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Chowhounders, we need you! (esp. East Bay)

Hello SF Bay Area!

My husband and I are moving to Oakland (where I grew up), after 10+ years of living in LA. My husband is Korean and I'm Chinese. We dine most nights in LA's sprawling Koreatown, and spend weekends eating Chinese food is the San Gabriel Valley. We desperately and quickly need to find our regular go-to Oakland/Emeryville/Berkeley, mom-and-pop, "ethnic" food joints.

Any asian recs would be greatly appreciated, as would Mexican, Mediterranean, Jamaican, etc. I've been promising my husband good food, please help me prove to him that we can eat as well in the Bay Area is we do in LA.

And if you have recs that we should try that would take us out of the East Bay, those are more than welcome as well.

Thanks so much for the jumpstart.

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  1. You can find lots of Korean options on Telegraph Ave. in Oakland, our modest Koreatown. When Korean-American friends come to visit, we always go to Sahnmaru, 4315 Telegraph. Try the black goat with sesame leaf stew.

    There are lots of Korean restaurants starting in mid-town on Telegraph and up to around 45th St. There's also a Korean grocery store around 29th.Our Koreatown is not as big as LA's Koreatown, but I'm sure your husband will find some good comfort food here.

    As you know, Oakland has its Chinatown downtown, but my neighbor who grew up in China likes Sichuan Fusion in the Ranch 99 Asian Market complex (3288 Pierce St., Richmond) best and says it's the most authentic she's had here.

    There are other Chinese restaurants at Ranch 99, plus take-out options in the market itself. For dim sum, I like Daimo (http://www.daimousa.com/) in the Ranch 99 parking lot. They make their dim sum to order, so it's hot and fresh. Also try the Shanghai style dumplings and the noodle dishes.

    Welcome to the neighborhood!

    1. my favorite Korean is Ohgane, though I'm not sure how it compares to L.A. places (used to live there but never really tried Korean until I got here.) http://ohganebbq.com/
      In Oakland's Fruitvale district you'll find tons of Mexican. In San Francisco, you can explore the Mission District (easily accessible by Bart - 16th St. & 24th St. stations) for more Mexican options, although there are not a lot of mexican "restaurants" in the City that compare with L.A.'s - they are more like taquerias. But there is a great Mayan restaurant, called Poc Chuc, and there are plenty of Salvadoran and Nicaraguan restaurants. I don't know enough about Chinese food to even venture a suggestion. You should also try Burmese food, which is available in San Francisco and in Alameda. I don't think Thai food is better here than in L.A. But overall, having lived in L.A., you will be very happy to find there is very good food here, in abundance - and if you ever go for higher-end type fare, I think the food is much better here.

      3915 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94611

      Poc Chuc
      2886 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

      1. For Chinese food in Oakland Chinatown, I like Shan Dong for awesome pork and vegetable buns, dumplings, and knife-cut noodles. Gum Wah is a great hole in the wall for roast duck wonton noodle soup (they also have good BBQ meats generally and do more than serviceable "Chinese tamales" during the season). Chef Lau's is my go-to spot for inexpensive but solid Cantonese.

        For dim sum, we go to East Ocean, in Alameda. Good and very consistent, if not mind-blowing.

        In Berkeley, there's Great China, which is run by Korean Chinese and is perhaps most well known for its Peking duck, which is amazing. Many threads here where 'hounds give suggestions for other dishes at Great China as well.

        In addition to the Korean places already mentioned, there are also a number of soju bang / Korean fried chicken joints that serve comforting (if unsophisticated fare). Oriental BBQ Chicken Town (OB Town, for short) and Dan Sung Sa are two to check out. My favorite sit-down place is Sura, which is on Telegraph as well.

        Best Thai food in the East Bay is Chai Thai. Champa Garden is noteworthy for Laotian.

