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Sep 26, 2007 07:39 AM

In SF for a Week, Is there Any Reason to Eat in Oakland?

I have all my eating destinations in S.F. more or less planned, but I'm wondering what I might miss if I never make it across the Bay to Oakland (I may be in Berkeley for an afternoon but that will be more for shopping/drinking). Is there any ethnic or ecclectic eatery over there that beats similar ones in S.F.?



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  1. Two quick questions:
    1) Are you travelling alone?
    2) Are you BART dependent?

    And a less quick question - what's currently on your list?

    I can't do a point-to-point comparison, because I tend to do most of my non-European ethnic eating in the East and South Bay, and upscale places in SF, but based on what I've read, I seems like Oakland has better Ethiopian and Korean. Oakland also has Thai-Lao (I'm not sure Lao is represented in SF). However, all three would require multiple people eating, and a car.

    If you're alone and BART dependent, I would get a basket of xiaolongbao at Shanghai Restaurant (Oakland City Center/12th Street stop) and tacos (Fruitvale stop).

    20 Replies
    1. re: daveena

      I will have a car and I like to explore.

      I have a list with the best 80 or so CH/Yelp-reviewed Chinese, Thai, Indonesian, Malaysian, Sushi, Mexican/Latin, Nepalese/Indian. I like to have multiple options depending on mood and proximity.

      1. re: Dinsdale45

        Depending on where you're coming from, some of these may be of interest and justify a drive to Milpitas or San Jose:

        - Afghan - Fremont
        - Brazilian - SF
        - Basque - SF
        - Basque tapas - SF
        - Burmese - SF
        - California - SF / Berkeley / Oakland
        - California pizza - SF / Oakland
        - Cal-Italian - SF / Oakland
        - Cal-Moroccan - SF
        - Hong Kong-style Chinese - SF / Daly City
        - Cambodian - SF
        - Cuban - SF / San Jose
        - dim sum (lunch only) - SF / Millbrae
        - Ethiopian / Eritrean - Oakland / San Jose
        - Filipino - SF / Daly City / Hercules
        - Fusion - SF
        - Guatemalan - SF
        - French - SF
        - Hakka Chinese - SF
        - Hawaiian - SF / Milpitas
        - Indian - Peninsula / South Bay
        - Indian pizza - SF
        - Indonesian - SF / Berkeley
        - Irish - SF
        - Japanese (various specialties) - Peninsula
        - Korean - Oakland
        - Lao / Laotian - Oakland
        - Moroccan - SF
        - Muslim Chinese - SF / South Bay
        - Nicaraguan - SF
        - Persian - SF
        - Peruvian - SF
        - Mission-style burritos - SF
        - Neapolitan-style pizza - SF
        - Nepali - SF / Berkeley
        - Pakistani - SF
        - Polish - Walnut Creek
        - Peruvian - SF
        - Russian - SF / Peninsula
        - Salvadorean - SF
        - Sardinian - SF
        - Shanghai Chinese - Oakland
        - Singapore / Malaysian - Union City / South Bay
        - Sichuan / Szechuan - Albany
        - sushi - SF
        - Taiwanese Chinese - SF?
        - Taiwanese-style Sichuan Chinese - SF / Oakland
        - Thai - SF
        - Tibetan - SF / Berkeley
        - Turkish - SF
        - Vietnamese (various regional styles) - SF / Oakland
        - Vietnamese banh mi - SF
        - wine bars - SF
        - Yucatecan Mexican - SF

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          Here's what I have:

