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CHOW Tour Oakland, Your Thoughts On Where To Go?

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Hi Bay Area Chowhounds,

In a few weeks, myself and CHOW senior editor Roxanne Webber are heading to Oakland as part of the next CHOW Tour. We're looking to create some CHOW videos about the Oakland food scene, and plan to focus on chefs and restaurants that specialize in handcrafted food. We'd love to find special, off-the-beaten-path stuff to cover, but that said, we don't want to miss out on key places.

We'll have about a week in town.

Here's a few ideas we have from interviewing some Oakland folks, and skimming the boards:

-The rise of Neo-Southern cuisine, like Pican and Brown Sugar Kitchen: any others?

-Ethnic Food Hotbed: of the Lao food along International Blvd, and the Korean and Ethiopian on Telegraph, are there places in particular we shouldn’t miss?

-Frozen Desserts: aside from Scream and Lush, where else can we get our sweet fix?

-Relaxed fine dining: Plum, Mua, Pizzaiolo?

-What are we missing that really defines the food of Oakland? Which chefs/restaurants would you really want to see covered?

Thanks for your help,
Blake Smith of CHOW.com

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  1. I'd suggest both Hibiscus and Aunt Mary's Cafe in the Neo Southern cuisine category, though Hibiscus is a little different.

    Champa Garden for the Ethnic food hotbed topic. And are you going to do anything about the taco trucks in Fruitvale? A discussion of the food in Oakland is missing a lot if you don't include that.

    Commis is definitely missing in the relaxed fine dining category -- I'd group it with Plum, and I'd add Dopo and A Cote. Though I don't know if "relaxed fine dining" sums those restaurants up well.

    Oakland has some great cocktails, Flora, A Cote, Adesso and Sidebar all have great cocktail menus.

    -----
    Dopo
    4293 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611

    Champa Garden
    2102 8th Ave, Oakland, CA 94606

    A Cote
    5478 College Ave, Oakland, CA 94618

    Aunt Mary's Cafe
    4307 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

    Adesso
    4395 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA

    Commis
    3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

    6 Replies
    1. re: JasmineG

      I can see putting Plum and Commis in a "tweezer cuisine in a relatively informal setting" category, but if you throw Mua, Pizzaiolo, or A Cote in the mix, I'm not sure how you would exclude any other place with really good food.

      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        I wouldn't put Plum in the same category as Pizzaiolo, no -- I'd put Commis and Plum one grouping, and Pizzaiolo, Dopo, A Cote in another. I like Mua, but I wouldn't put it up there with the others.

        -----
        Pizzaiolo
        5008 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

        Dopo
        4293 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611

        A Cote
        5478 College Ave, Oakland, CA 94618

        Mua
        2442A Webster Street, Oakland, CA 94612

        Commis
        3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

      2. re: JasmineG

        A Cote is overrated, and cocktails are easily eclipsed by Adesso, Sidebar and Boot and Shoe. I ordered *everything* on their menu one night, and the only standout dish was the muscles. Wont go back.

        Great Korean on Telegraph. La Mexicana on Internation is great too.

        -----
        A Cote
        5478 College Ave, Oakland, CA 94618

        Adesso
        4395 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA

        La Mexicana
        3930 International Boulevard, Oakland, CA 94601-4012

        1. re: Jumbo_Jack

          Perhaps there is a mistake somewhere, but the link to La Mexicana, a place I've not heard of, supposedly on International Blvd in Oakland, goes to a place on A Street in Hayward.

          1. re: tpc

            la mexicana makes their own flour tortillas, food is fresh but not cheap
            3930 International Ave. (510)533-8818. closes mon, tue or both, call to check
            older lady is waitress. service is "leisurely"
            next block is otaez restaurant, i think. parking in back.
            very memorable food.

            1. re: shanghaikid

              I'm a dissenter on La Mexicana.. The tortillas are delicious, and the sounds of them being made in the back is quite satisfying. But I found the rest of the food average at best, and mostly spectacularly uninteresting. For Mexican, I'd stick with Oakland Taco Trucks or a whole fried fish in garlic sauce and served with tortillas at El Taco Zamorano on Foothill. I can't speak for the homemade nature of Zamorano's tortillas, but at least the whole meal will be good, not just one part of it.

