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Breads of India- why is this place so empty? [Oakland]

So after trudging out late and reservation-less on a Saturday evening in the East Bay, we went to Chop Bar, took one look at the mobs, and turned back around. But where to go last-minute in downtown that is high quality but won't have a wait and where we can hear ourselves think?

Breads of India in Old Oakland. Done.

As usual, the place was mostly empty- seriously, I think there were 3 tables seated out of 20.

And yet, also as usual over the past several years we've been going to this location, everything was great.

After having more run-of-the-mill protein-in-sauce dishes on previous trips, I finally decided to try the "Coorgi-style" pork roast that I've been eying. And it was moist inside, really nice char outside, and made me happy. My partner got a vegetable dish, and the textures were just right and the flavor was great.

Lots of dishes that you don't see in almost any other Indian restaurants, regional specialties from all over the subcontinent (well, per the menu anyway, but definitely not stuff I see elsewhere), including multiple seafood/fish options. Nice atmosphere- maybe a little cavernous. Prices that are comparable to self-service: $12 for the pork roast and $8(!) for vegetarian items. And a lot of food for that price- two pork chops, dal, rice, and salad.

Which makes me wonder- why is this place so empty on weekend evenings?

I know Indian isn't exactly trendy, but I would much rather eat at BOI than, say, Burma Superstar. It can't be the location alone- we just ate at Cosecha, which is overflowing despite being a so-so value, IMHO. Are they just terrible at promotion? Is the dining room haunted?

I will concede that the service, while friendly, was a bit confused. They brought one dish that was wrong and another I'm not sure if it was right- odd, given that there were so few people there. I've never had this problem there before, though, and I think this was maybe an issue with our particular server rather than an across-the-board problem.

How do they stay in business? Big lunch traffic (I've been once or twice at lunch- busy, but not crazy)? Lots of takeout from people in the neighborhood?

Normally, I would just be grateful and leave it at that. But I worry that they can't actually stay in business at this rate.

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  1. looked at bread's pricing and it seems out of line. a simple comparison probably left most prospective diners feeling the same way. more bang for the buck elsewhere.

    consecha's "so-so value" may seem so compared to taco bell. if you compare consecha to tamarindo antojera, a few blocks away, it's a bargain. people are saving on the tip also.....

    1 Reply
    1. re: shanghaikid

      "Taco Bell"? Haven't been since high school. I'm comparing to Mexican restaurants I've visited from white tablecloth establishments in Oaxaca to trucks in Fruitvale abd antojerias in LA . Food is good quality but flavors are pretty toned down and not especially memorable, portions are small, and the price difference compared to full service is minimal. I think the whole counter service thing makes people feel like they're being frugal when they're saving maybe 5 bucks. Xolo does this concept better, for my money.

    2. I had some good dishes at the original in Berkeley when they were new, but it wasn't as good as Vik's, prices were kind of high, and I could never understand why people lined up.

      1. "how do they stay in business?"
        -on several occassions, saw a mobile food truck parked on clay st. alongside the restaurant. not sure if it's a coincidence or the food is being prepped at breads. the name of the truck was easily recognizable but i can't remember it now.

        2 Replies
        1. The 2 times I have been once a few years ago in Berkeley and once a year or so ago in Oakland ( on a friends insistence) I found the food to be less than mediocre at best.
          I think that the local understanding and standards of Indian food has been getting more sophisticated in the last few years.
          So I think they are empty because they are not very good.
          If they served a great product the quantity and price lose some of their import and people that are looking quality, taste and authenticity would go.

          1 Reply
          1. My experience at BOI is the fresh naan is excellent but the dishes were not. I had the Coorgi pork in the Oakland location and was looking forward to it but it was dry, tough and a bit bland. I think it was over-marinated. The other stuff seemed okay but not great, esp at the prices. They probably do get more business during lunch given the area.

            Agree that the level of sophistication for Indian food has risen especially in the South Bay, Fremont and PA/MV.

