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.
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.
Rockridge has long been established as one of the city’s most desirable, affluent areas. And with popular, gourmet restaurants such as Oliveto Restaurant & Cafe, Wood Tavern, and À Côté, it boasted the dining scene to match. But as the rest of the city’s dining scene exploded in recent years—Plum in Uptown! Commis on Piedmont Avenue! Bocanova in Jack London Square!—the grand dame of Oakland neighborhoods was starting to seem a little, well, stale in comparison.
If Oakland is a city filled with industrious dreamers, then John Streit and Bradford Earle are visionaries of the culinary elite. When Da House of Suds Laundromat closed in late 2011, vacating a prime corner of real estate in Oakland’s Mosswood neighborhood (or, as of late, aka the Jewel Box area, so-called for its gem-named streets such as Ruby, Opal, and Emerald), Streit saw an opportunity that others may have considered a bit unrealistic.
The East Bay has always been a haven for beer lovers, whether they’re sipping pints from the source at Linden Street Brewery in Jack London Square, checking out the facilities at Drake’s Brewery in San Leandro, or exploring the selections at The Trappist and Beer Revolution. But those are just drops in the pint glass compared to the torrent of new craft-beer purveyors that have begun to arrive since early fall.
Umami Burger, after taking over Los Angeles, strategically began to expand the empire. San Francisco and New York were musts. But Oakland?
Ask bar manager Jay Crabb at Berkeley’s BUILD Pizzeria what’s in his off-menu cocktail the Amalfi Coast, and he’ll say: St. George Botanivore gin, Aperol, Barolo Chinato, lemon juice, and house-made grapefruit shrub.
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.
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.
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.