              -----
              El Taco Zamorano Restaurant
              4032 Foothill Blvd, Oakland, CA 94601

              La Mexicana Restaurant
              3930 International Blvd, Oakland, CA 94601

      3. I would add Bakesale Betty which is an Oakland Institution. Aunt Mary's is an interesting twist because the Southern Cuisine has a Texan flavor to it. The owner is from Texas which means you get an interesting Tex (and sometime Mex) set of dishes on the specials list.

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

        Aunt Mary's Cafe
        4307 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

        7 Replies
        1. re: Dcfoodblog

          Bakesale Betty hasn't been around long enough to be an "institution"! Besides, I think they're the most over-hyped place around. They have about three good things and the rest are very "I could easily make this at home if I wanted to."

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

          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            Agree completely. I cannot understand the appeal.

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              Wow, Ruth! You come down hard on B. Betty's .

              I like Bakesale Betty's but that's because I've only had one thing they make - scones. The ones with ginger in them are amazingly delicious. Never had their chicken because I always worried it'd have too much crust and grease for me. Now I won't try the rest of the stuff because of my respect for your superior knowledge and experience!

              I mean we stopped going to Merritt Bakery for chicken and mashed potatoes with country gravy because of our fear of parameds rushing to our rescue after the first bite...sooooo

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

              Merritt Bakery
              203 E 18th St, Oakland, CA 94606

              1. re: oakjoan

                Oakjoan, apparently I just have my cranky pants on for this thread. Lots of people love Bakesale Betty's. I think it just depends on how good your own baking skills are: I think a lot of people who love BB have never baked themselves and are unduly impressed. When I go to a bakery I want to buy things I can't easily make at home, and BB just doesn't do it for me. Most of the stuff I've tried there hasn't impressed me as exceptional.

                I've heard good things about the Lamingtons, and I thought the strawberry shortcake was fabulous. I apparently just don't get the whole concept of a fried chicken sandwich (why would you put something breaded on bread?).

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

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  She used to make a good pie, but that was before the chicken sandwiches took off. I remember stopping by weekly to see what seasonal fruit she put in the crust. Yum. The date pudding with caramel sauce was good too.

              2. re: Ruth Lafler

                I totally agree. I'm so happy that someone has finally spoken out about this.

              3. re: Dcfoodblog

                Have to agree on Bakesale Betty. Overrated, messy, overly salty chicken sandwiches.

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

              4. Frozen desserts: Nieves Cinco de Mayo in Fruitvale -- very much handmade and delicious.

                Ethiopian on Telegraph ... I think that Cafe Colucci is the best of the bunch. Addis was next on the list for intermittent Oakland Ethiopian Chowdown series.

                One Korean place you might try is the unmarked one behind the blacked out door on Telegraph near West MacArthur -- Kang Tong Degi. We had a chowdown there once, and it has a sort of speakeasy vibe: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/330015

                -----
                Nieves Cinco de Mayo
                3340 E 12th St, Oakland, CA 94601

                Cafe Colucci
                6427 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                Kang Tong Degi
                3702 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                6 Replies
                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  There are three soju bangs in a short stretch of Telegraph: Kang Tong Degi and Dan Sung Sa, which reportedly have the same owners, and a new place, Dae Po Jib, at 3838 Telegraph.

                  -----
                  Kang Tong Degi
                  3702 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                  Dan Sung Sa
                  2775 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Dae Po Jib is closed. 3838 Telegraph is going to be the permanent home for Beauty's Bagels

                  2. re: Ruth Lafler

                    For Telegraph Ethiopian, I'd look at Dareye (former Hideaway Cafe, across the street from Cafe Colucci). Really good, bright flavors and spicing there. It postdates the Telegraph Ethiopian chowdowns, and I think holds its own.

                    -----
                    Cafe Colucci
                    6427 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                      I'm so glad you mentioned this place...I live around there and always wondered what the hell it was! Thought it was a massage parlor....

                      1. re: zunzie

                        I think Dan Sung Sa a few blocks away has better food. Either might be totally dead before 9 or 10pm. Too bad about Dae Po Jib. Oriental BBQ Chicken Town up Telegraph at 61st is another soju bang.

                        1. re: zunzie

                          Yeah, I for sure wouldn't have walked in the door if I hadn't been brought there!

                      2. You should throw Wood Tavern in the picture.

                        -----
                        Wood Tavern
                        6317 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Scott M

                          Oh yeah!

