The first time I crossed the Park Street Bridge from Oakland to Alameda it was 1992, when the bowling alley near the South Shore Center seemed like the highlight of "the Island's" social life. That and a sushi restaurant whose name I can't remember. I recall eating my first spider roll there. I also remember after a bachelorette party going to a bar, the Lost Weekend I think, where I drank shots of bad tequila. Park Street was dotted with dusty shops, a few restaurants and, instead of movies, the only thing inside the 1932 Art Deco style Alameda Theater was a gymnastics class.
Two decades later and the Navy has departed, leaving behind possibilities for change (along with hazardous contamination with which residents
C'era una Volta (www.ceraunavolta.us)
I first wandered into one of the early settlers, C'era una Volta, a few years ago.
The tables were full so I took a seat at the wine bar, one of the best places to sit in this trattoria, which opened eight years ago right off Park Street. The second-best seats are outside under the lights strung across the square, in
Just through the square and across the street is Scolari's Good Eats. The best way to describe Scolari's is with a story. A man with several children in tow walked in and asked for avocado on his Stromboli, the restaurant's signature item. When the man wanted to know if the tomato-basil sauce served with the Stromboli for dipping was spicy, the chef behind the counter lifted his eyebrow slightly but did not say a word. The anecdote exemplifies the hybrid nature of Scolari's, a little restaurant no larger than a garage: Stromboli is a modified calzone traditionally filled with ham, salami, pepperoni and mozzarella. In New York, New Jersey or Philadelphia, they cost a few bucks and you take what you get.
But this is California and Scolari's co-owner, New Jersey-born chef Dan Boyd, put deep-fried hot dogs on his menu along with summer squash crostini with goat cheese and Thai basil. Closing time is 2:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday. The rest of the week the restaurant shuts down at 11 p.m., except Sunday, when closing time is 10 p.m. The hours make sense if you consider one half of the business belongs to Dan Nichols, whose bar Lucky 13 sits next door.
Lucky 13 (www.lucky13alameda.com)
Lucky 13 is a bar where even on a summer afternoon a dozen or so men and women sit in window seats sipping pints of amber beer glowing from the sunshine hitting the glass. Most are tattooed, have some variety of rock and roll retro hairstyle and wear chunky black shoes. A few people shoot pool or play pinball. The back opens onto a patio outside. Lucky 13 describes its selection of beers as 20 "bad ass drafts" and 40 bottle varieties. There are spirits and locally-made wines but no Budweiser, Miller or Coors. And, like Scolari's, the only payment accepted is in cash.
Outside the Park Street loop is Speisekammer, a restaurant on Lincoln Avenue that describes itself as a "German take on Alameda." I would describe it as a mix of what people imagine Germany to be. They have music, sometimes of the um-pa-pa Austrian variety on weekends in the beer garden, where there is of course German beer. But they are one of the few places that serve spaetzl, a German noodle whose consistency is a cross between potato dumplings and pasta.
Forbidden Island (www.forbiddenislandalameda.com)
Further along Lincoln Avenue is Forbidden Island Tiki lounge the best place to celebrate the life and legacy of Elvis Presley while sipping a "hunka hunka burning love" cocktail and watching "Aloha from Hawaii." They're showing a 1941 version of Captain Marvel on July 23.
Here I have run out of room. But you can go to www.insidebayarea.com to see a map of more places and add your own suggestions to the Alameda Night Owl loop.