          Namu Asian Fusion
          E & O Trading Company Asian Fusion
          Irving Cafe & Deli Bahn Mi
          Arguello Super Market best turkey sandwich
          Espetus Churrascaria Brazilian
          Home Plate Breakfast
          Bay Watch Restaurant Brunch
          Barney's Gourmet Hamburger Burgers
          Mandalay Burmese
          Cajun Pacific Cajun/Creole
          PJ's Oyster Bed Cajun/Creole, Seafood
          Angkor Borei Restaurant Cambodian
          San Tung Chinese Restaurant #2 Chinese
          Taiwan Restaurant Chinese
          Hunan Homes Restaurant Chinese
          Old Mandarin Islamic Chinese
          Great Eastern Restaurant Chinese/dim sum
          Woody Zips comfort food (sportsbar)
          Charanga Cuban/tapas
          Assab Eritrean Restaurant Ethiopian
          Palencia Filipino
          Kape @ 16th & Dehon Filipino buffet [Edit]
          Melt Cafe fondue/wine
          Chapeau! French (early bird special!)
          Hawaiian Drive Inn 28 Hawaiian
          Eva's Hawaiian Cafe Hawaiian
          Kathmandu Cafe Himalayan/Nepalese
          Metro Kathmandu Himalayan/Nepalese
          Taste of the Himalayas Indian/Nepalese
          Pakwan Indian/Pakistani
          Chutney Restaurant Indian/Pakistani
          Borobudur Restaurant Indonesian
          Trattoria Contadina Italian
          Aperto Italian
          Ristorante Bacco Italian
          Lupa Italian
          Ristorante Parma Italian
          Capannina Italian
          Han Il Kwan Korean
          Muguboka Restaurant Korean
          Champa Garden Lao
          Mochica Latin American
          Inkas Restaurant Latin American
          Popol Vuh Latin American
          Lime Tree Malaysian
          Singapore Malaysian Malaysian
          V2 Malaysia Cuisine Malaysian
          Truly Mediterranean Mediterranean
          Taqueria Cancun Mexican
          El Toro Taqueria Mexican
          La Palma Mexicatessen Mexican
          Farolito Taqueria Mexican
          Tortas Los Picudos Mexican
          Los Jarritos Mexican
          Mi Lindo Yucatan Mexican (real)
          Aziza Moroccan
          California Street Cafe Moroccan
          Fly Trap Restaurant New American
          Slow Club New American
          Mi Lindo Peru Restaurant Peruvian
          Piqueo's Peruvian
          Goat Hill Pizza pizza (Monday PM AYCE)
          Panchita's Restaurant No 2 Salvadorean
          Giordano Bros. sandwiches (sports bar)
          Cafe Maritime Seafood
          Angeline's Louisiana Kitchen Southern, Cajun/Creole
          Bullshead Restaurant Steak/burgers
          Yo's Sushi Club Sushi
          Sebo Sushi
          Okina Sushi Sushi
          Red Box Sushi Sushi
          Hime Sushi
          Sushi On North Beach - Katsu Sushi
          Zushi-Puzzle Sushi
          Alegrias Tapas
          Jitlada Thai Cuisine Thai
          Tawan's Thai Food Thai
          Yukol Place Thai Cuisine Thai
          Marnee Thai Thai (spicy)
          PPQ Dungeness Island Vietnamese Cuisine Vietnamese
          Pagolac Vietnamese
          Anh Hong Restaurant Vietnamese

          I'll also probably make a return visit (I was out there last year) to Z&Y and/or Spices for my Sichuan fix.

          1. re: Dinsdale45

            How did Barney's get on that list? Please don't waste a meal there.

            1. re: Glencora

              Strictly a location thing. I'm not a "Marina type", but that's where my hotel is, and I was looking for some nearby options. Burgers are way down on my meal choices, but I figured I'd cover all the bases...

              1. re: Dinsdale45

                Any way you'd consider staying in a more chow friendly location? Staying downtown would make it easier to get to the Mission, Chinatown, North Beach, and the East Bay. It's six of one, half a dozen of the other for the Richmond (not to be confused with the city of Richmond in the East Bay, for which downtown would be much more convenient).

            2. re: Dinsdale45

              Giordano Brothers has beer and wine and maybe a TV, but it's a deli / sandwich shop, not a sports bar.

              Go to Thai House Express at Larkin and Geary before any of those other Thai places.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Thanks for the Thai House rec.

                Yelp calls Giordano Brothers a sports bar. I was just interested in a non-chain joint with decent food and beer (with a low lunkhead population) in case I want to catch a game on Sunday. Any other suggestions?

