Friday, October 21, 2016

Quick Oakland Restaurant Update - October 2016

Okay, a few folks have mentioned to me recently that they've enjoyed read my blog, so now I feel shamed into posting some new content after a two-year hiatus.

The restaurant scene in Oakland continues to evolve nicely, though I have to admit I'm a little annoyed by all the hipster bars that are popping up left and right. Don't get me wrong...I'm all for a good bar scene but I think we're getting over saturated with bars and the City of Oakland seems to be handing out liquor licenses like they're going out of style. Would love to see a few less bars and a few more food-centric businesses in their place...but that's just me.

I'm also happy to say that most of the restaurants I've written about before are still going as strong as ever. However, there have been a few notable closings within the past year or so. B-Side BBQ, easily my favorite BBQ in the East Bay, sadly closed earlier this year because they were having a hard time making things work financially. I found it a little surprising, as every time I've gone there business seemed pretty good and they were also handling a lot of takeout orders. However, their location was admittedly a bit sketchy...I bet if they were in Uptown they would still be going gangbusters. Two of James Syabout's restaurants also fell victim in recent months. The first, Box and Bells, closed early last year. That location in Rockridge seems to be a huge jinx or something, as no restaurant has ever been able to make it work there long term. Also, I think everyone is so health conscious these days and weren't so keen on their heavier, gastropub style of food...of course I am a big exception! The Dock at Linden Street also just closed within the past few weeks, but will supposedly get relaunched in several months. I think one of their big challenges is location as well...it's a terrific space, but located in an area of West Oakland that is largely unknown and not well trafficked. Of course, with all the hipsters moving to West Oakland that could end up changing real soon! And lastly, Stag's Lunchette, my go to sandwich place in Uptown, abruptly closed a couple of months ago. I was pretty shocked to hear this, as the place was always slammed during lunch...this in spite of the fact that I felt they overcharged for their product.

Okay, now for some notable openings within the past year or so:

Calavera and Agave: Both of these Mexican joints are in Uptown...Calvaera in the Hive complex, and Agave on the ground floor of the new Kapor Center. I've enjoyed the meals and vibe at both places, though I still think the food quality is just a notch below that of Nido's.

Belotti: Located in a smallish location in the middle of Rockridge, I had lunch here one day recently and was simply blown away by the quality of their pasta...it definitely rivals Dopo for "best pasta in Oakland". Can't wait to go back and try some of their other dishes.

Drake's Dealership: Okay, so I ragged on all the drinking joints that have been opening up recently, but Drake's is an exception. Really cool location and use of the space, fantastic beer selection and surprisingly good food for a beer garden - I especially enjoy their pizza and ribs. And very kid/dog/family friendly to boot! The only drawback to this place is that it's uber popular and jam packed every night of the week.

Delage: The owner of B-Dama recently opened this sushi/omakase place right next door, and for $65 this is the best 9-course omakase deal around. Their fish is flown in from Japan, and oh...so fresh and tasty. Very happy to see more quality Japanese fare in Oaktown.

Parlour: Great neighborhood restaurant serving mostly Italian fare. Very solid pizzas and pastas, though I have to say that their pasta dishes are a tad overpriced compared to other quality Italian places in the area. And oh...their bar makes a terrific house gin and tonic!

Clove and Hoof: This combination restaurant/butcher shop makes THE best sandwiches in the city, even a notch or two higher than Stag's used to make. Nothing but high quality and freshest ingredients, and such attention to detail for a sandwich shop. Make sure you also save some room for their tasty hand cut beef tallow fries, and if you have the time then also enjoy watching them chop up a dead cow :) More recently they've started to serve dinner entrees, but I haven't had the opportunity to try them out yet.

Hina Yakitori: This cool yakitori joint opened up several months ago and the chefs came from Ippuku, one of my favorite places in all the Bay Area. So, as you might expect the quality is on par with that of Ippuku's, though the interior and ambiance don't have that same authentic Japanese feel. However, definitely the place to go if you're not up for the trek into downtown Berkeley and/or want to save a few bucks.

Sweet Belly: Belly Uptown's dessert spinoff recently took over the space of this incredibly shitty Chinese takeout place which surprisingly lasted for over a decade. Terrific made-to-order mini-donuts in 6 flavors that you can buy by the dozen or half dozen. Also some great soft serve ice cream in several flavors and your choice of toppings. Super delish...Alice and her team have another winner!

Itani Ramen: Oh, how I looked forward to the opening of this place, as it owned by Kyle Itani, co-owner of Hopscotch and one of my favorite restaurants in town. However, it's been really hit and miss during the course of my 8 or so visits there.  The first few times were very mediocre experiences as the ramen preparation was very inconsistent - sometimes the broth was not hot or flavorful enough, or the noodles were overcooked, or the chasu pork was not sliced correctly. However, my last couple of visits were a lot better, and I'm hoping this is a good sign for them going forward. Definitely can't compare to Ramen Shop, but on the other hand it's conveniently located, easy to get into and open late 7 days a week.

Happy eating!
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