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Downtown Oakland, Need Lunch and Dinner Recs

Hello, fellow hounders! I'm coming in from NYC for a conference, and will be staying at the Oakland Marriott City Center, 1001 Broadway. Need help with the following:

1) Places for lunch within a 5-10 minute walk of the hotel, price around $15 or less/person; needs to be reasonably fast (able to get in and out within an hour).

2) Places for dinner nearby; definitely willing to do public transportation--maybe 30 minutes max? Price not super important, but should probably not go over $25 or so for entrees--although there's room for a splurge in there if it's really fabulous food.

3) I will be getting into SF one night--any really interesting places easily reached by public transport?

Casual atmosphere preferred. All cuisines welcome; I can't think of anything I really DON'T like. There is one snag: I can't eat wheat. So no pizza joints or sandwich shops unless they have other things to eat as well.

Hope that's not all too much to ask I don't know Oakland at all, and haven't been to SF in 20 years, so anything you can tell me will be greatly appreciated!

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  1. For lunch, Rico's Diner is great--they're known for burgers and milkshakes, but there are some good non-sandwichy options as well: meatloaf, country-fried steak. Though those might still contain flour?

    The Marriot is also right by Chinatown, so there are a wealth of quick lunch options there, though the ones that come first to mind do involve some permutation of bread/noodle. For dim sum, people like Legendary Palace and Peony. For takeout dim sum, Sun Sing is pretty good.

    Also Uncle Willie's BBQ, for brisket and ribs.

    You're not too far from Pican (California-fied soul food), which is one of my favorite new restaurants in Oakland. It's down the street on Broadway, but probably too far away and too pricy for lunch. Worth a look for dinner, though it'd be on the higher end of your stated budget--and you may want to call a cab even though it'd be like a 15 minute walk, as that stretch of Broadway may not be the best to walk down later at night.

    Rico's Diner
    400 15th Street, Oakland, CA

    3 Replies
    1. re: abstractpoet


      Sun Sing Pastry Dim Sum
      382 8th St, Oakland, CA 94607

      Pican Restaurant
      2295 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612

      1. re: abstractpoet

        Another link.

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

        1. re: abstractpoet

          These all look great. Thanks for the suggestions!

        2. You are right on the edge of Oakland Chinatown. Consider Legendary Palace or Peony for dim sum, Shanghai for (surprise!) Shanghainese, and Spices 3 for Sichuan and other (surprise!) spicy options. Skip Shan Dong, because its noodles are the main reason to go.

          For dinner, there are lots of great options at your price point within ten blocks or so including Pican, Flora, Luka's, and Franklin Square. Taking BART to the Rockridge station will give you Oliveto, A Cote, and Wood Tavern. If you feel like making the pilgrimage to Chez Panisse, it is walkable from the Downtown Berkeley BART station (as is Corso, a restaurant with a similar philosophy). There are more great options if you're willing to take the bus.

          2 Replies
          1. re: lexdevil

            Thanks so much, this sounds great. One question: does Shan Dong have rice noodles?

            1. re: fudjunkie

              Their specialty is knife cut wheat noodles. I've had clear bean thread noodles there too, but as they are more northern, there is a lot of wheat on the menu.

          2. Another option I forgot to mention would be taking BART to the Fruitvale station. In that area you can find a number of great, cheap taco trucks. My personal choice, however, would be to sit down at the generically named Taco Grill, just across from the BART station. For under $10 you can get a huge, filling bowl of pork or chicken pozole (red or green), served with crispy fried corn tortillas and an assortment of cabbage, onions, lemon, etc. to add in. Best of all, they use Niman Ranch pork and Rocky chicken. Do this for dinner one night, and that should earn you a splurge night in Rockridge or Downtown Berkeley.

            1 Reply
            1. re: lexdevil

              Good suggestion. If you go to Taco Grill you can head next door afterwards for ice cream at Nieves Cinco de Mayo and/or a churro at the cart out front.

            2. Other places all w/i walking distance from the Marriot, most w/i 2 blocks..the furtherest 4-5 blocks. Levende, B, Ratto's, 817 are on the same block.

