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Lunch/Dinner Near Oakland Zoo?

Looking for a decent mid-priced restaurant to take my 9 yr old foodie for lunch or dinner before or after visiting the Oakland Zoo this weekend. Like his mother, he has a refined/adventurous palate, so ethnic/spicy restaurants are fine. Thanks in advance for your help!

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  1. There's nothing near the zoo. You'll want to look to the Fruitvale in Oakland or San Leandro.

    From the zoo, travel to SL is less a hassle.

    1. You are correct!

      Maybe Sparky's burgers at Lincoln Square?

      35th/Redwood road exit toward Oakland.

      Hit or miss, Can be great! or average.

      We always stopped by after Golf at Chabot Golf course.(R.I.P)

      1. I agree with the recommendation to go to San Leandro, check out this post for recs there: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/352803

        1. Compadres Bar & Grill
          4239 Park Blvd

          This is a neighborhood that is near by. Food ok not great, too bad about Purple Plum.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Lori SF

            I really enjoy brunch at Blackberry Bistro across the street, at 4240 Park Blvd. They are not open for dinner, just till 2:30 weekdays, 3:30 weekends, closed Mondays.

          2. I wouldn't consider any of those places particularly chowish, and since they're not that close to the zoo, I don't see the point. One place that might be interesting is the Vientiane Cafe -- a restaurant in the Lao Cultural Center: 3801 ALLENDALE AVE, (510)-535-2218.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              Vientian is really good. Authentic, spicy dishes. It's a mix of Vietnamese, Thai, and Laotian. They can make your dish as spicy as you like. It's in the middle of a residential neighborhood.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                This sounds like a great place for us to try! Does anyone know if they have a website? ...Since we're going tomorrow, I need to find a place that's open on Sundays.

                1. re: bourbongirl

                  Here's my post on Vientian (note the idiosyncratic spelling) -
                  and the website -

                  Best to call though as it's a small mom and pop to confirm.

                  1. re: bourbongirl

                    My coworker loved the Pad Thai. I tried some and it definitely tasted more "authentic" than versions I've tried. I had the Basa (Vietnamese catfish) lunch special. I usually have it steamed, but this was a panfried version, which was nice and crisp on the outside and tender in the middle. I ordered it very spicy, and it had a good amount of heat with plenty of chilis mixed into the dish. Please report back about what you tried.

                2. Okay, so my son & I ended up at the Vientian Cafe after the zoo today. (Unfortunately, he wasn't hungry due to a mid-zoo nacho attack....oops!)

                  I started with the Sai Ooa (Baked Laotian Sausage). Crispy/carmelized on the outside, sliced diagnonally, this sausage of pork, chili, garlic, onion & lemongrass was exceptionally good. The lemongrass complimented the chili beautifully. I will dream about this vision of meaty goodness for weeks to come.

                  Next was the shrimp pad thai (I had to try it b/c a previous posted stated that it seemed "authentic" and I've had difficulty finding pad thai in the bay area that meets my approval).... this pad thai was quite good, with a nice amount of egg & tofu, and a generous number of shrimp. However, I ordered it medium spicy...and it had no heat whatsoever. NONE.(Unfortunately, this seems to be a theme for me at thai - and also indian - restaurants. Never a problem at Mexican or Chinese restaurants, though...why is that?!?) I suppose I could have squeezed some Sriracha on it, but that would've been faking it.

                  I also ordered one of the specials (can't recall the name). It had thinly sliced beef, rice noodles, cabbage & slices of egg roll w/ pork, noodles & veggies, served with a sweet & sour sauce. While each element was inoffensive on its own, I didn't really understand how it was all supposed to come together. This one was a bit of a conundrum for me.

                  The highlight of this meal was definitely the sausage. I'd go back for takeout for that item alone. I'd also order the pad thai again, as it really was the best I've had so far in the bay area...though next time I'd stress to my server that I really can handle the heat.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: bourbongirl

                    Thanks for reporting back. Was it close enough to the zoo to be convenient?

                  2. It was about 10 minutes from the zoo, about 4 exits from Golf Links on 580. It was the opposite direction from home for me, but not totally out of the way. Also, it was located in the middle of a residential neighborhood and parking was not easy to find. The neighboorhood was not the best, but not the worst. Still, alone with a 9 yr old, I probably wouldn't have gone there after dark.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: bourbongirl

                      Thanks for the TR!! Regarding the pad thai, was it "authentic" as in how one would find pad thai in Thailand? The versions I've had in Bangkok are stylistically very different than the versions I've had in the States. How was the egg incorporated into the dish?

                      1. re: Eugene Park

                        Unfortunately, I've never been to Thailand so I don't know how it compares to what you get in Bangkok. My standard for Pad Thai (and my favorite to this day) is from a place back home (in Ohio...I know, I know...not known for its ethnic food) where all the dishes were from the owner's mothers' recipes. No other Pad Thai I've ever had has come close to its flavor/consistency.

                        The Pad Thai at the Vientian used thin vermacelli-like noodles, much finer/thinner than I'm used to, but the sauce clung to them better than expected, without making them soggy. The egg pieces were about the size of a nickel...which for me is just the right size, enough to have a bite of egg on its own but not too big so that it's hard to tell the egg from the tofu. The sauce wasn't too sweet, but I really did miss the heat...I can only imagine how good it would have been if it was spicy like I ordered it (grrrr). It came with sprouts & a lime on the side; the ground peanuts were sprinkled on the top.

                        Unfortunately, the BF ate my leftovers so I didn't get the opportunity to have a 2nd taste and reflect on the dish more. He did, however, save me one bite of Sai Ooa...which was just as good cold!

                        1. re: bourbongirl

                          Ok, thanks for the description/breakdown of the pad thai. The versions of PT I've had in Thailand were made with less sauce than you find in US versions, and everything is encased in a thin egg omelette. Very different look and style than US Thai resto versions.

                    2. The versions of pad thai I've had seem to be overly sweet. Vientian's version had a better balance of flavors.