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Where to eat lunch between Oakland Airport & Napa?

I'm looking for a lunch recommendation to kick off our long weekend. Our plane lands in Oakland at 1:15 p.m. on a Thursday, then we'll rent a car & drive to Napa Valley (Yountville). We'd prefer something in Oakland, since we'll probably be hungry, plus we have dinner reservations in Napa so we don't want to eat lunch too late. Also, we don't want too venture TOO far out of our way and add on alot of drive time, so I'm hoping someone can help me with that since we don't know the area. Thanks in advance!

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  1. wait until you get to napa

    1. Depending on what kind of food you are in the mood for, it might be fun to get off the freeway at the Fruitvale exit, and eat at one of the Mexican restaurants like El Huarache Azteca or Otaez or even taco trucks. If you do a search for Fruitvale you'll get lots of specific ideas.

      You could also get off the freeway in Berkeley, and eat at Sea Salt, Rouge, 900 Grayson, or other restaurants near the freeway.

      1. What day of the week?

        I think hitting a taco truck for a light meal and getting back on the road is probably better then going for a sitdown when you have dinner plans in Napa.

        1. Picante, right off the freeway on I-80, Gilman St. You can eat in or take your burrito to go if you're running behind.

          2 Replies
          1. re: rubadubgdub

            I live in Napa and go to Oakland every week or so to visit family. My go to place is Wood Tavern on College Ave. in the Rockridge area. Very popular place with locals who return and return for the fresh American bistro fare. No reservation necessary if you sit at the bar. Full bar service with an interesting and moderately priced wine list. If its jammed, try its sister restaurant next door, Southie. More casual but similarly delicious home cooked food.

            A slightly bigger deal requiring a reservation is Chez Panisse Cafe on Shattuck in Berkeley. No bar seats or bar at all. But, it's still featuring pristine ingredients simply done and expertly served. Can't miss.

            Have fun.

            1. re: cortez

              Much as I love Wood Tavern, there's frequently a line and no seats even at the bar, and it's quite a ways out of the way for someone driving from OAK to Yountville.

              For an upscale sit-down lunch with easy freeway access, Sea Salt.

              Sea Salt
              2512 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94702

              Wood Tavern
              6317 College Ave., Oakland, CA 94618

          2. Quick off and back on the freeway, Vik's for Indian, Smoke for BBQ, Lanesplitter for slice pizza, Casa Latina for tacos / burritos / etc.,, Ba Le for banh mi.

            Banh Mi Ba Le
            10174 San Pablo Ave, El Cerrito, CA 94530

            Lanesplitter Berkeley
            2033 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702

            Lanesplitter Delivery & To Go
            1051 San Pablo Ave, Albany, CA 94706

            Casa Latina
            1805 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA

            Smoke Berkeley
            2434 San Pablo Ave, Berkeley, CA 94702

            12 Replies
            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              Looking at the poster's location on their profile, it is Houston. I wouldn't send anyone from Texas to a California bbq joint like Smoke.

              Did you meant the Oakland Banh Mi Bah Li? The El Cerrito location has exactly two tables inside and two outside. When i was there last week at lunch at that time all tables were occupied and there was a line out the door. This is a $3 bahn mi sandwhich joint.

              If I was going to direct anyone to take the Central Avenue exit, Daimo might be a good choice or any of the restaurants in that Chinese mall.

              I agree that while i recently fell in love with Wood Tavern, all the reasons you mentioned make it a bad choice in this case ... too far off the freeway and too busy.

              1. re: rworange

                Yeah, forget Smoke if you're coming from Texas.

                I meant the El Cerrito Ba Le. If they're leaving OAK at 1:15, it's not likely to be too busy.

                Daimo or anyplace in the adjacent mall that's currently good are also great options.

                Little Star's not far from the freeway either.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  How long is the wait for preparation of the deep dish pizza at Little Star?

                  1. re: wolfe

                    They say 25 minutes, but our last time (dinner) was 45. You can preorder.

                    1. re: drewskiSF

                      Just suggesting that it was not an ideal stop for OP heading for dinner in Napa. It is helpful for planning purposes for those who have more time. Thank you.

                  2. re: Robert Lauriston

                    They're arriving at 1:15. Assuming the plane is on time, they still have to get out of the airport and deal with the car rental, so closer to 2:00 by the time they hit the road. Combining that with the fact that they have dinner reservations in "Napa" I think getting something quick as soon as possible is the best idea.

                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                      Yeah, that's my thought.

                      Lunch slices at Little Star come out fast. If you wanted a whole pie, you could call from the airport.