              2. re: Dinsdale45

                Hmmm ... I'm not super impressed by that list. It's sort of middle of the road: places that are good but not the best. In particular, you can do better than your Italian (A-16, Incanto, Delfina, La Ciccia), Asian fusion (The House, Ame) banh mi and Thai (Thai House Express) choices. Also, Mochica and Inkas are Peruvian, not Latin American (since you have Peruvian as a separate category).

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  I'll check out your suggestions. If I miscatagorize places, I will blame Yelp. I guess I may lean toward funkier, low key establishments rather than the classier high-end ones. Is it possible to find good Italian restaurants that aren't gussied up for "romantic" ambience?

                  1. re: Dinsdale45

                    A16's not particularly romantic. Spare modern room, jammed full of happy people eating great Italian food. And it's in the Marina.

                    L'Osteria del Forno's got great food (though no selection of pasta due to the tiny kitchen) and no frills.

                    1. re: Dinsdale45

                      I don't think you'll find very many places in SF "gussied up" for "romantic" ambience or "swanky" (as you mentioned in another post). Most places are casual and/or "hip/urban."

                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                        Hmmm, S.F. may not be NYC or even Boston regarding formal dining, but there are many places where I would stand out like Bill Gates at a Biker Rally. I checked out Ame and this, for example, looks to be out of my league. Dressy attire? Valet service? If I can sit and order at the bar, though, I'm OK.

                        BTW, The House looks incredible. Thanks.

                        1. re: Dinsdale45

                          Lots of places have valet service -- it's more about how difficult it is to park than how fancy it is, plus Ame is in a hotel. It probably is a little on the dressy side for SF, though.

                          1. re: Dinsdale45

                            Dinsdale45, I would point out that there are only a few places in SF where you will be treated badly based on your clothes. Any discomfort might be generated by yourself - so, just don't generate the bad feeling. Go local, and don't feel bad. I'm assuming you are legally dressed and don't smell funny. (Since we had the Folsom St Fair this weekend, being legally dressed isn't a given)

                            I remember, in particular, a night at Aquerello where a young couple was in tee shirts and jeans, and that's a fairly stuffy joint. They were treated well and cordially.

                            It's kind of a thing we do here. Separates us from LA. There is a limit, and that limit is shorts. Assuming you're wearing long pants and shoes, you should be treated well. If not, give 'em my phone number. [Tipping poorly is problematic, because they'll think the next person coming in dressed poorly is cheap. You're on your own with that decision.]

                            Sometimes I've gone to dressy restaurants on the way back from a hike fairly grubby. Sometimes I've gone to a hole in the wall in a tux, on the way to a show. At least, that's the way I look at SF dining - any attitude is *their* problem, not my problem. I smile, I'm interested in their food, I appreciate, I tip well. Just like everywhere else, a smile goes a long way - from a back alley in Dunhuang to Delfina.

                            Finally, I do eat at the bar a lot. Most larger restaurants here have bars, and offer the full menu.

                            1. re: bbulkow

                              I guess I'm a little (or extremely) odd because I wear shorts and sneakers whenever I'm not at work (there I wear jeans everyday), if the temperature is above 50. I don't own a suit, and I own one pair of pants for the occasional funeral. If I can't eat someplace dressed in shorts and sneakers, I don't really want to eat there. I'm always clean, don't wear wifebeaters, but sometimes wear a baseball hat. Removing my hat would make me look like a raging psychotic. I just want to go to places I don't have to worry about it. If it means I don't get to sample the best of the best, so be it.

                          2. re: Ruth Lafler

                            Of the better Italian restaurants in town, I think Quince and Acquerello might count as gussied up and romantic.

                    2. re: Robert Lauriston

                      BTW, to slightly edit Robert's list - Taiwanese - Fremont / South Bay

                      1. re: gemster

                        what taiwanese joints are there in fremont/south bay?

                        and would you consider richmond (pacific east mall) to have some of the more authentic taiwanese food in all of the bay area?