                        2. Linden Street Brewery... as Oakland as you're gonna get

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: donbonus

                            Along the same lines

                            Commonwealth Cafe - and as you mentioned beer who could leave out Beer Revolution?

                            -----
                            Beer Revolution
                            464 3rd St, Oakland, CA 94607

                          2. Addis for Ethiopian in particular Kitfo (raw)
                            +1 on the Soju Bang joints.
                            Pho King for Bún bò Huế and Mì Quảng

                            -----
                            Pho King
                            638 International Blvd, Oakland, CA 94606

                            1. For another in the "relaxed fine-dining" category there's Camino, with the hearth-cooked trend and their fancy (tweezered) cocktails. It is also in the category of Alice's successful spawn.

                              Besides Linden and also the Trappist for beer, a noteworthy Oakland beverage item is Blue Bottle and its Jack London Square plant.

                              1. ethnic - Ohgane for Korean, Champa Garden for Laotion.
                                2nd Commis for whatever category you concoct, Pizzaiolo, Wood Tavern, Camino for relaxed fine dining.
                                Pizzaiolo again for cocktails - they make their own tonic and it's delicious.

                                -----
                                Ohgane
                                3915 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94611

                                Pizzaiolo
                                5008 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                                Champa Garden
                                2102 8th Ave, Oakland, CA 94606

                                Wood Tavern
                                6317 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618

                                Commis
                                3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

                                1. For frozen sweets, Fentons on Piedmont.

                                  -----
                                  Fenton's Creamery
                                  4226 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Janet

                                    Fenton's is an old-school local favorite, but it's not very good.

                                  2. Quinticentially oakland? (slightly different from the Best Of)

                                    1. Nice fresh beer (& babies) at lanesplitter, glass of wine streetside at barlata.
                                    2. Enquentro, a sparkling little joint, similar to Plum in style
                                    3. Bars - The Trappist, Kingfisher, Van Kleef. Kingfisher gives you The Red Sea's menu, Merchant's, Heinhold's Last Chance,
                                    4. Fries and a burger - Lukas, one of the more cross-ethnic joints.
                                    5. Jazz & sushi - the one and only Yoshi's.
                                    6. Korean (omg), with a side of Viet (Ao Sen, Vo's, etc).
                                    7. Tacos on International Blvd.
                                    8. Ice cream at Tara's and Lush.
                                    9. Chinatown, I like New Gold Medal's BBQ Pork anything.
                                    10. Cool thing - the caipirinia on the oakland/SF ferry when that one guy is tending bar.
                                    11. Oliveto and Baywolf, the grand dames
                                    12. Chicken and waffles - forget neo-southern, get back to actual southern.
                                    13. Nostalgia - poor Flint's, and the decline of Oakland Style BBQ
                                    14. The actual home of Blue Bottle.

                                    -----
                                    New Gold Medal
                                    389 8th St, Oakland, CA 94607

                                    Blue Bottle Cafe
                                    66 Mint St, San Francisco, CA 94103

                                    Red Sea
                                    5200 Claremont Ave, Oakland, CA 94618

                                    Oliveto Cafe
                                    5655 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618

                                    21 Replies
                                    1. re: bbulkow

                                      It's been a long time since I lived in the E Bay, but Oakland's Chinatown was very authentic and untouristy compared to its neighbor across the Bay. Had some memorable meals there, including a chicken's-foot stew that I have not had the occasion (or nerve) to try again.

                                      I wonder if that great old Italian deli is still there on Telegraph Ave in Oakland.

                                      1. re: Steveinjapan

                                        If the deli you're talking about is Genova, yes it's still there. They make good sandwiches.

                                        -----
                                        Genova Delicatessen & Ravioli
                                        5095 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                                        1. re: Mr_Happy

                                          Good call, Genova is awesome, and has been there long before Temescal was gentrified (and even had that name). And though I do have a fondness for Bakesale Betty, their sandwiches are way better.

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

                                          1. re: JasmineG

                                            Temescal has been Temescal forever, since before there was an Oakland: (from wikipedia: "The district was named for Temescal Creek which runs through it. Temescal received its name from the Peralta family, who established their Rancho San Antonio in the East Bay. The name was first applied to the major creek that runs through the district. It was subsequently applied also to the estate of one of the Peralta brothers (Vicente), which was established in today's Temescal district adjacent to the creek. The word temescal derives from the word temescalli, which means "sweat house" in the Nahuatl language of the Mexica ("Aztec") people of Mexico. It is surmised that the Peraltas or perhaps one of their ranch hands (vaqueros) had seen local indigenous (Ohlone) structures along the creek similar to those in other parts of New Spain which were called temescalli.") The Temescal Branch Library was opened in 1918 under that name (replacing an older branch with a different name).