        Champa Garden
        2102 8th Ave, Oakland, CA 94606

        4869 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

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

        Chef Lau's
        301 8th St, Oakland, CA 94607

        Great China Restaurant
        2115 Kittredge St, Berkeley, CA 94704

        Dan Sung Sa
        2775 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

        Gum Wah
        345 8th St, Oakland, CA 94607

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

        Oriental B.B.Q. Chicken Town
        6101 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA

        1. Dim sum and Cantonese: Asian Pearl in Richmond
          Laotian: Green Papaya Deli in Oakland and That Luang in San Pablo
          Soon tofu: Pyungchang Tofu House

          Green Papaya Deli
          207 International Blvd (at 2nd ave, Oakland, CA

          Asian Pearl
          3288 Pierce St, Richmond, CA 94804

          1. Also, for Jamaican, I like Flavah Island Cafe in Berkeley. Great ackee and codfish, excellent braised oxtail, and the best house-brewed ginger beer I've ever had.

            Flavah Island Cafe
            2057 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702

            1 Reply
            1. re: abstractpoet

              I haven't tried Flavah Island yet so I can't compare but I really like the oxtail and the jerk chicken at Yardie Jerk on San Pablo.

              Sketchy neighborhood and little ambiance but the food is really good.

              Yardie Jerk
              3301 San Pablo Ave, Oakland, CA 94608

            2. Laotian: Champa Garden
              Thai: Chai Thai
              Chinese: Shanghai, Great China (Chinese-Korean), China Village (Sichuan)
              Mexican: El Huarache Azteca



              El Huarache Azteca
              3842 International Blvd, Oakland, CA 94601

              Champa Garden
              2102 8th Ave, Oakland, CA 94606

              1 Reply
              1. re: Robert Lauriston


                Shanghai Restaurant
                930 Webster St, Oakland, CA 94607

                China Village
                1335 Solano Ave, Albany, CA 94706

                Great China Restaurant
                2115 Kittredge St, Berkeley, CA 94704

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

              2. Wow! Thanks everybody, I'm so excited to start checking these places out. And particularly amazed to find out that there's good dim sum in Alameda, and a Ranch 99 in Richmond.

                Keep the recs rolling, the way the man and I eat, we can knock this list of in a couple of weeks! The non-asian suggestions are great too. Whatever's on your regular repertoire.

                1. A lot of my favorite places have already been listed - in addition, I'll add:

                  Cafe 88 (Oakland Chinatown) - excellent crispy skinned roast pork

                  Shanghai Restaurant - fave dishes are rice cakes with pork and preserved mustard greens (actually, I like any dish with those elements - they have a satisfying noodle soup with pork and preserved mustard greens too), lion's head meatballs, loofah with soybeans. Their XLB have unfortunately gone downhill - I'll try them every now and again, just to see if they've improved - flavor's good, but the last few years they've been generally deflated and not so juicy.

                  BC Deli - aside from their banh mi, I like their Chiu Chow style rice cake, and the big noodle with shredded pork skin and coconut

                  Delicious Food Co - fried egg puffs

                  For grocery shopping in Oakland Chinatown:
                  Friday morning Old Oakland Farmer's Market - a number of the usual farmer's market stands come here, but this market is notable for its large number of stalls specializing in Asian vegetables, and lower prices than most of the other farmer's markets. It also starts earlier than most - I think around 8.

                  Yuen Hop - good fresh noodles (all different sizes, some eggless, some with egg) and fresh dumpling wrappers (I especially love the thick doughy ones), frozen dumplings

                  T&S Market - really good fresh chickens, super-cheap frozen duck legs

                  Khanh Phong supermarket - best place in Chinatown for Thai groceries

                  Outside Oakland Chinatown:
                  - Koreana Plaza for Korean groceries - they also have really good meat, and cheap, good quality vegetables
                  - Ark Restaurant in Alameda for hand-pulled noodles
                  - Chef Yuyu in Oakland for jia jiang myun (you can ask for it spicy, off-menu)
                  - Kang Tong Degi in Oakland - sojubang with dduk bo ssam (a rarity in the Bay Area)
                  - Tamales Mi Lupita (Oakland) - great pupusas - my current favorite is the zucchini, although really liked the chicharron and bean/cheese as well. I just took friends from LA there, and they said they haven't had any in LA that good yet.
                  - Taqueria Reynoso in Oakland - tacos campechano (theirs are a mix of carne asada and chorizo), tacos dorado de barbacoa

