Oakland, California is probably not the first place you would think of to find exceptional restaurants and the finer side of dining. But the city, once known for its criminal activities and constant association with notorious California gangs, is now taking on a more attractive vibe, offering new and unexpected additions to its visitors and residents. Years ago, if you correlated the city to anything first-class, you would get a look of utter confusion, immediately followed by quite the laugh. But the once intimidating area has dramatically changed, now with impeccable gourmet eateries and elite real estate springing up everywhere.
One of the most recent additions to the gourmet scene is Ozumo, an established upscale sushi and sake lounge. The founder and managing partner of Ozumo, Jeremy Umland, is confidant with his decision to open the restaurant in the Oakland area.
“Investors and developers, all with a lot more cash to risk than I had, were going to Oakland,” says Umland. “So I figured if that’s where they saw the future, it was a pretty good bet.”
And the future certainly does look brighter for this once looked down upon town. Ozumo is just one of many upscale restaurants to open in the area. Plenty of other choice dining spots have opened as well. Reasons for the influx include cheaper rent as well as labor, and more cash-carrying residents just waiting to throw down on a good meal and dining experience. Another major incentive for restaurants entering Oakland is to take part in its positive growth and change, which is now, clearly inevitable. Historical Jack London Square, Oakland’s waterfront dining and shopping district is getting an overall and fresh start, complete with ridding of all the chain restaurants. Taking their places are more fabulous options such as Bracina, a prime eatery with a four-star chef, which is set to open in late fall. An equally impressive addition to the roster, located just outside the square, is Encuentro Café and Wine Bar, ran by noted chef Eric Tucker. Encuenrto’s pening is set for sometime in November.
“The time is definitely right,” says San Francisco chef, Rick Hackett, who resides in Oakland. “I’m doing better customer counts-averaging about 300 people a night on Fridays and Saturdays-than I expected. Truthfully, Oakland restaurants seem busier than restaurants in the city.”
But as stated earlier, the dining scene isn’t the only thing helping with Oakland’s comeback. For potential prospects, the real estate scene looks much more inviting than before. A recent explosion in residential construction has turned quite a few heads and has left plenty considering Oakland the place to call home. Most residential construction is taking place in the Lake Merritt Uptown District, a super haute and luxurious area, full of affluent homeowners as well as renters.
Ten years ago, no one would have ever thought that the once dirty, crime-ridden, Oakland would turn into this fabulous up-scale Mecca of an area. Oakland is a perfect example of the endless opportunities that can occur if determination and time are put into any project created. It looks like this once ugly duckling of a city has finally turned into a swan. Now it’s time to enjoy all the first-class, lovely amenities it has to offer.