We eat a lot while researching the various guides and reviews you see on our site. And we want to share some of that food with you - at least digitally. This guide is where we’ll be putting some of our favorite things we tried recently - the dishes that made us give a creepy smile to our plates. Hopefully it serves as a source of inspiration the next time you’re deciding what to order.
THE BEST THINGS WE ATE THIS WEEK
Lucca Foods Deli & Wine Shop
After a morning of staring aimlessly into my computer screen, stopping by Lucca’s in the Sunset for a quick lunch was an ideal midday break. Their Italian combo had thin layers of mortadella, salami, provolone, and a range of fixings, from thinly shaved red onions to pickled jalapeños. And it came on a perfect home-made sourdough roll, which had just come out of the oven. The deli/convenience store/wine shop is also stocked with chips, candy, and drinks that I’ll get into the next time I need a power-up to get me through the rest of the day.
- Julia Chen, SF Staff Writer
Sometime during all of this, the excellent pandemic-born pie pop-up started offering $7 slices out of the Berkeley pick-up location. Which is a good thing, especially if making decisions is harder than crawling out of bed at midnight to brush your teeth after four hours of binge-watching Manifest. Apple strawberry, stone fruit streusel, berry chocolate - yes, now you can get one of each, and easily try them all. Order the strawberry rhubarb, or, better yet, the passionfruit meringue - a phenomenal graham cracker crust, thick cream, and ultra-creamy meringue makes it, flat-out, the best passionfruit meringue pie I’ve ever had.
- Lani Conway, Senior Editor
THE BEST THINGS WE ATE RECENTLY
This Taiwanese restaurant has been a Downtown Oakland staple since 2014, and is known for bentos, of course. But don’t overlook the bao, especially the gua bao. The braised pork belly is tender and thick, and topped with a generous amount of mustard greens, cilantro, and crushed peanut sugar. The bao is $8 for one, but don’t let its small size fool you. It’s hearty, rich, and packed with tons of flavor that pairs well with one of their boba teas. For a super quick lunch or early dinner, this sandwich definitely gets the job done.
This small SoMa cafe is my absolute favorite spot in the city for a katsu sandwich - but I recently tried their chicken katsu plate with Japanese curry, which now gives me another fantastic excuse to head over for a quick weekday lunch. The tender katsu has a crackly breading and is served on top of fluffy rice with a side of rich, sweet curry. It’s the ultimate comfort dish, and one that I’ll be returning for every time I need a meal to make me feel like I’m swaddled in a heated, weighted blanket.
One thing I didn’t know I needed during the pandemic: a new garlic noodle lunch spot near Fruitvale BART that lets you customize your order with numerous protein and vegetable add-ons. I headed to the brick and mortar building of the former pop-up, which is currently in a soft opening phase, and ordered the Noodle Belly Combo ($19). The garlic noodles were an ideal base for the well-seasoned rainbow chard and nicely barbecued achiote-marinated flank steak. The service was quick (I was in and out in 10 minutes), and the hearty contents inside the plastic takeout container were more than enough for me to save half for lunch and half for dinner. Other choices you’ll have if you visit: fried popcorn chicken, BBQ pork belly, lemon pepper shrimp. And for the vegetables, grilled broccoli, roasted carrots or mushrooms.
The Japanese restaurant has built up a loyal following ever since it opened last year during the pandemic - something I attribute to the stunning, high-quality nigiri, sashimi, and sushi rolls which are tightly packaged in attractive wooden bento boxes. The North Oakland spot is predominantly a takeout operation (a.k.a. pandemic-proof), and coming here for a meal is great if you want fresh fish without having to put much thought into what to get - their omakase-style combos are 16 pieces of sashimi for $35 or $25 for 7 pieces of nigiri. The control freak in me prefers to customize my box, and choose from a menu of things like arctic char nigiri, inari, and spicy tuna maki.
If the last year has taught me anything, it’s how to successfully eat takeout in my car. My glove box is stuffed with napkins, to-go utensils, and, after a particularly cursed incident involving a tray of salmon poke and my bare hands, a pair of chopsticks. So the other day, when the wind dashed my hopes of having a picnic by the water, I parked my car and dug into my garlic pork hoagie from the backseat. The hefty, forearm-length sandwich is made with a sesame roll, stuffed with thin, tender slices of roasted pork, broccoli rabe, cherry pepper relish, and Point Reyes Toma. It’s massive (it easily serves two), packed with flavor, and delightfully messy to get into. Good thing I always keep napkins in the glove.
Tadu Ethiopian Kitchen
When I’m hungry, which is most of the time, and don’t have enough in my fridge to pull together a respectable meal, which is also most of the time, I harness all my brainpower on finding the perfect place to order takeout. The other night, Tadu - and the promise of soft, tangy rolls of injera and the veggie combo - fit the bill. The tender beets, garlicky lentils, collard greens, and stewed cabbage, potatoes, and carrots were immensely comforting, and had a lovely aromatic smell I’d love to bottle up and spritz around my house. And I really loved the chicken tibs, sautéed with onions, jalapeños, tomatoes, and a blend of house spices.
