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 second installment, we continue with Temescal, East Oakland, and West Oakland.
If you were an explorer coming to Oakland to find hipsters, you’d want to start in Temescal. The thing about hipsters, though, is that they tend to like good local grub, which is why Temescal’s restaurants are all so dang good.
Best Sit-Down Mexican Dining: Dona Tomas 5004 Telegraph Ave., 510.450.0522, donatomas.com It’s not often that you’ll want to spend $7 for guacamole or $18 for carnitas, but every once in awhile it’s worth it to pay Dona Tomas prices and sit out on the lovely back patio enjoying a great meal.
Best Reason to BART Across the Bay: Pizzaiolo 5008 Telegraph Ave., 510.652.4888, pizzaiolooakland.com People have been raving about Pizzaiolo—and lining up for a table there—since it opened seven years ago. It’s easy to understand why: Owner and former Chez Panisse pizza chef Charlie Hallowell’s kitchen consistently turns out perfect, thin-crust pizzas and authentic, simple, beautiful Italian dishes.
Best Mac ‘n’ Cheese: Homeroom 400 40th St., 510.597.0400, homeroom510.com A restaurant devoted to mac-n-cheese? Yes please! From the classic Vermont cheddar mac to the gourmet Gilroy garlic mac to the white trash Trailer Mac (with Niman Ranch hot dogs cut into it and a potato chip crust), every dish here is delicious, as are the super-fresh side salad and the homemade desserts. The shaded outdoor tables are also a great spot to chow down on a warm summer day.
Best Brunch: Aunt Mary’s 4307 Telegraph Ave., 510.601.9227 Southern and Mexican breakfast specialties dominate here; the cheddar cheese grits are superb, as are the pain perdu and the chilaquiles. Expect a wait on the weekend, especially since Aunt Mary’s was recently highlighted on the Food Network.
Best Ethiopian: Café Colucci 6427 Telegraph Ave., 510.601.7999 Oakland is full of great Ethiopian restaurants, but this one has been the most consistently great for the longest and also tends to have reliably solid service.
Roasted beef balls served with a yogurt berbere dip from Cafe Colucci. Photo courtesy of Cafe Colucci/Facebook.
Dominated by Oakland’s vast immigrant populations, East Oakland almost entirely empty of tourists, but full of great Mexican and Thai food.
Best Pupusas: Santo Coyote 4806 International Blvd., 510.261.8696 Authentic, tasty pupusas, plus awesome free bean dip, salsa and chips to start you off right.
Best Burritos: El Taco Zamorano 4032 Foothill Blvd, 510.536.3146 This part of town has a lot of great burritos on offer, but El Taco Zamorano’s are the best: They start with homemade flour tortillas and just keep getting better with fillings like the delicious chile verde.
Best Mole: La Mexicana, 3930 International Blvd. 510.533.8818 Perfect mole—not too sweet, not too spicy—but also plenty of options for those who aren’t mole fans, and delicious homemade tortillas.
Best Thai: Old Weang Ping 6217 MacArthur Blvd, 510.430.8771 Probably the best peanut sauce you’re going to find outside of Thailand, not to mention perfect sticky rice, delicious green curry, and a great, crazy Thai dream ambiance.
Best Laotian: Vientian Café 3801 Allendale Ave., 510.535.2218 Fantastic Thai food, but the real reason to come here is the Laotian menu, the highlights of which are the papaya salad and the Laotian sausage.
Angel Wings from Vientian Café. Photo courtesy of Annie D./Yelp
Better known for its warehouses and its outdoor BART station than its restaurants, West Oakland is nonetheless home to a few Oakland favorites.
Best Newbie: Fuse Box 2311 A Magnolia St., 510.444.3100, fuseboxoakland.com delicious Korean street food in a tiny space chef/owner Sunhui Chang calls "the smallest restaurant in West Oakland." The menu is heavy on pork products, with the pork-butt udon and bacon-wrapped mocha—alongside Chang’s famed kimchi.
Best Barbecue: B Side BBQ 3303 San Pablo Ave, 510.595.0227 Opened by the Brown Sugar Kitchen team, B Side features delicious St. Louis-style ribs, beef brisket, and a killer pulled pork sandwich, plus all the wonderful sides—baked beans, potato salad, mac-n-cheese—you expect with good barbecue.
Best Soul Food: Brown Sugar Kitchen 2534 Mandela Pkwy., 510.839.7685, brownsugarkitchen.com Billed as gourmet soul food, BSK is a longtime Oakland favorite thanks to its stellar shrimp and grits, beignets, and chicken and waffle. The only complaint is always the wait time, so try to go early in the morning or later in the day.