My Berkeley/Oakland faves, tell me yours
I have a new pizza love and its name is Gioia, on Hopkins. Pizza's three elements - crust, sauce, cheese - rarely work so well together. The formaggio is nomnomnom. Any pizza of similar quality in Oakland? I liked Dopo. Zachary's is great, but I find the crust could be softer, lighter and more flavorful. For me, Rustica lacks excitement though I appreciate their use of quality ingredients. I like Lanesplitter on San Pablo but not as much on Telegraph. Why, I know not. Am I missing anything great?
There's a lot of mediocrity out there. I love Homma's Brown Rice Sushi in Palo Alto but haven't found anything similar here. Traditionally, I've liked Kamakura in Alameda, Mobo in Santa Cruz and, locally, Tachibana on College. Kirala is pretty good. Anyone try Hiro's in Rockridge? Anywhere else to recommend?
I know this is a big category. I'm unadventurous enough to like a lot of Pan-Asian places including Xyclo and Unicorn. I like Vietnamese and finally accepted that Le Cheval is now bleh. I love Thai but don't have a current favorite. Anyone?
I love - and have OD'd on - Simply Greek on Piedmont. I also enjoy many Mexican spots including La Calaca Loca (mmm baja fish), Tacubaya, (great salad, guac), and Cactus (mmm grilled veggies - but a little salty). Anyone try Cafe Raj on Solano? Perhaps an alternative to wheat-based meals you can suggest for my wheat-sensitive friends?
I've tried a lot. So, with all due respect, I only want to hear about your favorites, not "pretty good" and not "I've been wanting to try..." Thank you! - Demanding east bay diner
Pizza--It's not an ultra thin crust, but LoCoco's has a flavorful, chewy crust and good quality toppings. Beats the pants off of the cracker-like Zachary's thin crust.
Sushi--I like Uzen for high quality ngiri. I am not a fan of the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink Mission burrito sized maki. If you are, we'll probably disagree.
Asian--Champa Garden is Thai, Lao, Lue, and tasty as heck. Menu is not 100% reliable, but the nam kao (crispy rice ball salad) is usually great. The Champa sampler appetizer plate is that rare beast--an appetizer combo that actually includes the BEST items on the appetizer menu (it includes the nam kao, the Lao sausage, and the excellent spring rolls). Other standouts include the Lao noodle soup and the the Pad Prik Khing (I like it with pork).
Cheap Eats--Get A serves cheap cooked Japanese meals (oyako don is sub $5).Their sushi is good quality (though not the quality of Uzen) for a very low price. Tiny, crowded, and uncomfortable to eat at, this is great take away.
Shanghai has raised the price of its cheap menu from three dishes for $15 up to an earth shaking three dishes for $16.50. It's still a deal. Last time I was there my hubby and I had three dishes, two steamers of their excellent xiao long bao, tea and a diet Coke for around $30 all in. And we brought home enough food for a second night.
These are the places I currently eat at regularly and am happy to go to any time someone suggests them:
Cesar (on Piedmont)
El Huarache Azteca
*Hit-and-miss menus, be sure to read past reports so you order the good stuff.
re: Robert Lauriston
Nice list, Robert!
I'd include every one of yours and add some of my faves:
Oliveto - specifically the breakfast pizza in the cafe on a sunday morning and the sitting at the counter upstairs for a dinner.
Bakesale Betty - chicken sandwich and a cookie.... ahhhh
Koryo BBQ - killer korean bbq with horrific interior and mean waitstaff
Kirala Sushi - fresh fresh fish
Tacubaya on 4th street - menudo that rivals any place on international
Concur about Koryo - meat quality was lower on my visit a few weeks ago, Ogahne big win - and I'd add Shan Maru for overall Korean. Nummy seafood pancakes.
Robert's list is excellent as usual. I will only add a few that I like, not on his list.
Sushi --- Sushi Sho on Solano, but the owner is crazy. Homma-like in its unusual nature, but the anti-Homma. Homma's is one of those places that makes a town special in your memory. Like the OP, I have a soft spot for Tacibana. I've had some mighty fine fish at Yoshi's on a Saturday, but what's good is variable and prices are high.
Dude, the Bahn Mi shop on San Pablo in EC. I miss that place so much it hurts.
Cheap eats ---
Schwarma at Jerusalem Organic on Solano. Light, tasty, good.