                                            1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                              No one has ever called it Temescal until maybe 10 years ago. Yes, there were things in that area called Temescal for a long time, and that district has never been known widely by that name until it was gentrified. If you said "it's in Temescal" to someone in Oakland in 1995, they would have gone to Lake Temescal (which is not actually in Temescal).

                                              1. re: JasmineG

                                                I've lived in and around Oakland for 50 years, and it's always been Temescal. The fact that the neighborhood was not well known before 1995 (which it wasn't, since there wasn't much there to attract attention) is not the same as saying that the neighborhood wasn't known by that name. I'd also note that the name of the Temescal neighborhood would have been better known many years ago, when it was a thriving neighborhood before it went into decline and was subsequently resurrected. Amazingly enough, the world was not invented in 1995.

                                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                  I grew up in Temescal (shockingly, before 1995) and the neighborhood was never called that then, but maybe it's just that my memory doesn't go back to 1918 when the library was named.

                                                  1. re: JasmineG

                                                    LOL. Perhaps I deserved that.

                                                2. re: JasmineG

                                                  I've shopped at Genova for 40 years & have always known the area as Temescal. That's what the folks at Rattos who referred me called it.

                                                  1. re: JasmineG

                                                    Yeah, they just called it "that seedy corner with the Pussycat Theater."

                                                3. re: JasmineG

                                                  Yes, Genova of course.... I just remember the tall glass jars of olives and pickled vegetables, and the perfume of the hanging salamis. Thanks for the recall!

                                                  1. re: JasmineG

                                                    To Temescal or not to Temescal....

                                                    By any name, this area was a food institution for as long as I can remember. Genova, Ravazza's (who gave part of their sign to ZZA's on Grand), Vern's Market (the only place my grandmother would buy her chitlins), and .........what was the name of the Italian restaurant with the really cheap drinks (doubles and triples)...

                                                    1. re: Bleacher Dave

                                                      Bertola's?

                                                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                        YES! Thanks, Ruth.

                                                4. re: Steveinjapan

                                                  Chinatown is today more Vietnamese than Chinese, but there's still a good selection of Chinese groceries and restaurants, though nothing like SF's Chinatown (which is not touristy on Stockton St.)

                                                  Genova's still around, but the old Italians have retired.

                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                    Really? I always thought of the New Chinatown around E14th and E12th as being more Vietnamese.

                                                    -----
                                                    New Chinatown Restaurant
                                                    2064 Treat Blvd, Walnut Creek, CA 94598

                                                    1. re: kc72

                                                      It is, but even in the older part of Chinatown I think Vietnamese shops outnumber Chinese shops in every block—though it's sort of a false distinction, since many of the Vietnamese shops are owned by ethnic Chinese.

                                                  2. re: Steveinjapan

                                                    Genova has been in the neighborhood since 1926, but in 1996 it moved from its original location into a mall a block away. They still have a good selection of stuff, but it no longer has the charm of, say, Molinari's.

                                                  3. re: bbulkow

                                                    Mua beats Luka's on both counts, and it has a better bar, though not as good a beer selection.

                                                    -----
                                                    Mua
                                                    2442A Webster Street, Oakland, CA 94612

                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                      I haven't been to Mua, so will trust your judgment. Perhaps it's a style of restaurant of which there are several in oakland. I might try making the case that Pacific Coast is in the same direction (upscale beer & burgers) but far less appealing than Luka's or Mua (ok, PCB has it's strengths, a good looking bar, an interior courtyard that's good on some days, different beer).

                                                      -----
                                                      Mua
                                                      2442A Webster Street, Oakland, CA 94612

                                                      1. re: bbulkow

                                                        Luka's makes one of the better burgers in Oakland, but Mua's burger is tops, and most nights Mua's crowd is the most diverse I've seen anywhere. Luka's makes Belgian-style fries, so that's apples and oranges.