                  Kang Tong Degi
                  3702 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                  Koreana Plaza
                  2328 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA

                  Yuen Hop
                  824 Webster St, Oakland, CA

                  Khanh Phong
                  429 9th St, Oakland, CA

                  Tamales Mi Lupitas
                  3340 Foothill Blvd, Oakland, CA 94601

                  Taqueria Reynoso
                  3329 Foothill Blvd, Oakland, CA 94601

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: daveena

                    Shanghai rice cakes. Preserved mustard greens. Banh Mi. Noodles. Spicy Jia Jiang Myun. Dduk Bo Ssam. Carne, chorizo, barbacoa... You're seriously speaking our language.

                    Any recs for Vietnamese broken rice plates, Vietnamese Pho (as opposed to Korean, which I hear is prevalent there as well), Korean bone marrow soup (Shul Lung Tang), or Mexican pozole?

                    And where is the place for XLB these days? Somewhere in the city? Clement Street?

                    1. re: aielee

                      Shanghai Dumpling King is the best in the Bay Area. Kingdom of Dumplings is very good as well, and you can get frozen ones from their retail store on Noriega.

                      Shanghai Dumpling King
                      3319 Balboa St, San Francisco, CA 94121

                      Kingdom of Dumpling
                      1713 Taraval St, San Francisco, CA

                      1. re: aielee

                        I'm going to have to go with recs from people I trust for these questions, since I haven't been to any of them yet, but:

                        Pho Ao Sen for pho (possibly for broken rice plates as well)
                        Seoul Gom Tang for sul long tang
                        Taco Grill for pozole

                        Parts of Oakland you'll enjoy exploring:

                        Chinatown (roughly 7th to 15th street, between Alice and Broadway) - there's an unfortunate preponderance of Hong Kong-style coffee shops, which I've never warmed up to, but definitely some good stuff as well.

                        Telegraph, north of 23rd - Koreana Plaza between 23rd and 24th, then a few Korean restaurants every few blocks, a bunch of halal markets in the 30s, (including Oasis Market, with its excellent prepared food section). Ethiopian restaurants start appearing in the 40s, then a flurry of more upscale places from 47-51st. Restaurant density dies down after 51st, but there are scattered Korean and Ethiopian restaurants up into the 60s.

                        International Boulevard - primarily Southeast Asian (Vietnamese, Thai/Lao) in the lower numbers, then predominantly taco trucks after 20th street) - see this map of Oakland taco trucks - from 2007, but still pretty accurate.

                        Foothill Blvd, near Fruitvale Ave - I go for Taqueria Reynoso, Tamales Mi Lupitas, and Pena's Bakery, which I think is several cuts above the average Mexican bakery. There are a few other taquerias in the area i haven't tried.

                        The church on 34th St north of International Boulevard - all sorts of carts and people selling stuff out of the backs of their cars/trucks on Sundays

                        Mi Pueblo supermarket on High Street - a supermarket with pretty good prepared food (esp chicharrones, chicken mole, and a wide rotating selection of agua frescas), some great smelling chicken that gets grilled in the parking lot (I remember someone reporting that if you specifically ask for a good chicken, you'll get a superior chicken), and a really good fresh churro cart (I like the plain, and the vanilla custard filled ones).

                        Koreana Plaza
                        2328 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA

                        Taco Grill
                        3340 E 12th St, Oakland, CA 94601

                        Seoul Gom Tang
                        3801 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                        Pho Ao Sen
                        1139 E 12th St, Oakland, CA

                        Tamales Mi Lupitas
                        3340 Foothill Blvd, Oakland, CA 94601

                        Taqueria Reynoso
                        3329 Foothill Blvd, Oakland, CA 94601

                        Oasis Market
                        3045 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                        1. re: aielee

                          Otaez (one location in Oakland and another in Alameda) also has excellent pozole on weekends -- arguably even better than Taco Grill's (which is very good). But Taco Grill has three different kinds.

