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Jan 20, 2012 01:32 PM

Grand Lake (Oakland): What to Eat and Where?

For the SF Bay digest, I'm going to write about the best things to eat in and around the Grand Lake district of Oakland, which, if you're unfamiliar, is defined here:

I'm looking for both restaurant and food shop recommendations, as well as specific dish recommendations.

A quick search shows me recommendations for:
- Kwik Way
- Kitchen 388
- Grand Lake farmer's market
- Holy Land

What's new and interesting in Grand Lake? What do you like but haven't seen much discussion about? What's your go-to for take-out, or the spot where you get dessert?

Thanks for your recommendations--you'll see them in the digest soon.

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  1. How about the new spice shop?
    Oaktown Spice Shop in Oakland (530 Grand Ave.)

    3 Replies
    1. re: wolfe

      Thanks, wolfe!

      Have you been? Do you favor Oaktown Spice Shop for any particular type of spice or herb?

      1. re: pane

        This is the best smelling shop in town!

        John who runs the place is a blending genius and is always coming up with something new.

        You can't go wrong with the curry and his take on mulling spices is a lot more subtle and interesting than the usual.

      2. Camino - Chez Panisse progeny w/ open-fire cooking
        Boot & Shoe - Chez Panisse/Pizzialo progeny w/ great cocktails, pizza and other food
        Cana - newly expanded, right next to Kwik Way (I haven't tried it yet)
        Michael Mischer - good chocolates
        Monkey Forest Road - new, unique combination of retail/coffee bar

        There are also lots of old-school bars.

        Will you try out all the places you write up?

        Michael Mischer Chocolates
        3352 Grand Ave, Oakland, CA

        3917 Grand Avenue, Oakland, CA 94610

        Boot and Shoe Service
        3308 Grand Ave, Oakland, CA 94610

        Cana Cuban Parlor & Cafe
        530 Lake Park Ave, Oakland, CA 94610

        Monkey Forest Road
        3265 Grand Ave, Oakland, CA 94610

        12 Replies
        1. re: foodeye

          Thanks, foodeye--these are super helpful.

          Nope, I'm writing about what you have to say, not about what I think.

          Like this thread from Outer Sunset:

          Which resulted in this digest post:

          1. re: pane

            Do I understand correctly that you'll be writing an article under your byline, and the people on CH are to do your research for you?
            Will you be writing similarly "researched" articles about Manhattan, Chicago, and the Canadian Prairie Provinces? They have CH boards as well. I mean, why limit yourself?

            1. re: Rapini

              Read the linked digest, everything's attributed. It's just a thing that CBS does to try to promote the site.

              1. re: Rapini

                It appears to me that Pane is a Chow employee getting input from CH'ers to do these summary digests.

                I'm sure the other boards have other folks doing similar "research" ;-)

                1. re: drewskiSF

                  I know for a fact that pane's done firsthand "research" at Camino, Sidebar, Grand Tavern, and Boot and Shoe Service, but if would probably not look good if the entire Chow Digest was just her quoting herself.

                  The Lanesplitter can be good, depending on who's making the pizza (there's a heavily tattooed guy with black hair who's really good at it, but I haven't seen him in a while).

                  Do farmer's market eats count? With Starter Bakery, Scream, Phoenix Pastificio, Barlovento and Oktoberfeast all having stalls on Saturday, you have a compact collection of excellent East Bay vendors.

                  1. re: daveena

                    i have no issues with pane or this thread

                2. re: Rapini

                  That confused me for a second too, but she's referring to CHOW's "SF Bay digest," the newsletter that summarizes highlights of the week's Chowhound posts. It's good to see that a member of the community writes those.

                  1. re: hyperbowler

                    A member of the community has always written the digest.

                    It is just that it seems Chow has changed the direction of what content should be published and what people actually eat each week is no longer interesting enough. We have to have themes now ... and location and atmosphere (restaurants with booths) trumping delicious food and actual finds.

                    That's fine, but it is forced. Then again, it is like the yelp weekly themes.

                    I will miss the surprises. No matter how closely I followed the boards, the digest always turned up some great place I missed. Some little joint that would never get attention any other way and the digest spotlight got others interested.