                                                        Pacific Coast seems like a generic brewpub to me. Their food is maybe better than the average for brewpubs outside of the Bay Area, but it's not in the same league with The Trappist or Luka's. Neither is their beer selection.

                                                        -----
                                                        Mua
                                                        2442A Webster Street, Oakland, CA 94612

                                                  4. Napoleon Super Bakery or Ruby King for egg custard tarts. My personal pref is for NSB.

                                                    -----
                                                    Napoleon Super Bakery
                                                    810 Franklin St, Oakland, CA

                                                    1. What about Lois the Pie Queen for great atmosphere and lemon icebox pie? Haven't tried their fried chicken yet so I can't comment on it.

                                                      I'd put La Farine bakery (well, bakeries) on the list too.

                                                      1. Chai Thai Noodles is excellent across the board.

                                                        Cam Huong for Oakland's best Banh Mi.

                                                        Unicos de Cuernavaca Tamale Shop for the best tamales in Oakland. Super awesome Chowhound-type find.

                                                        And, yes, taco trucks along International Boulevard are a must.

                                                        -----
                                                        Cam Huong Cafe
                                                        702 International Blvd, Oakland, CA 94606

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

                                                        Unicos de Cuernavaca
                                                        3831 International Blvd, Oakland, CA

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: peterme

                                                          Bakesale Betty is amazing.

                                                          Cam Huong Sucks. I used to be a Bahn Mi - ophile but after frequenting Saigon Sandwich every day for 3 weeks last summer, I no longer am. Nothing else lives up, so I've come to one of two conclusions. Either there are simply no good Bahn Mi places in the east bay; or, I don't actually like Bahn Mi's, just whatever Saigon Sandwich makes.

                                                          Gordo Taqueria makes the best Burritos; Taqueria Sinaloa (Taco Truck @ International and 23rd) makes the best tacos (get al pastor loaded).
                                                          Gordo Taqueria - 2989 College Ave Berkeley, CA

                                                          Geta for the best super cheap Piedmont kid frequented Japanese food in the world.
                                                          Geta Japanese Restaurant - 165 41st St Oakland, CA

                                                          Smokehouse for the best burgers at 1AM.
                                                          Smokehouse - 3115 Telegraph Ave Berkeley, CA

                                                          Soi 4 for damn good thai.
                                                          Soi 4 Bangkok Eatery - 5421 College Ave Oakland, CA

                                                          Lois The Pie Queen is my lover; but for a conventional brunch Mama's Royal Cafe is an apt mistress.
                                                          Lois the Pie Queen - 851 60th St Oakland, CA
                                                          Mama's Royal Cafe - 4012 Broadway Oakland, CA

                                                          -----
                                                          Saigon Sandwich Shop
                                                          560 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94102

                                                          Bakesale Betty
                                                          5098 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                                                          Cam Huong Cafe
                                                          702 International Blvd, Oakland, CA 94606

                                                          Taqueria Sinaloa
                                                          2138 International Blvd, Oakland, CA 94606

                                                        2. Some great stuff here. Just thought I'd add a few things by name that I don't see in the thread. For the essential International Blvd. taco truck taco be sure to try Sinaloa, at the corner of 22nd and International--having eaten at many of the trucks on the strip, Sinaloa is hands down my favorite. There are two trucks in the parking lot, one which specializes in seafood, and one which is bright orange that does not have the seafood (the seafood truck has all the regular meats as well). You can't miss it. Also on International, a little further down, at 36th I believe, is a taco spot that is not housed in a truck, but in a beautifully tiled take out counter with plentiful outdoor seating, called Mariscos La Costa. It has a giant sign atop a 35 foot pole, so it'd be hard to miss.

                                                          The best Banh Mi I've had in Oakland so far is from a relative newcomer to the scene (they just celbrated their 1 year anniversary) called Bun Mam Soc Trang. The grilled pork banh mi is especially delicious, and they grill the pork for the sandwich to order. It is still only $2.25. Soc Trang is not your typical banh mi or pho house, as they don't have pho, and specialize in some harder to find Vietnamese specialties like vermicelli lettuce wraps w/ sugar cane shrimp (which is skewered on sugar cane and grilled) etc., and special noodle soups like Dac Biet Bun Mam that come with delightful fish and several types of pork--including roasted belly. Though I have not had it, I hear their Bun Ho Bue is not only authentic (replete with cow's blood), but delicious too. The bun here is ridiculously tasty as well, and it comes with a nice mixture of fresh herbs that stray a little from the standard basil/cilantro/lime/green bean sprouts. Make sure you ask for some of the house made spicy vinegar hot sauce. It perfectly complements the freshness and flavors of nearly everything they sell.