                          1619 Webster St, Alameda, CA 94501

                          Taco Grill
                          3340 E 12th St, Oakland, CA 94601

                          1. re: abstractpoet

                            Part of the attraction of Taco Grill is not just that the pozole is good and the tortillas are made in house, but that the meat is good quality (Niman Ranch and Rocky). It's nice to have an authentic Mexican food option where I do not have to compromise my usual standards for meat.

                            Taco Grill
                            3340 E 12th St, Oakland, CA 94601

                          2. re: aielee

                            welcome to the neighborhood,
                            eating korean and chinese as well in the bay area as K-town and MP/SGV is difficult, and may take some driving.
                            restricting to Oakland, I agree with Pyung Chang for soondubu and Seoul Gomtang for gom tang or sam gye tang, Koryo Ja Jang you can get a jajang/jampong combo, OB Town is definitely no Kyochon but you do have Sura, Sahn maru, and Ohgane to try
                            in Santa Clara, you might like Jang Su Jang
                            I highly recommend eating Sheng Jian Bao at Shanghai Flavor Shop in Sunnyvale, as good as the Kang Kang food court in Alhambra
                            Definitely try a torta at Torta Los Picudos in SF
                            The pork belly basil at Lers Ros Thai in SF is as good as the one at Sapp Coffee Shop in LA Thai town
                            I like the various Anh Hong locations and there is one in Berkeley, otherwise the good Vietnamese stuff is all in San Jose (Brodard Garden Grove level)
                            While you're in Berkeley, don't miss Ici ice cream (on their waffle cone), cheeseboard, trattoria la siciliana (amazing olive oil)
                            head over to the Ferry Building in SF for a Roli Roti Porchetta sandwich
                            reserve a morning to try Tartine Bakery in SF, esp. an open-faced croque monsieur
                            unfortunately, not sure where to tell you of the DTF equivalent XLB up here since haven't found one
                            the one advantage you do have up here over LA is more organic, californian, new american mid range places, and access to Napa.

                            Tartine Bakery
                            600 Guerrero St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                            Shanghai Flavor Shop
                            888 Old San Francisco Rd, Sunnyvale, CA 94086

                            Lers Ros Thai
                            730 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA

                            Koryo Restaurant
                            2556 Telegraph Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704

                        2. Lao sausage at Green Papaya Deli in Oakland.
                          Larb and Gaeng Keung Nai at That Luang Kitchen in San Pablo.
                          Lao chicken feet salad at Black and Silver in Oakland.
                          Nam Khao at Vientian Cafe in Oakland.
                          The Champa Sampler (for a great mix of Lao samples) at Champa Garden in Oakland.
                          Vietnamese raw beef salad at Pho Anh-Ha in San Leandro.

                          1. aielee,

                            In the last three months, have you found your go-to joints? Which have you settled on?

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: bbulkow

                              Sorry bbulkow, I just saw this.

                              Still working on nailing down the go-tos. We also haven't tried even a small percentage of the food on this list yet. The ones we've tried (in some cases, several times) and will go back to:

                              Burma Superstar (we were hesitant because of the hype, but it lived up)
                              Ahn's Burgers
                              Fenton's (!)
                              Spices (hit or miss, but they have my favorite chinese vegetable, ong choy, with fermented bean paste)
                              Legendary Palace
                              Yume Restaurant
                              900 Grayson (for brunch)

                              In the City:
                              Roli Roti
                              PPQ Dungeness Island
                              Shanghai House (salt and pepper pork knuckle!)

                              As you can see, there aren't a lot of asian foods on this list...yet. Haven't found Korean that satisfied. Still trying to find good pho that's open past 7. But we'll keep eating til we figure it out!

