Bay Leaf (Oakland)
Although this restaurant is very close to home, hadn't gotten around to trying it until a groupon nudged me along. The restaurant is a little bare-bones looking, especially from the outside. Once inside, though, it feels more minimalist, clean and airy. And about the food- all I can say is wow. I can't believe this place has been in my backyard for the past year or so.
Started with the fried okra- dusted with cornmeal, fried perfectly. No grease, no slime, tender, crisp and juicy, dipped in Crystal hot sauce. Ummm. For entrees we got the crab cakes, which were lovely, not a lot of filler, nicely spiced and "crabby" and the crawfish bisque over grits. This is the dish that will have you throwing all dietary caution to the wind. Utter succulence. Also got a side of collards (made with smoked turkey) that were great- make sure to drink the pot likker. Although we certainly didn't need dessert after that meal, the yelp reviews I read all raved and it was part of our groupon deal so we did our moral duty. Lemon Icebox Pie. Creamy, sweet but not too much so (maybe had some zest in the custard?), amazing cookie crust. Best dessert I have had in a really long time (and I am a big dessert person.)
So do yourself and your belly a favor- Run, don't walk, to this amazing, homestyle southern restaurant-
I promise you will be very glad that you did.
The Bay Leaf Restaurant
2000 MacArthur Blvd, Oakland, CA 94602
Second the crisp cornmeal dusted fried okra appetizer dipped in Crystal sauce. Oxtails, covered in dark caramelized sauce, came with sauteed cabbage and yams. Three big spicy crispy chicken wings shared a platter with a corn-pepper-onion saute and a mound of smashed red potatoes made a well for delicious peppery chicken gravy. Small cornmeal muffins had a good coarse texture, not too sweet. Pecans crunched on the top of my slice of pecan pie, richness abounded with a tasty crust, more short than flaky. Darned good coffee too.
This neighborhood spot is more pleasant than its predecessors at that corner. I kept thinking of dinner at grandma's, but grandma would have to be an exceptionally good cook with a modern bent. Our server was warm and attentive, and she recommended the weekend gumbo special.
Keep in mind: The chef makes many dishes on order and there may be quite a gap before those plates come to the table. We had been forewarned, but anyone unprepared might be frustrated.