                                                          And, what I think is a meal not to be missed in Oakland:

                                                          My absolute favorite place in the world for tacos is in Oakland's Fruitvale District, but it's not locateded in a truck. It is in the Fruitvale Market area, and is housed in a low orange clapboard building on E. 12th St. between 35th and 35th ave. Right at Fruitvale Bart station. It is called Taco Grill, and please do not be fooled by the rather generic looking cactus that is its logo. The tacos are made using Niman Ranch meats, locally sourced organic produce as often as possible, and organic masa in the thick hand made tortillas made to order per taco. I honestly did not try this place for anlong time because of the lackluster signage and my mistakenly thinking that since they served Niman Ranch they must be pricey and lacking in the authenticity department--why eat there when all these 'hole in the wall' taquerias and underappreciated trucks were waiting to be discovered within a two block radius?? How wrong I was. The carnitas at Taco Grill are the best I've ever had (Mexico inclusive), and the tacos come topped differently than the standard chopped white onion/cilantro/lime wedge/radish slice/pickled carrots and jalapeno, that is the area standard. Taco Grill's tacos come with large whole white beans, shredded cabbage, cilantro, and a tomatillo sauce. Queso fresco can be added for .25, which would bring the total cost of the taco to a whopping $2.25. These are large tacos too. I would say easily twice as large as the International Blvd. taco truck standard. While I've been known to regularly get 5 tacos at Sinaloa or any of the other trucks listed here, I am full after eating 2 tacos at Taco Grill--especially since I can scoop up whatever excess taco stuffing that falls off with the free chips they offer. Taco Grill is also technically a posoleria, but I think the tacos are the stand out menu offering.

                                                          What makes a trip to Taco Grill even more worthwhile as an eating destination is the fact that it's next door to Nieves Cinco de Mayo ice cream shop. I discovered NCdM when I was at the first Oakland Eat Real Festival ice cream event at which NCdM had been relegated to spot off the main thoroughfare dominated by the more ritzy gelaterias and so on. Here was a guy who was hand churning ice cream on an antiquated wooden machine and serving up unique flavors like curled milk (which tasted like horchata), sweet corn, and pecan. They tasted better than any of the other ice creams I had that evening, and were literally 1/3 the price of the more tony purveyors at the festival. The owner hand-churns ice cream everyday using seasonal fruits, vegetables, and flowers--including, if you're lucky: guava, dragonfruit, rose, spearmint, strawberry, hawthorne, etc. My favorite so far was a recent invention of his called trail mix ice cream, which had dried fruits and nuts crushed into it. So good. He also serves shaved ice and other frozen Mexican desserts. Right outside, in the courtyard Nieves Cinco de Mayo and Taco Grill share, is a cart that sells fresh fried churros, that can be stuffed with creme upon request. To me, there a few better meals in the world, and perhaps none better in Oakland, than to order two tacos from Taco Grill for one's main course, and to finish it with a churro (unstuffed) and a scoop of ice cream at Nieves Cinco de Mayo. The kicker? Total bill is less than $8.

                                                          I really hope that you're able to give these places a try on your stop in Oakland.

                                                          The pictures are of the carnitas tacos at Taco Grill, and the grilled pork and spring roll Bun at Soc Trang.

                                                          -----
                                                          Nieves Cinco de Mayo
                                                          3340 E 12th St, Oakland, CA 94601

                                                          Mariscos La Costa
                                                          3625 International Blvd, Oakland, CA 94601

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

                                                          Fruitvale Bart
                                                          3301 E 12th St, Oakland, CA

                                                           
                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: jchosko

                                                            Thanks for the tip on Bun Mam Soc Trang -- I've been looking for a Vietnamese restaurant that's a cut above the rest, so I'll check it out.