                              Legendary Palace
                              708 Franklin St, Oakland, CA 94607

                              900 Grayson
                              900 Grayson St, Berkeley, CA 94710

                              Shanghai House
                              3641 Balboa St, San Francisco, CA 94121

                              Limon Restaurant
                              524 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                              Roli Roti
                              , Hayward, CA

                              Burma Superstar
                              4721 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA

                              1. re: aielee

                                Cool. Nice list, although I wonder about Fenton's and Ahn's Burgers - would love to hear positive perpsectives.

                                For "not a lot of asian", half on the list are chinese and japanese!

                                Have you tried the usual korean suspects (Oghane, Shan Maru, Pyung Chang...) and found them lacking, or just haven't rounded those up yet?

                                Sounds like you enjoyed Pho Ao Sen, just wish the hours were different.

                            2. La Mediterranee on College in Berkeley just North of Ashby is good,

                              Turkish Kitchen on Shattuck just North of University in Berkeley is a good cheap place for middle eastern as well.

                              El Gordo#2 taco truck in the parking lot on the south side of High Street between San Leandro Street and E 12th Street (in the shadow of the BART tracks) for fantastic burritos and tacos. The lingua is fantastic!

                              Dim Sum I'd recommend Peony and Legendary Palace in Oakland's Chinatown, though Peony tends to be a little better. You'll want to acquaint yourself with 99 Ranch Market chain for Asian groceries. Great China on Kittridge, just east of Shattuck is very good food, HUGE portions and long lines if you get there during rush. Price is very good for the amount you get.

                              For Indian, Flavors of India on Lakeshore in Oakland just around the corner from the GrandLake Theater. Their Madras sauce for lamb and chicken is FANTASTIC! Breads of India on Sacramento @ Dwight in Berkeley is really good too. Lots of different types of breads if you like variety other than plain naan.

                              For breads, Arizmendi on Lakeshore (across from Flavors of India) or CHeese Board Collective on Shattuck in Berkeley for breads and best selection of cheeses. Check their web site for daily bread selection. SOem breads are offered every day, some only one particular day of the week. Onion cheese curry hobrot on Tuesdays is worth the trip.

                              Japanese, Geta on 41st street in the Piedmont area of Oakland. Salmon cheeks, great choices in addition to usual sushi fare. Small, bit cramped, but great food and lots of charm.

                              If you want good French/California, Bay Wolf. Anything duck they serve, order it.

                              Ice cream and very flavorful sorbets, Ici on College, just North of Ashby, a few doors up from La Mediterranee. The lines speaks for the quality of the ice creams and sorbets.

                              La Mediterranee
                              2936 College Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705

                              Legendary Palace
                              708 Franklin St, Oakland, CA 94607

                              Great China Restaurant
                              2115 Kittredge St, Berkeley, CA 94704

                              Breads of India
                              2448 Sacramento St, Berkeley, CA 94702

                              Turkish Kitchen
                              1984 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA 94704

                              Bay Wolf Restaurant
                              3853 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

                              3265 Lakeshore Ave, Oakland, CA

                              Lakeshore Cafe
                              3257 Lakeshore Ave, Oakland, CA 94610

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: estump

                                I had takeout from Flavors of India one time, and everything was mediocre at best.

                                People either love or hate Ici. I think the long lines speak to the hype much more than they do to the quality. Lush Gelato and Tara's are both infinitely better options.

                                Lush Gelato
                                4184 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA

                                1. re: abstractpoet

                                  A bit late, but here are a few more of my go tos

                                  Tamarindo in Old Oakland
                                  Chop Bar at Jack London
                                  Bakesale Betty Temescal, Downtown
                                  Summer Kitchen Elmwood in Berkeley
                                  Soi4 Rockridge
                                  Xyclo Piedmont Ave
                                  Vik's Chaat House West Berkeley

                                  Vik's Chaat House
                                  2390 Fourth Street, Berkeley, CA 94710

                                  Bakesale Betty
                                  5098 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                                  468 8th St, Oakland, CA 94607

                                  Xyclo Restaurant
                                  4218 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611

                                  Elmwood Cafe
                                  2900 College Ave, Berkeley, CA 94705