When people think of the Bay Area’s amazing food scene, they typically think of San Francisco. And while no one is disputing San Francisco as a world-renowned foodie destination, in our
extremely biased opinions (as Oakland residents for 4 years) the food in Oakland is hella underrated. There is incredibly good food in Oakland – but it’s different than what you’ll find in San Francisco. San Francisco tastes like a Mission Burrito from a taqueria, clam chowder in a bread bowl, fresh oysters, a sweet bun from a Chinese bakery, a crunchy banh mi sandwich, and fresh avocado toast. Oakland? Well, Oakland tastes more like chicken & waffles, shrimp & grits, spongy Ethiopian injera bread, sizzling Korean bulgogi, and bubbling mac & cheese. Both are equally incredible – but they’re very, very different. If you haven’t explored Oakland as a foodie (I see you, people who only come to Oakland for Warrior’s games), here’s a complete list of our favorite restaurants in Oakland to get you started on your next trip to the Bay Area!
Best Brunch in Oakland
Aunt Mary’s Cafe | Website | 4640 Telegraph Ave (Temescal) | $$
- San Francisco has Brenda’s, but Oakland has Aunt Mary’s when it comes to delicious, gourmet Cajun style southern food. Aunt Mary’s used to serve food all day, but their brunch was so good that there was no point. Now, they only serve brunch, and it’s excellent. French toast baguettes soaked in a whiskey custard and served with red and white wine compote and fruit. Cajun shrimp & grits. Buttermilk biscuits with sage gravy. Is your mouth watering yet?! Note: The lines for weekend brunch at Aunt Mary’s are less than you’ll find in San Francisco, but expect a wait.
Grand Lake Kitchen | Website | 576 Grand Avenue, Oakland (Grand Lake) | $$
- Sick of boring old traditional brunch food staples? Time to visit Grand Lake Kitchen! From their savory french toast with wild mushrooms, parmesan, and arugula to braised pork belly and polenta to “reuben fries” to a pastrami and rye eggs benedict, Grand Lake Kitchen turns everything you thought you knew about brunch on its head.
Best Southern Soul Food in Oakland
Brown Sugar Kitchen | Website | 2534 Mandela Parkway, Oakland (West Oakland) | $$
- Chicken & waffles. Shrimp & grits. Buttermilk biscuits. Pulled BBQ pork. I may be from Kentucky – which is debatably more Midwestern than it is Southern – but these are the foods that take me home. The young French-trained chef has created a community staple in West Oakland, and you’ve probably seen her cookbook on the shelves of many other well-known restaurants throughout the country. This is southern soul food, done well and done right.
Picán | Website | 2295 Broadway at 23rd (Uptown) | $$
- I wish I could afford to go to Pican every day of my life. Pican serves up southern comfort soul food that warms you to your bones: fried chicken slathered in truffle honey, crawfish mac & cheese, jumbolaya, Louisiana crab dip. And bourbon. So much bourbon! 106 bourbons! As a Kentucky girl, I deeply appreciate a place who understands bourbon. You can be an honorary Kentuckian, Picán. You’ve earned it.
Best Korean Food in Oakland
There’s a LOT of Korean food in Oakland. Whole blocks in Temescal are devoted to Korean BBQ, bibimbop, hot pot, and tofu soup. It was a little bit overwhelming for a Midwestern girl like me who’d never tried Korean food before. I was like, do I really get all of these sides?! With free refills?! (Answer: YES, and it’s AMAZING.) I’m officially a huge fan! Here are my favorite picks for Korean food in Oakland.
Gogi Time | Website | 2600 Telegraph Ave, Oakland (Uptown) | $$-$$$
- There’s Korean BBQ, and then there’s Gogi Time. Gogi Time is on another level. You’ll be seated at a table with a grill and your food choices will be brought to your table, raw. Throw them on the grill (or in a giant bowl of hot pot broth) and ask for more. There’s a 2-hour limit with a set price for you to eat as much as you possibly can. Trust us, you’ll use the whole 2 hours. Tip: You might want to fast all day to prepare yourself for this feast. Our favorites are the spicy pork and savory pancakes!
Pyeongchang Tofu House | Website | 4701 Telegraph Ave Oakland (Temescal) | $
- Ever had tofu soup? I hadn’t before moving to Oakland. Tofu soup is a delicious traditional Korean soup with soft, silken tofu served in a steaming hot bowl with crunchy grilled rice . It’s flavorful and incredibly filling (not to mention you get a zillion delicious sides with it) so it makes a great budget-friendly meal. If tofu isn’t your favorite, the cabbage and short rib soup is freaking incredible. Bring a friend to slurp your soup and share your side dishes with. Oh, and order a kimchi pancake (don’t try to eat one on your own, they’re enormous).
