Oakland Mayor Jean Quan wasted no time reaching out to Chinese officials in Beijing when she landed there Saturday to embark on a three-city trade mission with Oakland City Council President Larry Reid, Port of Oakland Executive Director Omar Benjamin and other of the Port’s seaport and airport officials.
Quan met with the chairman of the HNA Group, which owns Hainan Airlines, hotels and other businesses. She wants to try and bring the airline to Oakland, and perhaps convince the company to build hotels and use Oakland as its hub for for foreign tourism to Northern California.
While Mayor Quan is on her way to China, we back in Oakland are celebrating another first: Oakland’s Battle of the Taco Trucks. Saturday night from 7 p.m. until midnight at the Oakland Convention Center downtown. Tickets are $15 in advance/$25 at the door. But I think the price only buys you access to “great cheap tacos.” The key word is access. The actual tacos — and tequila — are extra. But you can call 510-466-6415 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Let the battle begin!
So Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and Council president Larry Reid jetted off to Beijing this a.m. on a whirlwind trade mission to China with Port of Oakland officials. They hope to drum up new business and expand partnerships with Chinese companies in Beijing, Shenzhen and Hong Kong.
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and Council President Larry Reid
The 12-member group includes Port executive director Omar Benjamin and other port maritime and airport officials. They’ll spend four days making stops in three cities: Beijing, Shenzhen and Hong Kong.
They’re saving the fun for last, when they visit a California wine bar and restaurant in Hong Kong to promote Oakland wineries.
A case of Oakland wine has been shipped ahead and will be served when the mayor and her entourage visit on Thursday.
Bar 355 is named for its address: 355 19th Street. The new owners are busy removing layers of history from the lounge. Not the storied decades as Mr. B’s Restaurant & Lounge or Softnotes or other incarnations. The original signs from two of those incarnations still stand on the roof, high above the facade made from rocks.
They have been scraping away at the residue left behind by food, bourbon, whiskey, beer and smoke. They have a way to go but already the walls are new — royal blue with a gold fleur-de-lys stencil. The bar is long, stretching nearly to the end of the rectangular room.
I happened by yesterday on my way back from a run around Lake Merritt. (I was thinking that the lake has developed an even more serious problem with waste: aviary. To be blunt, the bird s— is layers thick in some spots, including near the Lake Chalet.) The door was open so I peeked inside.
I can tell already that it’s a new era at 355 19th Street.
It’s back again: The Thursday Nite Live summer music series begins tonight with Josh Jones at 5:30 p.m. Mazacote on June 17, followed by other performers every two weeks — the first and third Thursdays — until October. No cover. 9th and Broadway. From 12st Street BART, just follow the music . You’ll know it by the people dancing in the street.
Surprisingly, I spotted several openings in the works to keep on an eye on:
530 Lakeside Drive: a cuban joint
1644 Telegraph: a nightclub near Cafe Van Kleef’s
2000 MacArthur Blvd: the Bay Laurel Restraurant
3000 Broadway: restaurant it appears
1803 Webster: another restaurant
Meanwhile, A Cote is still trying to clear the last hurdles with neighbors and ABC to open a second restaurant in the old Compadres Bar & Grill space on Park Blvd. Sounds like they’ll be on the way soon.
The perennial question. But would it surprise you to know that there are 1.52 bars on average for every 10,000 people in the United States? In Oakland there are more bars than grocery stores, book stores or museums. We are not alone, according to FloatingSheep.com, which shows the states that make up what they call the beer belly of America. Those are states in which bars outnumber grocery stores. It’s startling when you see it on a map.
Starting in Illinois, the beer belly expands up into Wisconsin and first spreads westward through Iowa/Minnesota and then engulfs Nebraska, and the Dakotas before petering out (like a pair of love handles) in Wyoming and Montana, according to FloatingSheep. Northern and Southern California are among the few locations on this coast to share the dubious distinction.
I used to spend about a dozen days out of the month in Liege, Belgium. This week someone stole the sign belonging to Liege, the lounge on Washington Street in Old Oakland. Thankfully the lounge is much closer than the town. Tonight I traveled all of a block to hear about the taxi promotion about to hit the streets of Oakland tomorrow for First Friday/Art Murmur.
Jonathan Bair, who was there to tell me about it, has become the marketing consultant for Friendly Cab, which is offering $5 vouchers available at The Layover lounge (15th and Franklin); Penelope (11th and Clay); and Era (Grand and Broadway). You can grab the voucher and hail a taxi later from wherever you are. Or you can hail a cab from Era, The Layover or Penelope. In any case, you are supposed to be able to apply the voucher to any cab fare: If you are bar or gallery hopping the coupon will cover most of your costs downtown. If you’re going farther you’ll pay the extra. But you have to find a cab first. In Oakland, that could complicate the plan considerably.
And even Jonathan would agree that this won’t improve the reputation for invisibility that taxis have in this town. He and Friendly owner Dahr Mann, as well as Kapsack & Bair (no relation to Jonathan) DUI attorneys who pitched in to sponsor the event, are hoping it’s a step in the right direction by enticing cabbies to cruise for fares, thus increasingly their visibility and retraining people to take taxis.
Speaking of right directions, Liege lounge replace the sign tonight. Now if we just had some signs pointing to the taxis.
You already know I have an issue with Oakland’s taxi service. I keep hearing from the owner of the largest fleet about the company’s shiny new hybrid vehicles as shown in billboards (or at least one on 8th and Washington). The city is supposed to be tracking the city’s taxi coverage: are cabbies covering the areas they are supposed to. But they don’t seem to be tracking anything. I can’t even get an analysis conducted last summer (by an intern). Not that I need them to tell me that the service has not improved much. They cruise around the Fox on show nights and, as always, are readily available at the 13th Street stands and outside the Marriott. But despite thousands of people coming in and out of the Oakland Museum on Saturday night not a single taxi was to be found. Not there and not anywhere along the strip between Oak Street and downtown. I just don’t get it.
Savory crepes and cafe au laits (the American style). They were available for a millisecond in restaurant time at Cafe Noir. Rumor has it that Mua’s Hisuk and Sanju Dong are taking over the space where they will offer a wood-fired oven menu. The previous owners abandoned the oven and the cavernous space just a month or two after opening next door to Mua on Auto Row.
In the meantime, the Uptown Cafe & Crepes opened today on 21st Street, a block above Broadway (next door to IB’s Hoagies). The cafe caters to the breakfast and lunch crowd but owner ”Chuck” Juha said he will stay open late for Paramount Theatre performance nights. The same approach is taken by Cafe Madrid, which Uptown Cafe & Crepes resembles somewhat in terms of decor and theme.
Around the corner Bakesale Betty added to the downtown food landscape with a soft opening in late April. The new store is on Broadway and 22nd. Just Look for the ironing boards.