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Need recommendations for Oakland trip Dec 27 -30- nothing elegant!

Travelling with husband (business for him, Christmas break for me) to Oakland between Christmas and New Year's. Can you recommend some places to try in Oakland?

1. Guy Fieri "Triple D" type places for lunch or dinner.
2. "Dive" bars with good drinks/food where you're welcome even if you're not a regular.
3. Unique ice cream, dessert, pastry places.
4. Sushi (preferably somewhere where sustainable fish is not the exception)
5. Best banh mi place (never tried one, want to on this trip)
6. Anything else inexpensive but fabulous. Authentic Mexican and Chinese are favorites.

Will have rental car and be staying near the airport. Hubby will be working in San Leandro. Willing to go into San Francisco, but were just there last month, so more interested in what Oakland has to offer. Can't wait to hear some fabulous CH rec's!

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  1. A little farther than Oakland just across the border to Berkeley is a great middle European bakery,Crixa Cakes. For Bahn Mi there's Cam Huong or Ba Le on International, tossup.
    For dive bar without food, Heinhold's First and Last Chance.

    Crixa Cakes
    2748 Adeline St, Berkeley, CA 94703

    Ba Le Sandwich
    1500 International Blvd, Oakland, CA 94606

    Cam Huong Cafe
    702 International Blvd, Oakland, CA 94606

    Heinold's First & Last Chance
    56 Jack London Sq, Oakland, CA 94607

    4 Replies
    1. re: wolfe

      Can't recommend Van Kleef's enough. No food, just drinks, and a dark, old-fashioned atmosphere with all sorts of interesting things on the wall.

      While it doesn't fit any of your criteria, I would also recommend Cafe 15, a great affordable cafe with absolutely top-notch ingredients.

      1. re: wolfe

        Good recs.I' not a regular but has Guy Fieri featured Oaktown restaurants?It seems he's more into middle of the country.Quinn's Light House,Upper Deck Pub,with it's "throw them on the floor peanut shells",features 8 draft beers and over 58 domestic & imported bottled beers.There's an 80-seat outside deck overlooking the marina.Happy Hour at the Pub: Mon-Fri, 4-6 pm.
        Discount prices on drinks, beers and appetizers. It's not destination dining but a nice destination on a sunny afternoon,right off 880 from the airport.Good clams,mussels and garlic chicken wings w/a water view.

        Quinn's Lighthouse Restaurant And Pub
        51 Embarcadero, Oakland, CA 94607

        1. re: casalbore spirit

          Quinn's deck (which has reopened) is fun. I can't stand the interior.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            Quinn's outside deck for sure.Don't like any other part of the complex including the main restaurant.Am not crazy about the food,more that there's so few places to feel the calm of sitting by water,witha libation and food, when Oakland is right on the bay.Another suggestion for you Igoodwood,right off 880 on Fruitvale nr International is "Los Coco's" a Salvadoran restaurant with great pupusas and more:

      2. If you're staying near the airport, you're just a hop, skip and jump away from Oakland's Mexica/Fruitvale district. Check out one of the many threads on where to eat in Fruitvale, from ice cream to taco trucks to pupusa wagons.

        Here are a couple of fairly recent threads: the request http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/562094 and the report back: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/571843

        1. Daimo for Chinese, Sweet Fingers for Jamaican (both in San Leandro), Fruitvale in Oaktown for Mexican.

          1. Forgot Champa Garden, fried rice ball salad appetizer a must.

            Champa Garden
            2102 8th Ave, Oakland, CA 94606

            1. CAFE GIOVANNI'S in Berkeley. Old-school Italian restaurant, been around for about 30 years. Recently the kitchen has taken an upturn and friends of mine who work in some San Francisco fine dining restaurants really enjoy the food.

              Casual yet romantic, good bar, great dining room fireplace, and beautifully decorated for the Holidays. Menu has something for everyone, good portions and reasonably priced. Nice extra room for parties 20 to 100. Not pretentious like many "foodie" places, but great for a business lunch, lunch with the girls, or a special dinner. My Mom used to love it even though she could go anywhere! And did I mention the bar is pretty cool?

              From The French Laundry to Michael Minna's I've eaten at the best, but Giovanni's is where I go for a relaxed, fullfilling, home-like experience. On Shattuck & Durant near downtown Berkeley.

              1 Reply
              1. re: BCtheOG

                Ew. If you like red sauce eye-talian, limp noodle pasta. Cafe Givanni isn't worth beeping at as you drive by.