              Levende East, Soizic and B Restaurant are open for lunch and dinner
              Cafe 15 gets very good reviews for organic and fresh stuff.
              Ratto's is a great sandwich place with tables on the sidewalk
              Caffe 817 has great breakfast and coffee

              Soizic Restaurant
              300 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94607

              Levende East
              827 Washington St., Oakland, CA 94607

              Cafe 817
              817 Washington St, Oakland, CA 94607

              B Restaurant & Bar
              499 9th St, Oakland, CA 94607

              Cafe 15
              597 15th St, Oakland, CA 94612

              G B Ratto's International Market
              827 Washington St, Oakland, CA 94607

              5 Replies
              1. re: ML8000

                I like B Restaurant a lot, but its lunch menu is almost exclusively sandwiches and pizzas. For dinner, it's worth a look. If you happen to be here on a Sunday night, their $20 Sunday supper is one of the best deals in town.

                1. re: abstractpoet

                  Didn't know it was just sandwiches and pizza. I found out last week was the last $20 Sunday supper for the season. Hopefully they bring it back again next year.

                  1. re: abstractpoet

                    I have to correct you here, abstratct. The lunch menu at B currently has

                    and Charcuterie plates

                    Almost exactly the same number of non sandwich/pizza options as on the dinner menu.

                    That said, Cafe 15 has completely won my heart - I go there about twice a week for lunch these days and I've only been dissapointed once (by one pasta special - forget what it was).

                    1. re: 10foot5

                      It *is* heavy on the sandwiches and pizzas -- and several other dishes come with bread. However, I really liked the salmon salad with potatoes. I also noticed a couple of other tables happily sharing the truffled fries

                      1. re: 10foot5

                        Hmm, I must have been looking at the summer menu, which I don't believe had the steak or fish option...so really, you'd be looking at mussels or a salad. But you're right-- the current menu does have a few more options for a non- bread eater.

                  2. Please please please go to Cafe 15!

                    The oyster po' boy melts in your mouth.

                    A little further away, but I also find the lunch box makes great sandwiches.

                    I have yet to find a better southeast asian restaurant in the Bay Area (granted, there's still plenty I have yet to explore) than Battambang, a delicious Cambodian at 8th and Broadway or so

                    11 Replies
                    1. re: vulber

                      I am also researching lunch options in dowtown Oakland and found this thread that though a bit older seems very useful:


                      1. re: grayelf

                        Grayelf! You're coming to Oakland and having something other than Mexican? Seriously, I can't remember if you've done Shanghainese -- Shanghai is definitely my favorite place in downtown Oakland. If you're interested in Sichuan, there's also a branch of Spices! (Spices 3) in Oakland Chinatown. Now that I think about it, the Spices in Oakland is more accessible from downtown SF than the ones in SF!

                        Shanghai Restaurant
                        930 Webster St, Oakland, CA 94607

                        Spices 3
                        369 12th St, Oakland, CA 94607

                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                          I've had a lot of problems with food being excessively salty at Spices 3, don't know if other people have had the same problem. They do have my favorite tofu dish of all time though (I think it has "1000 chilis" in the name".

                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                            Ruth, what do you like at Shanghai? Despite several people on the board whose opinions I respect touting it, I've only had mediocre meals there. I found the XLB mediocre and most other items I've tried just OK. For a somewhat similar style of food, I think Joy Restaurant in Foster City is much much better.

                            Of the non-Cantonese Chinese restaurants in Oakland Chinatown, I much prefer Shan Dong, though admittedly I rarely stray from a handful of reliable items (the buns, the dumplings, occasionally the noodles).

                            IIRC, Grayelf is from Vancouver, in which case I suggest he stay far far away from the Shanghainese food in the Bay Area (and, to a lesser extent, the Chinese food in general). We can't even come close to touching what they've got in Richmond, etc.

                            1. re: abstractpoet

                              Isn't Joy Taiwanese?

                              I've always liked Shanghai (the original in Oakland). But it's not refined cooking.

                              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                It is, but aside from the weekend-only Taiwanese "dim sum" items, there is quite a bit of overlap. There's the "lion's head" meatball soup and the kao fu (gluten) and the stinky tofu, all of which are much better at Joy. The XLB at Joy weren't great either, but still better than the ones I've had at Shanghai.

                                I don't need this type of cooking to be refined--what I want it to be is soul-warming (probably too much to ask) and true in its flavors. Anyway, after two or three more or less mediocre meals, I'm a bit hesitant to give Shanghai another try.

                            2. re: Ruth Lafler

                              "Grayelf! You're coming to Oakland and having something other than Mexican?"

