Market HallNew Zealand ex-pat Sara Wilson wasn’t sure this food-hall was going to work when she started it in 1987, but it has become the centrepiece of the bougie Rockridge neighborhood – and the purveyor of a bewildering variety of foodstuffs, mustards, olive oils, chutneys and cookbooks – with super sandwiches for the would-be picnicker. 5655 College Ave., 510-250-6000, rockridgemarkethall.com
OaklandishThis shop donates a chunk of its proceeds from sale
of Oakland swag to charities –
its designers came up with the T-shirts showing the Bay Bridge and the cranes, and another with one of Merritt Lake’s pesky Canada geese packaged up and ready to be shipped north of the border. 1444 Broadway, 510-251-9500,oaklandish.com
Temescal AlleyOld low-slung, industrial buildings are now occupied by shops ranging from Donut Dolly to a store offering locally designed table linens. 470 49th St.
MICHAEL CHABON’S OAKLAND
Local writer Michael Chabon’s latest novel, the just released Telegraph Avenue, is set, largely, on the strip of that iconic street, that runs through Temescal – and adds a literary aspect to Oakland’s current moment. James Joyce once boasted that if Dublin suddenly disappeared, it could be reconstructed from his novel Ulysses. In Telegraph Avenue, Chabon often references the Irishman’s magnum opus, both overtly and covertly. “When you’re writing about a second city, a smaller, more provincial centre, then you sure think of what Joyce did with Dublin,” he said in a recent phone interview. “At least, I did.”
Chabon’s Temescal is immediately recognizable. Colourful Tibetan prayer flags hang on the porches of Western Buddhists; kids and adults train at martial-arts studios. The long-established Ethiopian restaurants and Old School, pre-baguette bakeries compete for clients with newer, trendier food emporia and bistros on his rapidly gentrifying neighbourhood.
But Chabon also delves beneath the area’s agreeable, somewhat shambolic surface, introducing the reader to two couples one might easily bump into at the Sunday Temescal Farmers’ Market. One couple is black, the other white. The women work together as midwives, the men jointly own a vintage vinyl store, Brokeland Records – “no one calls the city Brokeland, I made that up,” he said. The stew of Bohemian aspirations and earnest, right-on politics distributed among the foursome feels just so. Following them around Oakland, the novel places each under various stresses, and wonders if they can all get along.