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

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lgoodwood Jan 8, 2010 04:21 PM

Thanks again for all the great recs. Since hubby was very, very busy with work and I'm just not that into dining solo, we only made a tiny dent in all the great places to try. We are planning to return to the area on our own because we had so much fun. The people in the East Bay were really fun and friendly and for the first time on any type of trip I can honestly say I loved everything! The first night, after dealing with the crazies on I-5, we took bbulkow's suggestion and headed for the Kingfish. I can see why people were happy to see it open again. We each had a Star Special which was a shot of bourbon and a Red Stripe. Not something I would normally have, but they went down pretty smooth! Then we ordered chicken wings and the Vegetable Combo from the Red Sea across the street. This is a huge combo of 5 different vegetable dishes, plus salad, plus 3 injera breads. We ordered ours "spicy" and it lived up to the title. The best part of the dish was chopped greens (possibly collard) with lots of garlic and spices. Yum! This all went well with group of guys who loaded the jukebox with really old country music and caused a giant impromptu sing-along. (I fit in because I do know all the words to Devil Went Down to Georgia.)The next day for lunch we headed to Fruitvale and El Huarache Azteca (Thank you to Robert Lauriston.). I had the huarache con mole and it was terrific. I loved the slightly smoky taste of the beans inside, and the mole was rich and the chicken tender. Hubby had alambres. I can't remember the exact name of the one he had, but it included bacon, pineapple, ham, onions and bell pepper and was served over homemade corn tortillas. I also got a giant jamaica and it was the best, made from scratch, not Kool-Aid masquerading as jamaica. The next night we went to the House of Chicken and Waffles. (bbulkow again, but not in the Jack London Inn, next to it)I had the Homeboy (fried chicken livers and a waffle) and hubby had a thigh and a waffle and then we split candied yams (partial to my Mom's, but these were pretty tasty!). We also ordered 2 martinis from their $2 Tuesday martini list, but they never came. We asked the server to check on them twice and then the third time he came back and told us that the bartender said he never got the order even though he showed him the printout. Oh well, I'm not sure a dirty martini would have gone too well with those candied yams and all the syrup anyway. Plus, this way we were able to console ourselves with a trip to Forbidden Island (bbulkow knows his bars). Super interior, felt like being in the Tiki Room at Disneyland only without the birds and with booze! The only problem was we drove there so it was one drink and done. The people there were really great and they are even going to ship me one of their signature tiki mugs because hubby ordered a Hurricane instead of the drink that came in the signature mug and then when we got home realized he wanted a pair of them. So we didn't get to try near as much as we wanted to but are grateful for all your suggestions and can't wait to come back and try more. On the way home we decided we wanted a burger and stopped in Los Gatos at Main Street Burgers. On our last trip north we ate at Taylor's at the Ferry Building. Now the disagreement: hubby says Taylor's is better, giving them props for their bun, pickles, and sauce. I preferred Main Street. The Niman Ranch meat tasted like Niman Ranch meat and extremely juicy while still being done inside. The bun was sturdy but not overpowering, which I thought the Taylor's one was. Also Ioved the sauce on the Main Street burger (a mix of mayo and mustard, I think). But here's the big difference: both places served good burgers, but the guy who took our order at Taylor's could have cared less if we ate there, and no one that was working there that day acted any differently. They all appeared to be bored and "over it". Meanwhile, at Main Street the girl who took our order was cheerful and helped us by pointing out some cost-cutting measures we hadn't seen. So I guess it's a toss-up, at least in our household. Thanks again to all the East Bay Hounds! If you’re ever in the IE, I hope I can steer you to some good food. And I guess I’ll have to find somewhere here to have my banh mi!

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  1. bbulkow RE: lgoodwood Jan 9, 2010 09:00 AM

    Thanks for reporting back! It seems that your the east bay type of person, as I suspected from your request. The east bay (by which most people mean oakland -> el cerrito) is definably its own place, and much beloved by its denizens. Cheaper rent, better art, less drama, great peeps, the eating's not bad, and SF's lights make a good view. Flaws too: a lack of jobs, higher murder rates, and a general shabbiness.

    It sounds like you had an excellent Kingfish experience. I've only been there a couple times, but it's always the friendliest place in town - exactly the kind of place a country singalong might happen.

    I agree the problem with Forbidden Island is the drive. I learned last trip the secret: their virgin drinks are as good as the alcoholic versions. I feel like a dweeb ordering the Virgin Zombie, but it's still great. Or maybe everything tastes great after the first round of alcohol; more likely their fanatical insistance on fresh juice carries the day.

    $2 martinis at a chicken and waffle place? Too bad you didn't get to try. Could have been awful, could have been the steal of the century.

    Re: Taylor's, you'll notice they don't get a lot of love here. I haven't been to Main Street Burgers, but I don't think your husband would get much backup. If you've followed the Burger War threads, you've seen there's a lot of Burger competition in the area right now.

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    1. re: bbulkow
      Ruth Lafler RE: bbulkow Jan 9, 2010 10:26 AM

      I never thought to order a virgin drink at Forbidden Island! Since one Missionary's Downfall is more than enough alcohol for me, I'll have to try that. I think you're right: their use of top quality ingredients really makes the alcohol superfluous.

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