Around town with Allison: Small-town vibes in Oakland’s Montclair Village

Allison Fong/Staff

Tucked in the Oakland Hills sits a small neighborhood — one that I call home. This edition of “Around Town with Allison” is really special because the Montclair Village is a place where I spent a lot of time when I was growing up. I have very fond memories of going to the weekly farmers’ market, hanging out with friends after school and sharing meals with loved ones there. Although I now go to school not too far away from Montclair (go Bears!), I find myself rarely making the short trip back home.

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As I was writing this piece, I found myself swallowed by the feeling of nostalgia as I walked around Montclair to take photos and explore the ever-changing business scene — I couldn’t help but think, “It’s good to be back.” This charming little neighborhood will always hold a special place in my heart for the memories of roaming around as a tween and now as an adult. Take a look at what this cute neighborhood has to offer!

Coffee, tea and treats

As you all know, I am a huge coffee person. But when I’m at Sophie’s Cuppa Tea, I’m all about tea. Serving a variety of quali-tea teas, you’re bound to find something that suits your sipping needs. I’ve literally walked into Sophie’s with nothing in mind and have been surprised by how much I enjoyed the recommendations from the super-educated staff. In high school, I spent a good amount of time studying in this cozy little spot. If that hasn’t won you over yet, the fact that the shop serves Tara’s Organic Ice Cream will!

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Of course, there are classics such as Peet’s and Starbucks in Montclair, but you can’t forget about Nelly’s Organic Java! I used to come here for shaved ice when I was in middle school with my friends (ah yes, colored skinny jean memories nightmares). If you’ve ever seen me walking around here, I am usually double-fisting two beverages — one cup of coffee and one cup of green juice! You better believe I’m living my best life with a K.O. with extra lemon and ginger from O Smoothie and a cold brew in my hands as I stroll through Montclair. #JustAllisonThings

For sweet treats, make sure to swing by Le Bonbon, a candy shop that specializes in all things sweet and chocolatey. With a wide selection of candy, gelato and delicious handmade truffles, you’ll literally want to buy everything at this joint. I’m all about buying local, so I love that Le Bonbon carries local chocolates such as TCHO and even local truffles that you can buy by the pound. If candy isn’t enough for your sweet tooth, head down the street to Colonial Donuts, a small donut shop that has been blessing us all with its pillowy donut goodness!

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If your beverage of choice is neither green juice, tea nor coffee, Perle and Duvin are great wine bars you should check out if you are of legal drinking age!

Food

My favorite meal of the day has to be brunch. The quintessential brunch spot in Montclair has to be the Montclair Egg Shop! Serving your favorite brunch dishes, this spot is a favorite among many in the neighborhood. There’s something about this place that screams home to me — maybe it’s the friendly staff, the fact that I’ve been going here for years or the quirky, yet homey, decor. If it’s past brunch time, head on over next door to Daughter Thai Kitchen, a newer addition to Montclair that offers yummy Thai dishes. With the fun decor, friendly staff and delicious food, what’s not to love?

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If you’re looking for more of a grab-and-go place, be sure to check out the Fifth Quarter Charcuterie or Taqueria Las Comadres, a casual taqueria that serves solids burritos. Fifth Quarter Charcuterie offers a great selection of meats and phenomenal sandwiches. Pro-tip: Don’t skip out on their homemade fries! Although I’m not a meat eater, my meat-eating friends rave about this place. I trust their meat-eating abilities and taste enough to recommend! If you prefer seafood, check out the ever-so-trendy Kakui or Kotobuki for some great Japanese food! That’s right folks, your favorite Park Street sushi spot has a location in Montclair! 

Shopping

I’m a fan of many things, especially cute shops. Luckily, Montclair has a bunch for my (and your) perusing pleasure. One of my all-time favorite shops in Montclair is Pelago, a cute boutique that carries an assortment of gifts and little knick-knacks. I always find something new and exciting when I’m in this shop, whether it’s for myself or a gift for a friend.

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If you’re the type that likes to dabble in cooking, be sure to head over to Someone’s in the Kitchen, a shop that focuses on cookware and culinary gadgets. My favorite thing about this store is definitely its seasonal displays. As you walk around the store, you’ll be sure to notice the attention to detail of its decorative tables and displays.

If there are too many cooks in the kitchen and you’d rather curl up and enjoy a good book, head on over to A Great Good Place for Books! This bookstore might be small, but it sure is mighty. I love supporting local businesses, especially bookstores! While you’re all reading off of your iPads and Kindles, I’ll be enjoying a good ol’ physical book. Print is not dead, people!

Something that I remember doing a lot growing up was going to the farmers’ market in Montclair on Sunday mornings. Munching on fresh pastries while picking up local produce is an experience that instantly reminds me of home! With local vendors lining the street, there’s always something that’ll catch your eye!

Twice a year, Montclair hosts an art walk that features local Californian artisans, which is always an exciting time in the neighborhood. Along with seasonal parades and its weekly Sunday farmers’ market, Montclair has that small-community vibe that is instantly welcoming and insanely charming.

Whether you’re coming from near or far, Montclair is a home to all. Giving off those small-town vibes where everyone knows everyone, swing by Montclair for your next adventure outside of Berkeley!

Allison Fong writes the weekly blog column on places and activities to try in and around Berkeley. Contact her at [email protected].