Jack London Square is both a Fisherman’s Wharf that locals actually go to and an incomplete entity longing for something huge to tie the whole thing together. It doesn’t need to be asphyxiatingly hip. It just needs to draw lots of Oaklanders to the waterfront for a good time.
And it may have found that missing piece: the bar-restaurant-arcade-bowling complex that is plank. If you’ve ever gone bowling at Yerba Buena and thought, “Why is there no food and where are the rest of the lanes?” or popped into Jillian’s and thought, “Am I actually at Chuck E. Cheese?” then plank is going to be your spot. All 50,000 square feet of it.
[jump] On the site of what used to be a giant bookstore is a waterfront colossus of entertainment, with some 40 TVs and 50 beers on tap. There’s bocce in the beer garden, billiards, Skee-Ball, a game that looks kind of like Plinko from The Price is Right, and two bowling alleys, for which the balls are painted like billiard balls with the numbers as the weights. (Additionally in one alley, the pins are hung by taut strings so that they reset themselves more quietly, preserving the lounge atmosphere.)
Perhaps the only bad thing you can say about the games at plank is that the prizes are card-based, so that you don’t accumulate thousands of those pink tickets that you can later redeem for a plastic comb or some Pogs.
However, this being the Bay Area, the real emphasis is on food. Along with a smaller outdoor menu, Chef Jason Moniz’s indoor menu embodies an approachable-upscale vibe: brie burgers, chicken tinga tacos, and a welter of pub-ish shared plates (think chicken yakitori, or mussels in a chipotle beer broth). Plank’s drinks list is vast, from rum-based punches to four types of sangria to East Bay breweries you want to see more of (High Water, Faction, Calicraft). It might actually do the impossible and make all of the people happy all of the time.
And there’s going to be takeout! It’s almost like they’re trying to feed the entire city of Oakland at once. Jean Quan loved it; you will too.
Plank, 98 Broadway, Oakland, (510) 817-0980.