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Oct 4, 2007 05:54 PM

New job in downtown Oakland, looking for lunch places

that's right, i managed to unstick myself from the powerful adhesive that is graduate school and went and got myself a "real job".

turns out that job is in oakland, a place i know nothing about, and have only visited previously to use the airport; oh, and one purposefully forgotten raiders-steelers game :(

i work at 20th and harrison, have limited time for lunch and will be on foot, but am willing to spend my time walking to a great place and back for worthwhile takeout to eat at my desk!

so far i've eaten at the whole foods, a few sandwich places across the street and golden lotus (veggie vietnamese). these are the places on my short list to try out:

shanghai restaurant
ba vo
pho 84
phnom penh house
spices 3
tamarindo antojitos

what am i missing? and what should i order/avoid there?

thanks in advance!!

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  1. welcome to my world. Unfortunately, the best options (a few of which are on your list) are a bit of a walk from 20th and Harrison, so be prepared to get a bit of exercise! ...

    I am not a Pho 84 fan: the food is ok to good, but it can be crowded at lunch. Ba Vo has similar food (I thought they were owned by same people) but some dishes are noticeably better (particularly their Pho Ga, which is very good). Binh Minh Quan on 12th near Webster is a long time favorite; lots of posts to search. In the other direction (and a bit closer to you, perhaps) is the long closed Vo's (at Grand and Webster) which is getting ready to reopen any day now, and is (well, was) comparable to Ba Vo food wise, in my experience.

    One of my Chinatown favorites that is not on your list is New Gold Medal. Delicious roast meats.

    I also like Cafe Madrid, a bocadillos place at 20th and Broadway

    For me, Luka's is more of a afterwork place than a lunch spot. Try it on Monday afternoon for $1 oysters.....

    And you should also check out Rico's. I have only been once or twice since my original report:

    most because my cholesteral can't handle it more often, but it is a great option for diner food. A burger and a shake there: highly recommended!

    9 Replies
    1. re: susancinsf


      Binh Minh Quan
      338 12th St, Oakland, CA 94607

      Ba Vo Restaurant
      416 13th Street, Oakland, CA 94612

      New Gold Medal
      389 8th St, Oakland, CA 94607

      Cafe Madrid
      2001 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612

      Pho 84
      354 17th St, Oakland, CA 94612

      1. re: susancinsf

        how about Le Cheval? haven't been for a while but it was always a favorite.

        1. re: sfoperalover

          In addition to being a good walk from OPs location, it is very, very crowded, very very noisy, service is haphazard and the food is mediocre, IMO. However, I have had to go there now and then for work events, and I do have to say, they have a nice drinks menu (assuming it is the sort of work function where one can drink): so if you do find yourself having to go there, try a ginger cosmo!

          1. re: sfoperalover

            There's much better Vietnamese food closer to 20th.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              What are those better places closer to 20th?

              1. re: singleguychef

                Most are listed above. Here are a couple of others:

                Saigon Restaurant
                1526 San Pablo Ave, Oakland, CA 94601

                Phuong Nam Restaurant
                1615 Clay St, Oakland, CA 94612

        2. re: susancinsf

          Cafe Madrid is only a couple of blocks from you and across the street from me, at 20th and Broadway in the old I. Magnin department store building. It's quite good and verrrry pleasant for lunch. The owner/manager? is friendly and accommodating. He gives tastes of different types of chorizo for example so you can choose ingreds for a sandwich.

          The coffee is also quite good. I love to eat lunch there and read my book. The gazpacho is also tasty - it's pureed.

          Luka's is great for soup and delicious catfish sandwiches. Crowded and noisy at lunch and they'll often put you in the hideous side room , painted black and with big, backless stools and little round, nightclubby tables.

          Dai Ten is a fairly blah Japanese place on the corner of 19th and Webster. Okay for bento box lunch. Nothing spectac.

          I agree with the pans of Le Cheval. Food has gone waaay downhill and it's far away from you.

          I've had very good turkey sandwiches from Fat Cat Cafe on Telegraph between 17th and 18th. They actually COOK TURKEY and ask if you want some dark meat. Rolls are blah.

          Again, I lovvvvvvve Cafe Madrid.

          Some folks like the Louisiana Chicken place on B'way just before Grand. I've had pretty good chicken and pretty lousy chicken from there.

          Welcome to Oaktown!

          1. re: oakjoan

            FYI - I passed by the Louisiana Chicken place on the corner of Broadway and Grand today, and they are closed.

            1. re: Cindy

              Looks like Daniel Patterson will be opening up a new restaurant in the former LFC spot:


              Next to Bakesale Betty's new location - yum!

        3. I work in your area and I'm always complaining about the poor lunch options around here. Which is why I often bring lunch from home.

          But other than the ones you mention, my other go to places include:

          1) Don Day, a Korean place on the way to Chinatown at 14th and Webster. They sell Korean inspired burritos for $4.99. It's not bad and you can eat in or take out. If you want regular burritos, everyone goes to Happy Burritos on Webster close to 19th and 18th Streets. (You'll see the line out of this non-descript place at the peak of lunch hour.


          2) I often walk all the way to Chinatown for things, including the Vietnamese sandwiches at Cam Huong on Webster between 10th and 9th Streets. Also on 10th Street are a couple of pho places: Pho Hoa Lao II is the more popular and the newer one is Kim Huong at 10th and Harrison. Here's my comparison: Also on that street is Shan Dong Noodle House that has Shanghai dumplings.