              2. 900 Grayson in Berkeley is going to be on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives in an episode airing sometime in the next few months. I really like all of the breakfast foods I have had there, I find the lunches to be a little more hit and miss. The Demon Lover is my favorite, it's basically a really good version of fried chicken and waffles, it is on both the breakfast and lunch menu. That area of Berkeley is an easy drive from Oakland.

                Tara's Ice Cream on the Berkeley/Oakland border makes great and unusual ice cream. The herb flavors are all great, and I always get the black sesame or walnut if they are available. Their homemade cones are also really delicious. While you're in the neighborhood Ici, another ice cream place is just a few blocks away. They also make some unique flavors, but I don't like them as much as Tara's.

                A good neighborhood bakery, La Farine, is also right across the street from Tara's. I wouldn't make a special trip just to go there, but if you're in the neighborhood it would be good place to stop by. They are known for their morning buns, but I really love their bread.

                Ici Ice Cream
                2948 College Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705

                900 Grayson
                900 Grayson St, Berkeley, CA 94710

                La Farine
                6323 College Ave, Oakland, CA 94618

                Tara's Organic Ice Cream
                3173 College Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705

                1 Reply
                1. re: potato or yam

                  I agree with this post completely. I live dangerously close to Tara's. La Farine and Cole coffee pretty much make my day whenever I have them.

                2. For diner-type fare, Rico's Diner in downtown Oakland is the best--classic diner food, but with higher quality ingredients. Great milkshakes (esp. the chocolate banana). Very good burgers, meatloaf, chicken fried steak, etc. Only open for breakfast/lunch (and not on Sundays).

                  Second on Banh Mi Ba Le on International. Get the meatball banh mi and ask for a fried egg on top. They have pretty good Vietnamese coffee too (either hot or iced).

                  For ice cream/gelato, my favorite place in Oakland (or anywhere, really) is Lush Gelato, on Piedmont Ave. Best gelato I've ever had.

                  For sushi, I think Uzen is the best in Oakland.

                  As far as Chinese food, if you like dumplings and assorted buns, check out Shan Dong in Oakland Chinatown. Great pork and vegetable buns, dumplings, and hand-cut noodles.

                  Shan Dong Mandarin Restaurant
                  328 10th St, Oakland, CA 94607

                  Uzen Japanese Cuisine
                  5415 College Ave, Oakland, CA 94618

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

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: abstractpoet

                    poet, I think my Ba Le and your Bahn Mi Ba Le are different places, although both have their supporters.

                    Banh Mi Ba Le
                    1909 International Blvd, Oakland, CA 94606

                    1. re: abstractpoet

                      Note that Rico's is closed for the holidays (won't open again till the first week of January, I believe). We were going to go for lunch today but found out it was closed at the last minute.

                    2. 1)Aunt Mary's in Temescal does a solid job w/ large servings of highly flavored diner-esque food. It is comfortable, welcoming, and reasonable. Brown Sugar Kitchen does a great job with sophisticated soul food.

                      2)I's skip dive bars in favor of Adesso during the early evening and late night hours when the serve free food. Across the street from Adesso the Kona Club is a reasonably priced tiki bar. No food, but on Saturday nights, Jon's Street Eats has his cart there, offering high end restaurant food al fresco.

                      3)Nieves Cinco de Mayo in the Fruitvale Public Market has excellent hand made Mexican ice cream, raspados, etc. It is also cheaper than cheap. I also like the Argentine gelato at Lush on Piedmont Avenue.

                      5)I like the wide variety on non-traditional banh mi at Cam Huong on Webster in Oakland Chinatown (there are other locations too, inc. one on International Blvd.). The curry chicken is my favorite.

                      6)The pozole at Taco Grill (next to Nieves Cinco de Mayo) is great, and the meat is good quality. Chai Thai on International at 6th (near the Cam Huong location on International) is my favorite East Bay Thai (though Champa Garden is very good too). I would also recommend spending some time exploring the many Korean options on Telegraph Avenue (Sahn Maru, Sura, Casserole House...), as well as Ohgane on Broadway. I'd also recommend Ethiopian food at Cafe Colucci on Telegraph and Messob on Piedmont Ave.