                              Hey Ruth -- honestly, I'm thinking fish tacos at Cholita Linda (Sunday Market -- I still haven't found really topnotch fish tacos outside of Baja but that doesn't stop me trying) but in the event they do not satisfy or the Alternate Stomach has had enough Mexican, I'm looking for some options :-). Thanks for the suggestions, especially Sichuan as that is a cuisine I'd like to explore further. While we have a few choices here, most are quite North Americanized which can be tasty but I'm interested in finding out if I like "the real thing." There is a new place nearby us that apparently has a chef from Sichuan Province that I'm keen to try but I may get to SF first :-).

                              Good memory, abstractpoet, I am indeed a Vancouverite, though a female one :-). Appreciate your thoughts re Shanghainese food in SF Bay Area vs the Lower Mainland. We have been sampling some local spots lately and have indeed been quite impressed by the quality and variety -- one place that just opened up close to us in Vancouver proper is so slammed we haven't been able to get in. In SF, we've only been to Bund Shanghai and while it was by no means bad, it didn't seem as good as what we can get at home. I have been warned off Chinese food in general in SF Bay Area because of our perceived superiority but have nonetheless had some delicious encounters with same in SF including best dimsum evah in 2003 (Ton Kiang I think).

                              Sorry for the threadjack, OP... we now return you to regular scheduled programming about Oakland lunch spots :-)...

                              1. re: grayelf

                                I've talked to many people who swear by Ton Kiang, and then I ask them when the last time they went there was, and they'll answer that it was quite a few years ago.

                                I went within the last six months and found it all right, but overpriced.

                                1. re: vulber

                                  Just in case anyone is confused by the topic title, Ton Kiang is in SF, in the Richmond district. They made the best version of pork belly with dried mustard greens I've had.

                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    Perhaps it is better to go for dinner there, rather than dimsum? I sense the same is true at Koi Palace.

                                    Sorry for getting off-topic

                        2. You are located right at BART station, so tons of options for dinners.
                          For lunch, several good Vietnames places on 13th, 15th, and 17th. Cross street Franklin. Pho 84, Hunyh, Ba Vo. Also Le Cheval on Clay St.
                          Phnom Penh (251 8th st.) Good Cambodian food.

                          Casual Dinner in Downtown Berkeley recommend Angeline's Louisiana Kitchen
                          Oakland: Jack London Square has chain Miss Pearl's Jam house (not as good) or you can try Everett and Jones for BBQ.

                          SF by BART near transport: Gordon Biersch, Palomino, Boccadillo's, Bix, Irish Bank. Pub, Touristy American with nice view, Tapas, Good American, and fish and chips! respectively.

                          14 Replies
                          1. re: myst

                            How does Phnom Penh compare with Battambang?

                            Palomino's a chain, passable but there are a few hundred other places I'd send a visitor first.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              I was specifically referring to places within walking distance of the hotel, if it's expanded to cab/BART options, then yes, there are other things I'd put above Battambang, but that Old Oakland area is still pretty lacking (the Trappist is awesome, but not a food place); I was less than impressed when I went to Phnom Penh, flavors were lacking

                              1. re: vulber

                                I was asking myst about Phnom Penh.

                                I've eaten well at Battambang, which is closer to the hotel.

                              2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                Yeah Palomino and Gordon Biersch are both low on my personal list (generic but not bad) for food, but I have found that for visitors they have nice views of the bay bridge area and Palomino has great Happy Hour pricing. Alot of the good places in Embarcadero area are very pricey.

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                  Battambang is nicer ambiance and ftheir food is decent, but I would give Phnom Penh slight edge and the operators a super friendly. Great fried bananas.

                                  1. re: myst

                                    Fried bananas is such a ubiquitous SE asian dessert, and it was the only dessert offering when I went to Phnom Penh. Battambang actually has a good variety of desserts, all stellar

                                    1. re: vulber

                                      Very true, and I'm glad. What can I say. I love fried bananas. In Alameda, I go to Amarin Thai just for the banana - Dinner elsewhere....

                                      OSHA in SF is also good, but I rarely eat desserts anyway. I (gasp) do not really care much for chocolate desserts preferring fruit based treats or lemon concoctions. I like good chocolate all by itself or as a beverage.

                                  2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                    I used to think Battambang was much better than Phnom Penh, but my in my last few visits, Phnom Penh has been better. My best Battambang experiences have been at dinner, or lunch with Khmer coworkers. Lunches alone have not been good. The last time I went to Battambang (July, lunch, with non-Khmer speaking friend), I had dishes I'd previously enjoyed (squid salad, angel wings) and was seriously disappointed in both (squid wasn't fresh, dressing was unbalanced, greens were limp; wings were dry, filling not as flavorful as before). Phnom Penh used to oversweeten a lot of their dishes, but that seems to have improved. Also, their good dishes are consistently good (sweet and sour soup with prawns and pineapple, smoked eggplant with pork).