This sandwich spot in Potrero Hill has fried egg sandwiches down to a science. Case in point: the BEC, a wonderfully gooey work of art that also tastes incredible. The sandwich is simplicity at its finest, made with perfectly-cooked Applewood-smoked bacon, American cheese, and an over-medium egg, all layered between a squishy poppy seed roll. Getting my hands on one is currently the reason I wake up earlier in the morning (they open starting at 8am). Another is the bright orange, tongue-tingling house-made habanero sauce that comes on the side.
Kantine is a nearly three-year-old Scandinavian cafe on Market Street that makes pastries, porridges, soups, and sandwiches. Stepping inside the well-lit, airy space will make you want to pull up a wooden chair, read a book over a latte or a cinnamon knot, and stay awhile (they’re open for outdoor dining). But this is a takeout guide and Kantine’s takeout is fabulous. I recommend one of the smørrebrød (open-faced sandwich), which are a well-executed lesson in the art of layering. The version I got: A slice of hearty, house-made sprouted rye bread, a bed of greens, a creamy, smoked-chicken and crème fraîche salad packed with mushrooms and herbs, wafer-thin slices of radishes, and crunchy dehydrated chicken skin that shatters in your mouth with each bite.
When the pandemic hit, Lord Stanley hit pause on their usual tasting menu and started making easily packable food to go, like tacos and fish and chips, and serving it out of a bright pink takeout window. The pared-down to go menu rotates, and right now they focus on burgers, onion rings, fries, and clam chowder. But first, a word about the burger - every element, from the soft brioche bun and special sauce to the juicy, flavorful patty, is as flawless as an Olivia Rodrigo bridge. You’ll want to get a side of their excellent beer-battered onion rings with buttermilk ranch, too. And to avoid any potential for sogginess (I made the mistake of taking it home first), eat this immediately.
The Damel is both a brick-and-mortar restaurant in Downtown Oakland and a food truck on Lakeshore. It doesn’t matter which location you visit, as long as you head to one for a taste of their incredible food. The Damel serves a mix of dishes from West Africa and South America, a combination that reflects owner Oumar Diouf’s Senegalese background and time spent in Brazil and Argentina. On the menu, you’ll find things like acarajé (fried, mashed black-eyed peas) topped with shrimp or veggies and spicy okra sauce, fried plantains, dibi plates, and fresh ginger and bissap juices. I love the empanadas, from the ground beef to the creamy mushroom to the deep-fried fataya with tuna, tomato, and shrimp. The dough is light and fluffy, and these empanadas are perfect for lunch or a snack.
After an evening lap around Lake Merritt the other day, I needed dinner, and had two choices: go home and cook, or walk somewhere nearby and order takeout. And as soon as I remembered that the wood-fired pizza from Sister exists, I was on my way there. Their margherita pizza is simplicity at its finest: just their fantastic tomato sauce, local mozzarella, chili flakes, and basil on a chewy, blistered crust. Get a side of thick house-made ranch to dip it in - if you’re not a ranch on pizza person, it will convert you.
Schlok's Bagels & Lox
Chances are by now, you’ve heard about the bagel article that broke the internet and made for a very entertaining comments section on Instagram. And if you’re anything like me, you were craving a good one after partaking in so much bagel-fueled discourse. Enter: Schlok’s Bagels, a pop-up that used to operate out of The Snug on Fillmore on weekends. Their bagels are perfectly golden-brown, well-seasoned on the outside, and chewy on the inside - plus, they’re massive. Schlok’s also makes their own buttery, dill-cured lox in-house, which is just as fantastic as the bagels themselves. The bad news: they’re currently on hiatus while they prep to open a brick-and-mortar in NoPa. But the great news is that they’re opening a brick-and-mortar in NoPa, meaning the bagels are here to stay, for good.
If anyone knows how to do chicken, it’s Hina Yakitori - so it’s no surprise that their fried chicken sandwich is incredible. Pre-pandemic, they did omakase-style yakitori, and they’ve since pivoted to a more takeout-focused bento box and sandwich menu. I recently tried the spicy yuzu double-fried karaage sandwich, which was topped with sesame miso cabbage slaw, yuzu kosho aioli, and pickles, and it was phenomenal. The chicken thigh was fried to perfection - and I deeply regret not ordering a side of extra yuzu kosho aioli to dip it all in. Guess it’s just another reason to go back next week.
A recent craving for sushi led me to Sushi Urashima, a new-ish spot in the Castro that opened last year. They have a bunch of rolls, sashimi, and donburi on the menu, but their omakase set ($38), which comes with ten pieces of chef’s choice nigiri and a maki roll, was my favorite. I took the box of colorful, neatly packed sushi home and dove right in. Each piece of nigiri was almost better than the next, but my favorite was the uni, a perfectly creamy, briny bite that I replayed in my mind on loop for the rest of the night.
