Antiques, Snacks and MorePosted on December 18, 2008 – 8:32 PM | by beckler
When you think about heading for the Bay Area you probably think of San Francisco foremost, and then maybe you’ll make a side trip to the Gourmet Ghetto in Berkeley, or to Chinatown in Oakland, but have you ever thought about spending the day in Alameda? Alameda is sunny, cheap, and friendly, and you won’t have to wait in line or spend an hour trying to find parking.
The Alameda Point Antiques and Collectibles Faire is held the first Sunday of every month at a former naval station. This huge collection of goods is a little overwhelming, so I suggest that you stop and have dim sum at East Ocean Seafood Restaurant to fortify yourself to fight the crowds over that perfect Danish Modern coffee table. East Ocean serves dim sum from carts every day from 10 AM to 2:30 PM. The quality of the dim sum at East Ocean is on par with New Canton (which is high praise). I recommend keeping your eyes peeled for a fresh (that is key) plate of salt and pepper squid, which is their specialty, and which they make hundreds of pounds of on Chinese holidays.
After you are full of dumplings and properly caffeinated with green tea, you can head to the flea market. The day I went it was chilly (even though it was Summer), and my party hadn’t dressed properly so we all became obsessed with buying warm clothing. I scored a sweet 60s era preppy plaid jacket that I built my Summer look around. This proved to be a costly look because it entailed me buying a yacht, but that’s a story for another time. This flea market has everything, from taxidermy to top-notch furniture. Bring cash and don’t be afraid to bargain.
If you’re chilled and you would like to sit in an overstuffed armchair and sip some tea like a proper English lord or lady, your next stop should be Julie’s Coffee and Tea Garden (1223 Park St.) Park Street is pretty much the main drag, so you can leave your car here and walk after you finish your cup of lapsang souchong or wild tree pu-erh.
Next stop for a snack? The Pampered Pup (1401 Park St), which has a super cool old sign with a rotund, lounging pup who sports a multi-carat diamond on her finger. Alameda is abounding in kitschy, campy old signs and dive bars, and spotting them is part of the fun of cruising around. The Pampered Pup has juicy, delicious dogs with a real snap.
When you enter the Alameda Marketplace (1650 Park St), you will lament the fact that Sacramento can’t get it together to have a place like this downtown. It’s a gathering of multiple independent food purveyors under one roof. There’s a natural foods market, an outlet of Baron’s Meat And Poultry (opened by a Culinary Institue of America graduate who learned his trade at Niman Ranch), a seafood purveyor, a bakery, and, my favorite, Farmstead Cheeses And Wines.
Farmstead specializes in small production and unusual wines and artisanal cheeses. Their website states that they, “provide superlative customer service in a convivial and educational environment”, and I think that aptly sums it up. They cut and wrap cheese to order and each time I’ve been there the employees have been happy to let me taste the cheeses and answer all my questions. Much of the wine is on the pricey side, but they always have bargains on the table out front, and I’ve bought some excellent wines here on a budget. I recommend that you bring a cooler with you on your daytrip because you’ll probably want to pack it with cheeses and sausages to bring home.
For a last stop, you may want to swing by Kevin Patrick Books (2170 Encinal Ave.) This place is crammed floor to ceiling with books. If digging through dusty books for an hour or so is your idea of fun, as it is mine, you could unearth a treasure at this place. They have a good selection of vintage paperbacks and art books. Just be sure not to make any sudden moves, or you could find yourself underneath a giant pile of ’86 Toyota Camry manuals.
So, if Alameda isn’t quite as urbane as San Francisco or Oakland, it has a dreamy charm all its own. As you make your way home with your carload of taxidermied cougars and delicious treats, you may, like me, find yourself already planning your next trip to Alameda.