Way before people sold crème brûlée on the sidewalk, there was great street food thriving in Oakland that didn't involve tweeting or "liking" on Facebook. One of the Bay Area's biggest experts on the scene is John Birdsall, editor of SF Weekly's food blog, SFoodie, and a longtime Oakland resident. Here's a look at two of the highlights of the tour he took us on in the Fruitvale neighborhood: a spicy, French-dip-meets-torta stuffed with tender braised lamb, sold from a sweet ’70s van; and chicken grilled roadside out front of Taqueria Durango and served with an amazing cactus salad seasoned with toasted oregano.
Pipirin Taco Stand
34th Avenue and Farnam Street, Oakland
No phone available
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Best Chicken Quesadilla
Crunchy, gooey, and crazy delicious, these chicken and cheese quesadillas are super simple to make, and even easier to eat. Before you start, prep some pico de gallo (or whatever kind of salsa you like) and guacamole for topping, and don't forget the sour cream.
Basic Chocolate Mousse
Simultaneously rich and light, chocolate mousse just requires a little bit of finesse, and the freshest, best-quality ingredients (eggs, chocolate, and cream) you can procure. Be sure to chill your cream very well and get every speck of water out of the bowl and whisk you'll use for the egg whites, then use a light hand when folding in the whipped cream, and you'll have a perfectly fluffy and decadent dessert.
Chicken Tortilla Soup
Softened vegetables, including onions and bell peppers, amped up with spices like chili powder, cumin, oregano, and cayenne, form the base of this tortilla soup. Chicken broth and tomatoes are added, along with soft corn tortillas that meld into the liquid to make a hearty, thick meal. Finally, shredded chicken is stirred in, and everything is garnished with crunchy tortilla strips, sour cream, shredded cheese, and scallions (avocados, pickled jalapeños, and cilantro would all work too).
Easy Rice Pudding
A simple and supremely satisfying dessert, rice pudding is pure comfort in a bowl. It's easy to get there too! Just simmer white rice with whole milk, sugar, and a pinch of salt until the grains are tender, plump, and creamy, then stir in a little vanilla or almond extract while the pudding's still warm. Top however you like (fresh berries in season, dried fruit, toasted nuts for a crunchy contrast, a sprinkle of cinnamon, etc.) -- you really can't go wrong.