                      1. I'm sorry, I disagree with a lot of these recs.

                        You're near the airport, you're near Alameda. A

                        1. I don't have a television, so "Triple D" means something other than Diners, Driveins, and Dives. But I get what you're talking about now. For that kind of eat, you need to go to Alameda. All of Alameda is stuck in the '50s, although it's lurching toward the 80's now. Ole's Waffle House. The Jack London Inn serves Chicken and Waffles. Quinn's might be good for lunch, but outside'll be cold unless it's a nice day. Regarding 900 Grayson, it's a fine place, but upscale, and very far from the airport given the traffic on 80 past the maze.

                        2. Dive bars. Oakland has *GREAT* dive bars, but few have food. I'd almost say a dive bar must not have food. Thus I will discard your food constraint.

                        a) the Pop Inn in Alameda is the last of the great Alameda dive bars. Alameda used to be a navy town, bars one end to the other, but they've been closing down. The Pop Inn is about the only one left. Go before it's gone.
                        b) Merchant's Saloon. I haven't been since the new owners, but the old Merchant's was the best dive bar ever. The new owners are young and hip, one is involved with Blue Bottle.
                        c) Van Kleef's - sort of. I kind of love Van Kleef. Peter is a character, and you will make friends there. But the liquor selection is *aweful* and I think he waters the drinks. Call for the best liquor you can find, the well's terrible. The house drink is the Greyhound, and they will squeeze the grapefruit right in front of you, but call for the non-well vodka and you'll be OK. VK has music some nights, and it's always excellent *very* local jazz. Obviously I go there, it's a great place, but I'm a little cool on it. And take your maps - it's hard to find.
                        d) The Kingfish. The Kingfish is the one exception - they have great food. It's up in Temescal district of oakland, a little bit of a haul, but you can travel cross-town and see some of oakland. With the Kingfish, you can place orders at the Red Sea ethiopian place across the street, which is excellent in itself and very cheap. You will make friends at the Kingfish.
                        e) The Stork. If you like raw cutting edge punk music, the Stork's where it is at. The place smells funny inside, the owners have been in their 80's since I first went their in the old location. It's perennially christmas. Slightly less friendly than the other places.
                        f) There are a lot of good bars. The Trappist is excellent for belgian beer. Bar Lata for tapas and wine. Lucky 13 in alameda's almost a dive, it's just too new. Luka's for food and drinks (oh, how I miss Luka's). Lanesplitter Temescal serves all the best west coast beers with a super thin slice at a reasonable price. I don't know if Eli's Mile High is still open, that place seems to come and go. That should get you started, though.
                        g) Forbidden Island. It's in Alameda, it's tiki, there are decent food bites. They strive to super authentic tiki action. The drinks aren't cheap, but it's a library of tiki history, with the great drinks from the great tiki bars. Not exactly a dive, more like a museum for dives.

                        3. Tara's and Ici, but also Naia near the Berkeley Bart station. CH is down on Naia, but I love the black sesame, and the rose. A haul from the airport. Lush as noted, also not that close.

                        4. There is no sushi in the east bay. I'm sorry, it's just true. The most renound Japanese place is Kirala, and their specialty is the Robata grill, with a minor in sushi. It's crowded and not 1/4 as good as it thinks it is. Uzen carefully listed as "best in berkeley" - but not actually good.

                        5. Bahn mi has been noted. The only good Vietnamese I've had is Pho Ao Sen, which is in a very ghetto neighborhood (but safe). Their website is *hilarious* compared to the actual restaurant. I don't think they have bahn mi. Great divey lunch spot. I don't know if other people have favorite Pho places.

                        6. Cheap and fabulous.

                        KOREAN. Run, don't walk. I could eat oakland Korean until I'm black and blue. Oghane, Shan Maru, Koryo are the most approachable - there's a great thread with Mr Lauriston's picks around somewhere. Lots of the other places don't have english language signs.

                        Fruitvale taco crawl lunch. If you don't go to mexico much, you'll enjoy just hanging in Fruitvale. There's a crawl report around somewhere.

                        There are some typical chinese rec's for oaktown chinatown, you should be able to look them up. I always end up at one particular place at 1am hitting the BBQ Pork Noodle Soup With Extra Vegetables, so I'm not a great source. I think part of the Spices empire is over that way.

                        Ethiopian. I don't know when the wave of immigration was from ethiopia, but there's a lot of joints near the berkeley/oakland border on Telegraph. If you drink at the kingfish and eat from the Red Sea you'll have sampled a good one, but there are others.

