Thursday, March 14, 2013

Oakland Foodie Institutions

Most foodies are on the hunt for the hottest new supper club, pop-up restaurant or food truck in town. But there is so much to be said for a culinary institution. Below is my ode to the best foodie institutions in Oakland. These places have done more than stand the test of time, they've defined the culinary culture of this city. If you really want to experience Oakland's gastronomic greatness, these spots are not to be missed!

Arizmendi Bakery: Est.1997 - This local favorite has a cult following for it's rotating vegetarian pizza menu with seasonal ingredients on a to-die-for sourdough crust. There is a bevy of fresh baked goods made by devout co-op employee/owners.   

Neighborhood: Lakeshore

Colonial Donuts: Est. 1970 - This was my Grandpa's favorite donut shop. Open 24/7 and you can always find an eclectic clientele. Most Friday nights, an intense chess or dominoes game will ensue. It's the best late night after you leave the club. You bite into them and they're still warm!
Neighborhood: Lakeshore

Kwik Way: Est. 1960's - The "kick it spot" (as my mom puts it) for decades. Revitalized in 2009 to shed the bad rep garnered in the 80's. The new Kwik Way serves fresh, local ingredients. Get a dose of retro vibe with modern taste.
Neighborhood: Grand Lake

Merritt Bakery: Est. 1952 - Best known for their fried chicken and strawberry shortcake!
Neighborhood: East Lake

Zachary's Chicago Pizza: Est. 1983 - Chicago transplants brought beloved Chicago style deep dish pizza to Oakland and have been serving up  quality, award winning pie's ever since!
Neighborhood: Rockridge

Red Sea Restaurant : Est. 1980's - Family style meals and East African tradition.
Neighborhood: Rockridge

Kaspers Hot Dogs: Est 1929/ Caspers Hot Dogs: Est 1934 - Whichever your preference (with a C or K). I remember coming to the Original Kaspers on Telegraph (now closed but there is still a spin off on MacArthur in the Laurel) with my Grammy to get hot dogs and fries. Both are just good ole hot dog joints. You won't be disappointed with either one.
Neighborhoods: Rockridge & Laurel

Yoshi's Oakland: Est. 1977 - Original location was in Rockridge with a move to the current Jack London Square location in 1997. A world class Jazz destination and Japanese cuisine crusader.
Neighborhood: Jack London Square

Everett & Jones Barbecue: Est. 1973 - This family run and operated BBQ staple has not only kept Oaklanders licking their fingers for generations but has been a huge community supporter. Check the adjacent lounge, Q's Joint, for musical showcases featuring local rising stars.
Neighborhood: Jack London Square

Nation's Giant Hamburgers: Est. 1970 -  This has been the spot for late night eats for decades. You'll go for the burgers, but come back for the desserts!
Neighborhood: Jack London Square

Heinold's First & Last Chance Saloon: Est. 1883 - The bar is perfectly adorned and weathered.  Not only an institution but a historical landmark.
Neighborhood: Jack London Square

Quinn's Lighthouse: Est. 1984 - The restaurant was established in '84, but the lighthouse dates back to 1903. Great food, a beautiful view of the estuary and a legit sports bar upstairs. I have great memories of dining with my grandmother, eating our favorite dish - Prawns Doodaa. It's still my family's go to restaurant.
Neighborhood: East Peralta

Mexicali Rose: Est. 1927 - Family owned casual Mexican cuisine. Beloved by longshoremen for decades.
Neighborhood: Old Oakland

Genova Delicatessen & Ravioli Factory: Est. 1926 - Premier Italian deli with big personalities to boot.
Neighborhood: Temescal

Taste of Denmark: Est. 1929 - Reborn by employees as "Taste of Denmark" after a recession forced closure of the original Neldam's Danish Bakery. Amazing quality baked goods for sale (I swear by the parkerhouse rolls) and custom creations for any occasion.
Neighborhood: Mosswood

Fenton's Creamery: Est. 1894 - Family Owned retro soda fountain that has been delivering on sundae perfection for generations.
Neighborhood: Piedmont Ave

Little Shin Shin: Est. 1982 - One of the best Chinese restaurants in Oakland. Award winner several times over.
Neighborhood: Piedmont Ave

Lois the Pie Queen: Est. 1951 - In the Oakland location since 1973. Comfort soul food and yes, the pie is divine! This place is legendary. My family has been brunching here since I can remember. But get there early to get a table. Just to clarify, this spot is definitely in Oakland, not Emeryville.
Neighborhood: North Oakland

Old Weang Ping: Est: 1980's - The husband and wife duo have been schooling patrons on authentic Thai food for decades. So old school, they don't accept cards. 
Neighborhood: Millsmont

Mills Hoagie & Deli Shop: Est. Unknown - However, I can vouch that it's at least 20 years old because I remember this place from my childhood. Solid hoagies with lots of meat and great fries. You can't beat it!
Neighborhood: Millsmont

Francesco's Restaurant: Est. 1968 - Old school Italian joint. It's big sign and bright awnings have been a fixture driving to and from the Oakland Airport since I can remember.
Neighborhood: Coliseum

I'm sure you have some favorites that didn't make the list. Tweet me your honorable mentions! @oaklands_own

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