                    It ain't fancy but for its faults, Day of the Dead cafe is a joint I prefer to the stark, ill-conceived Monkey Forest Road which another Chowhound guessed would be short lived. I'll take that bet.

                    There are a bunch of other small overlooked markets and joints in the area, but probably like the DOD Cafe not Digest material.

                    Any thoughts about Bacheeso's since it moved to the nabe?

                    1. re: rworange

                      I had dinner at Bacheeso's a week ago for the first time. Staff was ridiculously nice. My favorite dish was the kofte which was like a personal meatloaf and perfectly seasoned. Osso bucco was less successful. Prices were quite inexpensive compared to the city, and when I asked about a glass of wine, the server offered me a taste.

                      My only note is they have a belly dancer Saturday nights. She was very good, but be warned if you're going there for a conversation.

                      And yes, I share qualms about writers and students trolling the boards, looking for someone to do research for them. But that doesn't include pane. And the newsletter/Chowhound diget goes back at least 10 years.

                      1. re: Windy

                        Had you been to the old location and how does it compare? My own memory of past comments was that it was ok enough.

                        I have no issue with pane ... other than rewriting once something i said and then putting it in quotes. Rewrite ... fine ... putting it in quotes like that was what I said ... not so good.

                        So I am not picking on pane who seems to have taken over the digest writing only relatively recently.

                        What I do have an issue with is starting these theme threads. Pane is only an employee of Chow and probably is taking editorial direction.

                        It is really kind of insulting to posters. That their posts each week aren't good enough. That there is so little new and exciting on a particular week that Chow can't find three great picks.

                        The week of the SF post pane researched like this ran, it knocked out a lot of great posts (none of them mine). It was sad at least one of those great places didn't get the attention.

                        So this made up topic of interest will edge out other real finds the week it runs.That is what i personally don't like.

                        If there is something that wonderful near Grand Lake, someone will post about it. Boot and Shoe idn't need special promotion. People posted about it..

                        But perhaps this is the way Chow wants to deal with plans to nuke the restaurant database.

                        Instead of being able ot search the restaurant database by nabe, we will have these theme neighborhood topics ... which will get stale fast

                        "Restaurants" Database To Be Eliminated

                  2. re: Rapini

                    Yes, as Robert said, the Digest, which is part of Chowhound as well (and has been for many years, pre-CBS, pre-CHOW) highlights the best of the boards--conversations and recommendations in San Francisco, New York and Boston which are attributed to their original sources.

                    I'm sure that journalists do use Chowhound to source unattributed info, but not the case here. You can find the digests here:

              2. Grand Tavern is a charming, friendly neighborhood bar/restaurant with very good food and cocktails.

                Arizmendi is a terrific bakery co-op (cousin of Cheeseboard's) that has a nice selection of breads and pastries (their cornmeal-cherry scone is a family favorite). They also make a delicious vegetarian pizza every day.

                Grand Bakery produces excellent challah and Jewish/Eastern European pastries.

                I second Camino and Boot/Shoe; they're excellent. And Camino's brunch appears to be really under-appreciated. They've got great food and I've never had to wait for a table.

                1 Reply
                1. re: squidly

                  +1 Grand tavern is out of this world and an excellent wine selection.

                2. I wasn't crazy about Cana when it first opened, but lately I've been quite enamored with the $6 "Media Noche" on the sandwich menu - it's a variant of the standard Cuban sandwich (with ham, roast pork, dill pickle, Swiss cheese, and lots of mustard) and a good one, and one of their least expensive items at $6.

                  I gather that this too is a traditional Cuban sandwich, and not an original creation:

                  Perhaps worth mentioning is the new branch of Top Dog on Lakeshore, which is at least as good as all the other Top Dogs but with more seating.

                  Kitchen 388 is my go-to spot, but note that it's closed for an extended winter break until Feb. 1. I suspect (but don't know for sure) that they're using the time off to gear up for launching dinner service when they reopen.

                  Sidebar is a good neighborhood bistro type spot, with one of the better burgers in town -- I haven't been in the past year or so, but saw recently that they have a change of ownership sign up (but also an accompanying note that says the current chef-owners aren't leaving).