                        7. Since you mentioned bars, you've looked up the Hangar One / St George Spirit tour, right? It'll take you to an unusual part of Alameda. If you have television, you'll recognize that part of the naval air station from Mythbusters. And you can check out the navy ships.

                        8. Cafe Giovanni - not destination worthy and a *long* way from the airport. Heinhold's is too clean (but a fun place - historic!) and the drinks are poor.

                        14 Replies
                        1. re: bbulkow

                          Just a note on Van Kleef, I really like the Greyhounds but the last few times I've been there they have been out of grapefruit.

                          1. re: bbulkow

                            You're near the airport, you're near Alameda.
                            Good point, I was going to recommend Alameda, but somehow all the classic Alameda diners had slipped my mind. Jim's and Ole's in the Park St. area and Albert's on Webster are all coffee shops that are genuinely old-style (not retro). However, I'm sorry to inform you that it's too late for the Pop Inn -- it's been remodeled and renamed something pub-like (Churchyard?). This is an unfortunate byproduct of Alameda having been dragged kicking and screaming past the '80s into the '90s. Forbidden Island is a good choice, although for a bar with food, the Hob Nob might be a better choice -- it's not a dive and it's not "old school," but it's lively and unpretentious and the food is very good.

                            "Sushi" and "near the airport" makes me think of Angelfish, also in Alameda. I don't eat sushi, but it has an excellent reputation. Also in Alameda, my friends like Yume. We don't know where the OP is from -- unless she's from NY, LA, Seattle, etc., I suspect she'll find East Bay sushi perfectly adequate.

                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                              >>> We don't know where the OP is from -- unless she's from NY, LA, Seattle, etc., I suspect she'll find East Bay sushi perfectly adequate.

                              The OP lists Riverside for location on the profile page.

                              In Oakland, focus on these areas - Fruitvale (nearest the airport), PIedmont Ave, Rockridge

                              On Piedmont there is Gregoire which just has a few seats and is mainly takeout. Lunch is definately the better option. The soup of the day is good

                              They are known for their potato puffs, but other potato items on the Dec menu sound great - Chanterelle potato gratin, Roasted potato with gorgonzola & pecan. The folds are fried pies. The bread puddings are always good and I'm not a fan of bread pudding.

                              Lush gelato as recommend is not to be missed. Also on PIedmont is Fenton's, an old-time Oakland institution. The food is skippable from what I've read, but the ice cream I tried was good. You can eat it in an old-fashined ice cream parlor and there is parking.

                              Dopo on Piedmont has good Italian food and the cannoli is high on my list to try due to favorable reports. Ceasar might be more upscale than you like, but is a good small plates type of place. There are lots of shops on Piedmont and a dive bar or two ... or three. Not inexpensive, easy to get into or really anything you asked for, but Commis is the hot place of the moment and is on Piedmont.

                              If looking for soul food, Nellie's has old school and is near Jack London Square and Brown Sugar kitchen is a modern update, but not too modern.

                              If you go to Rico's Diner, it is not far from Oakland's chinatown which would be fun to walk around.

                              I had Thanksgiving Brunch at the Lake Chalet on Oakland's Lake Merrit. The view is beautiful The food was better than expected for both the restaurant and a buffet. Still food isn't your focus here, but a drink at the bar or outside if it is a nice day. Go for happy hour. Tuesday is taco tuesday. More info here

                              Speaking of Tuesday, I might divert you to Berkeley for a number of reasons. I would start with breakfast on Fourth Street at Betty's Oceanview diner. Their souffle omelets are fabulous and still remain the high point of all the East Bay breakfast joints for my tastes. Fourth Street has lovely Christmas decorations. There are some unique shops and it was very pleasant a few days ago sitting at an outdoor table at Peet's, people watching, listening to live music and sipping a peppermint hot chocolate. There are a number of food shops, maybe a little more upscale than you want, but still interesting. Chocoletier Blue is one of my favorites. Get an eggnog trufle.

                              From Fourth St, take a right on cedar and then stop by the original Acme Bread. Pick up something nice and continue up cedar to Stattuck. take a left and have a great piece of pizza at the Cheeseboard, take in the crowd and admire the wonderful cheeses.

                              Across the street is Epicurious Garden which is sort of an upscale food court. The tea shop at the very back has a lovely outdoor garden and it is a nice place to stop for a relaxing pot of Chinese tea. They have a few small dishes. The hand-pulled noodles are supposed to be good. There is also a sushi place, but sushi is not my thing, so can't say.