I'm a fan of Gordo's on Solano. Carnitas burrito, regular (super loses the delicate bean/carnitas mix), pinto beans, hot salsa. Or carnitas tacos, with.
The Banh Mi shop in El Cerrito is called Ba Le, and they also have two shops now in westerly East Oakland, both on International Blvd about 4 blocks from each other. These are my fav banh mi shops in the E. Bay.
agree w/ all of Robert's suggestions.
I'd also toss in Maritime East for the cheeseburger.
T-Rex for Monday/tuesday fried chicken, a huge portion by the way.
Binh Minh Quan for Vietnamese in Oakland, Pho King for Pho in Oakland, Anh Hong for Vietnamese in Berkeley.
re: Robert Lauriston
Sadly, I concur. Binh Minh Quan was a regular destination for me, at least once a month, but the last few times the food didn't have quite the same flair, and the service was truly awful. I still go, hoping they rise up again, but not with the same "yeah! let's go there!" verve.
re: Robert Lauriston
I go to BMQ weekly, and haven't experienced any decline... The service has certainly never been formal - more of a casual shout-down-the-waiter when you need the check sort of thing. If you actually get to know the waiters, it makes BMQ even better. Ask them what their favorites are.
re: Johnny E
I love Oliveto, but mostly go to Dopo and Oliveto these days, mostly because they're more affordable. Oliveto still rules for fancy handmade pastas.
I much prefer Ohgane to Koryo. Better food, nicer atmosphere (I always insist on sitting in the front room), friendlier service.
No way I'm waiting in line at Kirala when I can just walk into Uzen.
re: Robert Lauriston
My experience at Oliveto was awful. The food may or may not have been good, but the wait staff was absolutely rude and pretentious. I couldn't pronounce some menu items and they wouldn't care to elaborate on what a certain dish contained, or gave very poor explanations. They paid very little to no attention to us. I would almost like to claim a hint of racism here, but I hate playing the race card, but it REALLY felt like that when we went (and it was a group of about 8 Asian Americans, 20somethings-early30s, on a Friday night). Maybe it was just too crowded, but we've sworn never to come back because of our awful experience there.
Ohgane is AMAZING! And I agree, so much better than Koryo in every way.
Sorry to hear that, I had the exact opposite experience. Also w/ a group of 7 asians and 1 caucasian. They were very prompt, gave us explanations, saved the last orders of available dishes for us, helped us take our requisite group pictures. Food was excellent and our server gave us good recommendations.
It's too bad they didn't treat you guys right on your one and only trip.
Nice comments. I just wanted to clarify, though, the Xyclo is not "Pan-Asian." It's Cal-Vietnamese. I wouldn't want anyone to expect anything other than Vietnamese or Vietnamese-inspired dishes. I'm usually pretty skeptical about places like Xyclo, but the dishes I had there was actually quite good. Vietnamese food is also great for your wheat-sensitive friends.
Cheap eats ...
Cam Huong for banh mi
Otaez (Alameda location) for their weekend pozole special
El Huarache Azteca for anything with masa
Nieves Cinco de Mayo for handmade ice cream in unique flavors
and of course, my favorite taco trucks: El Novillo for carnitas, El Ojo de Agua for drinks, and El Gordo for al pastor.
Things that haven't been mentioned:
I have to say I was really pleased with my last meal at La Med in Berkeley. We got the sampler where you get 10 dishes. It was excellent. Incredibly flavorful and good execution on all of the dishes.
Pho Ao Sen on International for Pho
I like Hiro's in Rockridge, much like the old Yoshi's menu, but cheaper.
Burger at Bear Naked Burgers (former Cafe Pippo)
"Splurge" dinners ($40-$50pp): Dopo (my favorite in the East Bay), Pizzaiolo
Mid Priced dinners ($20-$25pp) Eel Banh Mi at Sea Salt, Cheeseburger at Maritime East, Fried Chicken at T-Rex (portion is big enough for two), Gregoire, Ajanta (best Indian in town), Cafe Colucci
Cheap dinners ($15pp) - Picante, Tacubaya, Bobby G's (worth adding to your pizza list)
Lunch - 900 Grayson, Cheeseboard Pizza, Gregoire
Dessert - Sketch Ice Cream
pp = per person. Price ranges include drinks, tax & tip.
re: Morton the Mousse
I usually get out of both Dopo and Pizzaiolo for no more than $40 a person, and often less, depending on what we order. Granted, the bill can go higher if I'm feeling splurgy, but that's not the rule.
