Downtown Oakland Lunch Spots [split from Stag's Lunchette thread]
- Melanie Wong Feb 28, 2013 11:50 PM
Just wanted to say I'm pleased to see a post from you after too long a silence. Missed your voice. Has Stag's taken all your lunch money or are there other spots you'd like to recommend?
Since you asked and since there are loads of new options – here’s my up to date roundup of downtown Oakland lunch options
Looney’ BBQ – the service was inept but the food was generally pretty good
Bakesale Betty’s – was nice to have around, but I’m over that sandwich - too bready, too bland
Cervantes sandwiches on 17th – Great people, solid sandwiches out of a dive. I miss them.
3 new restaurants in the old Housewives market in Old Oakland
Cosecha – I’ve tried a few times but the portions are small and the food under seasoned/under spiced. Atmosphere is a weird combination of sterile and seedy
Rosemund Grill - Everything I’ve tried has been really good, from oddly eucalyptus tasting baked beans, to a nice salad, to good to great sausage. The fresh lamb was SOO good, but it's gone now. Service is slow.
Miss Ollie’s – Boy do I want to like this place. First they took Goat Curry off the menu before I got to try it (I heard good things). The baked pork was an ENORMOUS portion of completely inedible pork. Seriously it was beyond beef jerky texture and 3 inches thick - really weird. Oxtails - Tough and very little flavor. Lamb Patty appetizer is very good but pricey. Salt Fish and Ackee – OK but not amazing. I guess the fried chicken is best here but I haven’t tried. Service is well meaning but inept.
La Calle – Broadway and 10th – Mustard on a Torta?! Never again.
Rio California – I still go just about every week for Fejoada (Wed – Thu). It’s still always great
Café 15 – I still love this place but hardly go anymore. So mad I missed the Spanish style tripe a few weeks back (it’s rarely on the menu because it doesn’t sell, I think he does it only because I keep asking). The salads are still the best around but the menu is getting a bit stale.
Café 817 – Again, an old favorite that I don’t visit much anymore. Always love the salad trio when they have it.
New Karibbean City – I still like this place – it’s just so bizarre to grab lunch there in a huge dark empty bar while the surly cook sulks off to the shabby kitchen to assemble whatever random meal components they happen to have today. Will there be festivals? A salad with s weird creamy dressing or no dressing at all? Will it be today’s goat curry or yesterday’s oxtails? Whatever you walk away with it’ll be pretty damn good.
Hawker Fare – the Poached Chicken (Kao Mun Gai) is phenomenal. Other dishes are OK, but it’s hard not to order that every time.
Antojeria Mexicana El Chilar – well prepared Mexican food with almost no flavor. Consistently disappointing
Ike’s Lair – I don’t get it. If you are going to tout your bread give it a crust. This is Subway with a hipster veneer.
Stag Lunchette – The sweet potato hot sauce is the condiment I’ve been waiting for all my life. Melinda’s branch scotch bonnet sauce was close but, man! Citrusy, spicy just a hint of salt – it’s hard not to put it on everything. The sides are great. Kale (with either grapefruit or pomegranate seeds) is so simple and so good. Sandwiches are mostly all great but my favorites have been Coke Braised Beef, Rueben (both the pastrami and surprisingly the non meat version), Crab Roll, Sesame Tofu Bahn Mi, Anatto steak with runny fried egg, Pork Sugo…. Is it lunch time yet?
Telegraph – Pretty good sausages and a nice beer patio
Commonwealth Café – Limited menu but everything is pretty good Pub food. Ploughman’s platter was upscale but nice, shepherd’s pie was bland, salads are well done.
The Wednesday food trucks on Clay Street came and went – Liba Falafel is the only one I’ll miss and that one just slightly.
The Thursday food trucks are still on 12th and Franklin – 510Burger is Okay I guess but food trucks seem sort of silly at this point don’t they?
I’ll add more as I think of them.
re: Melanie Wong
One thing I can say about Hawker fare is they may be having more consistency problems these days. I had a papaya salad there recently that was several levels of magnitude hotter than any time previous - So much so that my wife couldn’t eat it.
I liked it and everything else has been as good as ever.
