Oakland/ Alameda/ San Leandro eats

There was a tiny update about Bull Valley in the Oakland side link. I used to go all the time, but not since a disappointing visit after the re-opening in 2021. Anyone been recently?

PS; daughter just moved from Brooklyn to Oakland so I hope to do more eating in the area, and am looking for ideas.


HTH - we’ve been here for 32 yrs and so many changes!
Dining has definitely improved in the Oakland/Alameda/Hayward/San Leandro area. NO restaurant makes everything well: if you want burritos, don’t go to La Calaca, go to Gordo’s in Albany, for example:

  • Ikaros Greek/Oakland - best flaming cheese and a great rib-eye, note European doneness (if you want med-rare, order medium). Also excellent fried calamari, Greek coffee, and their variant on Galektoboureko is very fine when freshly made that day (ask and insist on it), even though it’s closer to bougatsa.
  • La Calaca Loca/Oakland – excellent fish tacos, grilled or battered. Good shrimp quesadilla, too. They bring 3 squeeze bottles to the table: mild, green salsa, and habanero.
  • Asmara Eritrean/Oakland – we love that they still use the niter kibbeh, and their Assa Tibs (spicy fish chunks) is fabulous with the veggie combo. We love their espresso drinks as well. But if you insist upon being healthy, Café Colucci and its EVOO-based dishes have moved to Emeryville, and they do make the best shiro. Lemat/Berkeley is wonderful, but their parking situation sucks and if you go, try to use Ashby BART.
  • We aren’t fans of Saigon Harbor/Richmond dim sum and prefer East Ocean Seafood/Oakland. EOS has upped their game over the last couple of years and altho they don’t bat 100% (nobody does in the EBay) most of their dim sum and noodle dishes are very good. Kitchen/Alameda (next door to EOS) is a small old-style Cantonese, limited dim sum but generously sized and very good. Kitchen gets points for housemade BBQ pork (char siu), something we have not seen a restaurant do in three decades.
  • Belotti/Oakland for the most amazing Northern Italian pastas ever. Skip the entrées and concentrate on his pastas, especially the agnolotti and tortelli with polenta. NOTE: they are currently take-out only at their restaurant, but this is temporary. Check website for updates.
  • Pucquio/Oakland for creative takes on Peruvian food; one of the rare chefs who dares to do things a little differently than all the other Peruvian restaurants (mind you, we do love LiMA/Concord and Barranco/Lafayette, however).
  • Simurgh Bakery/Emeryville for the best baklava ever.
  • Belmo Café/Berkeley (well, it’s close to the Oakland border!) for amazing and beautiful individual cakes made with real whipping cream and butter. He loves chocolate and raspberries together, so he always has several different ones to choose from. His eclairs are divine and filled with real whipped cream. You can also get Turkish coffee (espresso, not sweetened) and a very fine mocha. Tiny shop, get it to go.
  • Townhouse/Oakland is a retro hippie delight, go for the zucchini fries which beat everyone else’s. The food is a good-not-great level, but they do a couple of dishes very well: their steaks are ALWAYS grilled on-point, the lamb chops are good, and the old fashioned calamari steak in lemon butter is classic. If they have it, their housemade chicken liver paté comes with a good slug of brandy in it, and it’s wonderful (hic). Make a reservation; even if you don’t need it, they’ll treat you better. I have no idea why, but they’ve always been that way, LOL.
  • Trabocco/Alameda for Italian seafood and Ligurian specials. Skip the pizzas. The beet/watercress salad is a delight for cress lovers. Sublime ravioli stuffed with oxtail and a vegetarian agnolotti is excellent. His risottos are marvelous; if he’s offering the beet/pork risotto, get it – absolutely unique and delicious.
  • Pizza: we must be the only non-fans of Zachary’s [grin]. We like good quality, crispy crusts, dusted with cornmeal. Switched from Star on Grand/Oakland to its sibling Star on Park/Alameda, which we find less sloppy and more consistent, having experienced too many ups and downs with the Oakland location.
  • Top Hatters/San Leandro is an excellent quality, global fusion bistro. Changes their menu regularly.
  • Ceron Kitchen/Alameda is gorgeous but their food is erratic in quality and quantity. Salads are huge but everything else is petite-sized. OK for lunch, but after 3 visits we really cannot figure out why the food from chef Jaquez is so wildly uneven when he was rock-solid for over a decade at Paradiso/SLeandro.
  • We like old-fashioned German-style food, so are very fond of Speisekammer/Alameda. Good sausages, braised sauerkraut (I loathe raw sauerkraut), hearty stews. However, avoid them during World Cup weeks!
  • Waki Sushi/Alameda is hands-down the best sashimi in the EBay. It is NOT cheap, but we were just at Hana Sushi/Santa Rosa last week, and Waki’s fish is far, far better. Also consistent; we go at least once a month ever since they opened.