                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                        I second this. You're going to want to get through I-80 traffic as early as possible. There's nothing worse than starting off a vacation in stand-still traffic.

                        1. re: HungryDonkey

                          I know this question is an offshoot, but mapquest is giving me three options to drive to Napa from Oakland Airport: (1) I-80 & CA -29 N, (2) CA-29 N, & (3) I-580 W. It shows the first option as being the fastest. Is that right?

                          1. re: mimi777

                            1st should be fastest. you might check 511.org to see if there's any traffic snags on the route.

                            2) i'm guessing is CA-24, not 29 (29 is up by Napa). this will loop you around Walnut Creek & Concord before rejoining I-80 before hitting 37 in Vallejo.

                            1. re: mimi777

                              80E > 37W > 29N is the fastest and shortest route.

                              1. re: mimi777

                                You've left out some numbers so I can't tell exactly what the options are, but for number three, the only reason I can think of to list I580W is that Mapquest doesn't know that I80 E and I580 W are actually the same highway for several miles as they run through Emeryville and Berkeley (yeah, I know that's weird). Drewski and Robert have given you the two actual options, and which one is better depends on the time of day and the traffic conditions.

                    2. Not to freak you out, but if you stop for lunch just be sure all of your luggage is in the trunk and any valuables (cameras/laptops) with you or least out of sight. We unfortunately have a fair number of issues with petty auto theft and I always try warn my out of town visitors. The last time I was a Vik's there was a car break-in at 11a in their parking lot. It's the one reason I always hesitate to stop anywhere to eat between the airport and home.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: rubadubgdub

                        Or eat lunch where you can watch your car. That's a plus of Casa Latina and the El Cerrito Ba Le.

                        1. re: rubadubgdub

                          Good point. Last week two students I know heading back to college had their car stolen from the Ikea parking lot, along with their laptops and all their luggage. Cop said it happens ALL the time. Welcome to the Bay Area. What I might do would be to get a torta from Casa Latina and eat in or near my car at the Berkeley Marina. Might as well have a nice view. Or maybe something from 4th street -- a sandwich from the Pasta Shop?

                          1. re: Glencora

                            Thanks everyone! I think we'll probably grab something on the run as suggested by many of you in lieu of a sit-down lunch. We wanted to get to our destination as quickly as possible & frankly, having just had my car broken into & my purse stolen at the park here in Houston last week, I am more than a little nervous about leaving anything in a car these days.

                            1. re: mimi777

                              Sounds like you need to go to In n Out! There's one minutes from the airport on your way to the freeway exit.

                              If you aren't familiar, do a little research and get some of the "off-menu" items.

                        2. Dude, just drive through the In n Out right next to the airport. Then hit the freeway and go to Yountville. If you want quick, nothing will beat In n Out and it's delish.

                          If you really want something fancy, you'll have to detour on the way to Napa. You should probably go somewhere on Solano Ave. Ajanta for Indian, China Village for Szechuan, Vanessa's for high-end vietnamese/french are all places I'd recommend.

                          China Village
                          1335 Solano Ave, Albany, CA 94706

                          Vanessa's Bistro
                          1715 Solano Ave, Berkeley, CA 94707

                          Ajanta Restaurant
                          1888 Solano Ave, Berkeley, CA 94707

                          22 Replies
                          1. re: hungree

                            In-N-Out, a Southern California chain, makes better hamburgers than McDonald's, but they're nothing special, and the fries aren't made right. You're coming from Houston? Don't waste a meal, you can get way better burgers at home.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              Such vitriol for a beloved burger institution... Also, if you don't like the fries you can get them lighter or crispier, per your preference.

                              Anyway, In n Out will be coming to Houston shortly, if it's not already there, so OP can decide for themselves whether it's just "better than McDonalds."

                              OP wants to get to NAPA as quickly as possible. In n Out fits the bill and most people love it---in fact crave it when they are away from the west coast.

                              1. re: hungree

                                In-N-Out's burgers are exactly like what you could make at home if you shopped at Safeway rather than taking advantage of any of the superior ingredients available around here and cooked the meat in a pan instead of grilling it.

                                Overcooking the fries won't fix the fundamental problems.

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                  I do admire your dedication to the anti-In n Out philosophy :). We'll have to agree to disagree.

                                  Just so something productive comes out of this spat, I'd also recommend OP stop by Bakesale Betty's or Genova, both of which are off the freeway (although not the 80 so a light Detour).

                                  1. re: hungree

                                    You disagree that In-N-Out uses ingredients comparable to what you could buy at Safeway?

