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Wood Tavern in Oakland - BIG thumbs up!

My Partner and I went to Wood Tavern on College Avenue on Saturday and were impressed in every way. The service was great - really nice front desk and wait staff. Everyone there seems to really enjoy their job. We were seated immediately and taken care of.

The menu had a little of everything. Great starters. I had an ahi tuna and spicy prawn tartare. My friend had a chilled tiger prawn and pesto with nuts dish. Dinners were an awesome duck breast with hominy and fava beans. Also, a succulent hanger steak and mashed potatoes. The only miss was a bland fishermans stew, that just missed the boat.

I would go back here in a minute and I hear serve a very nice Lunch during the day.

Any other feedback?

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  1. Michael Bauer gave this place a good writeup last month. The charcuterie strters sounded amazing.


    1. They serve an excellent lunch. I've been three times:


      Haven't been back since the Bauer review, as a table is much harder to come by these days (I tend to not do much advance planning for my weekend lunches).

      1 Reply
      1. re: Morton the Mousse

        Thanks for that link Morton, that was an enticingly delicious review. I knew that charcuterie sounded good too. That whole thread left me drooling.

      2. My dissenting view: I was ready to fall in love with Wood Tavern when I had dinner here about four weeks ago. My friend and I shared the tiger prawn starter, and I had the fisherman's stew. While both were fine, neither excited me. None of the flavors were memorable, though I really wanted them to be.

        I found that I kept thinking of my dearly departed BenDean. From my first dish there I felt as though whoever was cooking (which turned out to be Lance Dean Velasquez) was communicating with me personally via his food. While everything at Wood Tavern seemed competent, that's all I could say about any of it. Additionally, my friend had the hanger steak and was disappointed by the serving, which was presented with the (few) slices fanned out on the plate. For the price, he said that he wished it were a more generous portion, although he was happy with the flavors. He's not a Flintstones size eater, so take his comments as you will.

        1. I was there tonight (having been twice before for lunch, but never for dinner), and was wowed. That pork chop...I did not expect it to be that good. The pork itself was great, and then the succotash that came with it was just amazing (and I usually don't like succotash), but the morels and the sauce...I was chasing the rest of the sauce around on my plate with the bread. The only miss was the potatoes, which were bland and underseasoned, it needed either roasted or mashed. The pork belly appetizer was also really well done.

          And Bauer wasn't kidding about that Manhattan. Yum.

          1. Had lunch today (usually drop in after work and have the bar menu--boy do I appreciate a place that stays open straight through to dinner). The BLC was great! What, you may ask, is a BLC? Bacon, Lettuce, and (soft shell) Crab (w/ remoulade). Yum. At first I was afraid I wouldn't be able to get the whole thing in my mouth, but the bread was mercifully squishable. The crab flavor stood up to the bacon very well...a definite hit.

            1. I finally went for dinner after reading so many great postings. We started with the cheese plate and pork rillettes. Both were good but the entree was amazing. My friend and I both ordered the "grains and greens" and cleaned our plates entirely (very rare). Red rice, toasted hazelnuts, grilled zucchini, asparagus, broccoli rabe, and parmesan. The profiteroles w/ mint chocolate ice cream I could pass on next time.

              I could eat the grains and greens a few times a week easily.

              1. I took my family there for dinner. Mixed reviews. Everyone liked the cheese plate.My son-n-law liked the pork chops. My daughter loved the grains and greens. My son's pasta was just ordinary. My daughter-in-laws halibut was icy cold in the center, and she had to send it back. They did take it off the billl. My sea food stew was a disaster! The monk fish hadn't been prepared properly -- all sinews and tough as leather. The mussels were old and withered, and the tiny salad shrimp tasteless. The deserts were good. Great chocolate whatever, and the panacota was perfect, but chef spoiled it by putting a dab of strawberry granita on top, so that it leaked pink water all over the plate.

                1. Big thumbs up from me too. Loved the charcuterie platter (rabbit rillette, Fra'Mani salami, duck liver pate, thinly sliced smoked duck breast, served with minched cornichons and capers, and crostini), the pork belly app (perfect crispy skin, melty fat and tender meat - paired with a soft-cooked egg and lightly dressed frisee, it was like a salade aux lardons... with a really, really big lardon). Mains were just as good - duck with gnocchi (excellent gnocchi - perfect texture, could have eaten a whole plate of them), and pork chop with morels, peas and corn (the pork is brined and cooked until just pink).

