Tag Archives: Awaken Cafe

Rediscovering Downtown Oakland: Cafes

2 Jan

Several weeks ago I promised to restart my Rediscovering Downtown Oakland series and asked for suggestions on what categories to cover. I’m starting off with Cathy’s request: “how about coffeeshops? with room to sit in?” I was a bit surprised, looking back at my 2009 series, that I had not covered cafes, especially since there are several fantastic places to sip coffee and tea downtown. It seemed like an appropriate place to start, since as many of us return from vacations to work this week we might need or benefit from some extra caffeine.

Here are a few of my favorites. (Note that besides being great cafes to enjoy with friends or colleagues, all of these places also offer free wi-fi so they’re great places to work too.) Continue reading

Oakland General Strike: Support local, independent businesses

2 Nov

Before heading to downtown for the general strike, I wanted to put up this quick blog post urging folks to support the small businesses downtown – both those that are closed today and those that are open. Some businesses downtown have been hurting for the past couple of weeks, either because of the occupation or because of the heavy police presence in Frank Ogawa Plaza last week. Sadly, a few businesses have had their windows broken by protesters.

Some are urging folks to buy nothing today. I don’t support that message. Instead, I urge you to buy locally and to spend money at the downtown businesses that have been most effected by Occupy Oakland and the police response. Continue reading

Awaken Cafe is back!

13 Jul



UPDATE: The Awaken Cafe cart opens tomorrow, Friday, July 15th!

Awaken Cafe has always been one of my favorite Oakland cafes so when they closed about a year ago, I was super sad. Since then I’ve missed their absolutely delicious chai, foam art, and friendly staff. I’ve tried out many cafes downtown and now have a few I rotate between, but none of them have filled Awaken’s spot for me.

I’ve been closely watching their new space on Broadway at 15th for the past few months, watching for signs of progress and telling everybody I walked by with that someday Awaken would reopen there.

So you can imagine how excited I was yesterday when on my way back to work from lunch I saw this sign: Continue reading

Help Awaken Cafe reopen & bring a needed community space to Downtown

3 Dec

Longtime readers of this blog might remember that ever since Awaken Cafe was being built out back in 2007, I was a huge fan. And when they did open, many months later, I was not disappointed. They make excellent coffee and tea, their staff are incredibly welcoming, featured incredible local art, and regularly hosted live music.

A few months ago, Awaken had to leave their space on 14th Street and soon will be moving into Frank Ogawa Plaza. At this new space, they hope to follow through with their original plan of creating a larger community space that stays open later, serves more food, and offers beer and wine.

I loved Awaken in its smaller incarnation, but the idea of a larger community space is always what excited me more. The thought of being able to hang out just a few steps from City Hall drinking a glass of wine before Council meetings start or while waiting for a particular item to come up on the agenda sounds awesome. And since they’ll have free wireless internet there, this will be super easy to do.

But this new, much larger space is going to cost significant amounts of money to get up and running and to build out. Awaken has a smart plan – sometime this month they plan to open a coffee cart outside, just like Remedy Coffee in Temescal did, and they hope to have the full cafe open a few months after that.

To make this happen, they need community help. The New Parkway was incredibly able to raise nearly $57,000 in small donations from nearly 1000 supporters so I’m sure Awaken Cafe can surpass its goal of $3,000 in the next two days.

Here’s a brief video from Cortt Dunlap, the owner, further explaining Awaken’s vision and why they need help:

Even though I don’t have a full time job right now, I chipped in and I hope you can do the same. Just like the New Parkway did, they’re offering perks including admittance to their opening party and free coffee. Please give what you can to support a fantastic local business that will bring a much needed community space to downtown.

Guide for last-minute holiday shopping in Oakland

21 Dec

A surprising number of people have been reaching my blog in the past few days by searching for “oakland holiday gift guide” or something similar to that. The problem is that all the events in my Oakland holiday shopping guide have now ended, and it’s clear many people are still looking to shop locally.

At this point, you might just be tempted to do all your shopping online or head down to a big box store, but there are still many opportunities to finish (or start) your holiday shopping in Oakland. Here are a few of the places I recommend.