                      2. re: Robert Lauriston

                        Why Oakland for Shangainese? San Francisco has Shanghai Dumpling Shop, Shanghai House, Old Shanghai, Shanghai 1930 (not that I'd recommend it), Jai Yun and the Jai Yun spinoff, Flying Pan Bistro.

                  2. There's nothing like Pizzaiolo in SF, or anywhere else so far as I know.

                    Oliveto's arguably the best Italian in the Bay Area but it's a close call with Incanto.

                    Better Korean, e.g. Ohgane. But there's good Korean in SF, e.g. Han Il Kwan.

                    More good Mexican places but there's good Mexican food in SF if you order the right things, e.g. al pastor or chorizo tacos at Taqueria San Jose. There's great Yucatecan in SF.

                    Champa Garden (Laotian, menu also includes Thai and Vietnamese dishes) is the best in the East Bay but Thai House Express on Larkin in SF is better. Champa's rice ball salad is unique but I'm not sure it's worth a schlep to Oakland on a one-week trip. I'd eat at Thai House Express twice instead.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Does Thai House Express have anything like the Lao-style larb at Champa Garden? That's my favorite dish - prefer it to the Thai-style larb - I like the deep funkiness from the fermented crab paste.

                      Oh, speaking of fermented fish products - Dinsdale45, do you have any Cambodian restaurants on your list? I haven't tried Angkor Borei in SF, only the Cambodian places in the East Bay, but Robert ranks it over the ones in Oakland. They have prahok (spicy fermented fish and pork dip) on the menu - I saw from your original post that you were focusing on spicy ethnic, so I wanted to throw that in the mix as well.

                      1. re: daveena

                        I'm not sure about larb, but Thai House Express's shrimp paste fried rice satisfies the same sort of craving.

                        Angkor Borei's prahok is wonderful. Not very spicy except for the jalapeƱos included among the vegetables.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          Hmm. I wonder if they would make it spicy if you asked? I assumed it was spicy because Battambang's prahok ktiss is mucosa-searingly hot, but so delicious I just keep eating through the pain.

                        2. re: daveena

                          I have Angkor Borei on my list but actually, I get GREAT Cambodian food in Massachusetts because I live next to Lowell, which has the second largest Cambodian population in the US. I love the food, however, and I'd be tempted to try any well-regarded spot.

                        3. re: Robert Lauriston

                          Just looked up Champa Garden. This made the list!

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            Re Mr. Lauriston's post above:

                            Robert: I'm interested in your statement that there's nothing like Pizzaiolo in SF or anywhere else....

                            Having just had dinner there last week (for the 3d time - 1st time was just after it opened), I found it just okay. Be that as it may, however, plz describe how it is so different from, e.g., A-16, Doppo or Al di La in Brooklyn?

                            1. re: oakjoan

                              The very personal style of the food, the focus on the wood oven, the eclectic wine list, the crowd, the informal atmosphere.

                          2. Oliveto rocks the house. Uzen for Sushi. (both on college)

                            If you don't go to Chez Panisse-you will be missing the best that the East Bay has to offer.

                            Go and get em.

                              1. re: adrienne156

                                I'm traveling alone and prefer "ultra-casual" settings, not swanky, but my price range isn't limited.

                              2. recap, there really isn't anything special to eat in Oakland that I can't get in The City. Right? Someone mentioned Korean or Ethiopian. Any real Mexican-different from taquerias?

                                Any good beer bars? Ethnic markets?

                                Does anyone go to Oakland unless they live or work there? Just curious.

                                11 Replies
                                1. re: Dinsdale45

                                  Well, yeah, I visit friends, go to the doctor, to movies, shop... And, yes, I go there from Berkeley to eat. Would I go from S.F. while on vacation? Probably not. I'm very fond of Oakland, though, especially the Lake Merritt area, (Fairyland!) and the musuem's nice. Maybe if you return for a longer time you can make the trip.

                                  1. re: Glencora

                                    I just told my SO about this thread and he laughed, saying that the best thing about Oakland is the view of SF -- so I guess we disagree.

