Isabella Nail Bar


“The colony here is peaceful now because it’s all female. The male killers are dead,” read the subtitles on the Plant Earth-style DVD playing on the small television screen above the marble bar top. The documentary, now showing the massacre of male ants by the female ants, held the attention of every woman in the salon. Each woman was engrossed in this silent display as her nail technician fought battles of their own, pushing back cuticles and scrubbing away at callused feet. Every woman so relaxed, she might well be watching this documentary from the privacy of her own home.

The clean and hospitable ambiance of Isabella Nail Bar certainly provided a peaceful environment to unwind as you managed your beauty routine. The porcelain white walls, floors, and marble bar is met with the deep sea blue found on the accent wall, foot baths and cushions. The television was framed by two mirrored waterfall wall pieces, the sound of the water matching that of the soft and easy spa music that played on the speakers above. Toward the back, an entire wall held an expansive display of Opi and Zoya colors.

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“Water or tea?” offered my nail technician, Minh, as she gathered her supplies for my manicure. “No, thanks” I responded as I continued my struggle over which nail color to choose. Had she offered a glass of champagne from the locked mini bar behind her, I might have indulged. Those must be for special occasions. As Minh set up her station in front of me, placing a plush red pillow beneath my wrists, and a clean white towel on top, I couldn’t help but feel like I was at my favorite neighborhood bar. This was bartender meets nail artist….a Nailtender. As she finished cleaning my nails, she moved on to a four minute long arm and hand massage that felt like an unexpected luxury. Minh painted three nails to let me compare the colors I had chosen. As I struggled over this decision, Minh said, “I like the one on the end.” She was absolutely right. The shade of red was the most vibrant and colorful on my pale skin tone. She took her time, nothing was rushed in an effort to get the job done and move on to the next customer. She took as much care with my nails as she would have with her own.

The other women were pampering themselves with other services found on the menu. One woman was headed back for a wax, and a mom brought her four year old daughter in for her first manicure/pedicure. The woman next to me at the bar was getting the silk wraps done and I couldn’t help but think it looked as though she sliced and bandaged every finger tip. There were two pre-teen girls, sitting silently disengaged, as they changed nail polish colors. And, there was the lone Dad, who brought his three year old in to get “sparkly” polish. “I want to go outside now, ” she said, impatiently waiting for her nails to dry. “I’ll put you on my shoulders when we go outside,” her dad reassured her. She found this acceptable and waited for the fan to stop blowing on her little toes.

Isabella Nail Bar is located in the heart of Montclair Village in Oakland, CA. Nearby Montclair Elementary School infuses this part of town with young families and their children. Parking can be tricky, but the parking garage on La Salle Avenue allows free parking on Sundays and a short walk past the weekly farmer’s market on your way to the salon.

As I waited for my nails to dry, Minh came back over and put some extra oil on my cuticles. “Your cuticles very dry,” she said. “I know. It’s terrible” I admitted. “Keep drying. When light go off you can go.” I have never had a nail artist take such good care of me. Winter brings out dry cuticles that are almost impossible to manage. But, not for Minh. Homegirl knew what she was doing, but more than that, she cared. It’s this kind of attention to detail, and friendly customer service, that keeps people coming back to Isabella Nail Bar to relax over a hot cup of tea and a brutal nature documentary.

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Try It Out

Isabella Nail Bar  ($$$) – 1962 Mountain Blvd. Piedmont, CA 94611

Contact – (510) 339-0100

Hours –  Mon-Fri 9:30am-8pm
Sat 9am-7pm
Sun 10am-6:30pm

Cost –    $17 for a manicure (Pricey, but worth it!)

Tip  –     Nail color trends at Harpers Bazaar

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