                              Head back to Oakland down Shattuck and stop at Crixa. Then head over to Martin Luther King and stop at the Tuesday Berkeley Farmers market to take in some of the local flavor. You might also do a stop at Berkeley Bowl West a market with a produce section that will ... well, bowl you over. Right now there are a dozen different varieties of grapes and about 25 varieties of apples.

                              Go up Ashby and hook onto Telegraph. At about 53rd there is Bakesale Betty's. There are a number of restaurants in Oakland's Temescal nabe. Lanesplitter pizza has good average type of pizza and a great beer selection. Dona Tomas is upscale-ish Mexican but I'd rather stop at the smaller Tacubaya on Fourth Street. Pizzaiolo is popular on the board, but on the upscale side. However, in the morning they have killer baked goods, especially the turnovers. You could then scoot over to Bakesale Betty's for one of their chicken sandwiches and take a place outside and eat your sandwich on an ironing board table. Bar Lata is Spanish Tapas but on the pricy side. Aunt Mary's has had a favorable mention in this thread. .

                              Or you could continue down Telegraph and eat at one of the many Korean restaurants.

                              In Fruitvale, don't miss Nieves Cinco de Mayo for ice cream. The best aqua frescas I've ever had are at the Agua de Oro truck about a block away from Cinco de Mayo. Here's my list of Oakland taco trucks most in the fruitvale area. The big finds on that list are mainly thanks to Ruth Laffler. especially El Novillo near Agua and El Gordo

                              Rockridge has lots of interesting shops such as Tara's which was mentioned.

                              1. re: rworange

                                Piedmont Ave. has a handful of great unfancy places (Dopo, Geta, Adesso, Cesar), and Cato's Ale House is a friendly beer bar, but most of the scores of other restaurants along there are best avoided.

                                Some of Fenton's ice cream flavors are good, but not in a class with Tara's or Ici, and everything else sucks. The old-fashioned ice-cream parlor burned down, the atmosphere in the new building is similar to Denny's. It's sad to see the place packed with people happily eating crap ... well, at least they're not in line at Dopo.

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                  Not being a fan of the over-priced, under-flavored Ici - ice cream with attitude ... a snotty attitude ... I would prefer Fenton's despite it not using organic ingredients or being headed by a pedigreed owner.

                                  I was never at the place before it burnt down, but having just visited, it is far from a Denny's. I'd compare it more to Ghirardelli's at Fisherman's Wharf ... only not touristed-up.

                                  Fenton's would not be a destination place but if the OP is on Piedmont, I'd recommend stopping in. You can get a taste of the ice cream and like you said, it is packed with happy families. It is cheerful. I know you don't like the place and partly that kept me away from it. I'm sorry I didn't stop by sooner and will be making pit stops more in the future to check out seasonal flavors. They are one of the few non frou-frou ice cream joints in the East Bay. Here's my recent report

                                  Oakland: Fenton's Creamery holiday flavors

                                  BTW, Lush has really sucky winter hours opening at 2pm. Still worth the hassle

                                  Isn't there a Tiki Bar you like on PIedmont? Somewhere up near the cemetary ... need to make it sound irresistable to a dive seeker.

                                  1. re: rworange

                                    The drinks at Kona Club aren't so great, it's sort of an average hipster bar. Since lgoodwood is staying near Alameda, Forbidden Island would make more sense.

                                    The Alley, now that's a dive worth a detour.

                                    The Alley
                                    3325 Grand Ave, Oakland, CA 94610

                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                      That reminds of of Wally's on San Pablo which is attached to The Bank Club ... the definition of dive bar. Guy shold be so lucky as to stop here. Very good Middle Eastern and Lebanese food ... not to mention great tamales by Wally's mother-in-law.

                                      My report

                                      Emeryville: Wally's Cafe and The Bank Club - a roadhouse with Lebanese Mexican food and draft Trumer Pilsner

                                2. re: rworange

                                  Sending someone from OAK to 4th street for *breakfast* is cruel. That drive can take a long, long time on bad days - 45 minutes+. Post 9am it clears out a bit. Just make sure you eat breakfast before you go. Oh, wait.

                                  A problem with the recs here is that some (berkeley, north oakland) are really a bit of a haul for a simple meal. Creating a plan like rworange says makes the trip reasonable.

                                  1. re: bbulkow

                                    I'll bet that morning traffic is a bit lighter than usual Dec. 27-30. Without traffic the airport is 20 minutes from North Oakland/Rockridge.

