In a city known for its diversity, Temescal may presently reign as Oakland's de facto melting pot. Here, the old guard and the new wave rub elbows along Telegraph Avenue, with landmarks like Genova Delicatessen (5095 Telegraph Ave., 510-652-7401) and a proliferation of paint stores nestled among relative newcomers like Doña Tomas (5004 Telegraph Ave., 510-450-0522, DonaTomas.com) one of the first upscale restaurants to test the waters in Temescal, and a host of popular daytime destinations such as Aunt Mary's Cafe (4307 Telegraph Ave., 510-601-9227, AuntMarysCafe.com), the Mixing Bowl (4920 Telegraph Ave., 510-655-5630, MixingBowlOakland.com), Remedy Coffee (4316 Telegraph Ave., RemedyOakland.com), and the child-friendly SadieDey's Cafe (4210 Telegraph Ave., 510-601-7378, SadieDeysCafe.com).
Yet the new restaurant scene tells only part of Temescal's story. On both sides of Telegraph Avenue, a swath of Oaklanders from fixed-income senior citizens to upwardly mobile young families populate vibrant neighborhoods of early-20th-century Craftsman bungalows and Victorian homes. Ethnicities represented by Temescal's eateries — Korean, Ethiopian, Vietnamese, Mexican, and Japanese, to name a few — only hint at the diversity of the surrounding neighborhoods. And when they're not eating, many residents find common ground at another neighborhood staple: the local bar.
The Avenue, located at 4822 Telegraph Ave. (510-654-1423), might be deemed a dive bar, but given that it's the only one left on this stretch of Telegraph, it has earned the right to transcend such a label. It's the sort of bar that attracts all sorts of people at all hours, from noontime early birds to midnight revelers. Bartenders and co-owners Davey Herrick and Curtis Howard — Oakland natives in their thirties who bought and renovated the place, formerly known as Connolly's, about three years ago — have witnessed Temescal's diversity stroll through their front door.
"It gives this whole neighborhood character," he said. "There's so many different groups of people, and everybody gets along." On one recent evening, he said, "punks, metal guys, and hip-hop guys" met up at one end of the bar and soon got to laughing and buying each other drinks.
Herrick, who recalls visiting Genova decades ago with his grandfather, said the deli still makes his favorite sandwiches. Howard proffered his own list of favorites: LaVal's Pizza (4919 Telegraph Ave., 510-654-1660, LaValPizzaBBQ.com), where one employee whips up custom creations and makes personal deliveries to the bar; the decidedly more visible but no less notable Lanesplitter Pizza & Pub (4799 Telegraph Ave., 510-653-5350, LanesplitterPizza.com); the hole-in-the-wall S&S Seafood (4923 Telegraph Ave., 510-654-5504) for fried catfish and red snapper; and tapas restaurant Barlata (4901 Telegraph Ave., 510-450-0678, Barlata.com), one of Telegraph Avenue's newest gourmet denizens.
"You have the option to go high-class or to slum it," concluded Herrick. "I like to call it friendly eclectic."