The city of Oakland has an incredibly diverse population and an abundance of independent cafes, bars, and restaurants to make this a destination for any food lover. There are many hidden gems scattered throughout the city and its unique neighborhoods, among some of my favorites including: Brown Sugar Kitchen (southern food with a gourmet twist and superb for brunch); Miss Ollie’s (Caribbean soul food) and Cosecha (fresh Mexican) both inside the old Swan’s Market building in downtown Oakland; TrueBurger (killer milkshakes) and Umami Burger in Uptown Oakland; Blue Bottle coffee and Haven in Jack London Square; and great spots in Chinatown for dim sum and hand pulled noodles (Shan Dong).
There are too many others to name, but here are a few standouts I strongly recommend (organized by neighborhood):
If you are catching a movie at The Grand Lake Theater, there are a couple of spots nearby I adore:
Sister restaurant to Temescal’s Pizzaiolo, you can count on great pizza, small plates and cocktails. Also plan to stop by Alchemy Bottle Shop to procure some artisanal spirits for your home bar collection.
Charlie Hallowell does it again at this modern, bustling joint. We stopped by late on a Saturday night for a convivial evening of killer cocktails and delicious, fresh shared plates. Penrose also hosts live entertainment on many evenings. On our visit, we were lucky to see sultry soul master Tory Teasley who belted out soul and R&B classics accompanied by the jammin' house band.
If you like your food cooked over an open flame or in a wood burning oven, then Camino is for you. The menu is limited but deliciously designed. The staff provides warm and attentive service and, with their rosy cheeks and wholesome appearances, look like they were borne from the pages of Kinfolk magazine. The warm energy emitting from the open flames transcends the entire space and makes it a wonderful place to spend a couple of hours enjoying the food and your company.
This charming neighborhood has several blocks of retail shops and a lovely local grocery store, aptly named Piedmont Grocery. There are also several great restaurants along Piedmont Avenue, but my favorite right now deserves all of the spotlight:
There are several great burger joints I love in Oakland right now (TrueBurger and Umami Burger among them), but Kronnerburger may serve the best. It is very meaty, juicy, and flavorful. They serve it rare, unless you specify otherwise. And you can even get a side of bone marrow if you really want to amp it up. Vegetarians, fear not: the vegetarian Earth Burger is also fantastic. If you go, you absolutely must order the perfectly prepared French fries and one of their always creative seasonal salads (at least so you can say you ate something healthy).
This neighborhood is one of my favorite places to hang out on the weekend if I want to peruse unique boutiques without requiring a trip into San Francisco. Rockridge is full of options. Some of my favorites for housewares include Atomic Garden, Nathan & Co., and Maison d’Etre. Bica Coffeehouse makes an incredible house made Chai tea, but their coffee bean selection is also top notch (Intelligentsia, Heart, Verve, and Ritual Roasters, among them). And of course, there is Market Hall. Market Hall houses a collection of gourmet food purveyors and has a lovely European style deli. It’s the perfect place to pick up a whole roasted chicken and kale Cesar on the way home from work along with any other fresh ingredients you need to pick up between farmers market visits.
This East Bay outpost is just as lively and inviting as the San Francisco (Cow Hollow) original. A16 serves rustic, yet refined, Italian cuisine and Neopolitan pizzas from their wood-fired pizza oven. I love the food but also enjoy studying (and ordering from) the extensive selection of Italian wine and amaro.
My mouth waters just thinking about Ramen Shop. I cannot get enough of it. The menu is constantly changing, but the one thing that remains the same is that they offer three ramen options each night, along with at least a half dozen appetizers and salads and a donburi and fried rice option. I am addicted to the Veggie Shoyu Meyer Lemon ramen broth.
My go to spot for Thai take-out. It never disappoints.
Wood Tavern is the quintessential neighborhood restaurant, and everyone loves it. It is always busy. Always. Book ahead or drop by for lunch. And be sure to stop by La Farine boulangerie on your way in. It is one of the East Bay’s best bakeries that I put in the same class as Tartine in San Francisco.
If you’ve never explored Temescal before, go on a First Friday and peruse the boutiques in the pedestrian alleys off of 49th Street between Telegraph Avenue and Clarke Street. There you can find local artisans and their fineries – my favorites are Marisa Mason (hand made jewelry), Crimson (horticulture and related products), and Doughnut Dolly.
This upscale Mexican restaurant is a neighborhood institution. The indoor dining room is spacious and lively, but the outdoor patio seating is idyllic on a nice day.
This is one of the best places to get wood-fired pizza in the Bay Area. The toppings are house made or locally sourced. But Pizzaiolo is more than just a pizza place – it is a warm and lively neighborhood restaurant that deserves its very big following.