I like that they were trying to recycle their take-out bowls too, although that system never really got organized and may not still be in place. Oh also they don’t always answer their phone for takeout but I don’t begrudge nice restaurants for doing that when they’re busy.
I very much agree with your assessment of Cafe 15! The food still tastes good to me, and I'm happy to go if others are, but I don't seek it out anymore -- tired of the menu after two years.
Miss Ollie's service was extremely slow.
It would be nice to do a new thread on Downtown Oakland area lunch options, since so much has opened / will be opening.
I have been there for lunch several times and once for dinner with a group of 5. While lunch was very good, the dinner experience was phenomenal. We ordered everything on the menu and ate family style. This format showcases the wide range of flavors, each dish was delicious and unique. I couldn't pick a favorite as I tasted each dish once, then twice, and then a third time.
For lunch my two favorite dishes were goat curry and also dungeness crab soup with dumplings.
I feel lucky Miss Ollie's opened in this neighborhood and will be returning repeatedly.
Belatedly responding to this (thanks for such a great run-down).
Betty's: agree re bread-y--I was ordering the fried chicken as a salad in response, but then the slaw was too vinegar-y w/out the bread--you're inspiring me to give it another go, ordering it as a sandwich, but eliminating HALF the bread. Stay tuned!
Cosecha: Agree that not everything shines. And agree that some of the portion sizes are small. But if you haven't tried them, her (well sized) salads are consistently out of this world (among the best salads around, I'd go out on a limb to say). Soup (also nice portion) very good. Ditto some of the specials (we got a great mole a while back for a carry-out dinner--large and delicious). The yam quesadilla (while small/pricey) is a lovely combo. And I kind of like the atmosphere--the mix of indoors/outdoors, kids running around--easy--I find we sit around, schmooze.
Commonwealth--agree re Ploughman's and shepherd's pie--probably showing my age, but we'd go back to try more (we're definitely fans of British grub), if the piped in music weren't so deafening.
re: sundeck sue
Yes, I second Sue's comments on Cosecha. My single favorite item that I eat on a weekly basis is their salad. I have a hard time going anywhere else for salad during lunch. My other favorites are their crispy tacos on Tuesdays and their cornbread on Wednesdays. Their quesadillas rock but I would need to order a side dish to be full.
Thank goodness I am not the only one who dislikes Ike's. At least Subway is somewhat healthy.
I am also a big big fan of Stag's. Best sandwiches in the area. There's a great variety to choose from, and the grab n go sandwiches have also wowed for $6. $6 is an amazing deal. Outside of Chinatown, the only other $6 lunch I have had is Rosamunde's. This week they had a brussel sprout salad that was similar to a Chinese chicken salad, it was perfect with the curry chicken sandwich.
Food trucks - I am over them. I will occasionally get a cupcake but the trucks haven't been changing their menus and I haven't felt the need to eat anything twice. Except for maybe the ricotta donuts at the comfort food themed truck.
I still do love Bakesale Betty's though and I am eagerly awaiting strawberry shortcake season.
re: Melanie Wong
My favorite from my days of visiting Rosamunde next door to the Toronado is the wild boar, and so it remains. I get sweet peppers, kraut and honey wasabi mustard for that one.
I also like the Nuernberger brats with grilled onion, kraut, regular mustard and, occasionally, curry ketchup. This is the only circumstance under which ketchup on a sausage is even to be contemplated. With curry ketchup,it works.
What I really like about Rosamunde is that there are two sausages to a roll, doubling the caramelized casing.
Interesting that Plus says there are 2 sausages to a roll. Spouse only received one. Is that because the Nurmberger is a skinnier sausage than the others, that they put two on a roll?
We didn't care for Rosamunde's. They were okay, but we like DiBrova better. I'll post our review of Rosamunde's separately to please the moderators.
DiBrova (Old Oakland Farmers' Market Fridays) has branched out their offerings of late, with several interesting combinations- I've enjoyed the "California Monte Cristo," a sausage (get the Polish) riding atop jack cheese (which melts with the residual heat of the sausage)and topped with mayo, kraut and jalapeno jam twice now.
They also have one with BBQ sauce and slaw, and another with kimchee and wasabi mustard.
