newcomer to San Jose – only half in jest – that you’d never see a native Californian with a mirror over his bed. Too many visions of the last thing they see on this earth is their own horrified visage as the thing falls on them.
Mom was raised in Santa Barbara and she told me how as a child, she would watch her mother’s routine before retiring to bed, checking that the doors were locked, the windows closed, and the cupboard doors latched. She didn’t want to lose any dishes from getting walked out of an open cupboard.
Minor earthquakes are not unusual. I think that you can get some good information on earthquake preparedness from the state, check online - you’ll get good advice on what not to hang on the walls, how to keep the bookshelves from tipping over, etc. Also not a bad idea to have a “disaster kit” in case of The Big One (food, water, etc. for three days). Note that this isn’t unique to earthquake country as people who live in areas with hurricanes, blizzards and so forth can attest!
Weather is best described as “moderate year round”. 40 degrees is cold, 80 is hot. Rain and minor thunderstorms during wet season.
Since you like cooking you’re in a great part of the country - even the local Safeway will tend to have pretty good fresh produce. Oakland’s Chinatown has some great shops (take an afternoon to browse), Ranch 99 Market here in El Cerrito is also a great place as someone else mentioned. Monterey Market in Berkeley is an old favorite of mine. There are plenty of farmer’s markets on the weekends, all over the place, great stuff.
Restaurants - overall I wouldn’t say that Alameda has great cuisine but you are within easy distance of a million wonderful places of all types. Solano ave in Berkeley is a couple of miles long and it’s about 50% restaurants. The annual “Solano Stroll” is coming up (September 9th, I think), they shut the ave down to traffic and it’s one big street fair.
If you want a taste of Berkeley hippieness go to Telegraph ave, it’s the main drag running right up to UC Berkeley. Especially on the weekends there are tons of street vendors selling all the handmade arts & crafts you could want (tie-dye socks? No problem), plus plenty of collegey things (pizza places - Blondies and Fat Slice are good, record shops like Amoeba and Rasputins, etc).
Movie theatres - Grand Lake is nice (plus they have live organ music on the Mighty Wurlitzer in the main theatre on weekends), the Piedmont and the Parkway as mentioned. The same folks who own the Parkway also opened up the similar Cerrito theatre here in El Cerrito, on San Pablo at Central. Cheap admission, small theatres, good audience, cheap tickets, order pizza and beer, etc. Personally I choose to avoid the megaplexes but there are several in downtown Berkeley on Shattuck, also the UA Emery Bay in Emeryville and the AMC Emeryville (in the big mall by 80, it’s right next to the gigantic Ikea in Emeryville). There’s also a very nice little independent theatre on Alameda. I can’t remember the name but it’s an old church, one screen, no chairs - they bought a ton of comfy old couches instead.
One of the biggest attractions is the park system - Oakland and Berkeley hills are covered in great parks, places to hike, bike, picnic, go for a walk and so on. In the Tilden Park area of the Berkeley hills you can stroll the botanical gardens, go hiking, cool off with a swim in Lake Anza, ride a steam train and then finish off with a merry-go-round while eating ice cream, all within a few minutes’ drive. Venture up north a bit to Marin and check out the Point Reyes seashore, Tomales Bay, Muir Woods, Mount Tamalpais. Head east past the hills towards Walnut Creek and there’s Mount Diablo, situated in 26000 acres of state park. Get out and enjoy it all!
I’m reassured about the earthquake thing. I think that it stems from being a nerdy child (probably the only person on these boards who had ridiculous science obsessions as a kid, right? ). I was really fascinated by all things geological so I think that it’s all coming back to me now that I’m in earthquake country.
Unfortunately, most of our errands that we’ve done since moving here involved the MacArthur maze (That is where the 80/880 and I think 580 come together, right?). i’m not proud to say that I usually make my husband drive if I know that’s where we’re going. So far, I do not really love the 880.
