Where to Eat and Drink in Oakland's Chinatown

[Photographs: Wes Rowe]

Here's the thing about the Bay Area: there are pockets of incredible, cheap, diverse food everywhere you look. It's easy to get stuck in San Francisco, going out to dinner in the Mission again, and with good reason. We've got a city full of good eating, enough that you can live here forever and still feel like you've barely made a dent.

But it's so worth it to head down the Peninsula or across the Bay, to spend a day exploring a food-rich neighborhood in another one of our neighboring towns. And that's just what we did on a recent weekend in Oakland's Chinatown, a section of the city couched between downtown and the 880 freeway.

This Chinatown came to be in the 1850s, when a wave of Chinese immigrants moved to the Bay Area to work on Central Pacific Railroad. The population and diversity of the neighborhood grew immensely in the 20th century, after the destruction of San Francisco's Chinatown in the 1906 earthquake, and a major increase in immigration from China and Southeast Asia in the '70s, '80s, and '90s.

You won't be shoving yourself upstream a sea of tourists here, an inevitability in San Francisco's red-lantern-bedecked equivalent. Instead, we encountered a number of neighborhood residents hungrily taking down dim sum, a street fair in anticipation of the upcoming New Year, and enough delicious food and drink to have us hungrily planning our next trip back.

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.

Our only limitation was to keep everything we ordered under $10, which proved to be almost too easy. Really, the biggest challenge was asking for to-go boxes rather than plowing through plate after delicious plate of flavorful food.

We covered some good ground in compiling this list, but this is just scratching the surface. Tell us: where do you love to eat in Oakland Chinatown? Where should we be sure to go next time? Because, believe me, there will be a next time.

The Map

View Cheap Eats Guide to Oakland's Chinatown in a larger map

Check out our favorite bites and sips in the slideshow!