Town Crier: Lake Merritt’s nightlife impressive lately

MONTCLARION: August 1, 2014

It’s been a long time since I’ve checked out Lake Merritt at night. I really need to get out more.

The change is impressive. There are cafés and people everywhere – a beautiful blend of humanity coming together to celebrate the near-perfect weather in Oakland.

The café we chose was Barlago, (550 Grand Ave.) owned by the friend of my dinner companion. Rockridge restaurateur Phil Raskin had been negotiating with ZZA’s Enoteca on this space for over a year. I love what he’s done with the place – lots of warm, reclaimed wood and vintage photographs of the lake, along with local artist Lecy Brito’s creative touches like the pressed tin ceiling in the private dining room.

My friend had grilled salmon and I had Piccata – although I was tempted to order the pizza with freshly-shucked clams (something I’ll try on my next visit). Everything was delicious.

Outside, the twenty-somethings sipped drinks at the sidewalk bar, adding to the energy of Adams Point and the lake scene. The sun was just starting to set on a sparkling lake rimmed by strollers and joggers. It was a visual of Oakland I want to remember. It was a snapshot of everything good about our town.

Around town: Grill One Carvery is going Greek in Montclair. The Boukis brothers, George and Harry, are re-tooling their haufbrau-style eatery to serve all Greek food when they re-open this month. The new restaurant will be called Kokzina – Greek for kitchen. “What we found in Oakland, especially Montclair, is people are shooting for a lighter type meal… lighter, healthier and definitely ethnic,” says George. The new menu will include family recipes, including handmade, hand-stacked Gyros that you only find in Greece and a “to die for” Cretan rice with a lemony flavor.

Roll ‘em: Does anyone know where the dice rollers went? In reporter Mimi Rohr’s article about the Silver Dragon’s last day, she mentioned it was a local hangout where liar’s dice was played. Reader Nancy S. says she loves to play dice games and would like to join the group if they’re reconvening nearby. Let me know and I’ll pass the word…

      Email bag: If you’ve ever wanted to teach – and give back – here is your opportunity. Reader Catherine O’Connell is looking for volunteers for the Oakland-based WriterCoach Connection. They bring teams of trained ‘coaches’ into the schools to help students with writing assignments. “The volunteer commitment is small – just 1-2 hours, 2-3 weeks per month,” says O’Connell, and the next training session starts in September. Find out more at

     Animal tales: Now that the U.S. is embracing soccer, could bull running be far behind? Throngs of thrill-seekers put up good money, last weekend, to be chased by a herd of stampeding bulls at the Alameda County Fairgrounds. The thrill of cheating death reportedly outweighed the risk of being trampled, gored, skewered or rammed. Believe what you want, but it sounds like a lot of bull to me.

Got news? You can reach Ginny Prior by email at or on the web at


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