I’ve made a lot of food at home this year, but chicken and waffles is something I’ve left to the experts. Enter Auntie April’s. The soul food restaurant in Bayview opened back in 2008, and has been making incredible chicken and waffles ever since. You can choose between an original, cinnamon, or red velvet waffle, which is then topped with two pieces of juicy and super crunchy chicken (you can get any combination of thigh, breast, or leg). The order, of course, comes with a side of syrup, which I happily drizzled over my delicious lunch feast. Auntie April’s is open for takeout, but they also have several tables out on their parklet.
The photo of this glorious, Detroit-style vodka pie from Pizza Squared truly does not do it justice (if you’re wondering why it looks like it was dropped from the top of my car, it’s because... it was). But trust me when I say that Pizza Squared should be added to your takeout rotation immediately. They have a bunch of massive, saucy pies topped with things like clams and bacon or Thai curry chicken, all made on a light, fluffy crust with crispy cheddar cheese edges. Next time I’m back, I’ll definitely try their Sicilian slices - and I’ll be sure to hang on tightly to the box.
The things this Embarcadero seafood restaurant can do with fresh with is borderline magical - just take one look at their cebiche and Peruvian nigiri, which are both works of art. But the dark horse of my recent meal here was the empanada sampler. It came with four flaky, deep golden-brown pastries (beef, chicken, mushroom, and choclo, a sweet corn mixture) which were paired nicely with a trio of creamy sauces. My favorite empanada, though, was the sirloin beef with onions and a aji panca I want to eat by the spoonful.
Fish & Bird Sousaku Izakaya
I recently celebrated one of those modern things we now call “A Quarantine Birthday.” And even though my daily wardrobe has been reduced to one plain tee and a pair of baggy blue jeans, it doesn’t mean I’ve completely given up - I still wanted to feel special for it. Enter takeout from Fish & Bird. The izakaya in Downtown Berkeley opened early last year and specializes in modern Japanese dishes that are well-prepared and (unlike my outfit) wonderful to look at. Take, for example, the kaisen don, a small, festive-looking bowl of rice topped with some of the freshest sashimi ever, or the lightly battered and deep-fried green bean fritters that reminded me of an airy bird’s nest (and tasted even more incredible after I sprinkled on the curry sansho salt).
You’ve probably gathered by now that we at The Infatuation SF love a great fried chicken sandwich. And much like my peach-shaped heating pad or a reliable pair of sweatpants, they rarely disappoint. The last one I tried was from Pimpin Chkn, a fried chicken pop-up operating out of Epic Ventures Test Kitchen in East Oakland - and it was special. It’s made with an unbelievably crunchy yet juicy chicken thigh, a creamy slaw, and a housemade bun. I ate the whole thing so fast I forgot to take a picture, so please marvel at the perfectly-fried drumsticks I ordered on the side instead.
I finally got around to trying Friends and Family, a year-old cocktail bar in Oakland, on a Monday night when my fridge was hopelessly barren. I ordered from their small menu of sandwiches and snacks, and after my first bite of the buttery, gooey grilled cheese, I felt many things - delight, contentment, pure unadulterated euphoria - but mostly regret that I hadn’t checked out Friends and Family sooner. It’s impossible for me to pick which part of the meal was my favorite: Was it the grilled cheese, oozing with mozzarella and cheddar, and layered with balsamic roasted tomatoes, caramelized shallots, basil, spicy honey, arugula, and spicy soppressata? The fresh, herby little gem salad? Or the most perfect slice of moist carrot cake I’ve ever tasted? The combination of it all - plus the excellent rose vodka gimlet I got on the side - has earned Friends and Family a permanent place in my heart. Count on me to return frequently to make up for lost time.
Dumpling House opened over a year ago on Noe St. in the Castro, and serves dumplings, buns, turnip cakes, potstickers, wontons, and Hong Kong-style wonton soup. I tend to want to order everything when my dinner brain calls out for dumplings, so I welcomed their shorter menu when I tried them for the first time and ended up ordering a bit of everything - and you should, too. The xiao long bao were extra soupy; and the fresh shrimp and pork dumplings were both flavorful and meaty. The wrinkly wontons were also delicately wrapped and bathed in a slightly spicy chili oil. And despite the pan-fried veggie and meat buns losing a bit of their crispness in transit (ah, the woes of takeout - definitely pop open the top of the takeout box to let the steam out), they were still delicious. One thing to note is that the portions at Dumpling House are smaller than other dumpling spots around the city - for example, the pan-fried dumplings were three pieces for $6.95.
Okkon is a pop-up serving okonomiyaki (Japanese savory pancakes) that really, truly lives in my mind rent-free. They’re currently operating out of Soba Ichi in West Oakland on Saturdays and Sundays. The pancakes are topped with a crispy layer of pork belly, a sweet okonomiyaki sauce, mayo, and bonito flakes - and you can customize them with options like mochi, mushrooms, or wild shrimp. Every bite was packed with incredible flavor, and I immediately regretted not ordering two for myself. At least I know better for next time.
Tacos El Último Baile
Ever since the first lockdown last year, Lake Merritt has become my go-to spot to get much-needed fresh air. You’ll find me there at least once a week, probably doing one of three things: taking a lap, people/geese-watching, or ordering from Tacos El Último Baile, a truck that parks near Grand and Bellevue Tuesday to Friday. I highly recommend going on Thursdays, when they bring out the trompo and make some of my favorite al pastor tacos in the Bay. The meat is perfectly tender, juicy, and crispy, and topped with a generous heap of onions, cilantro, salsa, and fresh pineapple. Keep an eye on their Instagram for other specials.