                  They're very, very good with fat at this restaurant. The skin on the duck is crisp like a potato chip - pretty much all of the visible subcutaneous fat had been rendered off. The rabbit rillettes are slightly warm, just enough for the fat to liquefy and coat individual strands of meat. And the fat in the above-mentioned pork belly was right at the border between solid and liquid.

                  Dessert was good - the "Almond Joy" profiteroles were actually still crisp - my only problem was that the coconut ice cream could have been more subtle - I tasted a lot of coconut extract. They have possibly the best decaf coffee I've ever tasted.

                  Service was fantastic - friendly, but not overly so, and really professional. Our server steered me toward their Rhone by the glass when I initially requested a pinot - offered tastes of both, and was absolutely right on with her recommendation.

                  Definitely recommend making reservations... my friend and I decided to just walk in at 6, figuring it would be easy to get a seat at the bar... entire restaurant, bar included, was already packed at 6! The wait wasn't too long (maybe 15 minutes) - but it was 6!

                  Wood Tavern
                  6317 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: daveena

                    I have yet to try this place because of the difficulty getting a table. I went over with friends on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. thinking that was early and all the tables were booked even though no one was sitting in them yet. So they really have not made much accommodations for walk-ins, focused primarily on reservations. Makes it really hard to consider this a neighborhood restaurant. Maybe I might eat at the bar alone at 4 p.m.

                    1. re: singleguychef

                      I have to say that I love that they have a bar menu. It's great to be able to wander in at 3:30 or 4:00 and have a late lunch/early dinner and cocktails. I hate that there are not many options in Rockridge from 2:30-5:30 PM.

                  2. I was just here on Monday night, and every time I go to this place I like it more and more. The service is just so friendly and welcoming, while still being low-key, and the food is great. Two of us shared the chopped romaine/arugula salad and the squid salad to start, and they were some of the best salads that I've had so far this summer, with top notch ingredients and excellent seasoning. Then we also shared the steak, which was great. It is hard to get a table, though -- I've only sat at the bar for the past few times I've gone.

                    1. It's finally loosened up at this restaurant that I FINALLY have been able to try the food, just as it turned 1-year-old!

                      But I have to say, it was a really good experience. Went for lunch then again for dinner. Both times I sat at the bar and was able to get a seat. Then again, I did arrive on the early side. (11:45 a.m. for lunch and 5:45 p.m. for dinner)

                      The service at the front is much better. I remember the few times I went early on and they didn't seem to know how to handle the crowds. Now they're very efficient and helpful. The bartenders are all great, very fun, very helpful, very friendly.

                      But of course, the food is the star. I really like the seared day boat scallops salad I had, which is one of the seasonal items. I also had the Dungeness Crab Lyonnais, another seasonal item. Not as great as the scallops, but still enjoyable.

                      I thought the Tavern Onion Soup was tasty but would have preferred a more traditional onion soup instead of the braised pork added to it. It gave it a nice richness, but it was more a pork stew than onion soup.

                      One of the regular items on the menu is the Double Cut Pork Chop and I loved it. It had a beautiful coloring from the grilling and just really nice overall taste with the natural juices.

                      I tried the profiteroles and the ice cream was good but I wasn't that thrilled by the puff pastry parts. I think next time I might try the chocolate cake.

                      Overall, this place still packs em in, but I'm glad that now you can at least go in and find a seat without reservations. It gets crowded later, but at least there's a return to flexibility which is always nice for a neigborhood restaurant.

                      My only wish is that they open for Sunday brunch, but I guess they need a break sometime.

                      Here are some photos of my lunch/dinner there: http://singleguychef.blogspot.com/200...

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: singleguychef

                        I wouldn't expect to get seated quickly without reservations except early or late. Even the bar is often full.

                        1. re: singleguychef

                          It was very crowded when I stopped by for a mid-week lunch recently.

                          I liked the fact that the host came running down the street to find me after I'd left my name and a space had opened up sooner than expected.

                          I didn't much like sitting at the bar because the guy next to me kept creeping into my space and I end up a foot and a half away from my jacket (on one of those handy hooks under the bar.)

                          Singleguychef -- I always enjoy your pictures. Thanks.

                          1. re: Glencora

                            I think they cram one or two too many seats at the bar. We were there one day recently and the only two seats left were at the very corner of the bar. One of us would have been right on top of the person around the corner. I was surprised they even considered seating diners there.