Rockridge Home

Last year, I didn’t manage to write about Rockridge Home until after the holiday season, which I regretted because it’s my favorite place to buy presents. As I wrote last year:

And soon I realized Rockridge Home was one of the best places in Oakland to go gift shopping. They have a little bit of everything there – art, kitchen tools, books, music, toys, and all sorts of random fun things that you really want to buy for yourself but can’t justify spending the money on. Whether your budget is $5 or $500, you’ll be able to find something that’s just right. You can feel good about spending money there, as they recently became a Certified Green Business.

So whatever you’re looking for and whomever you’re looking to gift to, chances are that you’ll find something at Rockridge Home. And gift wrapping is free so you don’t need to worry about having time to do that yourself.

5418 College Avenue, Oakland
Open 11am-8pm everyday
Accessible by Rockridge BART or the 51 bus


There are tons of incredible Oakland-focused t-shirt artists, but only one of them is setting its truck up this Tuesday and Wednesday to help you finish your last-minute shopping. You can buy t-shirts, hoodies, and tote bags that celebrate Oakland for people of any age and size – from infant to adult. Head down to their truck tomorrow or Wednesday to support local artists while completing your shopping.

Piedmont & Pleasant Valley
Tuesday & Wednesday from 12-7

Awaken Cafe

Awaken Cafe is not just a great place to get a cup of coffee or an excellent chai, but also a perfect place to snag a few gifts for that coffee-lover in your life. Swing buy for an Awaken Cafe t-shirt or travel mug, coffee-brewing supplies, coffee beans in gift boxes, and more. While you’re there, drink a cup of coffee to fuel the rest of your holiday shopping.

414 14th Street (between Broadway & Franklin)
Monday through Friday: 7 am to 6 pm
Saturday & Sunday: 8 am to 5 pm
Accessible by 12th Street BART station or many AC Transit buses

Gift Certificates to Oakland Stores & Restaurants

If you struggle with ideas for gift-giving, gift certificates are a great option. Just call your favorite Oakland store or restaurant and ask if they have gift certificates available. You’ll be supporting an Oakland business and could introduce someone you know to one of the great places Oakland has to offer. My favorite place to buy gift certificates is Piedmont Springs, since most anyone would appreciate an hour in an outdoor hot tub, a massage, or skin care treatments.

Telegraph Holiday Street Fair

This isn’t in Oakland, so I didn’t mention it in my last post, but the Telegraph Holiday Street Fair in Berkeley does feature many Oakland artists. If you can brave the crowds, you’ll find plenty of jewelery, glass art, clothing, ceramics, metal-work, and just about anything you can imagine. And this is one of the few places where you can buy gifts on Christmas eve, so if you’re a super-last minute shopper, this just might be the best solution for you.

Telegraph, between Dwight & Bancroft in Berkeley
December 23rd & 24th from 11am-6pm
Accessible by the 1/1R bus lines

Rediscovering Downtown Oakland: Sweet Treats

20 May

With California and Oakland facing daunting budget crises, sometimes it’s necessary to step back and just enjoy life. And sometimes that’s as easy as heading downtown to grab a sweet treat.

Ice Cream at the Sweet Booth – 9th between Franklin and Webster

Last month, during the crazy heat wave, I complained on Facebook that there was nowhere to get ice cream in downtown Oakland. Within minutes, several people corrected me, telling me I had to check out the Sweet Booth in Chinatown. So the next afternoon, V Smoothe and I went down there. It’s kind of a whole in the wall, but they have a a varied selection of flavors and apparently make incredible smoothies with real fruit. I got a coconut scoop and V and I sat on a bench, enjoying our ice cream and talking about the budget (yes, we are dorks in real life too). Once the heat starts to kick in again, check this place out.

Vegan Donuts at Awaken Cafe – 14th between Broadway and Franklin

Sometimes in the afternoon, I’m dragging so I walk over to Awaken and grab a chai, and if I’m in the mood for something sweet, a vegan donut. If you’re skeptical, get over it – they’re delicious! And they’re made here in Oakland by People’s Donuts. Every flavor I’ve tasted has been great so grab whatever they have when you stop by. They are a little pricey, but they’re well worth it every once in a while.

Shakes at Rico’s Diner – 15th at Franklin

So I know I’ve covered Rico’s twice already, but there was no way I could leave Rico’s out of this category. They have the most incredible shakes, and in so many different flavors. They have all the usual flavors – chocolate, vanilla, strawberry. But my absolute favorite is the peach shake. It’s so refreshing on a warm afternoon.