Hon's Wun Tun House
Winter is my least favorite season. There, I said it! I’d take hay fever and burning-hot steering wheels over rain any day. But the one thing that makes the cold weather bearable (aside from space heaters and a Comfy) is a steaming hot bowl of wonton noodle soup - especially if it’s from Hon’s Wun Ton House. Theirs comes with springy, chewy noodles and fantastic shrimp and pork wontons, and tastes even better with their barbecued pork on top.
The Eritrean/Ethiopian cafe has been a staple in North Oakland since 2000, but I only recently discovered how much I had been missing out on their incredible shihan ful. I went to Alem’s for the first time to order the stew-like dish made with slow-simmered fava beans that are pureed and topped with thinly minced onions, tomatoes, feta cheese, jalapeños, olive oil, and berbere. Each order also comes with two big oval-shaped French rolls, which are the perfect vehicles to scoop up heaps of this flavorful stew. I’ll definitely be back for their other East African breakfast and lunch dishes, like kitcha fit-fit, fata, and tibsy with beef and lamb.
One way to make me feel all warm and cozy (essential feelings, especially in these wild times), is to put a plate of pork tocino silog in front of me. I grew up eating the sweet-cured meat with fried egg and garlic rice - and loved licking the sticky meat marinade from my lips when I was done. When I finally tried the version from this excellent Filipino restaurant in Oakland (for dinner, I may add), I was not disappointed. The order came with one large piece of pork shoulder (I’m used to a heap of smaller cuts of meat), which was flavorful and tender - and went well with the pork adobe I ordered with it. Will I be back for the tocino again? You bet.
You order in advance from this Peruvian grilled chicken pop-up - so in the days leading up to my Saturday pick-up, anticipation was high. And when I finally grabbed the warm tray of pollo a la brasa, crispy fried yucca, and chicken fat rice, I literally had heart palpitations. The meal also came with an incredible “everything” sauce, a tub of chicken soup, and a grilled pepper and onion salad for two. But the tender, juicy chicken - marinated in aji panca, beer, and spices - was the star of the show. It has now ruined all other chicken for me. I will never be the same. Check their Instagram to see how you too can get your hands on this life-altering chicken.
Sunset Squares is a pizza spot that’s currently operating out of the old Perennial space in SoMa. And yes, their square pizzas with mapo tofu and other unique toppings (there’s even one with an entire beef rib) get a lot of attention But I can’t stop thinking about the classic pepperoni. It’s made with a chewy, crispy sourdough crust, excellent tomato sauce, mozzarella, and ricotta - pizza done perfectly. I did also try the one with mapo tofu - and the combination of tofu, ricotta, Sichuan peppercorns, and fermented soybeans worked surprisingly well together. If you have to choose one pie, though, go with the pepperoni.
I heard a rumor that Andy Williams actually wrote ‘It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year’ about persimmon season. And if he didn’t, it’s because he hasn’t had the persimmon toast from Nopa yet. It’s a thick slab of grilled Josey Baker bread, topped with whipped goat cheese, olive oil, arugula, and, of course, bright orange hachiya and fuyu persimmons. Every bite sent me into a state of sweet persimmon-y heaven. It almost felt like I was eating dessert. If you know what’s good for you, get one before the persimmon season ends. Nopa’s menu also changes every day, so if you see this toast on it, order one before it’s off the menu for good.
If I polled my friends and asked what their go-to burrito order is at El Castillito on Church Street, I would probably get many answers. That’s because El Castillito is one of the best taquerias in the city, and everything they serve is great. My tried-and-true burrito is the carne asada with black beans and everything. When I picked one up recently, I was reminded why El Castillito’s burritos are better than a day at the beach. It was thick, the meat was flavorful, and the signature melted cheese still made for a tasty surprise.
I spent my last five ‘winters’ in LA, so sue me if I get cold when the temperature dips below 60. And when it does, my mind gets laser-focused on one thing: noodle soup. Nothing gets me warm - not even burying myself in a Comfy I stole from my roommate - like a piping hot bowl of it. The other day, my soup-deprived brain led me straight to Turtle Tower in SoMa, and more specifically, the combination beef pho. The soup has fat, chewy noodles in a fragrant broth, with tripe and incredibly tender rare and well-done beef. Finishing off the entire thing in record time almost made me forget that there are three more months of winter.
I recently went to Basa Seafood Express in the Mission for salmon poke, and when the person behind the counter asked if I needed chopsticks, I said, ‘No thanks! I have some at home.’ This moment played over in my mind (a sort of regret flashback, if you will) as I sat in standstill traffic on I-80, eating the poke with my hands. But doing so was my only option - the fish was buttery-fresh and bathed in a spicy mayo sauce with red and green onion, and well worth a little mess, chopsticks be damned. The next time I stop by Basa, I’ll be sure to grab a pair of chopsticks - or at least keep an extra pair in my car.