Bowl’d BBQ | Website |4869 Telegraph Ave Oakland (Temescal) | $
- Bulgogi, bibimbop, jhap chae, and the works: Bowl’d BBQ is fantastic Korean food. A little further down on Telegraph than the other Korean restaurants, Bowl’d is no less legit and plenty delicious for anyone looking to stuff themselves on a budget.
Best Ethiopian Food in Oakland
You’ll see a huge amount of Ethiopian restaurants clustered around the Macarthur and Ashby BART stations. If you’ve never had Ethiopian food, you might be a little bit taken aback to find no silverware at all. Instead of silverware, you’ll be soaking up flavorful, sauce-rich meat and veggie dishes from a large platter on sour, spongy injera bread. These are my favorite Ethiopian spots in Oakland!
Abesha Ethiopian Cuisine | Yelp | 4929 Shattuck Ave, Oakland (Temescal) | $$
- Choose your own combo platters to mix and match every dish that you’ve ever wanted to try! I love DIY combo plates. You can get vegan and gluten free platters, but for the rest of you, don’t miss out on the beef wot.
Asmara Restaurant | Website | 5020 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland (Temescal) | $
- Asmara serves up yummy classic Ethiopian & Eritrean cuisine. I’ve never left Asmara still hungry. If you don’t know where to start, get one each of the Vegetarian and Meat combo platters. My fave Ethiopian dishes at Asmara are fitfit, doro watt, tikil gomen, and ye-beg alicha. The other must-try at Asmara restaurant? Their honey wine! Try a glass … or upgrade to a carafe, you saucy minx.
Best Deep Dish Pizza in Oakland
Zachary’s | Website | 5801 College Ave, Oakland (Rockridge) | $$
- Zachary’s is a famous East Bay deep dish pizza place. I know there’s that whole New York versus Chicago deep dish pizza rivalry, but Zachary’s is Oakland’s claim to fame (also, it’s Chicago style. Just FYI). The pizza is as thick as a pie, covered with sauce and deliciously cheesy. Order one of Zachary’s classic flavors – or their delicious weekly special – or make your own creation. Come see why Oakland will defend their deep dish pizza forever. PS: Zachary’s was founded by a guy named Zach Zachowski. How great is that?!
Best Burger in Oakland
True Burger | Website | 146 Grand Ave and 4101 Broadway, Oakland (Uptown and Temescal)| $
- True Burger is seriously delicious. They have amazingly satisfying burgers, awesome shakes, and the garlickyest of fries. If you’re craving a burger in Oakland, you gotta hit up True Burger!
Best Ramen in Oakland
Sobo Ramen | Website | 988 Franklin St #186, Oakland | $
- Sobo Ramen is delicious, whether you’ve had real ramen before or still think that ramen refers to the 25 cent packs of college dorm food they sell at Safeway (you poor thing). People will tell you that there is better ramen in Oakland, but you’ll have to wait longer and pay twice as much. Sobo Ramen is more worth your time and money. We love the black garlic Tonkotsu ramen with extra chashu and quail eggs!
Best Cold-Pressed Juice in Oakland
Antidote Juicery |Website | 420 40th St, Oakland (Temescal) | $
Delicious fresh cold-pressed juice, and good food too (including, yes, delicious fancy avocado toast. So I guess Oakland and San Francisco aren’t all that different after all). Look for a tiny converted shipping container with a sign. By the way, Antidote is closed in the winter, apparently, so check before you go.
Best Mac & Cheese in Oakland
Homeroom | Website | 400 40th St, Oakland (Temescal) | $$
- Homeroom should really be listed as “best mac & cheese in the world” because it really is. This famous East Bay restaurant offers all kinds of unique flavors of insanely good mac and cheese. Like, that’s what they serve. If you don’t want mac and cheese, go somewhere else. We’ve tried almost every kind of the menu, and they’re all good, but the seasonal pick is usually the best bet. Some of our favorite flavors: jalapeno popper mac & cheese, french onion soup mac & cheese, pesto mac & cheese, buffalo chicken mac & cheese, Hawaiian mac & cheese. Also,you definitely need to try their buttermilk biscuits (as if you needed more carbs, right?). Chase your mac & cheese down with a beer and some dessert too. Oh, and don’t worry, there are plenty of gluten free & vegan options!
