It seems as though restaurateur/chef Charlie Hallowell can do no wrong. When he started his Italian gem, Pizzaiolo, in Temescal in the summer of 2005, it quickly became a word-of-mouth sensation, filled to overflowing every night, even when it didn’t have an outside sign announcing its location.
Where does chef Kyle Itani of Oakland’s Hopscotch restaurant get his Duroc pork? From the same company that supplies Charlie Hallowell of Oakland’s Pizzaiolo with beef, Matthew Accarino of San Francisco’s SPQR with duck, and Sarah Kirnon of Oakland’s Miss Ollie’s with chicken.
Managing a restaurant empire is hard enough work without adding in a regular commute, as Oakland-centric chef-entrepreneurs like James Syhabout, Chris Pastena, and Alexeis Filipello can attest. This may be why, even though San Francisco is just a Bay Bridge trip away, many East Bay restaurateurs haven’t made the leap to expand there—and why the same goes for SF-based empire-builders opening East Bay spots (Daniel Patterson excepted). But as Oakland’s food scene continues to gain traction (and San Francisco real estate prices continue to skyrocket), the East Bay is seeing more glimpses of manifest destiny from the San Francisco restaurant community.
Park Street, Alameda’s main drag, has a remarkably high concentration of ethnic food options: four Japanese restaurants, three Thai restaurants, two Mexican, and, well, you get the idea. Besides just offering a plethora of dining choices for adventurous foodies, perhaps the best part about having all these great options within a few-block radius is that the food is often as affordable as it is delicious. Here’s our guide to Alameda’s ethnic eats from $1 through $10.
When A16 debuted in San Francisco’s Marina District in 2004, it was an immediate hit and, nearly 10 years later, it remains one of the region’s top-rated restaurants. History repeated itself in June when A16 Rockridge opened on College Avenue in Oakland. From the get-go, seats have been in high demand in the splendidly remodeled dining room, in the bar/lounge (slightly more integrated into the overall space than when Hudson and Garibaldi’s dwelled there) and at the semicircular counter around the wood-fired pizza oven. You may have thought the East Bay didn’t need another eclectic Italian restaurant with a wood-fired pizza oven. The crowds say you would have been wrong.
To the casual observer, the sudden arrival of Pennsylvania upstart Jules Thin Crust on College Avenue earlier this year—directly across the street from Zachary’s, the East Bay’s longtime deep dish purveyor—may have seemed like the opening salvo in an all-out war for the hearts and minds of Rockridge pizza connoisseurs. But according to co-owner Heather Clapp, its presence is not intended as a bold challenge to the kingdom of Zach’s.
We do Mexican cuisine a disservice when we dismiss it as delicious but simplistic and spanning only a slender spectrum whose entire contents we know like the backs of our burrito-hugging hands.
Onigiri are a traditional Japanese snack—a handful of rice encases a savory filling, with a seaweed wrapping for easy transport. They’re common, at least in Japan, where every convenience store sells them. But onigiri made from almost exclusively local ingredients? That’s what makes Oakland catering business Peko-Peko’s onigiri unique.
Love fried chicken? How about lick-your-fingers-clean barbecue ribs? If you were nodding your head (and no doubt you were), then you may want to take a seat at Grease Box, a tiny cafe on Stanford Street that serves up homemade Southern favorites, including buttery breads, crispy potpies, and fork-tender brisket.
You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone as passionate about ice cream as Scott Whidden, the Oakland born and raised masterblender at Fentons Creamery and Restaurant. He’s talking about cream; he’s talking about dairy. He’s talking about layers: of flavor, of contrast, of crunch versus creamy, and of bitter versus sweet.