El Manantial Tacos
I’m a taco person, and as a taco person, it is my duty to eat them anytime, anywhere. These reasons alone are why I hate to admit I’ve driven past El Manantial Tacos in West Berkeley many times and never stopped - until recently. A sense of duty finally led me to the small white taco trailer, and what was handed to me after I ordered did not disappoint. On the plate were soft tortillas topped with carnitas, asada, and al pastor, and a spicy grilled jalapeño. My only regret now is that I didn’t stop here sooner.
On a particularly clear, crisp day, I headed to Baker Beach to meet a friend for a picnic. It was a little chilly out, so I wanted to eat something cozy - and the duck chao from Lily, a new Vietnamese restaurant in the Richmond, checked that box. The warm rice porridge was topped with a slow-cooked duck leg that was tender enough to pull apart with a spoon, and dotted with pomegranate seeds, cilantro, and scallions. And in addition to being the best thing I ate that weekend, the bowl doubled as a hand warmer. So instead of worrying about being cold, I could focus my attention instead on the beautiful views - and the silent-disco-esque yoga class happening a few feet away.
I’ve been hearing a lot more about chefs who are running at-home pop-ups, and recently tried Bicycle Pies in Oakland. I ordered a few sweet and savory hand pies, but my favorite - and the one I’ll probably race back for next week - was filled with roasted kabocha squash, turnips, bacon, and garlic, folded into a delightfully buttery, flaky pastry. And as a bonus, the pies were still warm by the time I got them at home. As the name suggests, you can also get your pies delivered by bicycle if you live in Oakland, or pick them up in Temescal.
There aren’t many things that get me out of the house on a rainy day, but the khao soi from Kin Khao is one of them. Their original location in Union Square is currently closed, but, thankfully, their new Dogpatch outpost exists. I picked up a bowl of khao soi there on a recent cold, wet day when all I wanted was to wrap myself in my fuzzy bathrobe and post up in front of a space heater. And the rich chicken curry broth, perfectly chewy egg noodles, and crunchy noodle topping did not disappoint. I’ll be back for another bowl the next time it rains and I need a worthwhile reason to get out of that bathrobe.
This pizza shop in West Oakland makes 40 pies a day, only takes orders by phone, and usually sells out in less than 30 minutes - so you have to be persistent. For me, that effort meant calling no less than 20 times in an attempt to get through. But it was fully worth it when I picked up my massive wood-fired pizzas: one margherita, and one weekly special with persimmons, salami, peppered greens, and dollops of creamy ricotta. The crust was chewy and warm, and both pizzas were absolutely fantastic. All pies I eat in the future have a lot to live up to. Check their Instagram for the special of the week.
The LA team recently gave me a major craving for chicken and rice, so of course I had to satisfy that craving at Rooster and Rice. The mini Bay Area chain serves delicious khao mun gai with super tender chicken, cucumbers, and a really great ginger-garlic-chili sauce. The dish is Lenny Kravitz oversized scarf-level comfort, and inspires pleasant (and equally comforting) childhood flavor memories. Khao mun gai tastes a lot like chicken arroz caldo, a ginger-y Filipino rice porridge my grandmother would make growing up.
Flour + Water Pizzeria
I’ve been in a big pizza phase lately - I’m trying to trick my body into becoming lactose-tolerant by exposing it to lots of mozzarella (it isn’t working, if you’re wondering). Also, nothing says ‘comfort food’ like a warm box of cheesy, saucy bread. Out of all the pizzas I’ve consumed lately, the pepperoni pie from Flour + Water Pizzeria is one of the best. The crackly, chewy crust is topped with thick, crispy-edged pepperoni, pickled red peppers, and mozzarella. But my favorite part? Getting to dip it all in a side of their creamy, house-made ranch.
We’ve been eating a lot of sandwiches this year - so consider it high praise when I say that the shaobing sandwich from this vegan Singaporean spot easily makes my top three. What goes in the sandwiches change weekly, but the one I ordered was stuffed with thick slices of hoisin-braised tofu, garlic charred cabbage, fermented chilies, mint, and cilantro - and it was packed with flavor and texture. But what really makes the sandwich special is the shaobing, a nutty, sesame-covered flatbread with a chewy inside and a golden-brown, crusty exterior. Getting the sandwich takes a bit of planning, though - Lion Dance Cafe is only taking orders starting on Wednesdays at noon for pick-up on Friday and Saturday.
The coffee icing on Astranda Bakery’s cinnamon roll - smooth, well-balanced, and not too sweet - has not left my mind since I cleaned every last bit of it from the to-go container it came in. And frosting aside, the roll itself - fluffy, soft, and layered with a brown sugar cinnamon paste and a sticky coffee-caramel sauce - is equally excellent. Getting your hands on one is the challenge: they’ve been known to sell out in minutes. You can pre-order for pick-up at Elda or delivery in SF on Wednesdays, or stop by Magnolia Mini Mart or Excelsior Coffee on Thursdays. Check their Instagram for updates.