Best Latin American Food in Oakland
Cholita Linda | Website |4923 Telegraph Ave, Oakland (Temescal) | $
- Cholita Linda serves up delicious Latin Food, from tacos to platos to Cubanos to yucca fries. We’ve traveled all over Latin America and we still think Cholita Linda is some of the best Latin food we’ve ever had. Their carnitas tacos are heaven sent, and the picadillo and chicharron de pollo platters are both to die for. Prepare yourself for a line, and try to sit outside on the patio in the back if you can!
Best Ice Cream in Oakland
Tara’s Organic Ice Cream | Website | 4731 Telegraph, Oakland (Temescal) | $
- Taras serves fresh and unusual flavors that actually actually taste exactly like their ingredients. You’ll find quirky flavors like Chinese 5 Spice, Bay Leaf, Lime Curd, Garam Masala, and Adzuki Bean & Sesame mingled among more “ordinary” fare like Strawberry & Basil or Salted Caramel. And of course, everything is fresh and organic. For vegans, Tara’s also offers delicious sorbets. Weird Fact: Tara’s was one of the stops on the extravagant Scavenger Hunt I sent Jeremy on for our first Valentine’s Day together. The hint? A bunch of people named Tara. Anyway, that’s a whole other, mushier story.)
Fenton’s Creamery | Website | 4226 Piedmont Ave, Oakland (Piedmont) | $
- Fenton’s Creamery is an Oakland institution, serving up incredibly fresh ice cream since 1894. Fenton’s is a classic old school style soda fountain shoppe, with both classic & modern ice cream flavors. Order a “Black & Tan” sundae and find someone to share it with! Fenton’s Creamery has diner style food too but I’ve actually only ever gone to Fenton’s for the ice cream, so please let me know how the food is if you try it.
Curbside Creamery | Website | 482 49th St, Oakland (Temescal) | $
- Tucked inside the adorable Temescal Alley (or Hipster Alley as we affectionately call it) is cute little Curbside Creamery. Serving up delicious flavors like Bourbon Vanilla or Thai Iced Tea along with vegan offerings (made from cashew milk, which is a lot like actual milk only ca-chewier, GET IT?!), at Curbside Creamery you can also make your flavor of choice into a delicious ice cream sandwich on a selection of fresh cookies. Yum!
Best Gluten Free Food in Oakland
Believe it or not, I was gluten free for 3 years while living in Oakland. It’s hard to imagine now that I’ve spent the last year alternating between drinking beer and cramming croissants into my face. Anyway, during that wonderful period of bloat-free bliss, I became bff’s with some excellent local gluten free food in Oakland.
Grease Box | Website | 942 Stanford Ave, Oakland (Bushrod) | $
- Grease Box isn’t just hella good gluten free food: it’s hella good food. You really wouldn’t know it was gluten free if that wasn’t the whole purpose of the restaurant. From insanely good fried chicken & waffles to hangover-curing comfort breakfasts, Grease Box is well worth the trip to wherever Bushrod is (the joke here is that I actually lived in Bushrod for 2 years before I realized I lived in a neighborhood called Bushrod. Bushrod?! Are you f***ing kidding me?! That sounds like something you learn about from your older brother’s skeezy friend in middle school. Who the f*** named this neighborhood?!).
Mariposa | Website | 5427 Telegraph Ave, Unit D3, Oakland (Temescal) | $
- Gluten free and craving a sandwich? How about a bagel? How about cakes, cupcakes, pretzels, pie crusts, irish soda bread, and even f***ing pastry?!?! Mariposa does it all, and without any of that weird mealy taste you get from shitty sub-par gluten free food. You know what I’m talking about. Like when you try to make a sandwich from gluten free “bread” and end up with a pile of soggy mush and a feeling of deep loss. Mariposa is the answer to all of your bread-like cravings. I probably wouldn’t have lasted the whole 3 years without them.
Best Vegan Food in Oakland
Souley Vegan | Website | 301 Broadway, Oakland (Jack London) | $
- If Southern comfort soul food is one of the principal flavors of Oakland, Souley Vegan brings that Oakland taste to vegans. With staples like fried okra, smothered potatoes, and blueberry pancakes, Souley Vegan dishes up food that’s not just good for vegan food, but good in general. Take your favorite vegan for Sunday brunch.