          In terms of places nearby, there's a rotisserie place that I can't recall the name of. It's on 19th Street between Webster and Franklin near a shoe store. It has a salad bar and also sell rotisserie chicken plates. Not bad, but a bit pricey. Things seem fresh though.

          11 Replies
          1. re: singleguychef

            Have you been to Pho Hoa Lao II recently? I went last week and the broth wasn't as I remembered. It was a lot lighter, and not as beefy. The portion of beef seemed to have dwindled as well. It used to be my favorite pho in Oakland but I'm not too sure anymore.

            1. re: DezzerSF

              It had a lot less beef but was greasier the last time I was there a month or so ago as well. I'm shopping around for a new place.

              1. re: Marc Wallace

                Not in downtown Oakland, but I like Pho Hoa Hung on International/22nd Ave.

                1. re: DezzerSF

                  Three miles might just be outside of my walking radius for lunches. ;-)

                  It is too bad that the place that took over Vi's was taken over by Rang Dong, because their pho had been incredible. Rang Dong isn't bad, but given the distance I stick with Phuong Nam, which is at least consistently decent (and sometimes quite good). For pho ga, I agree with Susan about Ba Vo being tops. In terms of taste I would put Pho 84 near the top, but the noise and insane lines keep me out of there. It is not worth being broiled and having a headache when I stagger back into work just for good pho.

                  1. re: DezzerSF

                    they have a lamb hot pot for $16 (small, almost enough for 2) and $22 or $23 for a large. the lamb pieces were fatty and bony but as the broth condensed, it became more flavorful and it was fun digging out the meat from the lamb chunks. only found a few shreds of ginger and a tiny mushroom in the broth. a few years ago jon kauffman in the east bay express reviewed, favorably, a goat hot pot at this place but they no longer have it.

                    here's a video of the hotpot:

                2. re: DezzerSF

                  I haven't been to Pho Hoa Lao II recently. Might check it out to see if it's changed.

                3. re: singleguychef

                  My husband loves the Cam Huong bahn mi and also often either buys them on the way to work or walks there for lunch.

                  Also, next door to Cam Huong is Shanghai Restaurant which, imnsho, has the best won ton soup around. Fresh and delicious. They make it all there.

                  Down on Washington between 9th and 10th is Cafe 817. Quite a walk but really good for breakfast or lunch. Highly reccoed.

                  According to SF Mag (a copy of which I "borrowed" from my landlady since she doesn't live here and never takes it out of the mailbox) Oakland is the latest "happening" city and several new places are opening.

                  1. re: singleguychef

                    Don Day no longer sells burritos. However, they are once again open for lunch, and the food is good and cheap:


                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Robert, have you been over there this week? I've walked by a few times since Memorial Day and they've been closed at lunch, even though there's still a Grand Opening sign up. I think that spot is cursed or something.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          Don Day was closed at lunch yesterday when I walked by. I ended up going down to Gigul Gigul for a subpar Kimchi Jjige.

                  2. For Cambodian, try Battambang on Broadway, between 8th & 9th, I think. I love it, & I've seen lot's of good reviews on CH.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: rfneid

                      Yeah, good place.

                      850 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94607

                    2. 20th St is a toughie, there are a bunch of possibilities in Chinatown but as posters have already noted it's a bit of a walk. One thing nobody has mentioned is Pacific Coast Brewery on Washington between 9th and 10th. There are also a couple of eateries on the same block as Le Cheval, I can't speak to their quality as I haven't tried them, but one or another of them may be worth a visit.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Louise

                        Oh, if you're going to go all the way down to 9th and 10th at Washington, there are some nicer lunch places like Levende East and B. These would just be places for nicer lunches, not eat and run.

                      2. I've taken classes down there and I found a few places to eat:

                        A little Japanese place on the 2nd? floor of the Rotunda Building. Don't remember the name, but it used to be in North Berkeley.

                        Popeye's Fried Chicken in the BART mall.

                        Isn't Chef Edward's (name?) BBQ not too far from you.

                        Jamaican take-out place in a storefront on Broadway?

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: chocolatetartguy

                          Uncle Willie's BBQ isn't far.

                          Uncle Willie's BBQ and Fish
                          614 14th St, Oakland, CA 94612

                          1. re: chocolatetartguy

                            The Japanese place is most likely Genji, street level if you come in from Telegraph on that walkway between 16th and 15th. Decent enough, but I would get takeout from Kyoto Express (north of 17th and Webster) for half the price if you like udon.

                            Chef Edwards is around 20th and San Pablo, so a straight shoot.. albeit through horrible construction.

                            Jamaican? There's a place on Webster just above 14th, open occasionally (but never when I wander by) for lunch. It took over the old Mi Casa location. That's all I can think of, unless you mean Our Place (22ndish and Franklin, also a haven of construction), which does have a decent jerk chicken.

                            1. re: Marc Wallace

                              only other possibility is that chocolatetartguy is thinking of Art's Jamaican Market:


                              but that is much further north (near 40th Street) and not walkable as a lunch destination. The place on Webster and 14th is always closed when I go by also.

                            2. re: chocolatetartguy

                              Chef Edwards used to be at 20th and San Pablo - an area now consisting of billions of new "luxury" apartments. I think he moved across the street and is still in that area. Pretty good bbq.

                              1. re: oakjoan

                                Yup, directly across the street, maybe three storefronts south. Much less crowded and much better service than when he first reopened (it was a zoo for almost a month).