Their soft, squishy rolls never did anything for me, but it somehow works with the "Monte Cristo."
Japanese goods purveyor Umami Mart brings in fantastic bento boxes from Peko Peko on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
I recently had the mother and child Riverdog Farm chicken karaage with soy-soaked egg, greens rice and chicken snowy cabbage. Everything was absolutely delicious, in ample portions, though it is on the pricey side for eating at one's desk ($15 or so) as I must (and it certainly exerts a powerful civilizing influence over one's desk). The box and presentation are really nice as well- the little plastic pig-shaped bottle of soy sauce and garlic is a particularly nice touch.
Today they're featuring gyudon, karaage, beef curry and a vegetarian option. The bentos are available beginning at noon.
Umami Mart began as part of the "pop up hood," and they recently secured a two-year lease.
Umami Mart, 815 Broadway:
Here's a pic of the gyudon:
This morning they tweeted thus:
"Special today! $7 gyudon. We'll have more bentos than usual so come hungry. 12pm at Umami Mart."
I arrived bang at the stroke of noon to find a line of 5 in front of me and they had already sold out except for 2 beef curry bentos.
I didn't stick around to ask what was up with that.
Carriage House, District’s takeout operation, is now open serving sandwiches, salads, soup and chowder and pizza.
I went during what turned out to be the soft open, and had 2 bocaditos (slider-sized sandwiches, braised oxtail and fried oyster) and a cup of clam chowder.
I’ll withhold comment on the bocaditos as there were a few kinks I chalk up to the soft open phase. The clam chowder was OK- well-seasoned with herbs, more generous with bacon than clams, not too many potatoes, and a slick of Tabasco on top.
The plantain chips (more like planks- sliced and fried lengthwise) and salsa they had out on a platter were very good ($2 side with the sandwiches is a great option). Coke and Pepsi hecho en Mexico and miniature Pietisserie pies are available. Seating is at the benches around the corner in front of District. Passing by another day, the pizza looked surprisingly good for a non-pie focused place.
I probably won’t get that particular combo again at the $13 toll, but will be back for the full-sized sandwiches (lamb meatball and fried chicken sound promising) in a few weeks once they’ve settled in.
11am-1:30 pm Monday-Friday. Full menu here:
re: Pius Avocado III
I had lunch at Ironside often when I worked in SF and the Carriage House features some items from Ironside's menu although not my favorite Ironside dishes.
I liked the lamb meatball sandwich and the fried oyster slider, although the slider was small and not a great value. The cucumber quinoa salad, a solid dish at Ironside, was soggy and bland at Carriage House. I will probably try it again in a month or two, but I don't think it will be as good as Stag's.
re: Pius Avocado III
I revisited Carriage House today and ordered the lamb meatball sandwich. A generous amount of plump meatballs in an interesting tomato sauce along with melted manchego were overflowing from a toasted baguette (mainly due to the way they cut the bread). The menu says it's charmoula, but there wasn't a hint of anything green in it. I'd get this again.
Sandwiches come with a small serving of quality lettuces, lightly and simply dressed.
I had been hearing about long wait times but with 3-4 people in line in front of me, and more waiting for their orders, it took only a reasonable 10 minutes for my order at peak lunchtime.
re: Pius Avocado III
The fried chicken sandwich is very, very good. Actually, maybe the best one I've had so far. I didn't love the tabasco honey on it and will ask them to leave it off next time.
I called in my order (during peak lunch hours) and it was ready in the few minutes it took for me to get there.
I had the fried chicken sandwich the other day. The chicken was flattened thigh meat, a far better choice than the usual boneless breast. It was fried well, with a crispy crust, juicy meat and not at all greasy. I found the Tabasco honey to be very much in the background and thus not at all a hindrance to the sandwich.
The dealbreaker was the slaw, which was so wet that watery liquid had flooded the bottom bun and pooled around the sandwich , which sat wallowing in sadness. The spill even compromised a fair portion of the salad. Despite being nicely toasted, the bottom bun was utterly sodden. Once I picked the sandwich up, I was committed- putting it down would lead to disaster. If not for that, I would’ve added a bit more Tabasco.