On a recent misty morning, I woke up with one thing on my mind: soup. And there to satisfy my intense desire for a warm bowl of liquid was Hog Island’s fantastic clam chowder. They make theirs without flour, so it’s thinner than a typical New England-style chowder, and packs a ton of flavor with the help of some thick-cut bacon. But the star of this soup show are the juicy, perfectly-steamed Manila clams piled high on top. The next time the weather drops below 60, or I wake up to grey skies, I’ll be back at Hog Island in seconds. You can hold me to it.
Cocobreeze is a new spot in East Oakland that’s serving Trinidadian roti, rice plates, and colorful superfood drinks, and I tried it for the first time this week for dinner. The curry goat roti was excellent, but the jerk chicken wingettes were something special - they were tender, saucy, and had a serious kick to them, and I inhaled them in record time.
Rintaro’s bentos are colorful and pretty, and after getting one you’ll realize how a good-looking takeout container can positively affect your mood these days. But the bentos at this Mission izakaya aren’t solely for aesthetics - they’re really, really great, too. Case in point is the hiyashi udon bento. The box is neatly filled with chilled udon noodles, poached chicken breast, ribbon egg, carrot and cucumber, and a thick, intensely nutty sesame sauce that comes on the side. Another bento to love - the one packed with beautifully grilled yakitori, king trumpet mushrooms, and shoyu tamago.
The Mana'eesh Lady
The Mana’eesh Lady is a Palestinian pop-up in Oakland that makes incredible flatbreads, dips, and pastries. And the baked za’atar mana’eesh, creamy, sumac-dusted hummus, and jalapeño-garlic labneh make regular appearances in my daydreams. After getting shut down in August, the pop-up is only taking pre-orders for pick-up during a 30-minute window on Fridays. Check her Instagram for the link.
While there’s nothing right now that can compare to the beloved experience of sitting inside a bustling dim sum restaurant and ordering more than can fit on the table, takeout from Good Luck Dim Sum in the Richmond is the next best thing. I recently stopped by on the way to Golden Gate Park, and had a lovely afternoon in the sun with my containers of plump shrimp har gow, golden-brown sesame balls, and baked BBQ pork buns the size of my face. They’re cash only - and also, be prepared to wait in line.
The Rake at Admiral Maltings
I love hot dogs, and have craved many this summer. Part of the reason, I think, is because this year’s whacky baseball season has prevented me from kicking back in cheap outfield seats with a steamy stadium dog to watch the A’s do their thing. That’s why I’m grateful for The Rake at Admiral Maltings. It’s a pub (with plenty of outdoor seating) on the Alameda Naval Base, and I’ve been there twice in the last few weeks for their classic hot dog - relish, dijon mustard, and ketchup on a slightly sweet bun. It’s incredible, and the closest I’ll get to feeling baseball things, especially now that the A’s are out of the post-season.
It admittedly doesn’t take much for us to wax poetic about garlic. But we promise we’re not being hyperbolic when we say that the buttery-soft, spreadable garlic confit from Hummus Bodega is a hot contender for one of the best things we’ve eaten in this godforsaken year. The garlic is slow-cooked for three hours in olive oil with rosemary and thyme, and it’s absolutely incredible. Spread the garlic confit on their fresh pita (made by Frena Bakery), or eat it alone by the spoonful (guilty) - and you can also use the leftover oil for cooking. Grab some at Hummus Bodega’s spot in the Richmond, or track down their van, which is selling hummus and pita at various locations in the Bay.
The Japanese restaurant in the Richmond makes everything from udon to potato croquette to sandwiches, but we’re here for the chicken katsu curry plate. It comes with a huge serving of white rice topped with a perfectly fried chicken cutlet, and an Olympic pool-sized container of their gravy-like curry sauce. This is the comfort dish you need now and always. So order one for takeout and enjoy it while contemplating deep thoughts at nearby Golden Gate Park.
Che Fico Alimentari’s takeout offerings have changed several times since the start of quarantine, and now they’re offering bake-at-home lasagnas, picnic kits, and family dinners to go. But we recommend focusing on their small menu of pizzas, which are more satisfying than an afternoon under the sun at Dolores Park. The real star of the show is their pork sausage pizza, with super thinly sliced mushrooms, mozzarella, and sweet red peppers. Make sure to order it with a side of their excellent eggplant caponata, so you have something to dip the crust in.
The garlic noodles and five-spice chicken from this Vietnamese restaurant in the Inner Sunset are the edible equivalents of hugs from friends we haven’t seen in months. And since we’re not hugging it out right now (sorry, is someone cutting onions in here?), we’ll take all the noodles and chicken we can get. Order them with a side of deep-fried imperial rolls, which are perfection.
The Mill makes some of the best bread we’ve ever had, which is why we have no problem throwing down $4-$8 for a slice of it. The bakery has a rotating menu of toast topped with things like seasonal jam, cinnamon and sugar, and Nutella. But we like the avocado toast, which has the perfect (and most scientifically precise) avocado-to-bread ratio. Head there for breakfast or lunch, and grab a Four Barrel Coffee drink to-go.
