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2008 Restaurant Round-Up: Pt. 2

January 7, 2009
the warm glow of Wood Tavern’s ‘contemporary rustic’ interior

As my lunch hour nears I must let out a sigh as I dream of being able to dine at one of these fabulous establishments each and every day… alas I must resign to my meager pita concoction.

I find myself waiting in anticipation for the next all-staff meeting, knowing that the boss will cater to our needs with the famous fried chicken sandwiches of Bakesale Betty’s, located in the Oakland’s Temescal neighborhood and easily spotted by its outdoor smattering of ironing boards-cum-cafe tables. Or, perhaps he will bestow upon us a couple varieties of Zachary’s Pizza, whose hearty Chicago deep-dish style pies leave you wishing you had a bigger stomach.

I also look forward to more post-work dinners and drinks with coworkers, who enjoy the micro brewed beers, outdoor patio, and dark wood interior of Berkeley’s Jupiter Pizza, which is housed in an old livery stable from the 1890’s. And if deep-dish pizza isn’t your thang, then run in the opposite direction toward Jupiter- for some amazing thin crust pies. For a less casual vibe, I think I’ll propose going to Piedmont Avenue’s Cesar next, serving exquisite tapas with a Californian twist in a light and open setting. If I recall, I certainly warmed up to their Cesar martini- vodka with pastis- which I highly recommend if you don’t utterly hate the taste of licorice (I’m not a fan, yet it tasted delicious by the end!).

Also in Oakland are two very different places which I never would have previously tried, but am glad I did. First is the Manzanita Restaurant, which serves food that is organic! vegan! AND macrobiotic! I’m not even sure what that all means… but it was damn tasty and made me feel like an uber-healthy and forward-thinking individual. Tucked in between small houses off San Pablo and 40th, this place is now open for dinner on Friday and Saturday and also serves a weekend buffet until 3pm. Scoff if you must, but I suggest trying it before you knock it. The second place is probably anything but organic, vegan, or macrobiotic-but Ohgane Korean BBQ is exotic and exciting, to say the least. Tabletop grills let you cook your dishes to your own preference, while little side dishes like kimchee, seaweed, and tiny petrified fish of some sort are constantly replenished. Not for the squeamish.

For something a little safer and more affordable you could try the authentic horchata and house-made corn tortillas of Picante, located at Gilman and San Pablo, but I suggest going either earlier or later than usual since it always seems to be a ridiculously popular lunch spot. One guy I work with, who was born and raised in Mexico, loves this place- if that lends anything to its credibility.

While I definitely appreciate a good chile relleno a little too often, I must admit that if there were one place I could frequent all the time it would be the Wood Tavern located on a brick and tree lined block of College Avenue. The ‘American Brasserie’ fare often pays homage to the luxurious flavors of French cuisine and yet is much less pretentious and much more satisfying. We recently went there for our Holiday lunch, and I can recommend everything that I tried: Roasted Beet & Persimmon Salad, Crispy Pork Belly, the ‘Sea Smoke’ sandwich, and a Pimm’s cocktail. I also greatly appreciate a sense of humor there which is often lacking with such seriously good food. The ‘Wicked Good’ seafood stew gives a nod to the Bostonian chef’s hometown, and the menus feature a footnote which reads “CELL PHONES IN USE WILL BE CURED FOR 6 WEEKS, SLICED AND SERVED WITH RACLETTE.” A meal, as it should be.

Not satisfied? How about coffee and dessert at Crixa Cakes located where Shattuck and Adeline converge in Berkeley? Specializing in old world Hungarian, Russian, and Central European desserts, the flavors are rich without being overly sweet. I highly recommend the Pave Vergiate- an awesome flourless chocolate cake. Flourless cake?!- I didn’t even know you could do that. Check out their site for drool-invoking photos and great organization- you can search for things that are egg-free, sugar-free, nut-free, etc. I’m pretty sure I’m going to force the office to get me something from here when my birthday rolls around…. but that’s not for another 6 months so I just may have to whet my appetite before then!

Alright, looks like that just about does it. All these tasty restaurants just begging to be tried! Again, please feel free to contact me if you have any great suggestions- I’m always open to trying new spots. Okay- time to finally eat lunch. Man, I am starving….

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