Recently Visited Restaurants

Dining out in Alameda, Berkeley, and Downtown Oakland.


Lola’s Chicken Shack

American, 1417 Park St., Alameda, 510-521-4488

Umami, the Japanese notion of savory as the fifth taste designation, makes its way into the Lola’s literature to describe its main thing: chicken. The menu offers hand-breaded tenders alone, on Semifreddi’s French rolls, in flour tortillas, or in salads, plus a few other soups, sides, and desserts. The tenders here (classic, signature, or grilled) start out being marinated in koji, or fermented rice malt, an of-the-moment trendy enzyme-rich tenderizer, and then they’re meant to be paired with any one of 18 homemade sauces and perhaps tempting sides like fries, side salad, slaw, or “Lola Mac.” The drill at Lola’s, run by Alamedans Mark, Nancy, and Ryan Rogers, is ordering at the counter, fast-food like. It gets super busy with the high-school crowd, but diners can call ahead their orders. Serves lunch and dinner daily. CC WC $


Mama Papa Lithuania Restaurant and Tea House

Lithuanian, 1241 Park St., Alameda, 510-522-4100

A taste of the Baltics lands on Park Street, adding depth to Alameda’s international culinary field. This congenial, cozy tavern, where a wrought-iron chandelier adds class and sturdy straight-backed chairs signal comfort amid the exposed bricks and wooden-planked walls, has won an instant following that’s in love with the hearty, simple food. The family running the restuarnt, owner Vaidas Sukys, a real charmer, and his mother, Damute Sukiene, the chef, know their way around an Eastern European kitchen. Potatoes, beets, minced meats, mushrooms, cabbage, and pickled things turn up in the homey soups, salads, crepes, pancakes, dumplings, rolls, stews, goulash, and specials. Herbal teas, Svyturio beer, rye bread, and a few sweet treats complete the experience. Serves lunch and dinner daily. CC Wine/Beer R(6 or more) WC $$



Japanese, 1830 Fourth St., Berkeley, 510-845-8100

Shotaro “Sho” Kamio, formerly of Yoshi’s fame, strikes out on his own in the intimate digs long inhabited by the beloved O Chame, with Iyasare filling it with charm, refinement, and elevated cuisine. It’s hipper, livelier, and louder, but when the food—any food—arrives, all attention turns to the plate, which reflects Kamio’s upbringing in Japan’s rural northeastern Tohoku region. The Iyasare dinner menu has three fanciful sections: raw, cured, salad; roasted, tempura, steamed; and sumi grilled, sauté, pan roasted. Lunch is a more down-home affair and features familiar Japanese-restaurant offerings. Everything calls us back. Feeling well taken care of is an appropriate hallmark of Kamio’s solo venture. The restaurant name came in compassionate response to the devastating 2011 Tohoku earthquake. Iyasare means “to be healed,” and Kamio’s culinary vision and genius are as much about nurturing as they are about innovation. Serves lunch and dinner daily. CC Wine/Beer WC $$–$$$


Molcajete Cocina Mexicana

Mexican, 1743 Webster St., Oakland, 510-466-6652

Manual Torres, the owner of this off-the-beaten-path cocina, professes a deep love of Mexican salsa as the inspiration for his quaint restaurant, and, indeed, the many salsas and sauces here—hand-mashed in the molcajete, the Mexican version of mortar and pestle—shine in the dishes. From the empanadas, sopes, and flautas to the chilaquiles, enchiladas, and rellenos, these offerings are fresh, artful presentations that taste like a bit of real Mexico. Masa cakes, chilies, chicken tinga, cochinita pibil, plantains, and nopal are among the ingredients that make their way onto plates with mole, red, and green sauces, all definite taste sensations. Delicious agua fresca, too. Serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner Tue.–Sat. and breakfast and lunch daily. CC R WC $–$$



American, 300 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Ste. 150, Oakland, 510-817-4463

Eddie Blyden is the chef behind this latest burger hotspot on Frank H. Ogawa Plaza. It’s a big place, perfect for the office gang, and the historic mural by Tobias Freccia is a definite conversation starter and carrier. The main attraction, duh, is the burger, which arrives on a soft Cross-custom challah bun. Like the burger, the Crosscuban and the fried-chicken sandwich boast loyalists as well. Salads, soups, daily specials as well as three kids of fries—naked, spiced sweet potato with lime sour cream, and dirty—and interesting toppings complete the menu at this bustling downtown outpost. Serves lunch daily and dinner on First Fridays until 7 p.m. CC R WC $–$$

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