Asian Pastries at Wonder Food Bakery – Webster between 9th and 10th

I’m not sure when it happened, but one day I was attempting to walk into Cam Huong and accidentally walked into the bakery next door. And I’m so glad I did because it’s become one of my favorite spots to grab a pastry. From the sesame balls, to the egg custard tarts, to their delicious cakes, everything I’ve had there has been tasty and very reasonably priced. So next time you stop into Cam Huong for a sandwich, head next door for something sweet.

April 6-10 Oakland Political & Community Events

5 Apr

Tuesday, April 7th – A Conversation on Reentry: Making Rehabilitation an Essential Part of Public Safety Policy

Though this event is in San Francisco, I thought it would be of particular interest to Oaklanders, in light of the recent killings of four Oakland police officers by Lovelle Mixon, who was on parole. Citizen Hope and several other groups are hosting this discussion on the critical issues of rehabilitation and reentry to address the following questions: What are we doing to reduce this rate of recidivism? What are the costs of mass imprisonment to our society and to our communities? What are we doing for people when they are in prison/jail and when they are released? What are some of the innovative approaches to reentry and rehabilitation that are currently being implemented? Speakers at the event include:

  • San Francisco DA Kamala Harris
  • Jakada Imani, Executive Director, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights
  • Jessica Flintoft, Program Coordinator, Safe Communities Reentry Council
  • Lateefah Simon, Executive Director, Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights
  • Steve Ngo, San Francisco Community College Board Trustee

The panel discussion will be held from 6-8pm at UC Hastings Alumni Reception Center (2nd Floor),
200 McAllister Street in San Francisco. There will be a reception held afterward at Soluna Cafe, 272 McAllister Street, from 8-9:30pm. For more info and to RSVP, visit the event’s Facebook page.

Wednesday, April 8th – “Ensuring Sustainability: From Green Beans to Green Cafes”

Attention Coffee Lovers!  Join Awaken Cafe for a lively presentation on, “Ensuring Sustainability: From Green Beans to Green Cafes” from Transfair USA and Green Cafe Network.  This will be a presentation and discussion on bringing environmental responsibility and sustainability to all aspects of the coffee industry.  It will be presented by Miguel Zamora, Senior Category Manager, Coffee & Hot Beverages for Transfair USA and Kirstin Henninger, Director of Green Cafe Network.This presentation will take place from 5:30-6:30pm at Awaken Cafe, 414 14th Street in downtown, and is free and open to everyone. For more info, email email info@greencafenetwork.org.

Thursday, April 9th – Mix It Up East Bay: Criminal Jutice in the East Bay

On Thursday night, have a few drinks, meet politically engaged Oaklanders, and learn about East Bay criminal justice issues at Mix It Up East Bay. A timely subject, come hear (brief) presentations on criminal justice in the East Bay by:

  • Dorian Peters, Deputy District Attorney, Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office
  • Natasha Minsker, Alameda County Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty

Mix It Up East Bay is held every 2nd Thursday of the month from 6-9pm at Shashamane at 2507 Broadway.

A magical night in downtown Oakland

9 Feb

Friday night in downtown Oakland was a bit magical for me.

For several years now, I’ve been in love with downtown Oakland. I love the varied historic and modern architecture. I love that though there are tons of people around, it feels like a small town because I can’t help but run into people I know and even the restaurant and store employees say hello to me on the street. I love the restaurants and I love the nightlife.

Yet there was always something that bothered me about downtown Oakland – most people just didn’t seem to get how great the DTO is. I’d practically have to beg friends to meet me downtown for a drink after work. And forget dinner downtown – even many of my friends who work in the DTO never stuck around past dark.

Slowly, I’ve noticed a change in attitudes towards downtown, but on Friday night, the DTO finally felt like it was reaching its potential.

There were people everywhere! From 14th Street all the way down past the Art Murmur on 23rd, there were thousands of people on the street and inside art galleries, music venues, bars, and restaurants. People on foot, people on bike, and people in cars. At many points, I witnessed gridlock on the streets, something I’ve never seen downtown at night.