                                  2. re: Dinsdale45

                                    I find this a really hard question to answer - there are many, many delicious things to be eaten in the East Bay. Can I say with certainty that they are better than their counterparts in SF? No - because I tend to go to different kinds of restaurants when I go to SF. If I've already found an Ethiopian restaurant (Messob) and excellent xiao long bao (Shanghai Restaurant) that I love in the East Bay, I'm unlikely to seek out the same thing in SF.

                                    It seems that given the larger number of Ethiopian and Korean restaurants in the East Bay (serving their proportionately larger communities) that they would be of higher quality overall. However, if you are a single person eating only one or two dishes at a time, is it possible that, with careful ordering, you can have equally good meals in SF and Oakland? Probably.

                                    Would you be interested in going to one of those big Asian food malls? I've lived out here long enough that they seem commonplace to me now, but I'd never seen one on the East Coast. Pacific East Mall in Richmond is very close to Berkeley, and might be worth a visit, if you're into exploring.
                                    Here's rworange's master "directory":

                                    Other areas you might enjoy exploring are:
                                    - Temescal district of Oakland (Telegraph between 40th and 51st St) - this is where the majority of Oakland's Ethiopian and Korean restaurants are, as well as a number of other CH favorites (Pizzaiola, Bakesale Betty).
                                    - Fruitvale district - International Boulevard, in the 30's avenues - lots of posts, but here's an article (early 2006) that summarizes its major attractions, and names specific dishes (you can scan those to see if they fit your criteria for Mexican food).


                                    I'm not a beer person, but here's the beer list for Luka's -

                                    Also, don't know if you're into cheese, but if you are, you should spend some time at the Cheeseboard. I'd also strongly urge a meal upstairs at Chez Panisse - didn't name it initially, because I assumed your focus was on non-European ethnic - it's very low-key and casual.

                                    Are you going to stop by Berkeley Bowl? It can be insane in there, but I think it's worth a brief visit, just to see the variety of produce.

                                    1. re: daveena

                                      That Asian Mall sounds like fun, as does the Cheeseboard. I'm going to need another bag to haul some of this stuff back East to my foodie family.

                                      1. re: Dinsdale45

                                        I never thought about our Asian malls as being gastro-tourism destinations, but I guess they are, in many ways, as unique and interesting as the Ferry Building for people who don't have similar places at home. So yeah, if you have a car and aren't pressed for time, I'd definitely do a Berkeley/Richmond swing: the whole "gourmet ghetto" (Cheese Board, Chez Panisse, Gregoire, etc.) thing, then Acme and Cafe Fanny (just for a snack/coffee), then out to Pacific East Mall, maybe hit 4th Street in Berkeley one direction or another (Sketch, etc.).

                                        Oh, and don't forget the Berkeley Bowl -- the produce section is guaranteed to blow your mind. Or as one NY visitor said: "the produce section is bigger then all of Fairway."

                                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                          Since you did the NPR interview, sort of surprised you (and a few others) haven't mention taco trucks on International Blvd. Definitely a different scene.

                                          Re: the Asian mall someone from somewhere that isn't from the West Coast or major-metro it might be very interesting.

                                          The only thing I'd add to Berk/Oakland is the Scharffenberger tour, but only as an add-on, nice leisurely between lunch and dinner type thing.

                                      2. re: daveena

                                        You know, Luka's is a great suggestion. The food is really good. You might be able to find similar dishes of similar quality in SF or Berkeley, but the vibe is uniquely Oakland.

                                        1. re: chompy

                                          And the beer list is really interesting. There are not that many restaurants with that extensive of a bottle list, although the focus is Belgian.

                                      3. re: Dinsdale45

                                        I go to Oakland for Mexican - both taco trucks and taquerias, Chinatown (probably only because it's closer to me although parking is easier), and occasionally to go bar hopping (again, only because it's closer).

                                        1. re: Dinsdale45

                                          There's not much in the Oakland that's better than SF: Korean, sit-down Mexican food, Shanghai-style Chinese, Ethiopian (though San Jose may have better).

                                          I think the main restaurants arguably worth a trip from SF are Oliveto and Pizzaiolo.