Brunch & Burgers
Yes, there's one place that can satisfy your craving for a delicious brunch and deliver an amazing burger. Chop Bar makes my favorite burger in the East Bay and they do a pretty fantastic pig roast in the summer, too. For $12, you get a juicy burger made with Preferred Meats ground chuck with bacon, avocado, tomato & aioli piled on an Acme Kaiser roll. It's served with an arugula salad so you can feel less guilty about the burger. If you're throwing calorie caution to the wind, I also suggest ordering their divine macaroni & cheese as a $7 appetizer to share -- which may be hard to do since it's so unbelievably good. Their breakfast/brunch fare is a solid selection of comfort food like their bacon, egg, & cheese sandwich on an Acme torpedo roll for $7.50.
La Calaca Loca is tucked away in a little mini-mall in Temescal across the street from Bakesale Betty's. This great little Mexican restaurant also makes a wonderful breakfasts on weekends (the Huevos a la Mexicana -- scrambled eggs w/ tomato, onion & cilantro, served with pinto beans --- for $6.25 is my favorite.) But their burritos are what bring me back; their Baja Pescado burritos made with fried beer-battered fresh fish (line-caught mahi mahi, baja sauce & cabbage for $6.50 is phenomenally good. And they use meat and chicken from Niman Ranch and Fulton Valley Farms, which is always a plus.
Solano Avenue in Albany is chock-full of fantastic restaurants, and it's the home of one of our favorite Thai places: Bua Luang. Winter weather makes me crave curries, and I usually go for their pumpkin curry with pumpkin, green pea, bell pepper and sweet basil for $9.75 or the chicken pa nang red curry with lime leaves, ground peanuts, bell pepper, sweet basil for $8.95 with a side of steamed coconut rice.
China Village's orange chicken, sesame bread and seafood and pork delight. Photo by Jenny Oh.
China Village is located just down the street from Bua Luang. Don't be daunted by the massive encyclopedic menu they hand you when you sit down; there's plenty to choose from and it'll take you a while to peruse their offerings (and you'll be amused by some of the typos you'll see along the way.) I often go for their dim sum, which they serve anytime and love their steamed pork bao ($4.50), green onion pancake ($3.50) and spicy wonton with hot oil sauce ($5.95). I'm also a big fan of their lamb with cumin for $9.95 and the Kingtu Princess Prawns -- deep-fried shrimp with a spicy ginger-garlic sauce for $11.95.
If you're lucky enough to get into La Trattoria Siciliana -- there's usually a wait if you don't have a reservation -- then your next dilemma is figuring out what to order. I'm always deliberating between their Rigatoni Cosa Nostra made with their award-winning pesto sauce for $12 or their Gnocchi alla Norma with homemade potato pasta dumplings with fresh tomato sauce, fried eggplant, ricotta salata and basil ($13). And they have several specials every night which makes the decision-making process all the more torturous.
Telegraph Avenue hosts a number of Korean restaurants, and there are quite a few that are excellent. Casserole House is one at the top of my list and got the nod of approval from my visiting brother who loved their yue gae jang, ($9.95) a spicy beef soup with noodles that will clear your sinuses for several months. Their kimchee ji gae ($9.95) is a savory simmered kimchee stew made with pork and tofu, and I'm partial to their goon mahndu, fried dumplings filled with pork, beef, tofu, vegetables and kimchee for $8.95. They also give you a nice assortment of ban chan, or side dishes, and complimentary barley tea to warm you up as soon as you settle in at your table.
Mitama is on the corner of College and Alcatraz Avenues right on the border of Oakland and Berkeley. They have wonderful bento box lunch specials, but we enjoy coming for dinner so we can sit at the bar and order sushi and sashimi directly from the chefs. Their chicken karage for $6.95 is a generous portion of fried chicken goodness if you want a decadent starter to kick off your meal.
There's a ton of respectable pizza joints in the East Bay, but Rotten City is not too far from our West Oakland neighborhood and makes top-notch slices using local, sustainably sourced and organic ingredients when possible. You can visit their Facebook page to salivate over photos of their daily specials. And you have to try their terrific meatball sub at least once, and you'll probably try it again after you've sampled it.
Manzanita's former digs have been taken over by Shangri-La, another vegan restaurant on the Emeryville-Oakland border. The menu, however, is similar: healthy, organic food that's a good way to detox from all the rich cookies and cakes you might have been eating. Call or check online for the daily menu; you can order their full meal or the simple one. There's usually a soup, grain and an assortment of vegetable dishes with dressings.
5701 College Ave., Oakland CA
Open Daily 6:30-6:30 PM
Facebook: Bica Coffeehouse
247 4th Street #111
(4th & Alice)
Facebook: Chop Bar
La Calaca Loca
5199 Telegraph Ave
(between Claremont Ave & 52nd St)
Phone: (510) 601-8226
Facebook: La Calaca Loca
1166 Solano Ave
(between Cornell Ave & Stannage Ave)
Phone: (510) 527-8288
Monday & Thursday: 11:30-3PM / 5-9PM
Friday - Saturday: 11:30-10PM
1335 Solano Ave
(between Pomona Ave & Ramona Ave)
Phone: (510) 525-2285
Monday-Tuesday, Sunday: 11-9:30PM
La Trattoria Siciliana
2993 College Ave
(between Ashby Ave & Webster St)
Phone: (510) 704-1474
Facebook: Trattoria La Siciliana
4301 Telegraph Ave
(between 43rd St & 44th St)
Phone: (510) 601-6001
Facebook: Casserole House
3201 College Ave
(at Alcatraz Ave)
Phone: (510) 652-6157
6613 Hollis St
(between 66th St & 67th St)
Phone: (510) 655-2489
Facebook: Rotten City Pizza