The range of food you can get in Oakland is sort of mind-boggling, even just looking back on the fraction we were able to cover on CHOW Tour. Telegraph Avenue is full of Korean and Ethiopian restaurants (we still need to make it to the places on Robert Lauriston’s soju bang list for some Korean drinking snacks). There’s Laotian cuisine (served with Raiders-themed décor, no less). High-end cocktails at Sidebar. Mexican street food in Fruitvale. Fancy late-night burgers at Plum. It goes on and on. So it’s not surprising that the fabulous diversity of the city was brought up over and over again by all the locals we spoke to. It really makes Oakland a great place to be.
There is also a down-to-earth, genuinely hospitable vibe in Oakland restaurants—from the casual to the fancy places—that is refreshing. My theory is that it stems from the fact that chefs of all stripes are more community-focused. Charlie Hallowell from Pizzaiolo really embodies this aspect of the Oakland food scene in the way he tries to make eating dinner at his restaurant feel like a party for the people in the neighborhood, every night. And diners want to support their neighborhood restaurants too, so there is a real sense of Oakland pride and community when you walk into a restaurant there.
The support for the community is also noticeable among chefs: Oakland restaurants want one another to succeed. One chef described to us how it might sound counterintuitive, but it’s really a good thing for Oakland, for neighborhoods, and for the restaurants themselves when multiple places open up in the same area, because it turns it into a place people can come out to and cruise around in. Makes sense.
We also left Oakland feeling, well, lame. CHOW is based in San Francisco, mere miles away, and yet I have to admit, I had barely explored Oakland before this tour. Now I know I’m an idiot for not spending the extra couple of minutes to cross the bridge for more sun and great food.