Bay Area Bites Guide: Five Worthy Pozole Destinations in the East Bay

If chicken soup is the Jewish antibiotic, then pozole is the Mexican one. Pozole is nixtamalized corn, better known as hominy in the U.S., and is traditionally made in many Mexican states as a soup with rich, chile-infused stock, stewy chunks of pork (or chicken), and served with shredded cabbage, diced onions, radishes, limes and often dried oregano. The chile base can be red or green, and there’s even a white version with a chile-free broth. While red pozole is most common, green is also widely available in the Bay Area.

From Richmond to Oakland, these five pozole spots will satisfy your winter soup cravings.

Cosecha

Cosecha’s light, bright green pozole.
Cosecha’s light, bright green pozole. (Kim Westerman)

In the midst of ever-bustling Swan’s Marketplace in Old Oakland, Cosecha has much to recommend it, including homemade tortillas, breakfast tacos, vegan quesadillas—and some of the best pozole for miles. Don’t be daunted if there’s a long line; it moves quickly. Cosecha’s green pozole is a light, bright chicken (instead of pork) version, redolent of tomatillo and mild green chiles, kicked up a bit by diced jalapeño and made even lusher by avocado. The steaming, generous bowl is served with cabbage, radishes, onion, lime and cilantro, and to-die-for homemade corn tortillas. Available at lunch only on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, as well as Saturday brunch. Pro tip: At dinner, ask if there’s any left over from lunch. If there is, a server will dish it up for you. But don’t hold your breath.

Cosecha
907 Washington St. [Map]
Oakland, CA 94607
Ph: (4510) 452-5900
Hours: Mon-Wed, 11am-3:30pm, 4:30-8:30pm; Thu-Fri, 11am-3:30pm, 5-9:30pm; Sat, 10:30am-3:30pm and 5-9:30pm; closed Sunday
Facebook: Cosecha Oakland
Twitter: @cosechacafe
Instagram: cosechacafe
Price Range: $ (pozole, $10)

El Huarache Azteca

Red pozole at El Huarache Azteca in Oakland.
Red pozole at El Huarache Azteca in Oakland. (Kim Westerman)

Best known for its namesake huaraches, sandal-shaped fried masa patties topped with meats, vegetables and/or beans, El Huarache Azteca on International Boulevard in Oakland is also a weekend hotspot for pozole (red or green). While both versions are excellent, the red takes the prize for its depth of chile flavor. It’s not spicy, but the slightly sweet, slightly smoky infusion, combined with flavor-saturated pork broth and big chunks of fatty pork is spot on, served simply with red and white cabbage, lime and a stack of crispy tostadas. Pozole is only available Saturdays and Sundays, until it sells out. And it always does. Get there by early afternoon.

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El Huarache Azteca
3842 International Blvd. [Map]
Oakland, CA 94601
Ph: (510) 533-2395
Hours: Mon-Fri, 9am-9pm; Sat, 8am-10pm and Sun, 8am-9pm
Price Range: $ (pozole, $11.75)

Obelisco

Green pozole with Niman pork at Obelisco.
Green pozole with Niman pork at Obelisco. (Kim Westerman)

Obelisco is one of the few traditional Mexican restaurants in East Oakland that pays special attention to sourcing its meat, opting for Niman pork and Mary’s chicken, both more sustainable purveyors than the typical factory-farmed sources. Nonetheless, prices remain competitively low. For under $10, you can choose red, green or white pozole. I found the white fairly bland, and the red was above average, but the green was downright spectacular, with slightly spicy green chile and pork broth, loads of al dente hominy, and crisp, finely chopped vegetable garnishes (the usual onions, cabbage and radishes), with lots of lime, too. A plus is the addictive salsa—and the fact that pozole is on the menu every day (except Sunday, when the restaurant is closed).

Obelisco
3411 E. 12th St. [Map]
Oakland, CA 94601
Ph: (510) 534-3752
Hours: Mon-Fri, 10am-9pm; Sat, 10am-8pm; closed Sunday
Facebook: Obelisco Restaurant
Instagram: obeliscooakland
Price Range: $ (pozole, $9.95)

Otaez

A huge bowl of red pozole at Otaez.
A huge bowl of red pozole at Otaez. (Kim Westerman)

Otaez is a longstanding favorite on International Boulevard, beloved for its weekend mariarchi bands and hangover soups. While pozole might well fall into that category, this version is more of a spicy protein shot to the brain. A warning if you’re feeding kids: The bowl is full of bones, evidence that the stock has been properly made, but something to be aware of as you make your way through the huge serving. It’s also got pig parts that don’t always turn up in pozole recipes, including tripe on my recent visit, which lent the whole a bold richness. The chunks of stew meat are soft and marbled, and the abundant garnishes should be placed on in layers (i.e., save some for the inevitable leftovers). The portion is enough for three to share. Pozole is available only on Saturdays and Sundays.

Otaez
3872 International Blvd. [Map]
Oakland, CA 94601
Ph: (510) 546-0909
Hours: Daily, 7am-10pm
Facebook: Otaez Mexican Restaurant
Price Range: $ (pozole, $10.50)

Portumex

Perfectly balanced red pozole at Portumex in Richmond.
Perfectly balanced red pozole at Portumex in Richmond. (Kim Westerman)

While I’ve been hearing good things about Portumex for awhile, I hadn’t made my way there until my search for great pozole commenced. I’m happy I took the drive to 23rd Street in Richmond, where this friendly spot does a brisk business. Locals who chat up the servers by name line up for carefully prepared Mexican dishes, including pozole, at this family –run restaurant. Red pozole is served with the classic garnishes, and it might be my favorite version I tried, simply by virtue of its spiciness. Slightly more confident in its chile presentation that the others, but still in the medium heat range, it’s a soup perfectly balanced between meaty depth and bright chile flavor. And pozole is not just a weekend thrill— it’s on the menu every day (except Monday, when the restaurant is closed).

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Portumex
721 23rd St. [Map]
Richmond, CA 94801
Ph: (510) 237-7513
Hours: Tue-Fri, 10am-8pm; Sat, 8am-8pm; Sun, 8am-6pm; closed Monday
Price Range: $ (pozole, $10)

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