Best of Oakland Dining: Uptown, Downtown, Jack London Square
The problem is, there are loads of amazing spots to nosh and drink in the 510. So many, in fact, that we split our top picks into four parts categorized by neighborhood. In our first installment, we begin with Downtown, Uptown, and Jack London Square.
JACK LONDON SQUARE
The process of gentrifying Jack London is officially complete. There’s a Blue Bottle Coffee café here now for crying out loud. Fortunately, the great farmers’ market and the fancy condos have also brought with them some fantastic restaurants.
Favorite Newbie: Haven, 44 Webster St., 510.663.4440. The latest Oakland venture of SF chef Daniel Patterson, Haven succeeds where Patterson’s other Oaktown eatery (Plum) has fallen short: The menu is creative, but makes sense, and the service is attentive without being fussy. The menu changes often, but there’s almost always bone marrow on it and you should try it.
Best Latin Fusion: Bocanova, 55 Webster St., 510.444.1233. In addition to its stunning design, all oranges and earth tones and comfy seats, Bocanova recently earned a shout-out in the New York Times for its food. Chez Panisse alum Rick Hacket (of MarketBar in SF) serves up delicious South American tapas, including must-have deviled eggs.
Best Vegetarian Fare: Encuentro, 202 2nd St., 510.832.9463. This small, pleasant wine bar is one of the few where the dining is as good as the drinking. The casual menu is vegetarian (often vegan and gluten-free) and changes seasonally.
Best Gastropub: Chop Bar, 247 4th St., 510.834.2467. Despite it’s totally random location, on the ground floor of a condo complex, Chop Bar is one of the best restaurants in the area. It’s one of those neighborhood joints that’s worth hitting up even if you don’t live upstairs. The burgers are great, the mac-n-cheese is delicious, the brunch menu features all the best breakfast items (French Toast, Eggs Benedict, Chilaquiles), and it’s one of only two spots in Oakland where you can get delicious crusty, chewy Baron Bagels.
Yummy goodness at Haven. Photo courtesy of star5112/Flickr.
Between Chinatown and Old Downtown, this part of Oakland has a great community vibe to it. People live and work here—no one really visits, but if they do, they might be pleasantly surprised by the number of options for excellent, cheap grub.
Best Mexican Food: Cosecha, 907 Washington St., 510.452.5900. Located in an open, industrial chic corner of Swan’s Market in Old Downtown, Cosecha is bringing delicious, authentic Mexican grub to the neighborhood. Braised beef and pork belly tacos are divine, especially when washed down with an iced horchata latte.
Must-Eat Sandwiches: Sierra Deli, 311 Oak St., 510.444.0116. Some of the best Vietnamese sandwiches in Oakland, and save room for one of their famous homemade cookies.
Best Chinese Food: Shan Dong 328 10th St., 510.839.2299. One of the few places that still does hand-made noodles, Shan Dong is known for its dumplings, noodle dishes, and wide variety of vegetarian options.
Best Vegan Soul Food: Souley Vegan, 301 Broadway, 510.922.1615. Leave it to Oakland to deliver amazing vegan soul food. Everything is super tasty here, but standouts are the southern fried tofu and the black-eyed peas.
Best Outdoor Lunch: Café 15, 597 15th St., 510.891.3990. People would probably come here just for the outdoor tables, but the delicious fried chicken sandwiches and large, healthy salads keep them coming back in droves.
Braised pork taco from Cosecha. Photo courtesy of DeepDishing.
The Uptown district is the first place SF chefs heading eastward tend to land, which means the area that was once best known for empty office buildings is now a hub of gourmet dining.
Best Brunch: Café Flora, 1900 Telegraph Ave., 510.286.0100. From the individual French press pots of Blue Bottle coffee to the gourmet Benedicts, Flora is as great for brunch as it is for dinner … perhaps even better because it’s less of a wait for a table.
Best Late Night Grub: Luka’s Taproom & Lounge, 2221 Broadway, 510.451.4677. It’s tough to find anything but fast food in Oakland late at night, but Lukas serves its delicious burgers, rich gratinee mac-n-cheese and, yes, a couple of salads, until midnight.
Best Newbie: Hopscotch, 1915 San Pablo Ave., 510.788.6217. Billed as an upscale Japanese-American diner, Hopscotch is already receiving raves for its great service and inventive fusion dishes like the Three Little Pigs: braised pork belly, a prosciutto meatball, and ham hock kale, served with tomato marmalade and black garlic.
Best Asian Street Food: Hawker Fare, 2300 Webster St., 510.832.8896. Locals of all stripes chow down on delicious rice bowls topped with everything from legendary 24-hour pork belly to delicious braised tofu. The graffiti on the walls and assortment of Asian snack foods on offer complete the urban, street food vibe.
Best Restaurant That’s Not a Restaurant: The Eatup 2025 Telegraph Ave. On the first Friday night of the month, when Uptown is bustling and all of its chi-chi restaurants are booked, the Eatup brings together several gourmet food trucks to feed people great food at a good price with very little wait. There are always at least 14 trucks for the Oakland Art Murmur.
Siamese peanuts at Hawker Fare. Photo courtesy of Darwin/Foodspotting.