I agree with lots of these comments, and I'd add the new Flora, where I've had two good meals (and which has a slightly lower price point than most of the other restaurants to which I'd compare it, like Wood Tavern and Maritime East).
Not yet mentioned:
Jayakarta (Indonesian): anything with fried anchovies, e.g. tempe orek. Also the chili-fried egg.
Angeline's Louisiana Kitchen: hush puppies, terrific desserts
Norikonoko (homestyle Japanese): ramen & gyoza
Crixa Cakes: Eastern European baked goods
And I agree with Pizzaiolo, Dopo, A Cote, Cafe Colucci, 900 Grayson, Champa Garden, Sketch...
Gum Kuo for Chinese rice porridge aka Jook
Delicious Foods Co for takeout dim sum
Vien Huong for Chiu Chow noodle soup
Vanessa's Bistro for contemporary Vietnamese
Pho Hoa Hung for Pho
Banh Mi Ba Le for Banh Mi
Champa Garden & Green Papaya Deli for Lao
Vientian Cafe for Thai
Pyung Chang for Korean Tofu Soup aka Soondubu
Seoul Gomtang for Korean Oxtail Soup aka Gomtang
Yet Nal Za Zang for Korean black bean sauce noodles aka JaJjangMyun
Tacos El Gordo & Taqueria San Jose for Tacos Al Pastor
Otaez Taqueria for Tacos Pescado & Pollo
Taqueria Zamorano for breakfast burritos
Genova for sandwiches
Arizmendi for asiago cheese rolls
Ok, I think that's it <g>
re: Robert Lauriston
Honestly, I haven't explored much of the menu. I always get the same thing, Chow Jew Won Ton Noodle, with a mix of ho fun and egg noodles. It comes with ground pork, chicken, shrimp, kidney, & wontons in a tasty light chicken broth garnished with scallions. We also share the fish cake to start. They make their hot sauce in house, which is less spicy than Sriracha and a nice balance of tart/sweet.
thanks, everybody. i will study this, and it will spice up my life.
don't know why I referred to Xyclo as Pan-Asian. i agree with many of the choices here, including Gregoire, LoCoco's, Uzen, Dona Tomas, Bakesale Betty, Crixa Cakes and of course Chez Panisse.
My pizza at Pizzaiola was charred, but I could tell something delicious was under the soot. I'll be back. I was surprised to see Luka's but they do have killer french fries w/ dips.
pizza - I like LoCoco's inferno pizza. Dopo's Pizza Dopo and usually the chef's special at Pizzaiolo. . altho I find the crust too dark for me at times. I adore Dopo but find their pasta servings insultingly small for the price. Quality is not the question but I find the portion gets smaller every time I go.
I don't eat sushi but my favorite Japanese is Norikonoko. .. gomae (the portion is tiny but it is DELICIOUS!), ramen with gyoza and robata dabbed with spicy miso. I love that they serve Koshihikari Echigo Beer.
I have yet to find a superb Thai restaurant in the East Bay. For Pho and Bun I like Pho Hoa Hung. Bagan or Burma Superstar East as they are calling it these days in Alameda is wonderful and there is never a wait as there is in the city.
For Mexican I like El Huarache. . the tinga de pollo in a sope is a favorite. I love the sopes with carnitas from La Pinata Taco Truck in Oakland. I also like the soup specials at Cenaduria. Tacubaya always has fideo on the menu which is a favorite as is the chile relleno.
The funny thing about Xyclo is that I didn't like much on their menu but for some reason I thought their Double Happiness Roll which is an Imperial Roll wrapped in a summer roll was genius. Weirdly delicious.
Fried Chicken Soul Food. . .that can be a cheap eat because you can get more than one meal from an order (nothing like good cold fried chicken the next day). . I used to love Nellie's but found that Southern Cafe edged them out on the sides. Both have great fried to order chicken.
I like Wood Tavern but at times find their flavors redundant. . but any pork belly preparation they might have can't be beat. I also wish they'd improve their desserts. But again, PORK BELLY!
And, as always, Sketch in every way exemplifies what I love about sweets and ice cream.
Khana Peena lunch buffet for $10 is always good.
Easy parking,nice space and service and hot naan and mango chuntney served with meal.
(It always amazed me how many Indian buffets are too cheap to serve chuntey)
Their beer prices are a little harsh.