If you enjoy fine chocolates, stop by Michael’s on Grand Avenue. He makes a Bourbon Salted Caramel Truffle (also in a cigar-shape) that is the finest liquor/chocolate confection we’ve ever found, and we are solid Recchiuti and Royce fans.

We are not Bakesum fans – we find their fusion bakery good too sweet, lacking good butter, and overwrought in the Instagram style of “looks impressive” – but like Michael’s and Ikaros, they are within 1 block of the Grand Lake Theatre in the Lake Merritt area.


Thank you! HTH is happy to help?

Oh! “Hope this helps!”. It does. We (husband and I) are from NYC but have lived in Vacaville 30+ years.


The food scene in Oakland really crashed after the Loma Prieta quake. Glad to hear it has been building back with even more diverse tastes.


If you like upscale Mexican and don’t mind a noisy dining room, visit Casa del Toro in downtown Hayward. Inventive food and a huge tequila list.

Edith’s Pies in Uptown Oakland, near the Paramount Theater, has long hours and great pie. They also have quiches and savory hand pies, but I haven’t tried those yet. Other good places in that immediate area are The Crown and Delah Coffee for coffee (the latter is Yemenite and is a unique experience), Drake’s Dealership for beer (there are Red Bay Coffee and Humphrey Slocumbe Ice Cream kiosks in the same courtyard), Shawarmaji for Middle Eastern, and Firebrand Breads.


Old fashioned diner-esque:


Same people next door:

And Roy at Drake’s is good guy:


More Oakland thoughts (and thx to the moderators for breaking this off into a separate thread!):

Weekdays, lunch only: Rio Cafe in Preservation Park (downtown Oakland). Have not been since pre-lockdown, but on Wed&Thurs only, have an excellent feijoda. It tastes just like our Brazilian friend’s version (she was from Goiânia); a great pork ‘n’ beans stew, complete with farofa (don’t add too much of it; it’s filling!). The lemon seafood risotto was also very good, as are the coxinhas (chicken croquettes). Their jerk chicken is extremely popular. Limited indoor seating, some outdoor patio seating, and there are benches in the Park itself. Many people do take-out. Tiny place but line moves fast; study the menu on-line and be prepared to order (or order in advance via phone).

Afghani: the best Afghani food is in the Fremont/SJose area, but a close contender is in Dublin (25 min straight out on 580 East, except at commute times), Khyber Pass. In Oakland area, best Afghani is the newest – Pacha’s Afghan Kabab in Old Oakland. Their mantoo, meat dumplings, are excellent. Yogurt is housemade. The challow (spinach) curry is amazing; get the brown rice (“brown” from toasted spices, not the healthfood grain). Kebabs are also very good.

Indian: there are 2, and they are different from one another.

**Namastey Patio/**Oakland has amazing food from a Nepalese family. We detest the bias towards using tons of sugar in Indo-Asian cooking and Namastey uses less than any other. There are 2 fusion dishes on the menu: tandoori asparagus & mushrooms, and scallops with blueberries. Both are sensational, a 5-star thumbs up from my spouse, who usually loathes fusion dishes. One of the only restaurants that has goat curries, with generous chunks of meat. Great spicing altho they hold it down for us dumb Americans, so you have to insist upon real “medium” – even their medium-low is a 6 on our scale of 10 chiles (we love hot food). Chicken samosas are huge but delicious–one order equals a large entrée.

