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ok, how about good areas in Oakland?

OP is looking for a place to stay for a trip, who said anything about looking for a residential neighborhood to live in?

ok, how about good areas in Oakland?

I'd recommend staying at the Waterfront Hotel in Jack London Square. There is easy access to the Oakland/SF Ferry which will take you into the city on a 30 minute ride, and it is also walkable to BART.

JLS is home to several new(ish) restaurants such as Jack's Oyster Bar, Forge Pizzeria, Haven, Lungomare, Bocanova, and older stand-bys such as Scott's, The Fat Lady, Encuentro, and Kinkaid's.

There are also three interesting bars nearby. Heinold's is an historic bar where Jack London is said to have spent time as a student. Merchant Saloon is a working man's dive bar where the produce guys start drinking at 8am, and turns into a hipster/punk bar at night. The Warehouse is the local cop bar. Other drinking options include Beer Revolution (close) and Linden Street Brewery (less close). All of these establishments are low key.

Good coffee is nearby with Blue Bottle and Bicycle Coffee. Standard breakfast can be found at Buttercup, nothing special. Chinatown is nearby. If you don't mind walking several blocks, Cock a Doodle Cafe does a good breakfast.

Bring earplugs if you are a light sleeper. JLS is adjacent to Amtrak and commercial train tracks.

"Fine Dining" in Castro Valley?

Try Neumanali in Hayward. There are no fine dining options in CV. Otherwise you might try driving the other way into Dublin.

Grocery Outlet -- September 2014

@ Oakland

Huy Fong Sriracha $3.49
Kam Yen Lap Cheong $3.99

Dinner near Lake Merritt [Oakland]

Portal is a good choice in the East Lake area, and you can actually see the lake while you eat, unlike most of the other suggestions here. Ala Mar is pretty good seafood over on Grand between Webster and Harrison or thereabouts.

One of my favorites is Grand Lake Kitchen, more of a neighborhood place than any sort of upscale feel.

Italian or French or ? near Hayward

No prob. There's also Paradiso in San Leandro. It might be worth a sniff.

Italian or French or ? near Hayward

Slim pickings in Hayward...

For French, Papillon in Fremont?
For Italian, Buon Appetito or Acqua E Farina in Hayward?

best cheap eats in the Berkeley / Oakland area

Cheeseboard is closed Sundays and Monday, and are often closed for school holidays, whereas Arizmendi is open pretty much open daily. That and their multiple locations make Arizmendi worth mentioning for people who may not know that they are sister restaurants.

best cheap eats in the Berkeley / Oakland area

Mr Happy, your list has everything that I had in mind. I might add Champa Garden which is super bang for the buck. I would also add Arizmendi for its pizza slices.

Jack London Square... [Oakland]

Stag's Lunchette and Marrow are great downtown Oakland lunch spots.

Looking for an awesome pre-Warriors game meal (coming from Union Square area)

Dinner at 5pm in Oakland leaves you plenty of time to get to the game. People arriving at Oracle are spread out from 630pm to 800pm. There's no major crush on BART except for when you try and leave. Then everyone leaves at once.

Personally, I recommend getting a few signature greyhounds at Van Kleef, then walking over to Duende for a couple plates of tapas, then getting back onto BART to go to see the Dubs. You really can't go wrong with most of the restaurants in Uptown.

There are also a few restaurants in Old Oakland that are notable. Also within walking distance.

Looking for an awesome pre-Warriors game meal (coming from Union Square area)

There's nothing near Oracle to speak of, especially if you are taking public transportation. You could stop off at the 19th St Station in Oakland and have access to some great restaurants in the Uptown neighborhood:

Duende, Flora, Hopscotch, Plum, Ozumo, Pican, Mockingbird...many choices of bars and restaurants there.

Grocery Outlet January 2014

Oakland location has Perrier water for 79c/bottle. Only two cases left!

Breakfast Sandwich - SF Dish of the Month June 2013

If it hasn't been mentioned, Oakland's Kefa Coffee at 422 29th Ave, south of JLS near the Estuary, has the best bacon, egg and cheese sandwich, served on an English muffin. Everything is made to order, so it takes a bit of time, but well worth the wait.