5316 College Ave, Oakland
Pizza - Cheeseboard-Gioia-Lanesplitter. (You're not the only one that prefers Lanespitter's San Pablo Ave branch.)
Sushi - Angelfish (Alameda) Eat Fresh!
Thai - Ruen Pair (Albany) Roast Duck curry. I dare you to ask for it "Extra Spicy"..
Beer - Barclay's Pub on College Ave (Rockridge) Go to the bar and ask to see "Pliny the Elder".
Mexican (indoor/non-truck) - Los Picudos #2 (San Pablo). For the legendary Tortas.
Indian - Ajanta (Berkeley).
Soul Food - Southern Cafe (Oakland) Great fried chicken with even better sides and in truck driver-portions.
Breakfast - Bacheeso's (Berkeley?). Mediterranean-themed brunch buffet with impressive variety.
Vietnamese - Pho Hoa Lee Phat 1 (Concord). Pho, pho, pho.
The Mediterranean (Concord) - Best Falafel's and Shawerma's I've tried in bay area (And I've tried alot).
Brazil Cafe (Berkeley) - Tell me the Brazilian steak sandwich there doesn't rule.
Vik's (Berkeley) - Oh! The flavors and spices. Batura Chole is my fave dish there.
Ba Le (El Cerrito) - $2.25 for a tasty sandwich.
re: J T
Some more great cheap places:
Sunrise Deli (falafels)
The Mediterranean in Concord is still in business? The one in Berkeley folded and was replaced by Turkish Kitchen, which has much better food.
The Berkeley location was originally a branch of Truly Mediterranean, which also had better food. The still extant SF original branch has the best shawerma I've had. Great falafels but those at Sunrise Deli in Berkeley are just as good or better.
The one in Albany is takeout only. Discount if you pick up.
For me, 70% of the reason for going to Lanesplitter is the cask-conditioned beer on hand pump, which is the best in the Berkeley/Oakland area. I preferred the Berkeley location when they had three hand pumps, but now that they have only one I usually go to the Oakland branch, since the tables are more comfortable. Both are often full of preschoolers in the early evening.
Both the Berkeley and Oakland branches of Lanesplitter often fill to capacity by 5 with people bringing their kids for an early dinner. I'm not sure how long that dinner rush lasts.
Both branches are occasionally standing-room-only during artist receptions.
The Berkeley branch sometimes fills up with Freight & Salvage patrons before and after shows and during breaks between sets.
Re the pizza at Lo Coco's in Oakland, the menu's different from their cousins' place Lococo's in Berkeley. At Lo Coco's, I recommend the fresh ricotta (not available for takeout). At Lococo's, I recommend the Puzzola ("the Stinker") with morels, gorgonzola, and white truffle oil.
The pastas at Lo Coco's are awful unless you're dying for some old-school Italian-American mush in sweet red sauce. Lococo's are passable.
Lococo's Restaurant & Pizzeria
1400 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94709
In addition to the aforementioned places, I have found Flavors of India (Rockridge) to be fantastic. Its dishes are slightly more main-stream and cheaper than Ajanta, my other Indian favorite, but well-executed with complex flavors. In addition, their Bhatura bread is absolutely heavenly, and not to be found anywhere else.
Just make sure to go to that branch, and not their new restaurant on Lakeshore in Oakland:
My experience at the Lakeshore branch was pretty awful, too. Slow service, inattentive servers, small portions, and the food seemed quite bland. I went about two months after they opened, so it wasn't just startup problems.
Traditional pizza: Gioia's. But that comes from being raised on the East Coast. Worst pizza: Zachary's.
Gourmet pizza: toss-up between Pizzaiolo and Maritime East.
Coffee place to sit: Sweet Adeline's--nice people, relaxed, good coffee good snacks
Desserts: I've switched from Sweet Adeline's to either Crixa or Masse's, But the atmosphere at either of these is inferior for sitting to SA's. And I still think the whipped-cream things at Crixa are either flavorless or too rose-flavored.
Indo-Pak: Indus Village. But the chairs are the worst! Instant back pain, something that never bothers me.
Thai: Siam Bay.
Chinese: China Village
American Chinese: whichever Panda Garden the last drug-rep in our office got it. Honest, it was delicious.
Ribs and BBQ: I've had so many lousy and expensive meals at T-Rex lately, I've stopped going. I still like Looney's but have to say (gasp!) the tastiest ribs I had lately were from Asquew Grill! With good salad and good couscous and good mashed potatoes.
