Dining Guide Updates


Updated Alameda Listing

C’era Una Volta

ITALIAN It’s easy to pretend you’re in Tuscany when you step into this upscale Redwood Square enoteca and ristoranti run by Cheryl Principato and chef Rudy Duran, who put a premium on taking care of their patrons. On a recent Friday night at prime time for dinner, we lingered over a melts-in-the-mouth fish special, shared bites of delicious veal, sopped our soup with aromatic bread, and enjoyed a hearty pasta-sausage dish, though we were very tempted to order the salmon and the pork loin. A bottle of one of C’era Una Volta’s fine Italian wines, good service from a server whose Italian seemed impeccable, and nonstop conversation with our companions made for memorable evening. Such a pleasurable dining experience means return visits for lunch and/or brunch are definitely on the horizon. Closed Mon. Dinner only on Tue.-Thu.; serves lunch, brunch, dinner Fri.-Sun. Credit Cards Accepted, Beer and/or Wine, Reservations Accepted, Wheelchair Accessible $–$$


New Berkeley Listing

Easy Creole

SOUTHERN & SOUL FOOD  This casual order-at-the-counter gumbo hub does spicy Cajun—and in many cases vegan—stews that are easy to like. Consider the Tofu Ropa, a play on ropa vieja, featuring tender peppers, sweet tomatoes, and fresh beancurd simmered velvety-soft. It’s Southern and it isn’t, like Easy’s red beans and shrimp that are curried. That is to say, the food here is Southern—by way of South Berkeley. Co-owners Jess McCarter and Grant Gooding put it this way: “Creole. Cajun. Kind of.” Along with Southern classics such as jambalaya, chicken Creole, hot links, and drunken crawfish, you might also find—depending on the day—Southwestern pozole, Jamaican jerked poultry, Cuban ropa vieja, Thai-Creole curry, north-south Manhattan maque choux, and smooth, creamy, banjos-on-the-Volga mushroom stroganoff plus vegan and vegetarian dishes, too, with free tasting samples encouraged. In spirit and provenance, these (usually peppery) dishes are as swirlingly, thrillingly disparate as New Orleans itself. Yet a certain similarity somehow pervades. Look for the sign that says, “Not Ming’s Kitchen Anymore.” That’s the place. Serves lunch and dinner Mon.-Sat. and Sun. 1761 Alcatraz Ave., 510-858-5063. www.EasyCreole.com

Credit Cards Accepted, Wheelchair Accessible, $–$$


New Berkeley Listing

Farm Burger

BURGER Founded in Decatur, Ga., Farm Burger is among several competing burger-based fast-casual groups with Bay Area outposts known for a particular signature. Farm Burger, where the juicy burgers ooze caramelized onions and white cheddar cheese, hangs its hat on grass-fed, dry-aged, house-ground beef patties, locally sourced and affordably priced. The beef comes from Niman Ranch; other patty options include chicken, pastured pork, and vegan; the latter is based mainly on Chico-grown Llano Seco Rancho heirloom beans. Farm Burgers offers daily changing “blackboard” burgers, or one can build a burger with free toppings and $1 and $2 add-ons. Stack a patty with roasted garlic, iceberg lettuce, grainy mustard, mayo, red onion, house pickles, fresh tomato, red-bean chili, feta, and cured lardo, and it still costs less than a single cocktail at Flora. This menu is deeply, defiantly Dixie, offering regional standbys such as sweet-potato hushpuppies, chicken pot pie fritters, and fried chicken livers, not to mention boiled peanuts. Farm Burger isn’t called Farm Burger just for fun. Pictures of actual purveyors adorn its walls, complete with written explanations of how, where, and why each such farmer farms. Serves lunch and dinner daily. 1313 Ninth St., 510-705-1485. www.FarmBurger.net Credit Cards Accepted, Beer and/or Wine, Wheelchair Accessible, $–$$


Updated Oakland Listing — Uptown

Xolo Taqueria​

MEXICAN  This is Californified Mexican street food, where the tacos, burritos, and bacon-jalapeño-mustard-bean dogs give the Mission District a run for its money. Facing the historic Fox Theatre, Xolo is the über-casual, hipster-haven branch of the Doña Tomás restaurant group helmed by East Bay entrepreneurs Thomas Schnetz and Donna Savitsky. It’s their version of a Mission taqueria, where toppings are piled high onto tiny tortillas. But they also toss in a little invention and fusion, like the Danger Dog: a crazy-messy bacon-clad frankfurter dressed with mustard, mayonnaise, pinto beans, pickled jalapeños, and cheese—wrapped in a tortilla. As for tacos, diners can get hongos, vampiro, and batter-fried camarones, all of which are made better with a few squirts from the lime wedges that accompany nearly every dish. Try this strategy: Go for happy hour where you can get two tacos and a beer for under eight bucks. Open 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Mon.-Tue., 9 a.m.-11 p.m. Wed.-Thu., 9 a.m.-midnight Fri.-Sat.; closed Sun. 1916 Telegraph Ave., 510-986-0151. www.XoloTaqueria.com Credit Cards Accpeted, Beer and/or Wine, Wheelchair Accessible, $-$$


New Oakland Listing — Uptown


CALIFORNIA  You won’t find a newish restaurant in Oakland more refreshingly free of conceptual pretense than Mockingbird, a modest enterprise on the western edge of Uptown. With a culinary lineage worthy of world-class humblebrag from wife-and-husband chef/owners Melissa Axelrod and William Johnson, who paid their culinary dues at high-profile San Francisco eateries, Mockingbird offers a homey but refined menu: Zuni-like roasted half chicken, steak frites, pork sugo, Spanish-influenced seafood fideos, and orecchiette pasta. We were impressed by the salads, duck liver mousse on lavash, and Brussels sprouts, and we can recommend the chicken pot pie, mini cheeseburgers, and seared pork tenderloin arrived. Ingredients and combinations change as frequently as a mockingbird’s tune, based on what Axelrod, Johnson, and Casey Mondry, who takes the lead in the kitchen, secure from the market and suppliers. Order just about any of the Italian-, Mediterranean-, and French-tweaked preparations of red meat, seafood, or foul, without hesitation. It’s a BYOB place, which significantly lowers the total bill. Serves dinner Tue.–Fri. 5:30 p.m.–10 p.m. 1745 San Pablo Ave., 510-290-0331. www.MockingbirdOakland.com Credit Cards, Reservations Accepted, Wheelchair Accessible, $-$$

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