                                    1. re: lexdevil

                                      Even less! Without traffic the airport is more like 15 minutes or less from Rockridge, and that's getting to the actual airport. I wouldn't send someone to 4th St. for breakfast if they were staying near the airport, though, mostly because the wait at Bette's can be a long one, and that's a 25 minute drive and then 30-45 minutes of waiting, and that's hard on an empty stomach. If you want to stop on the way and get a pastry to eat while waiting, though, that's a perfect idea.

                              2. re: bbulkow

                                "4. There is no sushi in the east bay. I'm sorry, it's just true."
                                I'm sorry, but you're posing. And wrong. And acting like a Yelper.
                                Alameda has some of the best sushi in the Bay Area, thanks to Yume Sushi. However, Yume is very small, and so the wait can be long unless you arrive right when they open.
                                Uzen Sushi on College is also very good, and puts you in a nice commercial district with bookstores (Diesel, Pegasus), dive bars (George and Walt's, The Hut), and desserts (Bittersweet Chocolate Cafe).

                                Uzen Japanese Cuisine
                                5415 College Ave, Oakland, CA 94618

                                Yume Sushi
                                1428 Park St, Alameda, CA 94501

                                1. re: bbulkow

                                  Forbidden Island is awesome, but the food falls somewhat short of decent. Best to wait until after the second zombie. Better to save your appetite.

                                  Korean: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/490903

                                  1. re: bbulkow

                                    Love Pho Ao Sen.....probably the best Pho in Oakland. But the lack of cleanliness in the restaurant can be a turn off. Know that going in and you'll be fine.

                                    1. re: bbulkow

                                      that area is not Ghetto. its just no some yupppie heaven

                                    2. Besides Heinold's, there's Merchant's Saloon...doesn't get much divier and still not be too weird but no food. Across from Heinold's is Bocanova (nuevo Latin)...although that would be a semi-odd pair. Not too far away is Home of Chicken and Waffles in Jack London Square.

                                      1. If you want DDD places, you should plan on taking a trip around the area. I have been to several of his places and recommend these:

                                        Taylor's Refresher, St. Helena
                                        Sol Food, San Rafael
                                        Gorilla BBQ, Pacifica
                                        Dottie's True Blue, SF
                                        Hank's Creekside, Santa Rosa
                                        Falafel Drive In, San Jose

                                        Those were my favorites that he featured. Some of the others are okay but not as great as "money" as he makes them sound, such as Tommy's, Grubsteak, Bubba's, and Willie Bird Restaurant. I wouldn't go out of your way for those.

                                        Also, if you are really into GF, then you might enjoy his own restauants in Santa Rosa, Tex Wasabis and Johnny Garlic's.

                                        You can find info and reviews on all of these places by searching their names on chowhound.

                                        1. For sustainable sushi, go to Tataki in SF. I don't think there's anyplace else like it around here.

                                          Barlata's not a dive, but it's a very friendly place and the tapas are good and the prices are reasonable.

                                          Also not a dive but Mua has a great bar and the best burger in the East Bay.

                                          Best Thai in the East Bay, Chai Thai Noodles.

                                          My favorite sitdown Mexican in the Fruitvale district is El Huarache Azteca.

                                          Chinese, I like Shanghai, Spices!3 (Taiwanese Sichuan), Great China in Berkeley (Korean-Chinese), China Vilage (Sichuan), and Daimo (Hong Kong).

                                          3915 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94611

                                          El Huarache Azteca
                                          3842 International Blvd, Oakland, CA 94601

                                          Shanghai Restaurant
                                          930 Webster St, Oakland, CA 94607

                                          Daimo Chinese Restaurant
                                          3288 Pierce St, Richmond, CA 94804

                                          China Village
                                          1335 Solano Ave, Albany, CA 94706

                                          Spices 3
                                          369 12th St, Oakland, CA 94607

                                          Great China Restaurant
                                          2115 Kittredge St, Berkeley, CA 94704

                                          2815 California St, San Francisco, CA 94115

                                          Chai Thai Noodles
                                          545 B International Blvd, Oakland, CA 94606

                                          4901 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                            Have you checked out the branch of El Huarache Azteca that took over the taqueria space across the street, next to the grocery store? Same menu? Abbreviated menu?

                                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                              Yeah, it's more of a taqueria menu. I much prefer the original.

