12 Reasons to Dine in Oakland in 2012
Oakland is off to an amazing start to 2012 with the Number 5 spot on the New York Times’ Top Destinations in 2012 list and Restaurant Week later this month. With the year of the Dragon already in full swing, OUDG takes a look at why people will hella heart dining in Oakland this year:
1. A connection with the neighborhood – When you eat out in Oakland, you get the sense that you’re not only helping out the owners, but also the surrounding neighborhood. Oakland is rich in diversity and restaurants are generally a reflection of the cultural makeup of the immediate area around them.
2. Choice – You’re spoiled for choice in The Town. Feel like a nice meal at a fancy restaurant? Done. Looking for a hole-in-the-wall for a solid, no-frills meal? No problem. Oakland’s got flavor and a lot of different dining options to offer.
3. Small business support - For anyone who wants to help small, sometimes struggling business owners make a dollar, Oakland is the place to go. The street food in Fruitvale, for example, represents raw entrepreneurship at its most American.
4. A taste of something different – Folks travel far and wide for some culinary lovin’ in The Town. Estimates suggest that 60 percent of the patrons for restaurants in downtown Oakland come from San Francisco or travel through the Caldecott Tunnel.
5. World-class dining - Owners and chefs from around the world are setting up shop here and some are even fleeing San Francisco’s high rents and heading east to greener pastures. In Uptown, for instance, you’ll find Picán, a branch of San Francisco’s Ozumo, the vibrant Sidebar, Grand Tavern, and the acclaimed Camino, by Chez Panisse alum Russell Moore.
6. Affordable meals – In San Francisco, an “affordable” entrée is $30. In Oakland, you can pretty much get a two or three course meal for $30. ‘Nuff said.
7. Unpretentious staff – On the east side of the Bay Bridge, down-to-earth staff provide service with a smile…and even a little history lesson if you’re interested. Did you know the vintage ZZa’s sign was taken from half of a “Pizza” sign? Check out Season 2, Episode 3 for the scoop.
8. Interesting stories – Oakland chefs and restaurant owners are very friendly and approachable. Suki, the owner of Casserole House, even spoon-fed the OUDG crew during dinner while discussing how she turned homecooked meals into 35 restaurants without any previous business experience! You can see for yourself on Season 2, Episode 2. Talk about putting a personal touch on service.
9. Instant gratification – We’re hesitant to spread the word, but it’s only fair: you don’t always find yourself waiting at the bar for a dink. Oakland isn’t a scene so you can expect to get that made-to-order handcrafted cocktail in less than 10 minutes. We highly recommend the Garden Gimlet at Make Westing.
10. Food-craft startups – Oakland has its fair share of beer makers, spice shops, picklers and preservists. It’s the next generation of the food business. Blue Bottle or Numi anyone? You heard it here first.
11. Truly innovative dining experiences - Chefs and restaurant owners are definitely bringing creativity to the dining scene in Oakland. Just look to Guest Chef, a new fully equipped restaurant and kitchen incubator that features a new chef every two weeks or the pop-up Jamaican restaurant, Kingston 11, that takes over the Guerilla Cafe on Fridays for proof.
12. It’s so in right now - The new energy around the food scene in Oakland has also caught the attention of Travel & Leisure, The Wall Street Journal, New York Magazine and National Geographic Traveler. The New York Times says it best, placing Oakland among its top 10 places to visit, citing The Town’s new, invigorated restaurant and cocktail scene. With upscale restaurants like Commis and Hawker Fare to time-old local favorites like Fenton’s Creamery, Oakland combines the best of both worlds. So go on, get out there and Occupy Oakland’s restaurants!