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Local/Sustainable restaurants in SF and Oakland near BART

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Hi all,

My family is visiting the Bay area in about a week. We lived in Oakland from 2000-2005 (I wrote a lot on the old Chowhound site, under my current username, if you want some deep background) and this is our first time back. We will be staying in north Oakland and making some forays into Berkeley and San Francisco.

We're looking for interesting, relatively cheap, easygoing spots that can deal with what I like to call our Carnivorous Toddler (really, all we need is a high chair-- she has a voracious palate). Further, we are looking for restaurants that serve sustainably-raised (aka non-factory-farmed) meat.

Back when I was a roving chowhound in the early aughts, I loved pho joints and taco trucks, but since I left the factory farms behind, those pleasures have become few, far between, and mostly homemade. But I am wondering, in the five years since we've lived in the Bay area, are there any good noodle joints/taquerias/other ethnic specialists that source their meat from sustainable sources?

We're happy with vegetarian food too -- two of our must-visits are Vik and Cha Ya -- but I'm curious if there are, say, any excellent pho joints or taquerias that use Harris Ranch beef or something. That'd just make my trip.

I'm also curious about the must-visits that have popped up since we left. I have heard about Pizzaiolo, both their pizza and their donuts; I wonder how Dona Tomas is faring; and let me just raise the spectre of noodles again... hm?

I know this is one of those posts that makes you want to tell me to scroll down and read the board. Worry not. I will. i have been. But I want to know if there are any places that you think we just shouldn't miss, in or around Oakland/Berkeley and in downtown (or easily BART-able) San Francisco.

Thanks in advance for your advice,

Patrick

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  1. holy potato curry, there's a Burma Superstar in Temescal! Knock me over with a tea leaf. We'll be going there for sure. We used to live about three blocks away.

    1. Hey, Patrick! Welcome back! I think you'll find there are a bunch of new places in your old neighborhood.

      For Fruitvale-style Mexican using Niman meats, try Taco Grill. Then go next door and check out Nieves Cinco de Mayo.

      Taco Grill - 3340 E 12th St Oakland, CA
      Nieves Cinco de Mayo - 3340 E 12th St Oakland, CA

      11 Replies
      1. re: Ruth Lafler

        A big thumbs up to the pozole at Taco Grill. And the toddler I took to Nieves Cinco de Mayo enjoyed the raspado (snow cone) quite a bit.

        I'd also highly recommend Adesso (at Pleasant Valley & Piedmont Ave.). The little carnivore should love it, and I've been seeing more and more kids there, especially during the 5:00 free food hour.

        1. re: lexdevil

          Patrick's little toddler carnivore reminds me of my niece. Once asked what she eats, she said "Meat!" When asked what else, she said "more Meat!" She knew "pate" before she was two. Fortunately, she's just as enthusiastic about vegetables.

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            Ruth, you made me laugh. Here's Anastasia with one of her favorite things:
            http://www.flickr.com/photos/hollyand...

            thanks all, these are great recommendations. I appreciate it.

            1. re: patrick

              What a great little chowpup! My niece is now four and the most recent Alice-related food anecdote is: "I'm ready for dessert," says Alice, grabbing the container of marinated mushrooms out of the fridge.

              1. re: Ruth Lafler

                well, we know she doesn't share the 'mushrooms are dessert' gene with you! :-)

                1. re: susancinsf

                  LOL. So true! Except for chocolate she doesn't have much of a sweet tooth, so she often chooses savory things for "dessert." But if Patrick is lucky, his chowpup will be like Alice and never go through a picky eater phase.

          2. re: lexdevil

            You've seen kids at Adesso?! That is fantastic news ... I figured it was off-limits for us for a while.

            1. re: The Dive

              Adesso's more of a bar scene than a restaurant, and it can be totally packed and noisy within minutes of the 5pm opening. Doesn't seem like an appropriate place for kids at all, though I'm sure they're accommodating.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                That was my take on it as well. I've never seen any kids there and didn't want to be the first.

            2. re: lexdevil

              Thanks for the toddler nod here, I'll be making my way there with the toddles asap. So they have highchairs or boosters?

              1. re: oaklandfoodie

                Not positive. Last time I was there I saw two sprouts, one in the 2-3 range and the other closer to 5. The older of the two was definitely in a chair, but the younger may have been in one of those wooden high chairs that works at the table. I'll check next time I'm there, which will be soon. Always looking for an excuse to go.

