When it comes to cheap eats, there's no comparison: Oakland's budget food scene beats San Francisco's offerings across the board. We got on the BART and ate for days, focusing on savory bites for $5 or less that were especially satisfying—more than just a handful of popcorn or a well-made cookie. What we found was awesome: soulful Mexican comfort food, complex Sichuan creations, killer bánh mì, and of course, more than a few excellent tacos.
'Oakland' on Serious Eats
Here is your list of true beer essentials in San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley: the bars, restaurants, and breweries that curate the most epic beer menus, employ staff who bleed amber, and take the extra step with great food pairings or an ambience that makes you feel like you just warped to Brussels.
When we heard about the hand-rolled, freshly baked bagels coming out of Beauty's Bagel Shop, we jumped at the chance to pay a behind-the-scenes visit. So, waking before sunrise and venturing across the Bay Bridge, we slipped into the kitchen with the Oakland store's early morning bakers for a look at their step-by-step process (and some bonus lessons in bagel classification).
Hello, Slice'rs, allow us to introduce you to Slicer. This just-opened pie shop in Oakland creates low-key New York-style pies, but splurges on its toppings. We got a look behind the scenes at the pies they're creating in the this new joint.
Lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles...and maybe a squirt of mayo, mustard, or ketchup. The standard toppings will never cease to be tasty, but sometimes, you want a burger with a bit more personality. For those occasions, here are a dozen creatively-topped burgers that really work. Check out the slideshow to see all of the unique burger toppings.
After running a popular bakery in LA for twenty years, Mani Niall has opened his latest shop in Oakland. He hopes that Sweet Bar will make standard pastries special by using organic ingredients and offering a variety of gluten-free and vegan options that appeal to everyone.
Hopscotch's delicious, flavor-rich burger is accentuated by uniformly excellent toppings, but it's brought to a new level of beef-vana thanks to a slab of griddled tongue.
Downtown Oakland gets quiet on the weekends. The work week crowd, dispersed to Lake Merritt, Temescal, and Berkeley, leaves the streets more or less empty, and many of the restaurants closed. But tucked under the towering Oakland Tribune building lies a new cocktail destination, harkening back to the hard drinking, three-martini lunch days of newspaper glory.
From hand pulled noodles doused in a savory sesame paste sauce, to a bowl of Chinese bacon and smoked peppers, to tender Afghan mantoo dumplings, Chinatown's offerings go far beyond the wide ranging variety of Chinese cuisines. Thai, Vietnamese, Cambodian, and Middle Eastern restaurants all hold court here.
Duende's head bartender Troy Bayless walked us through each of the cocktails—the list takes advantage of the new Oakland restaurant's extensive sherry selection, though not every drink is a sherry drink. He's eager to feature distinctive spirits and mixers—local Sutton Cellars vermouth and nocino, bacanora and artisanal mezcal from Mexico, as well as a range of sherries.
So, you want to open a café? Sounds great—but where do you start? From writing a business plan to scraping up the dough, from deciding which espresso machine is best to learning how to use the darned thing, there's so much that goes into building a successful coffee business that it can seem nearly impossible to think of everything. But Oakland, California's Food Craft Institute is offering an upcoming program designed to help new coffee businesspeople start up without burning out.
Why the focus on lagers? Though owner Adam Lamoreaux happily drinks California IPAs, "it's been done," he says. "We wanted to do something not everyone else is doing, not just bring more sand to the beach." We stopped by on a brewday to chat with Lamoreaux and watch a bit of the action.
Newly re-developed Jack London Square will be home to a wood-fired pizzeria called The Forge come 2013, and they're bringing The PizzaHacker on board for pizza R&D.
At Dopo, you won't find a high-powered oven, or any of the bells and whistles typically attached to the newest Bay Area pizzerias. But they serve pizza that makes a very likable lunch, and isn't that the point?
Oliveto Cafe in Oakland has been serving wood-fired pizzas since long before the Neapolitan craze swept San Francisco. But don't confuse age with a stodgy approach, as the restaurant tries its hand at all sorts of seasonal, California-style toppings and even makes a valiant attempt at a whole wheat crust.
You can get all sorts of food at San Francisco's Off the Grid food truck meet-up. But this past weekend at the Golden Gate Fields location, the longest line was for the hamburgers at Fivetenburger.
Chef John Edwards has been serving Southern-style barbecue in uptown Oakland for over a decade. The "Piggly Wiggly" barbecue sandwich is still some of the best barbecue I've ever had. Like good Kansas City-style 'cue, the Piggly Wiggly's thick chunks of smoked pork shoulder stand up well to the rich, tomato-based sauce, which turns the bottom of half of the sandwich roll into an edible barbecue sponge.
At True Burger, just up the block from Oakland's Lake Merritt, two former high-end chefs are trying their hands at simpler fare. The result is a quality fast food-style burger.
"If you get your conventional tofu here and you serve it in Asia, nobody would eat it, simply because its not delicious," says Minh Tsai, the founder of artisanal, organic tofu company Hodo Soy Beanery in Oakland, California. Tsai couldn't find the same quality of tofu he grew up with in Vietnam, so he decided to make it himself with the idea of making "the best tofu you've ever eaten." See how tofu is made at Tsai's soy beanery in the latest episode of Food Curated from documentarian Liza de Guia.