A night out in Temescal

13 Apr

On Saturday night, I hopped on the bus and met up with some friends for dinner and a night out in Temescal. Now it wasn’t too long ago that you really couldn’t do this unless you had reservations or wanted to wait more than an hour because the only real options for a sit down dinner were Pizzaiolo and Dona Tomas. Last summer, Marc 49 opened and changed that, and now we’re lucky to have Barlata in the neighborhood.

We arrived at Barlata at 6:30, and the restaurant was half full. Our group was seated at one end of the long community table, which takes up a third of the restaurant. Our dinner was excellent. We quickly ordered a bottle of white wine and a couple of dishes, and then slowly ordered more dishes as the night went on. I was incredibly impressed by how quickly food was served – I think our salad came less than a minute after we ordered it! And everything we ordered was delicious. My favorites were the romaine salad, which I devoured, and the vegetable paella, which got me thinking that I should make a paella sometime. I’ll leave the detailed food reviews to City Homestead, but suffice it to say that everyone in our party was more than satisfied. Also, the bill came out to be much less than we expected – even with wine and a generous tip, we made it out of there for less than $30 per person, which was very reasonable considering the amount of food we ate.

vegetable-paella

The delicous vegetable paella at Barlata.

By about 8pm, Barlata was full, and since we were finished eating, we decided to give up our seats and head a couple doors down to Marc 49. I had been to Marc 49 a few times before, but somehow I had never gone all the way back to their outdoor “room”.  And now that I have, I can’t imagine sitting anywhere else. It’s a great space that’s entirely covered in wood planks – floor, walls, and ceilings. It was a bit warm for my taste, with strong heating lamps, but everyone else in my party loved that. We lounged in wicker chairs with very comfortable cushions in front of a table that was made out of a wine barrel. The space itself is huge – big enough to fit a large group, or several.

Feeling very full already, we skipped the food and went straight to the wine. One of my favorite things about Marc 49 is that you get to create your own flights of wine from their fairly extensive wine list. I got a flight of local whites, and all of them were delicious. Of course, I don’t remember the names of any of them, and their online wine list is terribly outdated so that’s no help to me either. You’ll just have to go down there and create a flight that suits your tastes.

As we were sitting in the back of Marc 49, sipping wine, I started to reflect on how great Temescal has become. I turned to a friend of mine who grew up in Temescal and started grilling her about the history. What had Marc 49 been? How about Barlata? She tried, but came up blank, saying that clearly nothing memorable had been there. As for the popular restaurants across the street – she thinks they were a grocery store and a hardware store, which is strange to imagine.

I realized that though I’ve lived in North Oakland for several years and know very well what it is now, I have very little perspective on what it used to be like. So I’d love to hear from you, especially if you’ve lived in the East Bay for a long time, what was Temescal like, before the hip restaurants and wine bars moved in?

6 Responses to “A night out in Temescal”

  1. peter April 13, 2009 at 8:39 am #

    Temescal used to be no more that “north oakland” to most folks, but now that there are some “upscale” restaurants it has caught the eye of many. Barlata until earlier this year was a bar called bigum’s silver lion, which was doing quite well and had a large crowd most nights. The clientele had changed dramatically since 2002, going from an old-school African American vibe to a more punk rock one. When the two groups were there at the same time the scene was quite vibrant.
    Across the street, the hardware store sign is still on Pizzaolo, where a family owned hardware store had been for over a hundred years until around 2004 when the owners gave them the boot in favor of pizzaolo. One of my saddest temescal memories was going in there as they sold off every last item of a successful family business and greeted the stream of stream of well–wishers sadly, explaining that they wished they could stay.
    As for the changes in the neighborhood, one local business owner said it best, “gentrification: everything is more expensive but I make the same money.” He and I both hope we can continue to live the in the neighborhood… with or without expensive restaurants taking the place of favorite community members!

    • Becks April 13, 2009 at 8:55 am #

      Just curious – if Bigum’s Silver Lion was doing so well, why did it close?

      • dto510 April 13, 2009 at 2:05 pm #

        The Silver Lion was sold at the same time as downtown’s Golden Bull (now the Awaken Cafe), which were owned by the same family. Hardware stores of course are a dying breed; I remember G&G Hardware and the writing was on its brick walls for a long time. My dad still won’t go to Pizzaiolo because of that but he seems to be in the minority.

        My cousins dined at Barlata Saturday night too! They really enjoyed it and are planning to move to Oakland, the restaurant encouraged them to look at North Oakland after they had written off Rockridge as too expensive.

  2. Crimson April 13, 2009 at 2:10 pm #

    I don’t know about The Silver Lion but I know that the Golden Bull (same owners) in downtown Oakland closed because their landlord raised the rent by $1,000 a month.

  3. Becks April 13, 2009 at 3:33 pm #

    Just to clarify – though I have a hard time imagining a grocery store and hardware store existing where Pizzaiolo and Dona Tomas now are, I would love to have stores like that back in the neighborhood. When my girlfriend and I were walking from Aunt Mary’s the other day, I was saying how nice it would be to live closer by, but she was quick to remind me how far we’d be from a grocery store, which can be problematic without a car.

  4. Karen Hester April 16, 2009 at 5:57 pm #

    I’ve lived here for the last 12 years and lived in the hood from about 1990-92 and I remember it well in the 90’s when Genova Deli was a hole in the wal along Telegraph, about where the current tatto shop is. I think Marc 49 was the old Black Muslim bakery (which I’m glad is gone from the hood).

    If you really want to read and see the old photos, buy Jeff Norman’s Temescal Stories (I think that’s the title) at Diesel Books. He’s the local historian and knowing we used to have a huge amusement park and that Telegraph was part of the Key train system is fun to know–there’s a photo from that time in front of Temescal Place (condos at 48th and Telegraph)

    P.S. Burma Superstar opening up at old Horseshoe at 48th and Telegraph in next few days (maybe on Fri)

    Karen Hester

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