And they were there for good reason. The Fox, though I’ve yet to go inside, is radiant, and the detailed restoration I could see from outside just made me want to see more. The dueling marquees of the Fox and the Paramount lit up Uptown, and the spotlights on top of the Fox could be seen from anywhere downtown and beyond. Even for those without a lot of money to burn, there was plenty to do for free.

There were dozens of people inside and outside of Awaken Cafe, enjoying music and paintings that celebrate downtown Oakland. The center of the Art Murmur, at 23rd and Telegraph, was jam packed. At one point, it was nearly impossible to move inside Johansson Projects because there was an a cappella group singing. No problem for me – that just cut down on the taco truck line so I could grab a bite to eat.

As the Art Murmur dwindled down, many headed to the Uptown to catch a free night of music. Though it wasn’t overly crowded, there was always a wait to get a drink, and the energy was high. I sat for a while near the front door and watched the rain fall, illuminated by a lamppost on the sidewalk outside. I sat back and smiled and I think a few tears welled up in my eyes. This was downtown as I always saw it – vibrant, fun, and sometimes unpredictable – but now this was the downtown so many others were experiencing, and I knew they would return.

Fatefully, I left the Uptown just as the show at the Fox was getting out. There were so many people on the sidewalks that it was difficult to walk for a couple of blocks. People were wandering about, many of them looking for something to eat, though there was no food to be had at that hour. So most of us ended up in the bars nearby. I tried to go to Radio, but it was packed like I’ve never seen it before. Forget finding a seat – you would have been lucky to find a wall to lean on.

There’s still more to be done to improve downtown Oakland. As dto510 mentioned last week, the City needs to complete its sidewalk improvements in Uptown. We need more restaurants, especially some that stay open past 10pm. And we need to encourage public transit usage, biking, and walking so that there isn’t so much congestion on the streets on busy nights.

But even without these improvements, downtown Oakland is finally the place to be. And that makes me so happy that at least for one night, I was able to forget about Oakland’s troubles and enjoy what this incredible city has to offer.

Oakland focused art show at Awaken Cafe tonight

6 Feb

Most of the action in downtown Oakland tonight will be focused in Uptown – the first regular priced show at the Fox, the Art Murmur, and a free show at the Uptown. But before you head in that direction, make sure to stop by Awaken Cafe on 14th Street to check out their new art show, “Walking Oakland.” I popped in yesterday to take a look and was astounded by the beauty of the paintings by Cleo Vilett that captured the beautiful, and sometimes overshadowed, parts of Oakland life.

Here’s how Cleo describes the show:

This series was inspired from the many big and little “treats” I discovered as I walked around Oakland. Many of the views were happenstance, discoveries I found on a natural, daily path between my studio and the gym and back. The more I noticed, the more I chose to seek, and my path began to widen and radiate outward.

I was drawn to this show because of the subjects of the paintings, but Cleo’s skill and use of her mediums are what will make you want to walk off with one of these paintings. She painted this series on wood, and the contours of the wood bring depth and texture to the pieces.

As usual, there will be music to accompany the art tonight. Oakland DJs King Kooba & the Trout are bringing SLOW-GIN back to Awaken for a special set of downtempo and jazz love songs. And there will be wine, snacks, and plenty of interesting conversation to go around too.

If you can’t make it tonight, “Walking Oakland” will be at Awaken for the next month so I highly recommend stopping by. You can also preview (and buy) Cleo’s artwork at the Awaken online store.

When: Friday, February 6th, 2009 from 5pm-pm
Where: Awaken Cafe, 414 14th Street
More Info: http://awakencafe.com/one/gallery/current/index.htm

I <3 Awaken Cafe

7 Oct

I was having a pretty rough day today. I couldn’t sleep last night and had a million different projects to complete at work, and of course our printer broke and then our copy machine broke right as I was about to make hundreds of copies. Knowing I was about to completely freak out, I grabbed my purse and left the office, walking towards Awaken Cafe.

The walk alone did me good – though it was terribly foggy and depressing this morning, the sun had finally come out and the sunlight shone down on all the beautiful buildings on 14th Street. I walked into Awaken, ordered a chai, and looked around at the abstract paintings on the wall – not really my style, but a nice distraction.

The barista then handed me my chai:

I know, they usually create pretty designs in their drinks so this isn’t anything new or special to just me, but today it made me smile, seeing this cute little heart floating in my chai.

So thanks Awaken, for calming me down a bit on this stressful day.