Indian Grill/San Leandro (note their parking lot is a private pay parking lot; it is NOT free. SLeandro meters only take cash, not coins; if you want to use a credit card, use the private pay lot.) caters to the local Sikh community so they have a lot of vegetarian and vegan dishes. Fish pakoda was moist and delicious. The saag paneer is one of the best versions we’ve had from anyone. Not a lot of sugar used, but there are several sweet/sour sticky sauced dishes that need rice. IG has 1 big claim to fame: their kheer, almond and rice pudding, is hands-down the gold standard for this dessert. It is phenomenal!

Breakfast: There are many, most aren’t that great.

Brenda’s/Oakland has lines out the door on weekends even after almost 4 yrs, which says it all for this Southern-style sibling of the SF Brenda’s Soul Food.

Mama’s Royal Café/Oakland is a retro classic diner that was remodeled pre-pandemic to look exactly the way it’s looked for the last 40 yrs, right down to the paint color. Skip the lunch items and concentrate on breakfast; the short order cook makes great poached eggs, coarse-chopped hash, and pancakes. A rarity is decent rye bread for toast.

Thai is everywhere, most are sickly sweet. Choose between 2 extremes, plus 1 new:

Farmhouse Kitchen/Oakland is one of a local mini-chain. It has fancy Instagrammable cocktails and all the menu standards Americans expect. Most, not all, are reasonably well-made, beautifully served. We like it better than Jo’s Modern Thai/Oakland, which has enough sugar and salt to preserve its dishes for all eternity.

Monkey Thai South Shore Center (not to be confused with the one on Main St.)/Alameda is where Thai people eat. The food is seriously incendiary, and many dishes aren’t found elsewhere, with a number of offal and sticky rice dishes. Some of the staff doesn’t speak English, which can lead to ordering errors. Also, complaints of menus not having current prices are noted by Y’ers. Their sai oua is fiery, and they also sell it in 1-lb. pkgs. Don’t bother coming here for pad thai or boiled chicken; it’s not what they do well. This is a place that has chitterlings, fried crickets and fried silkworms, and quail on the appetizer list.

Personally, we reserve our Thai food yearnings for **Khom Loi/**Sonoma County, which absolutely deserves that Michelin commendation it received. Limited menu; Thai street food that has almost no sugar (altho they also hold back on the chile heat) with several unique dishes.

Bhan Mae Vane/Alameda got a nice review from an HO member and so far Y rvws are positive. We have not tried it yet (Laotian/Thai) but it’s on our list.

Ben ‘n’ Nicks Bar and Grill/ Oakland is a pub with pretty good Reubens and very good burgers. We don’t drink so can’t attest to the beer, but this was darned good food for a bar.

Malaya Tea Room/ Alameda is a unique Malaysian/British afternoon tea room. Tiny, must make reservations (they DO NOT take walk-ins) and you have to be patient because the staff makes the sandwiches fresh after your order. These are substantial sandwiches on regular bread, not tea sandwiches, so it’s filling. The tea is high quality and made properly, which also takes time. Absolutely delightful and there is nothing else like it in NorCA.


Oh man… I may have to move!

But nah… I’ve always said that living here ( in Solano County) is what lets me afford to eat elsewhere. I still have to get over my dread of the drive, but I will make it so!

I am fine driving in to Napa, and Sonoma, and most of Sacto, but remain intimidated by San Francisco and the East Bay.

Similar to when I lived in NYC outer boroughs.

Shrugs. We’ve had a few traumas on the way there and back.


These cuisines don’t use tons of sugar but you seems to be getting dishes from restaurants which cater to US focused customer base.

I like Commis and Mägo in Oakland.