            1. Interesting. So issues with both food quality and price.

              On both, since my perception is pretty different, I'm curious what the points of comparison are. Other than Vik's (which I love), who does better Indian/South Asian in the East Bay? Or do you have to go south to get it? I have found especially few options if you want something beyond the standard curry house offerings.

              And pricewise, $8 for veggie dishes, $10 for your standard cubed-meat-in-sauce dishes, and $3 for breads seems comparable to other full service Indian/South Asian and lower than other cuisines. Where prices do seem higher is on individually prepared proteins like the pork roast, kebabs, and fish filets.

              29 Replies
              1. re: fatty_mouthfeel

                Indus Village at University and San Pablo is very good. I prefer it to Vik's. 90% of the menu is under $10 bucks, $1 for breads, veggie plates in $5-6 range, lamb chops $10. I remember getting a combo plate for $6.50 that could serve two people, kabob, chana masala, basmati rice and naan. Been there with 4 people total and the bill came out to be under $25 and there was a lot of food. Very well prepared, light touch. Usually never a wait but usually close to full. A lot of people like Kabana close by, also Halal.

                  1. re: Mission

                    I didn't get Vik's in its prime and/or old location or 10 years ago. Just didn't think it was that good.

                    1. re: ML8000

                      I hear you!

                      Ive been to Vik's about 10 times over the years...through all their small location changes "upgrades" and minimalist cafeteria stylings.

                      And never once walked away saying
                      "That was really good Indian food at a great value"

                      I wish I had a samosa for every person who said that the food was so "great and inexpensive"

                      Even ten years ago it took $10 bucks to fill you up for lunch!

                      Plus the parking is always dreadful with Bezerkely Parking nazi's circling like vultures!

                      El Paso

                      1. re: Mission

                        Vik's was the only place to get chaat back in the early 90s. I don't think, actually, that has changed. There's not many good, authentic chaat places north of Fremont. Actually, I don't know if there are any??

                        Once you have the recipes down for chaat (good chutneys, spiced chickpeas etc.)...it's kind of hard to mess up. I've always enjoyed the chaat at Vik's.

                    2. re: Mission

                      Vik's is better than ever. The larger kitchen in the new space let them add some more dishes. $10 would be considerably more than I usually spend there.


                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                        Robert (or any other Vik fan) I will give Vik's another try this week or next....tell me whats best to order to get out of there for "considerably" less than $10 for lunch?

                        Perhaps I have just been ordering wrong?

                        All Veggy is fine, but not required.

                        And a little bit of variety and assorted flavors would be nice,

                        I will report back!

                        1. re: Mission

                          I agree with Robert: Ajanta is the best Indian resto certainly in the Berkeley/Oakland area, but possibly one of the Bay Area's finest -- especially considering the dedication to representing diverse regional dishes of the country, and their commitment to organics as much as possible.

                          Viks Chaat Corner is what its name states: a chaat restaurant. It ain't a place to go for tandoori this or that. It's best at Indian street food: puris, dosas, etc. I especially love some of the new-ish items on the menu, like the sea bass. Spicing is excellent. Cooked to a tender perfection. When I'm lucky, they have an amazing lamb biryani. And I'm addicted to their dokla (kinda like corn bread but made from garbanzo bean flour served with a yummy dip replete with green chile and other goodies).

                          As an aside, their chai is among the best in the Bay Area, tho that might vary, depending on the batch.

                          1. re: escargot3

                            "lamb biryani"...That's kinda funny...but sad.

                            That's what I had two weeks ago for $7.50 plus tax.

                            It was crap.

                            It was just some old lamb mixed with a dark cruel called curry and served with some bad rice.

                            I was out over $8 for garbage the size of my fist.

                          2. re: Mission

                            Looking forward to your report and what to order.

                              1. re: chefj

                                Yes, I would like to know too?

                                What specific dishes makes them great?

                                What do people order when they go for lunch?

                          3. re: ML8000

                            I'll try Indus Village. I like Kabana, especially for roast meats, but find the atmosphere beyond "endearingly seedy" and into depressing territory.

