One Tasty Day: Oakland
There is so much incredible food in the world. We use this blog to introduce you to some of the greatest food stories we come across. One Tasty Day is a choose-your-own adventure style dream itinerary for the best breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack in a city. See what we recommend, choose your adventure and enjoy!
For our first One Tasty Day, we wanted to start in our own backyard: Oakland. The San Francisco Bay is full of incredible micro-communities and frankly it would be easy for a visitor to overlook the beauty that is Oakland. That would be a mistake. Oakland California is a beautiful city filled with cultures and character. From Piedmont to Jack London Square, Downtown to Grand Lake, Oakland is full of incredible can't miss experiences and incredible tastes.
Tru Gourmet Dim Sum
Grand Lake Farmer's Market: Lake Park Ave, Oakland, CA 94610 (Saturdays only)
California is the land of farmer's markets. The produce is fresh, the people are chill, and the sun is shining. If you are in Oakland on a Saturday, the Dim Sum stand at the Grand Lake farmer's market is not to be missed. What started out as a single stall at the quaint market, is now a large on site production of some of the best pork siu mai, bao buns and assorted dumplings on this side of the Pacific. Try to get to the market early (it opens at 9am) and head straight for dim sum. Order a variety of all of the things that look delicious to you (if you are unsure, order the house assortment). Take your plate to the common area of the market, find a seat on the concrete wall, soak in the sun, and listen to local musicians while people in burlap do their weekly grocery shopping at the stalls around you. After you are finished, enjoy the wildlife and gardens as you walk around Lake Merritt (a 3 mile paved walking trail).
Must Try: Shrimp Blossoms
303 Oakland Ave, Oakland, CA 94611 | www.chicaoakland.com
Oakland is full of diversity and the cuisine definitely reflects it. At one point, Oakland belonged to Mexico and at another point to Spain. Thankfully, Spanish and Mexican culture stuck around. Chica Oakland is a hidden gem up the quaint Oakland Ave that serves up a small but delicious menu of Mexican breakfast dishes. The small restaurant only has about 8 tables inside (and three on the sidewalk if the weather cooperates). The food at Chica is unexpected. We discovered Chica shortly after returning from a trip to Mexico City and Oaxaca and we were beyond thrilled to find such delicious Chilaquiles and Huevos Rancheros just up the hill from our neighborhood. Chica is only open from 10-3pm (closed on Mondays) so the next time you are looking for a breakfast full of flavor, head up the hill to Chica.
Must Try: Huevos Rancheros with Carnitas
Aburaya: Japanese Fried Chicken
362 17th St, Oakland, CA 94612 | www.aburayaoakland.com
There are few better signs of a good restaurant than a line out the door. It is rare to walk by this downtown Oakland restaurant and not see a line of hungry people waiting for a box of their delicious Japanese-style fried chicken. The concept is simple. You start by having a short conversation with your stomach "how hungry are you, stomach?" Then you choose a four piece or an eight piece and one of their delicious spices or sauces. They have four dry spices and four sauces. Finally, you always order the bowl that comes with rice and a delicious salad. The space is small and the chicken theme fills the walls with quirky Oakland character. This delicious spot down 17th street is a can't miss for a quick meal while you are out and about in the East Bay's greatest city.
Must Try: Karachi Honey Bowl (beware, it is very wasabi style spicy)
Kamdesh: Afghani Food
Lake Park Ave, Oakland, CA 94610. Saturday 9am - 2pm
If you, like us prior to our visit to Kamdesh, have never had Afghani food, then you are in for a flavorful surprise. First to say, Kamdesh is immaculately clean, artfully decorated, and operated by an incredible team of people. We were pleasantly surprised even before we had our first bite of food. The plates at Kamdesh are large and filled with flavors. From sweet to savory, the menu has everything. Each kebab is perfectly cooked with a charred outside and a buttery inside. The rice is full of flavor and the food will not disappoint. The space is large and great for big groups or just you and a friend.