After the flood had passed, the slaw remaining on higher ground was quite good, with nice chunks of fresh red pepper. Once again, the menu description was puzzling- I have no clue why it was a “pickle slaw.”
I too called at the peak hour. My order was ready within a minute of my arrival from 3 blocks away.
I had another go at the fried chicken sandwich and it was indeed very, very good this time, with none of the wateriness I encountered the first time.
Have you asked them to hold the Tabasco honey? It seems to me it's incorporated in the chicken itself. I thought it went really well with their habanero hot sauce I added (I couldn't detect the Tabasco element to the honey).
I'll be getting this regularly.
re: Pius Avocado III
Do you have any idea what happened? I was looking forward to my Friday fried chicken sandwich a few weeks ago and was bummed when I couldn't call in - I kept hoping they were closed for the summer but I guess they're closed for good. Business seemed good every time I went.
A thread on downtown Oakland lunch spots must include some of the Chinatown restaurants! I have a few favorites to get us started:
Gum Kuo - the fastest takeout in the area. I like their wonton duck noodle soup, porridge, and made to order rice rolls.
Shan Dong - although I am a fan of their handmade noodles, eating an entire order makes me too sleepy so it's been a dinner-only restaurant
Shanghai restaurant - probably my favorite in the area for non-noodle non-BBQ dishes. They go easy on the salt and it is one of few restaurants that serves shredded pork with bamboo. I like their rice cakes, and I buy their frozen dumplings and frozen sesame rice balls regularly.
BC Deli - the Vietnamese sandwiches in Oakland aren't as good as the ones in the Tenderloin. But I think their shrimp spring rolls are better than anywhere else.
Kim Huong - their pho broth is good to the last drop. I also like their spicy bun bo hue.
Tay Ho - my favorite for Vietnamese with the best crispy crepe I have ever had. The list of great dishes at Tay Ho is very long. They serve my favorite bun rieu too. I have tried most of the broths for the noodle soups and they were all excellent. Even their fried rice was excellent, and I rarely order fried rice since I can make it at home.
And I almost forgot! Peony has a $15 Peking duck lunch special on Thursdays. It takes a while to come out, so it's tempting to fill up on dim sum dishes while you wait.
I'm really enjoying working in the area and exploring the new places. I won't overdo it on Stag's but it's pretty spectacular. The egg sandwich is great as well in the AM. I'll leave it at that. Some other regulars:
- Camber - new Asian "fusion" (people are still saying that!) spot on Telegraph near the Van Kleef. Modern feel, happy hour. It's heavily Thai with Cambodian and maybe even a few Indian touches. I've only had a few things. Their housemade chile sauce condiment is great. Think thai chimichurri. Rice vinegar, bird chiles, cilantro. I'd go back for business lunches but not for authenticity.
- Xolo - Dona Tomas/Flora folks' taqueria two doors from Flora. Al Pastor carved from a spit. Really great. I like the veg Posole and the soups quite a bit.
- Tea Here Now. This is a real gem for Oakland, and the Bay Area. An oasis on a gritty block. The owner may be one of the top five nice people I've ever met, and it's genuine not phony. Any neighborhood would be really lucky to have this spot. It is primarily a tea shop with a selection of over two dozen varieties - blacks, oolongs, greens, herbal. I take everyting on Yelp with a grain of salt, but it's telling that she only has 5-star reviews there. Healthy breakfast items and a few lunch items like quinoa and kale salad. Unscathed even by the crazy yelpers that knock a star or two off for having to wait in line for an extra minute or something little. As for the tea, I favor the Mountain Oolong, Persian Earl Grey and the Jasmine (not too floral). Great baked goods as well, sourced from several local startup east bay bakeries. If it sounds like I know a lot about the place it's because I'm there sometimes twice a day.
A branch of the SF Bissap Baobab has opened in the last month on 15th between Franklin and Webster in Oakland downtown / uptown. Just went for lunch with a few colleagues and it was excellent with good vegetarian choices. I had a rice plate with grilled tilapia in a coconut curry sauce. It was sweet rather than spicy. But they ahd a fabulous hot sauce to elevate the flavors.
Don't forget to ask for their amazing hot sauce!!
See the short menu here http://www.bissapbaobaboakland.com/