                                                            Linking isn't working:

                                                            326 E 18th St
                                                            (between 13th Ave & Solano Way)
                                                            Oakland, CA 94606
                                                            (510) 534-2828

                                                            -----
                                                            Bun Mam Soc Trang
                                                            1326 E 18th St, Oakland, CA 94606

                                                            1. re: jchosko

                                                              Regarding your review of the tacos, my initial reaction, though I might be wrong, is that I wholeheartedly concur with what you're saying about Taco Grill with its uninspired name, its clip-art cactus and sun logo, that gives me a sense it's a generic, wannabe-corporate place that caters to gringo tastes, and if I were to see the combination of whole white beans and shredded cabbage in a taco, that to me would be further confirmation that the fare they serve is unappealing, as you say, lackluster, and a waste of money and caloric intake. What I find irresistible about tacos in the Fruitvale area are, done right, they have a crispy shell from being pressed on the griddle, and I live for the symphony of stewed lengua, marinated al pastor, grilled carne asada or fried earthy tripas with the diced white onions, squeeze of lime, and cilantro, paired with fresh radishes, pickled carrots and grilled jalapeno. While I wouldn't mind trying crumbled queso fresco on top, the roughage of whole white beans and shredded cabbage seems like filler that would get in the way of savoring the interplay in flavors from the fats in the charred meat, sitting in its juices, with the spicy tang and capsaicin heat of the salsa on top, accentuated with the soft, warm tortilla that's also a bit crispy. Of course, I am certainly going to try them now that you've lit them up, and they seem to have positive reviews on Yelp. Here's their menu:

                                                              http://taco-grill.blogspot.com/

                                                              1. re: jchosko

                                                                Bun Mam Soc Trang no longer has Banh Mi! The soups are worth a visit, and the service is knowledgeable and friendly.

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                                                                Bun Mam Soc Trang
                                                                1326 E 18th St, Oakland, CA 94606

                                                              2. sorry for the follow-up post, but my photo of the bun at Soc Trang did not load. Here it is again.

                                                                 
                                                                1. For Laotian, I much prefer Green Papaya Deli (get the sausage and long bean salad) and Vientiane Cafe (the nem khao rice ball salad and the pork ribs) to Champa Garden.

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                                                                  Champa Garden
                                                                  2102 8th Ave, Oakland, CA 94606

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

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: sfbing

                                                                    I second Vientian Café for the Lao specialties. There's a whole page of them on their menu and they are all reliably wonderful, from the steamed bamboo to the fish paste. Whoever is doing the cooking is a seasoned hand for sure. And the server may offer you dessert made by grandma or somesuch delight that you won't be able to refuse.

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                                                                    Vientian Cafe
                                                                    3801 Allendale Ave, Oakland, CA 94619

                                                                    1. re: rubadubgdub

                                                                      Third Vientian. The rice ball salad is amazing. On weekend especially they have prepackaged specialties. I got something thinking it was a dessert - I thought waiter confirmed. It was porky goodness with other ingredients in rice dough. No disappointment - another home run.

                                                                  2. If you're in Chinatown and want something unique, Tom's Bakery.
                                                                    Tom's Bakery makes fortune cookies.
                                                                    http://www.personalized-fortune-cooki...

                                                                    Tom's Bakery
                                                                    295 9th Street
                                                                    Oakland, CA 94607
                                                                    (510) 832-5025

                                                                    1. I'd also add Chop Bar to the list. They've taken the burger crown away from Mua. Its on 4th and Alice. Seasonal, california-style food at good prices. Linden Street beers is on tap and the cocktails are good. I haven't tried anything I do not like yet. Fun casual atmosphere.

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                                                                      Mua
                                                                      2442A Webster Street, Oakland, CA 94612

                                                                      1. I'm probably too late to the show, but Casserole House has excellent Korean food. The owner makes all of her own kimchee and ggakdugi, which are out of this world. They have traditional Korean casseroles and wonderful dol sot bibimbap.

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                                                                        Casserole House
                                                                        4301 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: mayt

                                                                          Blech. I have friends who love Casserole House, but I don't see the appeal. To me, it's in the style of home-cooked Korean food, but done poorly. The banchan are indeed made on the premises, but don't have the depth that I am used to from homemade banchan. The last time I was the there, the lady serving (the owner?) insisted that I not scrape my dol sot bibimbap to the point where it started burning. I scraped it anyway, and had her yell at me.

                                                                          I honestly don't think Oakland's Korean food scene can hold a candle to NY or LA. I'd definitely rather eat Korean at home and eat out at Commis or Pizzaiolo.