                                    Bakesale Betty's is unique, but they close at 2:00 and often run out before that, so that's not going to work if the flight's due in at 1:15.

                                    Genova is a good old-school Italian deli, but probably no better than the similar places in Houston.

                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        OK, you won't let it go, I guess. As a matter of fact, you can't get In n Out ingredients at Safeway. They use no-additives, fresh premium meat that they special select, made in their own patty facility, and all their ingredients are delivered daily. No In n Out even contains a microwave or freezer.

                                        Sounds like you are underwhelmed by Genova's too? It's a Berkeley staple and much more than a "good old-school Italian deli." They're better than McDonald's too.

                                        Why don't we just recommend places for OP and avoid piling on other people's recommendations unnecessarily?

                                        1. re: hungree

                                          Both Genova and BBB are in Oakland.

                                          1. re: wolfe

                                            fair enuf - they're not far down telegraph though, just a few blocks past the border

                                          2. re: hungree

                                            I tried the In N Out in Marin once, based on the recommendations on this board, and it wasn't particularly quick. Since the OP doesn't want to leave her car, I'd have the passenger hop out for a pork bun in Oakland's Chinatown.

                                            1. re: Glencora

                                              Actually, I was going to suggest In-n-Out but looking at the site, there are already 14 in Texas so it seemed a wasted meal to eat something they could get at home.

                                              As good as Bakesale Betty's or Geneva may or may not be, they are just too far off the freeway for someone new to the area trying to get to Napa.

                                              There are a number of good places relatively near the freeway, but involve some thought so i kind of ruled them out. I think that turn to get to Viks can be tricky and i know the area and can't tell you how many times I've drivien by. Daimo is actually a bit tricky as well.

                                              Another option might be to get off of University and get on Fourth Street and get something from Bette's to go or The Pasta Shop.

                                              1. re: rworange

                                                Actually the University exit works the same for Vik's and Bette's since they are both on 4th St and it ain't simple. Daimo is a right, a quick right and about 200 yards and a left and parking is probably easier.

                                                1. re: rworange

                                                  Vik's and Daimo, a GPS or smartphone might be helpful.

                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                    __________. a GPS or smartphone might be helpful.
                                                    Is that a tautology?

                                      2. re: hungree

                                        >beloved burger institution<

                                        You may "belove" it, but I sure don't. An In-n-Out burger is just another cooked-to-death, wafer-thin, fast-food burger; cooking it to order doesn't change that one bit.

                                        1. re: Malcolm Ruthven

                                          I've just gone over to the In-n-out side today. There was a great show about it on PBS. I've decided if I'm going to have a fast food burger it will be here. The thing is there is no crap or chemicals in their food.

                                          I turned my back on Mcdonald's today. It was bad enough that they were putting some chemical used to make yoga mats in their buns, but tonight the news is that their burgers were made out of something called 'pink slime' that is treated with ammonia.

                                          The one thing I defended McDonald's about was the burger which they built their reputation on as being 100 per cent beef ... yeah, beef slime.

                                          So yes, in-n-out is a fast food burger, but at least it is more honest than the rest.

                                          My dinner tonight was an in-n-out cheeseburger. it was fine.

                                          1. re: rworange

                                            As I said, In-N-Out is better than McDonald's. They use real ingredients, hand-leaf their lettuce, bake their own buns, shape their own patties at their own giant beef processing plants. Except for the latter, it's probably just about what McDonald's made in 1955.

                                              1. re: wolfe

                                                Yeah, that was the story on the news last night. From your link

                                                "These trimmings, which consist of what’s left of the meat after all the choice cuts of beef are taken, are banned for human consumption in the U.K, where they are instead used for dog and chicken food. They are legal for consumption in the United States, however, where they are treated with ammonium hydroxide in order to kill off bacteria such as E. coli and make it safe for human consumption"

                                                The story goes on to say, though discontinued, both Burger King and Taco Bell were doing this.

                                                Anyway, whether or not In-n-out is a place to grab a bite for this trip, at least there isn't pink slime there.

                                              2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                I understand that. It doesn't make them good, desirable burgers, just better than McD's garbage.

                                      3. re: hungree

                                        I generally like In 'n Out....but it is NOT fast. It could be a 20 min easily at lunch, inside or in the drive-thru. Everything is cooked to order and that takes time.

                                      4. If you want deli sandwiches, Zarri's is similar to Genova and a much shorter detour, though in that neighborhood Zand, the Persian deli, might be more interesting for a visitor.


                                        1. Sea Salt has closed.

                                          Chez Panisse and China Village are temporarily closed while they repair / remodel after fires.