SF Eater put out a list of their Essential 38 East Bay Restaurants (Berkeley and Oakland only). What do you think?
My anti-breakfast/brunch bias made me notice that they have six places that don’t serve dinner (Brown Sugar Kitchen, Lois the Pie Queen, Mama’s Royal, Bahn Mi Ba Le, Beauty’s Bagel, and Vik’s) compared to their SF list, which has two (Swan’s Oyster Depot and Plow). Make that seven, if you count La Note, which is primarily a brunch place and only serves dinner three nights a week.
Seven Chez Panisse alum and descendants (Chez Panisse, Oliveto, Pizzaiolo, Camino, Ramen Shop, Cosecha, Duende)
Two places that expanded to SF (Champa Garden, Hawker Fare), one with an El Cerrito restaurant (Ba Le Sandwich Shop), and one with an Albany branch (Pho Ao Sen).
Off the top of my head, 12 of the restaurants have owners that currently, or recently, owned other restaurants.
I don’t get to the East Bay as much as I used to, but here’s my take:
I think all of their following recommendations distinguish themselves, and are either unique or best in show for a dish or a category for the East Bay, if not the Bay Area:
- Brown Sugar Kitchen
- Beauty’s Bagel Shop (best bagels in Bay Area)
- Ramen Shop
- Juhu Beach Club
- Café Colucci (Ensarro is my preference, but both are way better than Ethiopian in SF)
- Miss Ollie’s
- Chez Panisse
- Cheese Board Pizza (not to everyone’s taste. Their use of interesting cheeses makes them superior to their offshoot Arizmendi)
- Hopscotch Restaurant & Bar
- Champa Garden (recent reports vs. Vientian?)
- Ba Le Sandwich Shop
- Oliveto Cafe & Restaurant
Mexican food is tough to nail down to a few places since there’s diversity in the dishes/styles offered and price ranges. They cover taco truck (anyone been to Tacos Mi Rancho?), high quality casual Mexican (Cosecha), and pricier (Comal). The execution at Nido has been off for me-- recent experiences?
À Côté is a great neighborhood restaurant that’s an ideal pick for group dining, last minute reservations, or sitting at the bar. But the menu isn’t as inspired as some of the other items on the list.
Shan Dong restaurant is good for dumplings and is low priced, but I think Great China and a Sichuan restaurant (Sichuan Style (nee King Tsin) or Chengdu Taste) are stronger restaurants overall. I’m not current on my East Bay Cantonese restaurants.
It’s perhaps not emblematic of broader trends or chef-inspired, but I would add Chili Padi in Oakland to the list— it has in my experience the best full-menu Malaysian in the Bay Area (Azalina in SF is great, but the menu is very small).
Gather: any recent reports? It bummed me when they stopped making the Vegan charcuterie plate and I never found their meat entrees or pizzas noteworthy. Generally I like Encuentro better for higher end vegetarian food, and Souley Vegan and Hella Vegan Eats for casual vegetarian stuff. I’ve been meaning to try Kingston 11, which is on their list and has some vegan options, and The Butcher’s Son-- any reports on that?
Do people like Home of Chicken and Waffles because it’s open so late and they’re intoxicated? I don’t think their chicken or waffles are great, and haven’t tried anything else there that was particularly good.
Vik’s Chaat Corner is best chaat in Berkeley due to lack of competition, but nothing compared to Fremont or the South Bay.
Saul’s Restaurant & Deli never quite worked for me. I generally like Wise Sons in SF better.
Luke Tsai has two articles that are also great sources of places to eat in the East Bay, and the focus is less focussed on Cal-cuisine and brunch. Lots of places in there that I’ve not heard discussed on Hungry Onion. In one article, in the context of a discussion about cultural appropriation, he advocates for twenty restaurants whose food reflects the chef’s cultural origins. I’d add Miliki, a Nigerian restaurant, and Cafe Tibet to that. On a related note, see his 10 Quintessential Oakland restaurants and more recent list of 10 cheap eats.