If there was an award for Tacos That Changed Our Lives, the ones from Tacos Oscar in Oakland would win. They’re made with incredible hand-pressed corn tortillas we’d eat by the pound, and then topped with things like charred romano beans, pickled onions, and peanut-arbol salsa, or pork chile verde with tomatillo salsa, onions, cilantro, and chicharron dust. Get their house-made Fresno chile hot sauce on the side.
After a fire burned down Eko Kitchen’s commercial kitchen space in July, they started serving their Nigerian Sunday suppers out of Merkado in SoMa. The specials change occasionally, but you should get the dinner combo, which comes with things like smoky jollof rice, chicken with roasted red pepper sauce, plantains, sweet potato and plantain chips, and puff puffs - all of which are excellent. But you’ll be missing out if you don’t order their spicy, honey glazed suya wings on the side, too. Order for pick-up here.
We love Mister Jiu’s for many reasons - but we’re here to tell you about their country ham and scallion milk bread. It’s an appetizer on their takeout menu, and was one of the highlights in a recent order. The bread’s a touch sweet, and unbelievably soft, fluffy, and flavorful. It’s also topped with a generous dusting of salty pork floss. If you’re ordering from Mister Jiu’s, or just need a satisfying, carby snack, get this.
If there’s one thing we need now, it’s comfort. And for that we head to Tacos El Patrón, the Mission taqueria with excellent birria tacos. They’re cheesy, extra meaty, and taste even better after being dipped in their rich consomé broth. Tacos El Patrón recently opened a new taco spot called Guisados del Patrón, which we’re excited to check out.
The number of times we’re at Curbside Creamery on any given week could either be considered embarrassing or impressive, depending on how strongly you believe that ice cream is an essential food group. But this isn’t about us. It’s about Curbside’s perfectly creamy, smooth soft serve. And if you’re vegan or so lactose-averse that you carry Lactaid in your wallet, you’ve still got lots of options - from dairy-free scoops of Thai tea or earl grey on their excellent waffle cones to ice cream cookie sandwiches to their cashew-based soft serve. But whatever you order won’t disappoint.
In our lifelong pursuit of the best poke, Hashtag Poki in Berkeley is a top contender. It’s a build-your-own bowl situation, so you can load up your choice of protein (salmon, ahi tuna, hamachi, tako, and more) with whatever toppings, sauces, and sides your fresh-fish-craving heart desires. A mini bowl is $11.50 (comes with two scoops of protein), and it’ll fill you up. They also have great miso soup.
The katsu sandwich from Stonemill Matcha gets a lot of love, but their chicken katsu curry plate deserves even more. For starters, the katsu is perfect: crispy on the outside, and juicy and tender on the inside. It also comes with pickles, rice, and a side of rich, fragrant curry that you can pour over the katsu or use for dipping. Get this if you want a simple, delicious lunch.
Addis Ethiopian Restaurant
Sometimes, in the pursuit of “balanced eating habits,” we like to order a plate of vegetables for dinner. The vegetarian combo from Addis in Oakland is that plate. It serves two, and comes with generous servings of spicy lentils, slow-cooked split peas, collard greens, cabbage and carrots, and tangy injera. Everything is rich, flavorful, and extremely filling - and at $16, it’s also a great deal.
Arizmendi Bakery And Pizza Emeryville
Arizmendi, the early pioneers of the “San Francisco pizza”, has been topping their entirely vegetarian pies with things like potatoes, squash, and broccoli since 1997. The pizzas change daily and can be hit or miss, depending. We recently ordered an excellent one from their Emeryville location with roasted potatoes, red onions, feta, cilantro, and garlic oil. The sourdough crust was springy and chewy, and tasted even better when dipped in some extra garlic oil. We got a whole pizza to-go, but you can also get them half-baked. Check the online pizza calendar of your nearby Arizmendi to see what’s on the menu for the day. They’re doing takeout in the Mission, Inner Sunset, Emeryville, and Lakeshore.
You have a ton of options for Korean food on Telegraph Avenue in North Oakland - Dan Sung Sa, Tin and Pig, Pyeong Chang Tofu House. Another great option is Bowl’d, and we especially like going there for the bibimbap. The bowls come with a ton of fresh vegetables, quinoa, spinach, and all the classic toppings. We get theirs with the juicy beef short ribs, but they have bulgogi, chicken, pork, tofu, and salmon, too. The Alameda and Albany locations are also open for takeout and delivery.
Our ideal afternoon these days involves a couch, a good book, and food that makes us feel like the equivalent of a warm down blanket, like the super tacos from El Gran Taco Loco in Excelsior. They’re essentially regular-sized tacos topped with large dollops of guacamole and sour cream. Get them with the tender and lightly crispy carnitas, or carne asada. They’re creamy, messy, and delicious. In other words, perfect.
We’d preserve the massive za’atar-dusted, hand-kneaded bread from Beit Rima in a glass frame and hang it on our living room wall if we could. But since mold exists, we’ll stick with ordering it to-go. The bread is the perfect dipping mechanism for Beit Rima’s fantastic mezze sampler. It comes with hummus, muhammara (which we’ve been known to eat with a spoon), labneh, baba ganoush, and falafel. And another thing to get - the garlicky chicken shish tawook, which comes with rice and a side of hummus.