Citizen PIzza and Spinning Dough is good for pizza.

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Thank you! I remember Commis!

Traditionally they do not. However, Big Corp. sugar has really pushed into Asia and foods are getting sweeter. Had an interesting conversation with Geoffrey Deetz when he still had Temple Bar and he agreed that he had seen a marked increase in the use of sugar in Southern Vietnamese cooking before he left to come back to the US. Said it wasn’t quite as bad yet in Northern Vietnam.

All restaurants here have to cater somewhat to the tastes of Americans; how else would they remain in business? We loved Daughter Thai/Oakland when it first opened, but after a couple of years the food became progressively sweeter and ‘dumbed down’.

And “authentic” remains a moving target. Many “authentic” foods Americans would likely not be enthusiastic about eating. Have you ever had a Nicaraguan tamale? Those things are like lead weights in the stomach, LOL - dripping with lard. It bears an uncanny resemblance to the Macanese pressed rice. I have my MIL’s recipe from Hong Kong, and it uses at least 3x the amount of lard or solid Crisco that ‘modern’ recipes for pressed rice call for.

BTW, for fun, check out the very unusual dishes (but popular with locals) profiled on Netflix’s “Flavourful Origins” - when has anyone seen any goat cheeses in a Yunnan restaurant in the US?

We can, as diners, only pick and choose between what’s offered to us. Many diners seem to be perfectly happy with eating sugary Indo-Asian food. As long as I have the option NOT to do so, I’ll take it.

I love " Flavorful Origins". Forgive me, but I don’t quite get the reference. I am never sure what “Americans” means, and I am still sorting out regions in China. I remember being surprised to think of cheese associated with China. Are goat cheeses popular in Yunnan restaurants in China? Which season and episode are you referencing? I’m sure I can find it.

Maybe this one!

I’m pretty sure it was Season 1, but don’t remember which episode (I was binging so the episodes just kept continuing with the next one). It’s a quick throwaway line on how Yunnan has so many cows and goats because they make most of the domestic dairy products in China. Surprised the heck out of us as we had never heard that before!

Certainly it’s not “traditional”, probably a (relatively) recent development as the CCCP tries to modernize agriculture with the goal of reaching US-efficiency levels; i.e., # of farmers per # of people. Can’t remember the exact WSJ or NYT article that was discussing the CCCP agricultural push in general terms, but it was maybe 3 or 4 yrs ago. The US was way ahead of China, something like 10x more efficient in producing food.


Ghazni in Hayward also has very good Afghani food. We’ve ordered from them a lot.

And for something truly unique, there’s Golden Safari in Hayward for Nigerian and Kendejah in San Leandro for Liberian.


Their bolani is fantastic.

Sorry but have to disagree here - first of all you started by saying in very broad strokes that “Indio-Asian” cuisine has a biased towards sugar which is definitely not true based on many discussions within extended family and friends from that region. You then started to change by just bringing up one example of one discussion of a very specific, small region which again is first of all debatable but also nothing which can be generalized over a very broad geographic area.
In addition, even here in the US where restaurants tend sometimes to cater too much to US tastes, it is quite possible to find not overly westernized regional food but you have to look for it, e.g. places like Kin Khao, Isarn Garden are good examples for Thai and there are examples for many other cuisines

Fine, whatever you like. BTW, I am not saying the traditional cuisines themselves emphasize sugar, so I should clarify that for you. I am saying MANY Asian restaurants in the US, INCLUDING those in the SFBA, tend to add a lot of sugar - and if you call them on it, they will say, “Oh, but Americans like sugar!”

Which they do. Unfortunately.

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You wrote “which they do”. I think “they” means Americans. Does it include you and me? Not that there’s anything wrong with that! ( Seinfeld reference).

Asian food, usually Chinese, is known to adapt local ingredients and tastes in restaurant food produced here. Yes, Americans like sweet stuff, so they add sugar. Chinese-Mexican cuisine uses lemons, peppers and other local flavors, same idea. Adjust to local tastes and available ingredients.