                            1. re: fatty_mouthfeel

                              I was going to mention Kabana, but it really only works for people who don't worry about the cleanliness of the restaurant .. . .

                              1. re: fatty_mouthfeel

                                Indus Village (Pakistani) is great, best of the cheap Pakistani places. And they replaced those horribly uncomfortable pretty chairs. I'd eat there all the time if they stayed open later.

                              2. re: ML8000

                                Vik's is good for one thing and that is Chaat. I find their other offering lackluster as well. Even the Chaat has good days and bad days.

                              3. re: fatty_mouthfeel

                                I think Flavors of India (on College, right by the Oakland-Berkeley border at Alcatraz) is pretty good. I am not really an Indian food enthusiast, so I couldn't say to what style adhere, but everything is well executed to my palate. Nothing too heavy (which I often feel about Indian food), and good flavours.

                                1. re: eethan

                                  This thread makes me really glad I am not in the restaurant business. I've been to the original Breads on Sacramento many times since they opened, though admittedly not often recently. I also go to Vic's and Indus Village fairly often. Indus is probably my favorite, but I love all three, and I can't believe people are complaining that Breads is expensive and Vic's lousy. I could find things to complain about at any of them, but I consider myself lucky to live so close to all three.

                                  1. re: TopoTail

                                    I'm with you.

                                    I've been to Vik's, Kabana, Chaat Cafe, BOI and Udupi Palace many times over the years and consider myself so lucky to live here with all these great options to choose from. My daughter who went off to Montreal -- hardly hicksville -- understands our bounty too.

                                    BOI does come in at a slightly higher price point than many other comparable places. Not by much, but a bit. The explanation I most often hear is they more carefully source their ingredients than other places, which is plausible to me.

                                2. re: fatty_mouthfeel

                                  If you go South you will have many more options.
                                  For Eastbay Ajanta is my pick.
                                  They are a higher price point then you stated but only by a few dollars and the atmosphere and quality make up for it..
                                  They rotate the dishes that are not in the "popular Standards" sections which means you will see some dishes that you may not know and are not norther Indian which is a big plus in my book. If he is there ask Lachu for suggestions, he loves food and is happy to help.

                                  1. re: chefj

                                    Ajanta for sure if you order the rotating dishes. Every one I've had has been excellent and it's all I order there anymore.

                                    1. re: chefj

                                      Ajanta's great, another place I'd go more often if they were open later.

                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        I hear you there.
                                        Most week end are out for me too because it is packed, glad for Lachu but no good for me.

                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                            Yes, but am not usually thinking that far ahead when heading out for Indian.

                                    2. re: fatty_mouthfeel

                                      been to indus and vik's. did a tour of solano avenue - ajanta's, cafe raj, house of curries, khana peena, everest cafe. and taste of himilayas in gourmet ghetto.

                                      Indus village stands out to me in overall quality and value. However, perhaps not relevant to your question, everest cafe had the best service.

                                      i wont comment too much on which of those listed above i would not recommend because my sample sizes for some of those restaurants are fairly small..but, i personally would try the other restaurants again except for house of curries.

                                    3. anyone been to himalayan flavors? read an article about how they were doing bhutanese food....

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. Breads of India really did have some great breads and decent food very early on. Then they tried to open Zaika on Shattuck. It took them forever - maybe permit problems, maybe contractor issues, maybe both - and it bombed. It was higher-end Indian food in a fancier dining room, and people just wouldn't pay for it.

                                        We loved Zaika - the rack of lamb was absolutely incredible! - but they closed in less than two years. I think the financial loss really took the heart out of the Breads/India owners. It didn't help when they had the same delay issues trying to open the Oakland location. My spouse finally tried it a year ago, and said it was okay, but nowhere near as good as BI was originally.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: tre2012

                                          Is the Zaika on University not connected?

                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                            No, I don't believe the newest Zaika, which didn't open until several years after the original Breads/Zaika closed, is related to BI. If you go to BI's website, although they still include the rave review about Zaika from way back in 2001, it is NOT listed in the locations with the other three BI restaurants.