                                                                          -----
                                                                          Pizzaiolo
                                                                          5008 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                                                                          Casserole House
                                                                          4301 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                                                                          Commis
                                                                          3859 Piedmont Avenue, Oakland, CA 94611

                                                                        2. Blake and Roxanne just wrapped up the Oakland portion of the tour, and here are the videos and posts, with many of your suggestions: http://www.chow.com/food-news/chow-to...

                                                                          Next up: Portland.

                                                                          6 Replies
                                                                          1. re: davina

                                                                            Pretty nice selection of stuff. I'm curious if the fried chicken in BB's sandwich was warm.

                                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                              It is around lunch time. But not always. (Although I have always loved cold fried chicken!)

                                                                              1. re: jade408

                                                                                I was asking about the specific report in the Chow Tour. Given the numerous complaints about that, it seemed an oversight not to say one way or the other.

                                                                              2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                I'm glad they got recs from John Birdsall for Fruitvale - I think the Chowhound discussions on Fruitvale sometimes get a little echo-chambery, and it was great to see some places featured that I'd never heard of before.

                                                                                1. re: daveena

                                                                                  He actually tried them all while he was working for the Express.

                                                                                  1. re: daveena

                                                                                    I agree (even though I'm not a particular fan of Birdsall). I wish more people would go to Fruitvale and explore new places (especially on Foothill) rather than follow the beaten path (International). Maybe I'll put together another survey mission for this spring.

                                                                              3. Oops, well I typed this before realizing the tour is done. I shall post it anyway.

                                                                                In addition to its many small, ethnic eateries, Oakland has come to be known for good restaurants that serve sustainable, local foods.

                                                                                I've had many good burgers in Oakland, but my favorite, with a caramelized onion add-on, was at Hudson.

                                                                                Boot and Shoe Service, an offshoot of Pizzaiolo but with a limited menu, is a new institution, with a cozy, inviting bar in the back and a wonderful margherita pizza and garden lettuces salad.

                                                                                Simply Greek on Piedmont has the best falafel sandwich in town.

                                                                                La Calaca Loca has my favorite (breaded, sustainable) fish taco and fish burrito.

                                                                                Bittersweet has delicious fresh baked sweets (mostly chocolate).

                                                                                Grace Baking Co. has irresistible focaccia, lovely sweet treats and a great location in Market Hall.

                                                                                For casual fine dining, you can't beat Wood Tavern and Camino.

                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                1. re: eldub

                                                                                  The independent bakery in Rockridge Market Hall is Market Hall Bakery.

                                                                                  It was the original home of Grace Baking, which outgrew it long ago. They moved from a 20,000sf bakery in Albany to a 60,000sf bakery in Richmond in 2000 and were bought by a huge Canadian corporation a couple of years later.

                                                                                  1. re: eldub

                                                                                    OK, eldub, I will permanently hold it against you that you have clued the world in about our favorite hidden taqueria, La Calaca Loca, in the Temescal [grin].

                                                                                    They do not make the biggest quesadillas....just the best. Those made-with-lard flour tortillas, combined with the giant squeeze bottles of super-hot green chile salsa and incendiary habanero salsa, are absolutely phenomenal.

                                                                                    We used to love Gordo's, but they are just too erratic. Too many times of getting dried-out, skimpy, tired carnitas in those incomparable quesadilla tacos, finally turned us off.

                                                                                    Re Bakesale Betty: the only thing we get is their chicken pot pies (the big ones, frozen). Preorder and pick it up next day. Fabulous butter pastry shell, big chunks of chicken breast with diced cooked carrots. Not quite enough gravy, but yummy nonetheless.

                                                                                  2. Yeah, I second the comments about Oakland's Korean food scene -- it stinks. I'm Korean, and aside from an occasional night of drinking at the Porno Bar (whose actual name I always forget), I never bother.

                                                                                    Similarly, my sister took my parents to Ohgane, and when she told them that Ohgane was considered one of the best Korean joints in the area, they laughed heartily.

                                                                                    If you are coming from NY, LA, Chicago (or Fort Lee, Palisades Park, Skokie...), you can go ahead and pretend that there is no Korean food in the Bay Area.

                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: dunstable

                                                                                      Porno Bar = Dan Sung Sa

                                                                                      2775 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA

                                                                                      1. re: dunstable

                                                                                        Have you tried Pyeongchang Tofu House? Best kimchi soondubu I've had in the bay by far. The banchan is not great though.