                  Gelato Firenze used to be pretty decent, but again I haven't been for quite a while, ever since the explosion of artisan frozen confectionaries elsewhere in the East Bay. I'd rather use up those calories at Lush or Scream or even Flavor Brigade. But anyone been lately?

                  Also worth noting: Boot and Shoe Service recently began serving lunch, and during lunch hours folks can order off the full restaurant menu in the cafe offshoot next door as well. Don't see this reflected on their website yet, so it might be a soft launch.

                  How far up Grand will you go? As far up as Trueburger? Enssaro is decent for Ethiopian.

                  Gelato Firenze
                  478 Lake Park Ave, Oakland, CA 94610

                  366 Grand Ave, Oakland, CA

                  542 Grand Ave, Oakland, CA

                  146 Grand Ave, Oakland, CA 94612

                  Kitchen 388
                  388 Grand Avenue, Oakland, CA

                  1. Any one have comments on Spettro -- haven't been in years so I can't comment myself.

                    Also Lin Jia on Lakeshore & Ikaros on Grand
                    are good.

                    3355 Lakeshore Ave, Oakland, CA 94610

                    Lakeshore Cafe
                    3257 Lakeshore Ave, Oakland, CA 94610

                    Lin Jia Asian Kitchen
                    3437 Lakeshore Ave, Oakland, CA 94610

                    Ikaros Greek Restaurant
                    3268 Grand Ave, Oakland, CA 94610

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: Stephanie Wong

                      What's good at Lin Jia and Ikaros? I've only tried the fries at Ikaros (granted, not any kind of representative item), but they were bad, so I've been loath to give it another shot.

                      Edit: I think we also tried the gyro wrap and thought it was just OK (worse than Simply Greek's on Piedmont Ave.).

                      1. re: abstractpoet

                        Ikaros has great pita , tzatziki & yogurt. Lamb shanks are good -- 2 for $20 -- for sharing. Liked the lamb mix gyro wrap better here than at Simply Greek. Both chicken and the lamb-beef gyros are on vertical roasters. Never tried the fries. The mezze platter is served in 2 courses -- cold items first and then the hot items. Draft & bottled beers (domestic & Greek) & full bar. DH likes the baked pasta variations--Usually we either share an entree or just plan to take half of it home. I think of this place as a comfortable place with good values. Want to try the lamb chops & soulvakias sometime.

                        What else did you have at Ikaros besides fries & gyro wrap? Simply Greek is more of a food stand & ok if I'm alone or want grab & go; Ikaros is better for sharing and lingering with friends and family.

                        Don't go to Lin Jia very much -- too pricey for me. Tasty stuff, but I think they're not gearing their market to folks like me.

                        Simply Greek
                        4060 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611

                        1. re: Stephanie Wong

                          Those are the only two items I tried, and it was for takeout on two separate occasions -- anyway, for that purpose, I did find it inferior to Simply Greek (though the last time we ordered from Simply Greek we felt like it had gone a bit downhill). But maybe I'll give that gyro another go just to make sure.

                          My wife's the one who gets a craving for this cuisine more often than I do, so maybe we'll try Ikaros the next time she's in the mood for sit-down Greek.

                          1. re: abstractpoet

                            Simply Greek and Ikaros are just different ambience and offerings. Simply Greek: pick up your food at counter & eat off a tray; Ikaros: beer & wine, table service; on a sunny afternoon, hang out at one of the sidewalk tables.

                            Check out what the other tables have ordered to get a feel for Ikaros' offerings. . . many are geared to sharing (in my opinion) as the portions can be large; e.g. 2 lamb shanks, 3 lamb chops; family style almost. The baked pasta offerings are large and can be very filling; if I ordered a whole one for myself, I'd be tired of getting the same flavor before I finished the entire serving. When we took my mom for dinner, the 3 of us shared a mezze platter, lamb shanks, & 1 of the baked pastas. I think 1 of these included a side salad. We had enough leftover for a lunch the next day.

                            I really enjoy their pita and dips -- their yogurt comes from somewhere on the peninsula.

                            If you follow sports, if necessary, you can follow along on the TV (muted) hanging in the bar.

                        2. re: abstractpoet

                          Was at Lin Jia again recently, I love the braised egg tofu - have never had anything like it before and will keep an eye out for it to compare at other places.