Written by and photos by Nadia Ibanez
As I’ve started spending more time in Oakland, I’ve fallen in love with the people, city views, boutique shopping, hiking, and food. Living and surviving in San Francisco is exhausting – from the commute to our politics – and Oakland and its people really remind me of living in San Diego. As I continue to explore the nooks and crevices of Oakland, here’s a list of some of the Oakland restaurants that are on my radar.
Itani Ramen for Sake, Ramen and Cool Vibes
Since opening its doors in May 2016, Itani Ramen and its owner Kyle Itani, have offered a lively Tokyo-style vibe inside its super hip spot right in the thick of it all on Telegraph Ave. Located just a few steps from the 19th St. BART station, Itani offers Japanese comfort food with casual service.
“We’re offering ramen for everyone,” Kyle told us at a recent press dinner. “People come for familiar flavors and good sake at an affordable price.”
Upon walking into Itani, you’ll be greeted with an open kitchen, old school jams over the sound system and the Japanese symbol for ramen on nearly every wall. For starters, go for any one of the Mini Rice Bowls (the Salmon 3 Way is great) or the Sloppy Stickers, fried pork gyoza drizzled with kewpie mayo, soy sauce, green onions, bonito tuna flakes and pickled ginger. Definitely get an order of the Crispy Pig Ears for your table – I wouldn’t be surprised if those garner a cult following in the couple months.
Unfortunately, I’m not a sake connoisseur but Itani has a sake list that will suit any palate. Carafes of sake and shochu range from $33 to $49, which seems to be the norm for Oakland restaurants. As far as the ramen goes, the Shoyu ramen with ginger chicken, pickled cherry tomatoes and fennel oil was standard, but the Shivering Cold Noodle Salad might be the winner here. Poached chicken is served on a bed of cold noodles with pickled ginger, tomatoes, cucumber, radish, snap peas, corn, and dashi soy dressing would be great on a warm night or paired with some warm sake.
In keeping with the cool Tokyo style, the dessert menu certainly is a curious one. Grab a token from the cashier and use it on the Dessert Vending Machine in the front. You’ll have your pick of Match-flavored Pocky, red bean cakes, or whatever else is rotating that evening.
Hutch Bar & Kitchen for Soul Food
Ever since my trip to New Orleans, I’ve had a deeper love for soul food and Southern charm. Upon walking into Hutch Bar & Kitchen, I had a flashback to Nola with just a twinge of Oakland cool. Not to mention an enormous wall lined with 100+ whiskeys.
The menu at Hutch perfectly mingles local ingredients into their Southern menu and their cocktails make for a great way to start a night out. The whiskey list reads like an encyclopedia and the cocktail menu offers some classics. I started our night with a Hutch Sour, the restaurant’s take on a Pisco Sour, before diving into some apps.
Go for the Bacon & Cheddar Grit Croquettes for a taste of the South and some oysters for a taste of our local waters. You’ll find larger plates like Mary’s Fried Chicken served with collards and rice, or Fish & Grits if you’re in the mood for some seafood. The Hunter’s Gumbo and Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf were also highly recommended, but we’ll wait to try those on our next visit. Everything was tasty and offered some Southern-inspired tastes.
If you’re in the neighborhood and just want to stop by for a drink, I highly recommend ordering a dessert to complement. The Vanilla Bourbon Bread Pudding is certainly boozy but only in the best way possible and the Hutch Affagato will smack you in the face with its St. George NOLA coffee liqueur. If I lived in this hood, you’d definitely find me at the bar sipping on any of their deliciously sounding nightcaps.
Check out Brunch at Eve’s Waterfront Now before Everyone Else Does
We got wind of Eve’s Waterfront as soon as they opened in September and I absolutely had to check this place out before the hype got the crowds all riled up. Perched on the bay and facing Alameda Island, Eve’s is an awesome hidden gem. The building itself looks unassuming, but the view of the water from inside is so worth the drive.
Growing up near the beach, I never really trusted “waterfront dining” because they usually turned out to be tourist traps with mediocre, overpriced food. But Eve’s finally broke the cycle and is offering some serious mouth-watering fare.
We visited on a rainy morning for brunch and I was caught off guard by the enormity of the space. The main dining room is two levels, the wood-paneled bar could fit dozens of people, and the waterfront decks will be prime real estate when it’s warm out.
Brunch at Eve’s is stellar, especially when you can add a couple of morning cocktails to the gamut. Go for the Eve’s Sunset with infused pineapple vodka, lime and pineapple juice, and raspberry liqueur, or my favorite, the Embarcadero 75, with gin, citrus juice, and champagne. The Bloody Mary was also delicious had a slight brininess, which I always love.
We started the solid food part of our meal with the highly recommended Eggnog French Toast drizzled with a citrus curd and espresso maple syrup, which was buttery, eggy and slightly crisped. Order one for the table – it’s so stinking good. The Dagwood Breakfast Club was amazing and I would have finished the whole thing had it not been for the French Toast. Fennel sage sausage, a fried farm egg, smoked cheddar, lettuce, tomato and aioli are sandwiched between two pieces of sourdough. My brunch mate ordered the Salmon Hash, with Yukon gold potatoes, poached eggs and a béarnaise sauce. Both were heavenly and worth every penny.
Executive Chef Bruce Paton is pulling out the guns at Eve’s and you definitely should add this spot to your foodie list. We didn’t even touch the lunch and dinner menu so trust that we’ll be returning and reporting back.
Get Your Meat Sweats at Galeto
If you’ve been to a Brazilian steakhouse, you know the drill. Grab a plate, head to the salad bar for some carbs and veggies to accompany your main course, and sit back and watch as men yielding massive skewers come by and drop off beautiful cuts of meat. The routine is no different at Galeto Brazilian Steakhouse in Old Oakland.
We visited for dinner one night and tried nearly a dozen different meats, ranging from sirloin and rib eye, to sausage and grilled chicken wrapped in bacon. The wine list is sizable and there are a few Brazilian-inspired cocktails that’ll make a great addition to your meal. And what better a way to settle your belly full of meats than with a Dulce de Leche Crepe or a Belgian Chocolate Petit Gateau?
Thank you to all of the restaurants who invited us into their space! See you all soon!