                                          2. Lots of good recommendations already, but wanted to throw out a couple more not mentioned:

                                            1) Battambang in Oakland Chinatown is a nice place to try Cambodian cuisine. While Cambodian cuisine is similar to Thai, you definitely need to try the Amouk Trei dish, which is their specialty. It's layers of thinly sliced fish steamed with coconut milk and lemongrass in a boat made of banana leaves. It's definitely something unique to try.

                                            2) If you want cheap Chinese food in Oakland Chinatown and want some place clean but authentic, then try Cafe 88 where they serve good wonton noodles with duck or roast pork. Also lots of other rice and noodle dishes that are always hearty and authentic. Price decent too, like most of Chinatown. It's located on the ground floor of a small mall at the heart of Chinatown with a Bank of America.

                                            1. Wally's Cafe in Emeryville is right next to a little bar that you can walk into. Diner atmosphere w/ comfy Med-cuisine as well as burgers and such.

                                              Wally's Cafe
                                              3900 San Pablo Ave, Emeryville, CA 94608

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: nicedragonboy

                                                Some good recs here; as an Alameda resident I will add my two cents:

                                                1. Guy Fieri "Triple D" type places for lunch or dinner. Falafel drive in is all the way in San Jose - but it is awesome. I love that place.
                                                Oles and Jims - fine standard diners with hefty breakfasts w/good value - but nothing that really stands out. I like Fat Lady in Oakland's Jack London square. They have the best pancakes -- tall stack of very thin buttery cakes. Neat ambiance too..... Also La Pinata in Alameda makes a great chiliquiles breakfast - available all day.

                                                2. "Dive" bars with good drinks/food where you're welcome even if you're not a regular. Hob Nob in Alameda is fun. Not really dive, but kind of looks like a dive. Good also for brunch.
                                                3. Unique ice cream, dessert, pastry places. For Ice Cream I like Loards- they have some unusual flavors like Ube, but my favorite is their banana and mango. The banana just tastes like fresh banana. Cheese Board in Berkeley or Arizmendi in Oakland or Emeryville are nice in morning for fresh breads/muffins etc.
                                                4. Sushi (preferably somewhere where sustainable fish is not the exception): AngelFish and Kamakura in Alameda - skip the overrated Sushi House.
                                                5. Best banh mi place (never tried one, want to on this trip): I looove Banh Mi. Make sure you try some - others have recommended good ones.
                                                6. Anything else inexpensive but fabulous. Authentic Mexican and Chinese are favorites. Ramiros Bros tacqueria Alameda. Chicharrones Burrito (or try half beef half chicarrones - yum). East Ocean Sea Food Chines in Alameda - smoked fish is awesome - I think it is smoked cod- but might be another fish. Also like their XO beef but usually I go for dim sum which is quite good, but the menu is not extensive.

                                                I hear very good things about Brown Sugar cafe also Pican, Pizzaiola, and Camino in Oakland. Pican and Brown Sugar Kitchen are Southern Food and Pizzaiola is supposed to have good donuts.

                                                Maybe some BBQ at Chef Edwards Bar-B-Que or Everett and Jones in Jack London (not as divey - but nice space to sit and eat).

                                                1. re: myst

                                                  A friend and I went into Hob Nob thinking it was a dive bar, and after we'd ordered our drinks were startled to notice three kids playing board games at a table. It's actually a kid-friendly restaurant. Really friendly place and good food.

                                                  East Ocean in Alameda also has the best dim sum in the Oakland / Berkeley area.

                                              2. Also if you want to go South and try a few things Newark/Union City area has a lot of Filipino Restaurants. Tribu Grill is the newest, and Gerry's is user friendly. If you want dive filipino with good food try Toppings Too. Also in Newark, Lees Tofu House is cheap and good Korean. Try the tofu pots and the BBQ spicy pork. For filipino Crispy Pata, Pork Sisig, Guinitan, Pinakbet are some of the common dishes (Gerry is known for grilled squid and deep fried beef ribs).

                                                Toppings Too Restaurant
                                                3910 Smith St, Union City, CA 94587

                                                1. Get the hand-pulled noodles at Ark Restaurant in Alameda. I've enjoyed them in spicy beef soup and as ja jiang mian.

                                                  1. A big thank you to everyone who has posted so far! I can't believe the wealth of information. I have so many tabs open on my computer I think it will explode! Some of you even seem to be somewhat psychic and recommended stuff that I also like, but didn't mention: like bookstores. I am a library assistant and planned to hit some used bookstores with my Christmas $$ while we're there. I will most definitely post a report back when we return. You guys are the greatest!! Thanks again.