- With a name like “Hella Vegan Eats,” you know this is gonna be some legit NorCal food. And this queer-run food truck turned restaurant and beer garden is totally Oakland. True to form, you’ll find vegan versions of delicious dishes like pecan pie donuts, chicken & waffles, avocado toast, and french toast soaked in apple compote and blackberry maple syrup.
Shangri-La Vegan | Website | 4905 Telegraph Ave, Oakland (Temescal) | $
- Organic, macro-biotic, super budget-friendly, and so good. Shangri-La is simple, wholesome vegan food at affordable prices. Each day there are 2 set menus. You don’t get to choose what you want to eat, but instead, how much of it you’d like. For an insanely reasonable price, you’ll get a selection of all of the day’s vegan offerings, from lentil soup to collard greens to baked yams. For dessert, try some raw vegan pie: strawberry pie, chocolate pie, key lime pie, you name it. You’ll leave stuffed and feeling good about yourself. Also, free unlimited tea!
Best Food Markets in Oakland
Looking for a place to eat in Oakland doesn’t always have to mean a restaurant (or food truck). Sure, Oakland doesn’t have its own Ferry Building, exactly. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t fantastic food markets in Oakland! These are our favorite one-stop shops for Oakland foodies.
Market Hall | Website | 5655 College Ave, Oakland (Rockridge) | $
- Market Hall is so much more than just a grocery store. It’s also a bakery, a gourmet deli, a cheese shop, a wine shop, and butcher. There’s also artisanal flowers, if that’s like, useful for you. At Market Hall, they make their own pasta from scratch and the cheese shop is what dreams are made from. Market Hall is incredibly fancy, but honestly, it’s worth the cost. Plus, there are usually free samples! We recommend:
- The Bakery: the tres leches cake, the levain bread loaves, and the pizza.
- Highwire Coffee: inside of Market Hall is one of our favorite Oakland coffee shops. Get a nitro cold brew and a gluten free salted date cookie (or like, a kouign amann. Or both!).
- The Pasta Shop: Pick a flavor of fresh ravioli, any flavor of fresh ravioli!
- The Deli: The meatballs and the meatloaf are both insanely good. They’re made with like, veal and pork and love.
Temescal Sunday Farmer’s Market | Website | Oakland DMV at Claremont & Cavour (Rockridge) | $
- The Temescal farmer’s market was next door to us when we lived in Oakland, and we went every week. These days, there are actually Oakland food tours that start in the Temescal Farmer’s Market (not kidding). Also, yes, the Temescal farmers market is in Rockridge. Our favorite stalls:
- Starter Bakery: get a kouign amann, thank us later
- Saint Benoit Creamery for fresh, organic whole milk. (Or if you prefer, there’s fresh organic almond milk just next door.)
- Boccalone: The best salami you’ll ever have in your life outside of Europe.
- Bolani: stuffed Afghan flatbreads with incredible dipping sauces. Spend more than 1 minute there and you might just fill up on samples from the friendly employee running the stall!
- There’s also fresh cheese, fresh pasta, a couple of bakeries (and some gluten free bakeries), tons of fresh fruit and veggies, cold-pressed juice and olive oil, fermented Saurkraut, dried fruits and nuts, and more. Oh, and prepared foods too – the pizza and Thai stalls are especially good!
$ = Under $15 $$ = $15-25| $$$ = $25+
I hope this list of where to eat in Oakland had your mouth watering and tempted you to cross the Bay Bridge on your next night out in San Francisco! Psst – We’re working on a San Francisco version of this post. In the meantime, here’s where to eat oysters in San Francisco and where to get coffee in San Francisco!
One thing to note: If you’re finding yourself wondering “where the heck are [restaurant I read about in an online foodie magazine] and [restaurant that won a bunch of prestigious awards] and [restaurant with a famous San Francisco chef], well, you can find those spots in similiar articles about restaurants in Oakland from local Bay Area magazines like 7×7, but I find that most of their recommendations are more on the fancy/expensive side. I tried not to stick to the same list of places that you’ll see on “best restaurants in Oakland” lists. In fact, I actively excluded some of the most well-known foodie spots. Why? Because after a while they all start to feel like different versions of the same restaurants that you can also find in San Francisco, and frankly, part of the appeal of getting food in Oakland is skipping the long lines, high prices, and frou-frou pretentiousness of San Francisco’s foodie scene. If you’re going out to eat in Oakland, I encourage you to seek out Oakland flavors. But hey, if you think something should be included, please leave us a comment and let us know!
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Feature photo credit: Larissa Cleveland via Grand Lake Kitchen