                                    1. re: daveena

                                      Much appreciate the update. Maybe I should check out Phnom Penh for the banh xeo-like crepe instead?

                                      850 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94607

                                      Phnom Penh House
                                      251 8th St, Oakland, CA 94607

                                      1. re: Melanie Wong

                                        It's worth a shot - I used to really like Battambang's version, actually, but haven't had it in a long time.

                                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                                          I used to really like their crepe, but I stopped eating there (Phnom Penh House) as the food seemed to be slipping (and by this I mean that I used to eat there 20 years ago, and stopped frequenting it around 8 years ago). When it was good I always enjoyed the crepe, the smoky eggplant with ground pork and shrimp, an intensely aromatic fish soup on the specials menu (that might have been called prohaa), and the chicken salad. Glad to read that it's improved. I'll need to check it out again.

                                          1. re: lexdevil

                                            I always get the curries at Battambang - haven't quite found anything like it.

                                    2. re: myst

                                      It's been a while for me, how is Pho 84? I think it was my first pho when they were on Alice. I like the expanded menu at the "new" place but stopped when parking became too hard.

                                      Pho 84
                                      354 17th St, Oakland, CA 94612

                                      1. re: wolfe

                                        Pho 84 is delicious. A bit pricier than your typical Vietnamese joint in Oakland, but very good portions.

                                        Especially like the Vietnamese iced coffee, they bring the french press right to your table.

                                    3. BocaNova in Jack London Square is about a 15 minute walk down Broadway, an excellent small-plates place overlooking the water.


                                      (no Places link yet, don't know how to do it)

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: ernie in berkeley

                                        If you are going to walk 15 minutes from the Marriott, I would head the other direction up Broadway and eat at Luka's Taproom or Franklin Square Wine Bar.
                                        I have eaten at Boca Nova twice. The first time was pretty good, the second was horrible (everything was too salty, produce was limp, terrible service). Maybe they have worked out the kinks, but unless you really want to sit near the water, I don't think it's worth it, as the portions are small and to get enough food, the bill adds up quickly.

                                      2. Also, don't go to Tamarind unless you're looking for a snack. While it's delicious food, the portions are extremely spartan.

                                        1. Just returned from my conference, and wanted to report.

                                          First of all, thanks to everyone. Not a bad meal was had at Hound-recommended spot (unfortunately, I got dragged other places from time to time!).

                                          Le Cheval: had the claypot rice, delicious, very fresh. Others who ate here also reported favorably.

                                          Phnom Penh House: a hit. We had a variety of curries, noodles, and I had beef and green beans in a basil/mint sauce that was very nicely balanced. I wanted to get to Battambang to compare, but ran out of time.

                                          Cafe 817: nice fresh salad, friends had sandwiches which they enjoyed as well. And open on a Saturday afternoon. Does no one serve lunch on Saturdays?

                                          Sun Sing Pastry Dim Sum: I want to go back just for more of this. Everything was delicious, and my 5 pieces of dim sum cost me a whopping $2.47.

                                          Irish Bank (SF): didn't eat there, but had a pint. Great pub, loved the atmosphere.

                                          Tried to eat at Bix or Boccadillo's, but both were closed on Sunday night (Bix for a private party--perhaps they're usually open?)

                                          Not one of the recommendations, but we had a wonderful dinner at Venus in Berkeley. Fresh seasonal food very well prepared, nice wine list. Also enjoyed the tapas at Tamarindo in downtown Oakland.

                                          Thanks again to all!

                                          850 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94607

                                          Irish Bank Bar and Restaurant
                                          10 Mark Ln, San Francisco, CA 94108

                                          Phnom Penh House
                                          251 8th St, Oakland, CA 94607

                                          56 Gold St., San Francisco, CA 94133

                                          Cafe 817
                                          817 Washington St, Oakland, CA 94607

                                          468 8th St, Oakland, CA 94607

                                          Phnom Penh Restaurant
                                          3912 MacArthur Blvd, Oakland, CA 94619

                                          Le Cheval
                                          1007 Clay St, Oakland, CA

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: fudjunkie

                                            Thank YOU so much for reporting back. Yeah, that part of downtown Oakland is pretty dead on weekend afternoons -- most of the places in that area are only open for lunch during the week for the courthouse/office worker crowd.