Flour + Water’s new to-go shop in the Mission offers sandwiches, snacks, and pantry items - but we love the DIY pasta kits, especially the corn cappelletti. The pasta is hand-folded with a sweet, lemony ricotta filling, and you’re given everything you need to cook the fragrant, buttery sauce on your own. The kit also comes with freshly baked focaccia, which is some of the best we’ve had in months. You can place an order for pick-up here.
This Laotian, Thai, and Vietnamese spot in Ivy Hill is an Oakland institution - and the Champa Sampler (a name our SF Editor may or may not have tattooed on her left rib) is last-meal worthy. For $15, you get fried rice ball salad, crispy spring rolls, Lao sausages, noodles, and lettuce to make your own wraps. The sampler is best shared, but you’ll probably end up fighting over the last bites of crunchy, flavor-packed rice ball salad that’s doused in fish sauce.
Comal Next Door
Comal recently opened a second location of Comal Next Door - their more casual, takeout-focused taqueria. The new Oakland spot on Grand Ave. has great frozen enchiladas and mole tamales you should definitely get, but the al pastor bowl is the real standout. The meat is tender and flavorful, and it’s topped with pineapple, lettuce, cheese, beans, crema, salsa, and rice. Add this bowl to your lunch rotation immediately.
There are many reasons to drop by La Espiga De Oro, a restaurant and mini-market in the Mission. Burritos, fresh chicharrones, coffee, dried chilies, etc. In this new era, we like coming here for a big assortment of Mexican, Honduran, or Guatemalan-style tamales. The masa is fluffy and light, and the bones are left on the meat to give the tamales a richer, fuller flavor.
The neighborhood coffee shop is our favorite spot to get lattes and iced coffee whenever we’re in the area. They also feature ube desserts from the Bay Area-based small-batch bakery Ube Area. They have everything from ube mochi donuts, flan, and cheesecake. But the ube brownie bar, which is made with white chocolate, is chewy, soft, and not too sweet - just the way we like it.
The Israeli restaurant in Oakland opened back in March in the midst of shelter-in-place (it’s located next to Doña in the former Chow spot). And since then, they’ve been offering hummus, housemade pitas, zingy beet salads, and rugelach for takeout and delivery. One of the standout mains is the majadra plate with pomegranate eggplant (you can also order it with chicken, lamb, or salmon), and comes with a sauce of your choosing ($1 extra). They’re open daily from 11am-8pm, and also have outdoor seating.
The small, counter-serve Argentine empanada spot in West Oakland is perfect if you’re in need of a quick lunch. Their savory, handheld pies are made with a light, buttery dough and stuffed with delicious meat or vegetarian fillings. Try the carne or champiñones mushrooms. They have a vegan option, too. And make sure to ask for a side of the zesty chimichurri sauce (it’s 65 cents extra for a 1-ounce container). Actually, it’s so good you’ll want to slather it on everything, so do yourself a favor and get two - or ten.
Minnie Bell's Soul Movement
The former soul food pop-up is a staple in the Emeryville Public Market, and for good reason. They make an excellent rosemary fried chicken that’s lightly crispy on the outside, and moist on the inside. Get the 4-piece combo (they also have 2- and 8-piece), which comes with a deliciously dense cornbread and two sides - make sure the extra cheesy mac and cheese is one of them.
Thanks to, well, the world, we need pick-me-ups, a lot of them. And these days, this comfort comes in the form of excellent cookies from Anthony’s. We’ll just say it - they’re the best cookies we’ve ever had. Chewy in the middle, and lightly crispy on the outside. They’ll make you rethink all those Nestlé Toll House cookie dough tubes you bought in quarantine. If they have Dark Chocolate Chip or Walnut Chip on the menu, order it. Actually, get one of everything from the cookie menu and call it a day. Both their SF and Berkeley locations are open for takeout.
The cash-only dim sum spot in Chinatown is one of the best in Oakland. You can get everything from chow fun, har gow, lo mai gai, and potstickers (trust us, you’ll look at the full spread from behind the counter and want it all), but you’re here for the steamed pork buns - they’re big and fluffy.
There’s really no better way to say this - El Metate makes our favorite burrito in the city. They’re longer and thinner than most, but we’re not complaining. They’re exceptional. Order a carnitas super burrito to-go. The meat is perfectly cooked every time, and they come with a generous heap of guacamole and sour cream.
If you’re a quick lunch type of person, you need something that stands out. Like, really stands out. Order four carne asada tacos from El Paisa, the East Oakland taqueria off of High St. The asada is well-seasoned and comes on two corn tortillas. You’ll also get a side of pearl onions and nopales, plus a ton of cucumber, radishes, and your choice of salsa.
La Ciccia in Noe Valley is one of our favorite restaurants in the city. And right now, the Sardinian restaurant is serving their incredible seafood pastas for takeout and outdoor dining. On a recent visit, we got the spaghetti with spicy oil, garlic, and cured fish roe. It’s a tasty dish - and the perfect example of simple things coming together to make something great.