                            1. re: Glencora

                              Thanks Glencora!

                              I guess you take your chances sitting at the bar. Both times I was there it was fine. One was a Saturday. The other time the couple next to me were asking what I was taking pictures for. (busted again!) As a solo diner, the bar is always my first option because then I can chat with the bartender.

                            2. re: singleguychef

                              I've been really wishing that they would do Sunday brunch too.

                              1. re: JasmineG

                                Yes, but if it was at the expense of Saturday lunch (and that pastrami sandwich), I would gladly pass on Sunday brunch.

                                We go quite frequently and are placed at a table or the bar with equal frequency. We tend to go late and on odd nights, so our waits haven't been that bad -- 15 minutes max.

                            3. Went here for lunch today. We had reservations at 11:30am; we were the first ones at the front desk, and people behind us who had no reservations were told that the restaurant was completely booked up (they were able to sit at the bar).

                              YUM! Everything we had was fantastic, one small exception which was more just personal preference, I think. ACME bread (sourdough was sour and chewy) and butter. My coworker and I ordered the butcher block - plate of charcuterie - rabbit rillette, chicken liver mousse with whiskey, housemade coppa and pork/duck pate terrine. Everything was delicious, but we didn't really much care for the rabbit - however, I think it was more us than the rabbit. :) It had a citrusy taste, but it was my first rabbit taste and I guess I just wasn't expecting that flavor. Again, I'm sure it was just us (my coworker is not big on rabbit either.)

                              She ordered the pork belly sandwich, I ordered the pastrami, plus we ordered a side of fries. (Okay, one small complaint, should sandwiches come with fries?) Pastrami was flavorful and moist, without it feeling too fatty. Pork belly sandwich was luscious, that's all I can say. Both sandwiches came with some pickles and cole slaw - really nice coleslaw, not mayo based - reminded me of Bakesale Betty's that she uses in her chicken sandwiches. Fries were as always very tasty - crispy and flavorful, but not too salty or greasy. One side order for the two of us was more than enough.

                              Service was excellent, from the front to the server to the busboy. Very friendly and sincere.

                              I really like this place, but it's definitely a place that you either have to plan ahead, be prepared to wait/sit at the bar, or go during the off times.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: Cindy

                                Three of us shared the rabbit rillettes the other day, and we all loved them.

                                One thing I would not order again: "marrow bones." They'd taken out the marrow and stuffed them with a breadcrumb mixture akin to stuffed-shrimp dressing. They comped us for it, so no harm done.

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                  You mean that the stuffing was now only breadcrumbs, etc? You just got the bones? Did they leave the marrows out entirely or mix them into the breadcrumb mix?

                                  1. re: oakjoan

                                    They might have mixed some of the marrow into the stuffing but I couldn't taste it.

                                  2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    That must be a new rendition. The last two times we got the marrow bones, they were delicious and all marrow. No stuffing.

                                2. I had the (new?) smoked pork shank sandwich for lunch today. Sort of like pulled pork on a French roll. So overstuffed, sloppy, wet, and messy I ended up eating it open-face with a knife and fork. Good, though not as sublime as the pastrami.

                                  Great bacon and barley soup to start. Tasted the pork belly appetizer, perfect, and the pan-roast chicken breast, seemed a bit bland compared with my shank.

                                  1. Having had my favorite pastrami not two weeks ago, I branched out today and tried an avocado, cheese, tomato, and pickled carrot sandwich with spicy chile aioli. If you substituted pate for the cheese, this would be a banh mi. Excellent.

                                    The shrimp and bacon I tasted was also very good.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                      First time, for lunch today.
                                      (1) The crispy pork belly and fig starter - it was an excellent dish - one of the better creative dishes that I've had in awhile. It worked really well, and I'm not a fig lover.
                                      (2) A spicy (not too spicy) pasta with sausage in the sauce - I don't recall the specific name. It was quite tasty, but quite salty. I'd probably order other things before giving that one another try.

                                      Service was very nice. There was a modest selection of wines by the glass - the sever let me taste one I wasn't sure of, and I appreciated that, because I ended up ordering something else.

                                      The sodium. I doubt this lunch had less than 2500mg of sodium, if not more. I was swelling up while I was eating, and ended up with a mild headache afterward, the kind that I get when I eat way too much salt. It was the reason I didn't order the pastrami (tempted as I was, but having read about it), but it didn't seem to matter. My lunch companion, who frequents the place, also commented about the salt.