One of my very favorite places close to my neighborhood in Oakland is Temescal Alley, hidden away off of Telegraph Avenue on 49th street. Once home to stables for the carriage horses that traversed Telegraph, the Alley now features a bounty of small businesses ranging from a barber to clothing shops to an apothecary. There is something for everyone in this vibrant microcosm and while there are too many great finds to cover in detail, here are some highlights.
Where to Shop
The first shop you’ll see when you walk into the alley is Crimson Horticultural Rarities, a treasure trove of air plants, terrariums, fossils, and geodes. The air inside is perfumed with the artisan scents for sale, and each nook offers a new discovery that you didn’t know you needed until now.
One of the things I love most about the Alley is the cross-pollination between the shops. Nowhere better exemplifies the inter-shop collaboration than Walrus, owned and operated by Wendy Renz. Opened in January 2013, Walrus features a wide range of upcycled goods, many of which are joint projects with other shops on the Alley. Sachets, sewn from recycled cashmere sweaters, are filled with dried lavender from Homestead Apothecary. Textiles for some items are donated by neighboring Mind's Eye Vintage. And the petite air plants that peek from handmade wooden birdhouses are from Crimson Horticultural.
Renz has a strong commitment to upcycling - she's been known to shut the shop to follow up on a tip about an amazing find - and a passion for working with other local artists and merchants. In addition to working with fellow shopkeepers in the Alley, Renz collaborates with local restaurants to source wine corks for her corkboards, and gladly receives burlap coffee bags from Bicycle Coffee to make into charming totes. I always find something new that catches my eye in this cozy shop.
Homestead Apothecary is another great destination in the Alley. A charming nook nestled towards the back of the alley, Homestead is home to a plethora of dried flowers and herbs to combine for teas, tisanes, and any other concoctions you might want to whip up. Also featured is a well curated selection of bath and body products, including none other than our own Etta + Billie!
The final stop on our mini shopping tour of Temescal Alley is Esqueleto. This beautifully curated shop is owned by Lauren Wolf, the artist behind Lauren Wolf Jewelry, whose eye for distinctive adornment is evident in every vignette. In addition to jewelry, Esqueleto features accessories and objects d’art, including installations from a rotating selection of artists. During my visit, the shop displayed dramatic suspended clay works from Heather Levine, a Los Angeles-based ceramic artist (seen here reflected in the mirrors).
Where to eat
Temescal Alley and its surrounding block can feed your hunger as well as satisfying your shopping cravings. If you’re in need of some caffeine while checking out all the Alley merchants have to offer, stop by The CRO Café. They make a lovely latte and the staff is friendly and knowledgeable.
You may not leave the Alley without a stop at Doughnut Dolly. You. May. Not. Their doughnuts are fresh as can be (you have your choice between powdered sugar and crystalline sugar on top), and they are filled right in front of your face. There are multiple fillings to choose from, some seasonal and some standard. You can even mix fillings! If you leave without choosing the Naughty Cream (a crème fraiche pastry cream), I will never speak to you again.
If you are looking for more substantial fare, fear not, as there are amazing options right around the corner. Less than one block away is the recently-opened and long-awaited Cholita Linda storefront. Cholita Linda has long been a favorite at Oakland farmer’s markets, garnering much attention for their superlative fish tacos (carnitas, carne asada, pollo and tofu also available, but nothing beats the fish. Nothing). If a sandwich is more your style, check out Bakesale Betty, about a block away on the corner of 51st and Telegraph Avenue. The hours are short and the menu is simple (written daily by hand on butcher paper), but folks line up down the block for the amazing fried chicken sandwiches.
If you are looking for a dinner option, go no further than Pizzaiolo. Embracing a locavore, farm-to-table approach, Pizzaiolo features elevated wood-fired pizzas (the summer squash, pounded parsley and grana is a favorite with my gang) as well as delicious primi and secondi. The menu changes daily, so there is always something new to sample. The cocktail menu is also a treat - definitely give the gin with housemade tonic a try. Pizzaiolo is also open in the mornings for coffee and baked goods - a perfect place to catch up on emails while you caffeinate.