ArchiveGuy - do you know the approximate cross streets of the Chinatown farmer’s market? I think that I’ll go to the one by the theater tomorrow, and I may as well check out two markets if I’m going to brave that scary tunnel between Alameda/Oakland
I never thought about the “walking dishes” but it now it makes sense that all of the built-in cupboards in our rental house have some sort of locking mechanism. I just assumed it was a former tenant’s half assed babyproofing
Another recommendation: Rosenblum Cellars in Alameda has open houses a few times a year which are a lot of fun. Something like 40 different wines to taste, food, and live music. Tickets are a bit pricey, but it’s a great experience.
Just to clarify that, the Cody’s on Telegraph is gone. But there is still a branch open on 4th Street in Berkeley. If the OP likes small, cutesy, pricey shopping districts, 4th street might be worth a stroll. You can buy an insanely overpriced ( but quite nice ) desk at Restopration Hardware then wander over to Sur Le Table and buy some overpriced ( but nice ) kitchen cutlery :D.
Me too, to some extent. At least I went to High School there and lived there intermittently for maybe 10 years as an adult, the last time about four years ago.
Definitely don’t speed. But also don’t sweat it - you WILL get a speeding ticket in your first year in Alameda. It’s practically guaranteed :p.
No, it’s more average ( which puts it well above, say, Raleigh NC, but well below nearby cities like Berkeley and Albany ) but there are some decent places. India Palace about two blocks off Webster does very tasty heavy curries ( cream-based ), though I think their lunch buffet is a little subpar ( though seemingly increasingly popular ) - I’ve got a thing for their Lamb Palak as do several of my friends that don’t live in Alameda. Similarily Linguini’s on Park does fairly tasty pasta, at least as of two or three years ago - again with the heavy cream.
But as noted there are a million good places to eat in the East Bay generally, so you really can’t go wrong.
Breakfast- Jim’s on Lincoln has overtaken Ole’s on Park Street- ask for the eggs blackstone- I don’t think it’s on the menu anymore, but they always manage to do it when I ask for it- eggs benedict with smoked salmon instead of ham. Linguini’s does pretty good pizza, too. Zachary’s on College in Berkeley has the best Chicago style pizza. Better than anything I’ve had in Chicago, by far- and you can get a half-bake to take home- quicker than waiting at the resteraunt, which is always packed. Harbor View used to have the best Chinese in A-town, although there are lots of little places on Park that do good Chinese, or sushi, or Mexican. Fenton’s (on Piedmont in Oakland) has remodeled after their tragic fire, so while it no longer has that stuck in the '50s feel, it has a much better capacity, and should not be missed. Of course, if you don’t want to leave the island, there is great ice cream to be had at Tucker’s. Do some wine tasting at Rosenblum. La Pinata at PArk and Santa Clara for mexican- get the tilapia.
Crosstown on High does some good coffee. So does Javarama on Park and Alameda. The Altarena Playhouse has some theater, and there is a decent used bookstore on Park down from Santa Clara. While Cody’s on Telegraph may be gone, I believe Shakespeare and Co is still there.
The indie theater in Alameda is an old funeral chapel, not a church, btw, and there have been rumors for years that the old Alameda Theater on Central will be redone.
APD generally has a lot of time on their hands, and will stop you if you’re 6 over. I’ve never gotten a ticket in the 3 times I’ve been pulled over- I think that the saw I lived on the island and felt okay with giving me a warning. If you drive a stick, a good rule is stay in third and don’t rev to high. Or just ride your bike- it’s exteremely flat compared to the rest of the Bay Area, and nothing is more than 4 miles away.
That scary tunnel between Alameda and Oakland is the oldest underwater highway in the world! And was used in Matrix 2/3. And if you think it’s scary in a car, try it on a bike! It will reaffirm your belief in a merciful deity when you get out the other side.
If you are at all a German beer fan, the restaurant Speisekammer in Alameda has a wonderful selection of the good stuff, both on tap and in bottles.
If you’re looking for a topnotch butcher, Baron’s Meat and Poultry, which is in the Alameda Marketplace (a kind of food hall for foodies), is awesome. The Markeplace itself is a lot of fun, featuring a great bakery, cheese store, and other toothsome delights.