Must Try: Squash (Kadu) Borani
Shandong: Chinese Noodles
328 10th St #101, Oakland, CA 94607 | www.shandongrestaurantsf.com
Chinese communities have a rich and long history in the bay that goes back to the mid 1800's. Many left serious poverty and hunger for a chance at a new life across the Pacific. They worked in terrible conditions to build the infrastructure that is used today by people who are designing the technology of the 22nd century. This history has led to a not only a thriving Chinatown in San Francisco, but also a flourishing Chinatown in Oakland. It can be hard to filter through the crowds of Chinese restaurants stacked one right next to each other and the quality of them can range from pretty terrible all the way up to Shandong. If it weren't for the constant crowd of people standing outside the dumpling window, the restaurant would be completely unassuming. Large tables, fluorescent lights, and a cacophony of different restaurant sounds (we aren't recommending Shandong for the environment - though it is worth experiencing). When you arrive, head straight for the clipboard hanging outside the door. Get your name on the list and stand your ground (the wait is worth it). While you patiently wait for them to call your party, you can watch them making the handmade noodles that you will be soon be slurping.
Must Try: Sesame Paste Handmade Noodles
Shinmai: Minimalist Japanese
1825-3 San Pablo Ave, Oakland, CA 94612 | www.shinmaioakland.com
Shinmai is hidden. There is literally no sign. Use your google maps to find the entrance on San Pablo. A little hunting is worth it. Shinmai is a dark and sexy izakaya - a Japanese tavern. The space is beautiful - decorated with tongue-in-cheek versions of traditional Japanese murals. We like to sit at the counter seats around the open kitchen. The service there is excellent and the view into the restaurant's inner workings is very entertaining. But the real pleasure is the food - a luxurious (but not pretentious) take on the everyday items of a typical Izakaya. They have fried rice but it's elevated with dungeness crab. They have ramen but it's refined, deeply flavorful and surprising light. In true Japanese fashion, ingredients are treated simply and thoughtfully with attention to detail that would be fussy in a different setting. But here the vibe remains casual, fun and exciting. Try oyster shooters, anything raw and savory takoyaki donuts. Also, dive into their thoughtful list of Sake - it's the perfect fuel to really bring your dining experience to life. Shinmai makes you want to come back again and again.
Must Try: Sashimi: rotating fish based on catch and season
The Punchdown: Natural Wine
1737 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612 | www.punchdownwine.com
Wine in Northern California is everywhere. Most of this country's best and oldest wineries are a short drive away. The experience of vineyards, wine cellars and drinking wine is very accessible and therefore a much bigger part of daily life than somewhere like Philadelphia - one of the country's top beer cities. Happily for us, people seem to care about "good" wine a lot more here. There are countless little wine bars all over Oakland that specialize in various different styles, regions, prices and levels of pretension. Our favorite happens to also be the closest. The Punchdown is a bar specializing in "natural" wine. Natural wine means a lot of different things these days. Here it means - the funkier the better. We like this shop b/c their selections are always changing. Each week the list of 20+ wines by the glass is mostly different. They also have really creative flights where you can mix and match all different colors, styles and countries. You are bound come across at least one wine you've never had before. They also have a great retail wine cave - go in an pick out any bottle to take home. If you want to drink it at the bar, that's okay too! There's a $10 corkage fee. For food, they offer a simple list of things that are wine friendly - cheese, charcuterie, olives and amazing Portuguese tinned fish. If you love wine, you must visit.
Must Try: A wine flight full of wine you've never tried before
Humphry Slocombe: Ice Cream
2335 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94612 | www.humphryslocombe.com
Ice Cream is as much a staple in our lives as good coffee and fine wine. Needless to say, we were in love when we first wrapped our mouth around the miniature sample spoons at Humphry Slocombe. This Bay Area staple now has three locations. Their Oakland location is in a renovated shipping container parked in an innovation hub called The Hive. Humphry Slocombe is known for bringing serious kitchen ingredients to the sub zero world. They bring to ice cream what chefs have been bringing to gourmet cuisine around the world for decades. They have managed to play with all five tastes - bitter, salty, sour, sweet and even umami makes and appearance when they feature their candy cap mushrooms. Admire the flavors, step up to the window, sample whatever you'd like and order your favorite. Be adventurous. One more pointer - when you are confronted with the marvelous medley of Humphry Slocombe flavors, it is easy to overlook their toppings. However, you will definitely want to top that new flavor you found with toasted marshmallow fluff or a generous drizzle of brown butter caramel.
Must Try: A scoop (or two - no judgement) of Secret Breakfast with Brown Butter Caramel