Hamburger: Maritime East. I'm not a hamburger craver in general but I go BACK for this one.
Breakfast: Montero's or Venus. Used to like Sunnyside but we just ate there and it was awful, 'specially for the price. The bacon wasn't drained and I had to sponge it and the plate off with extra napkins and the fried potatoes had NO taste. Needed salt, pepper, hot sauce. Much better at Montero's. (Thank you, rworange!)
Middle-Eastern: Turkish Kitchen was great, with other than the usual ME stuff (so therefore it would be Turkish!) and Jerusalem Kitchen at the top of Solano. Great owner and large well-cooked stuff. No savory filo-dough thingies, though.
Japanese: Tachibana but that's cause of the robata lobster and Drunken Fish for the rolls. Get-A for cheap and delicious spicy tuna tekka don and actually quite credible negiri and rolls. But atmosphere-less. To negative atmosphere if busy.
Italian: Riva Cuchina. Lovely owners, most authentic and dellicious Northern Italian food. Pizziaolo is pretty damn good but so noisy! Dopo good but small portions, making sharing a bit dicey.
Mexican: Taqueria Talavera on Solano. Part of Montero's and with the best mole.
Fish: Sea Salt. But the portions there are usually small.
Soul food: Declancy's. Where our friend had what he said was the best prime rib (and the cheapest!) he'd had in the Bay Area. Sold maybe once/month. Good fried chicken, genius fried okra. Have yet to try Southern Kitchen.
Korean: Ohgane. And some of the takeout/make at home from Koreana Plaza.
I agree about Sunnyside. It used to be a treat to go there now it's very mediocre. We suspect it started to slide when the evening venue opened, that perhaps the morning chef moved on.
Thai - Ruen Pair in Albany absolutely rules
Bakery - Bakesale Betty. She also sells at the Sunday am market behind the Claremont DMV.
Too bad about T-Rex, seems like the kind of place I'd really like except I haven't heard one good thing about the food at all. We get our BBQ fix at Memphis Minnie's in the City.
Chinese: Nothing comes close to Daimo in Richmond, best Chinese roast duck, noodles and soups I've ever had.
Persian: for lunch anyway, great falafel sandwiches to go at Zand's on Solano in Albany.
pizzaiolo for a short double latte and toast with choice of 3 jams/marmalades. the place is always empty in the morning so it is possible to get a whole table and spread the newspaper out and relax. bakesale betty is 3-4 doors down and is jammed with people but i also go there and watch them prepare the 400 or so fried chicken sandwiches that they sell daily. (awesome sandwich!)
oliveto for the breakfast pizza is tops although they are not my fav pizza for later in the day.
caffe trieste for a "africano". a small orange juice sized glass with 2 shots of espresso and a little steamed milk. they know what it is. just ask for it. some places call it a gibraltar and it is very similar to what i had all the time in barcelona. trieste has the standard bagel/panini/made-somewhere-else breakfast sweets that i dont really indulge in.
had a few really good breakfasts at the wagon wheel? on san pablo in albany but i havent been in a long time and am not absolutely sure they are still around but they use good product but are fairly expensive.
-chicken sandwich at bakesale betty's
-montero's but only if they have mole that i order on the side. one of the best moles in the area, to my taste.
-oliveto for dinner, at the bar. best restaurant in the bay area, (if you can mentally let the cost of the meal not get to you) make a resie for their special dinners that happen quarterly.
-goia pizza my favorite also but only if you eat it there. it doesnt travel well but a friend of mine heats his slowly in an ungreased cast iron pan and it does get really crisp after a couple of mins.
-taco truck on san leandro and 80th or so....
-china village. order off the specials menu. large portions.
Who's coffee does Pizziaola use? I love that place. I definitely recommend the grilled calamari salad if they have it on the menu. Phenomenal.
I'd also put my vote in for Ici. But remember, it's ice cream, not Gelato. I imagine this distinction could really make you dissapointed if you were expecting one of the other.
As far as other coffee, for Berkeley/Oakland, I'd say Blue Bottle at any of the Berkeley Farmer's markets, Barefoot Coffee at Cafe Meditereaneum on Telegraph or Flying Goat coffee at Village Grounds on Shattuck. There's probably enough info on Blue Bottle out there already, but Village Grounds and Cafe Mediteraneum are worth noting because they are the only East Bay spots that I know of that serve these other two Greater Bay Area coffees.