                                                    3 Replies
                                                    1. re: lgoodwood

                                                      I found this to be one of the most interesting bookstores I ever visited. Prehaps you can find a rare cookbook.

                                                      1. re: lgoodwood

                                                        Before or after you visit Moe's, walk up to Bancroft, turn left, and get the best falafel in the area at Sunrise Deli. I don't think anything else there is great--I'd get a bag of falafels rather than a sandwich.

                                                        1. re: lgoodwood

                                                          Ah, if you do go into Alameda, there's a funky used bookstore that's worth checking out: Kevin Patrick Books. As far as I can tell he never sells anything (be prepared to crawl over and around the stacks of books), and thus he always seems to have a copy of whatever it is I'm looking for. http://www.yelp.com/biz/kevin-patrick...

                                                            1. re: wolfe

                                                              They're both Oakland institutions. Branches of the same family. I was long a K partisan, and cross my fingers that it return.

                                                              Articles that clarify:

                                                              1. re: lexdevil

                                                                Great corner. Kasper's and Bertoli's.

                                                                1. re: wolfe

                                                                  Yup. I actually liked that soup Bertola's served with every meal. Possibly due to the 50 cent well drinks (a buck for a triple), but I liked it nonetheless.

                                                            2. re: monku

                                                              Caspers. First experience was finding a package of Caspers hot dogs at a Las Vegas Costco years ago and always find an excuse to stop at Caspers in Oakland for a chili dog. No other hot dog snaps like a Caspers dog.

                                                              Never heard of Kasper's but, will give them a try when they reopen.

                                                              1. re: monku

                                                                The original may never reopen, but there are several other Kasper's (as well as Casper's) locations around the East Bay.


                                                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                  I'll check out a Kasper's next time I'm up there.
                                                                  Are the hot dogs themselves exactly the same?

                                                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                    I think those other Kasper's are yet another branch of the family, hence the lack of "original" in the name. Original Kasper's was old school and uncompromising. No chili, no catsup...

                                                                    1. re: lexdevil

                                                                      Mustard, onion, pickle and tomato - love their Albany/El Cerrito location on San Pablo Avenue!

                                                                      1. re: sydthekyd

                                                                        The El Cerrito location closed recently

                                                                        1. re: rworange

                                                                          Just called the Albany store, they are still open and she said they do not have an El Cerrito location.!?!

                                                              2. Wood tavern on college ave.

                                                                1. Pho Ao Sen.. the best Pho and great grilled pork.. they also make a great great condiment with lemongrass, ginger, fish sauce and other sauce

                                                                  1. I agree: pozole at Taco Grill, & Tataki sustainable sushi in SF.

                                                                    I will also stick up for Ici. Not all artisanal ice cream is, or should be, all about intense saturated flavors. Ici excels in subtlety, so choose flavors that are better when they're subtle: I almost always get something floral -- saffron orange blossom, Earl Grey, rose vanilla all leap to mind. Nobody does floral ice cream flavors better than Ici!

                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                    1. re: indigirl

                                                                      I think Ici is one of those polarizing places--you either love it or hate it. Personally, I hate it--none of the flavors taste like much of anything to me, and the texture is very unappealing. The fact that you have to wait on line forever and the fact that the employees aren't nice only makes it worse.

                                                                      To me, Tara's is a much better example of ice cream that's very good in a subtle way, without necessarily having super-intense flavors.

                                                                      1. re: abstractpoet

                                                                        I think Ici's ice cream is great, but I don't see the point of waiting when I could walk to Tara's before I'd reach the front of the line.

                                                                        I find Tara's flavors big and bold, anything but subtle.

                                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                          In comparison to, say, Bi-Rite or Lush (which, being gelato, I understand is a bit of a different animal), I think Tara's flavors are much more restrained and delicate (though of course this varies from flavor to flavor).

                                                                          I don't mean this in a bad way, but to me it's not a punch-in-the-gut of flavor the way I get at Lush, which is still by far my favorite.

                                                                        2. re: abstractpoet

                                                                          I live in the neighborhood so I don't have to wait in line forever, or, more accurately, I only go when the line is reasonable ;)

                                                                          & for the record, I haven't found the employees to be particularly more mean or unfriendly than at any other ice cream places.

                                                                          I think you are right that Ici is polarizing!