          3. Definitely Pizzaiolo, and they're great with kids. Cactus Taqueria in Rockridge uses sustainable meat and I really like their food, especially the crispy tacos, and they're right across the street from the Rockridge BART station. Both Sea Salt (mostly seafood, as per the name, but they have some meat items as well) and T-Rex (upscale barbeque restaurant) in Berkeley use sustainable meat, and the barbeque at T-Rex is pretty good. They're both good places to go with a kid -- wide ranging but good menus, noisy enough that a kid doesn't make a difference -- but neither is close to BART (I couldn't tell if you're going to be BARTing in the East Bay too. Also, while Slanted Door gets up and down reviews on this board, it's right near BART, the food is good, it's a great place to take a kid, and they have pho and noodles and sustainable meats.

            I hope you have a great trip!

            2 Replies
            1. re: JasmineG

              I would double check on Cactus meat. Niman Ranch is now crossed out on the menu...

              1. re: JasmineG

                Actually we'll have bikes to get around in the East Bay, but being near BART is always nice too in case it is raining or something. Thanks!

              2. Gather is new and close to Berkeley BART. It's good for carnivores, vegans and in-betweens. Very sustainable. I don't remember seeing kids there, but it's a noisy, pretty casual place.

                3 Replies
                1. re: Glencora

                  I think Gather's about to open for lunch.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    I'm chiming in on the Gather recommendation. It certainly seeks to hit the sustainability note, and has both charming decor and reasonable prices. We're omnivores and appreciate that Gather can mix vegan and gluten free with meat and fish dishes on the menu. We've also but enjoyed several of the vegan dishes, including the vegan "charcuterie," and the heirloom bean ragout.

                    The blackboard when we went on 2/25/09 said that Gather is opening for lunch on 3/2.

                    -----
                    Gather
                    2200 Oxford Street, Berkeley, CA 94704

                  2. re: Glencora

                    I noticed high chairs and changing tables there, so it's certainly kid friendly.

                  3. Friends went to Eve a few days ago, all full of sustainable and cutting edge at "low" prices.

                    Temescal: BarLata, and consider the new lanesplitter branch over there if you're either nostalgic or are in the mood for the freshest of beer.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: bbulkow

                      The Temescal Lanesplitter's hand pump has been broken for ages. The original Berkeley location beats it for beer.

                      1. re: bbulkow

                        I would not call BarLata toddler freindly. The tables are very close together and I don't think you could get a highchair in there.

                      2. Hi Patrick, welcome home. You might find this thread useful although it doesn't have the BART delimiter.
                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/665981

                        I've posted about Don Pisto's in North Beach for Mexican and I love Namu, which isn't close to BART. You might want to check out Heaven's Dog in SF as well. China Village in Albany has some delicious preps using organic chicken specifically. The salt baked chicken at Hakka restaurant is a knock out, but it's waaaaaaay out there by the beach.
                        http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniew...

                        The poultry at Asian restaurants, if you stick with the whole birds (head and feet on) cooked on the bone, are typically from local sources and heritage breeds. So, it may be a matter of what you choose to order rather than naming a specific restaurant as adhering to local/sustainable reqs. Don't hesitate to return to Turtle Tower for pho ga.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Melanie Wong

                          Turtle Tower? Really? Oh, if we could squeeze that in...

                        2. Noodle Theory on Claremont might be a good option for noodles with sustainable meats near your 'hood.

                          1. For a nicer meal, you might want to check out Digs Bistro in South Berkeley. Doesn't sound like you'll be here for their "Parents Night Out" (first Monday of the month, and I'm not sure your chowpup is old enough), but the fact that they have a parents' night suggests they might be toddler friendly.

                            1. One new-ish place you may want to try is Camino, though it isn't exactly cheap. Check out their daily changing menu on-line to see if it appeals to you.

                              In my experience, Dona Tomas has gone way downhill since you were last in town. Their newer sister restaurant, Flora, in downtown Oakland, has pretty good American fare and makes nice cocktails; again not inexpensive.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: foodeye

                                Sad about Dona Tomas, although they were on a slide while we were there, too. We lived a few blocks away and were regulars for about a year or two, 2002-2003? they went from brilliant to spotty/pretty-good.

                              2. This is embarrassingly belated, but thanks everyone for your suggestions for our February trip. We had a wonderful time and ate some great food.

                                We visited Bakesale Betty twice and were just knocked over. I think this place opened up right before we moved, but we had never tried it. I had the fried chicken sandwich, of course, and then on the way out of town I got a brisket sandwich for the plane. Brilliant.

                                Picked up takeout from the Temescal Burma Superstar which was also lovely.

                                Had a lunch date at the new Vik's, which is really nice-- great to see that business doing so well.

                                And shopped at Berkeley Bowl, and wandered around, and generally had a nice time. Here are some pictures from the trip:

                                http://www.flickr.com/photos/hollyand...

                                -----
                                Bakesale Betty
                                5098 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                                Burma Superstar
                                1345 Park Street, Alameda, CA

                                Burma Superstar
                                4721 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA

                                Bakesale Betty
                                2228 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612