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mcchowhound | Jan 11, 200309:51 PM     1

I was intrigued by the mention of this place a few days ago on the Chowhound board. A Bulgarian restaurant in the middle of downtown Oakland seemed irresistable. Alas, not so.

Bulgaria at Night "occurs" from Thursday through Saturday nights when a large mall-ish pasta lunch restaurant is taken over by a Bulgarian cook for dinner. The address is on 12th St., just west of Broadway, but I think it would be hard to find from there. The real entrance is in the pedestrian mall (which would be 13th St. if there were one) in the middle of a large group of office buildings.

The room is bright and plastic, as might be expected (though they could help it by turning down the lights.) Two or three tables of other diners were huddled in the shadows against the back wall when we got there Friday night at 7:30. All were speaking a language which we took to be Bulgarian.

The waiter was friendly, but didn't speak much English. Another good sign. The menu had a number of Bulgarian specialties. We ordered Skopje (sp.?) salad - a traditional Bulgarian dish with feta cheese, a pork "File," (usually thin pork rolled in feta and caraway seeds) and the mixed grill. The "feta" seemed like a particularly bland Wisconsin Swiss - not even remotely sour. There was no noticeable seasoning in anything. The meat was O.K. - big portions ($16.95 and $15.95) with decent french fries - but nothing you would drive to downtown Oakland in the rain for. There was a nice Baklava for dessert, and the wine list has some good Bulgarian reds. There was also live music - a group of four people in what might be traditional rural Bulgarian outfits playing and singing something that was probably authentic.

The idea of this place is great. The people seemed a bit surprised that we were there - not extravagantly welcoming, but certainly nice and helpful enough. I would be really happy if someone else goes at another time and finds the food to be better. It's certainly possible that we went on the chef's night out. Please post if you know more.

One last thing: an earlier post has a link to a site which describes the restaurant but gives the wrong telephone number. The correct one is (510) 834-7363. Given that they seemed to have about fifty tables, you probably won't need a reservation.

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