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5 Great Foodie Dates in Oakland

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Yummy food in Oakland. Photo from bon appétit.

Having moved from The City to The Town 2 years ago, I’ve been determined to find adventures in the East Bay which are unique to this area and make me miss San Francisco just a little bit less. My favorite partner in crime for adventuring in the East Bay is my boyfriend. He owns a local bakery so (obviously) our dates center around the best places to eat in Oakland and the East Bay.

We typically have 5 criteria. A proper date around The Town needs to have at least 4 of the following:

1: No line…lines are for San Francisco (No more than 2 parties ahead of us).
2: Let’s not break the bank…a date for 2 should be no more than $100.
3: Not too loud for conversation.
4: Delicious AF.
5: Local Business Owner.

The thing that strikes me as unique to Oakland restaurants is it’s small business owners with a passion for their food and culture. Each owner we’ve met on our dates has loved sharing their story, their flavors and their favorite dishes with us. Each restaurant breathes life into their respective neighborhoods and the number of regulars to each establishment warms your heart to see. The food is thoughtful and leaves you wanting to share with others what you just ate & ask them to come along next time.

These dates mentioned below are listed to inspire and lead you on mini-culinary adventures which create a great story. For me, the best kind of date is just that – a story you can share.

1: Best First Date: The iconic Grand Lake Farmers Market

image from Abel for Oakland

First dates need to have two things:

1. Enough time to talk, but in a way that lets you get to know the other person quickly.
2. The ability to cut the date short if things go awry.

The Grand Lake Farmers Market is where I met my boyfriend for our first date. We met up at Highwire Coffee (conveniently on the corner), then walked around and did some basic shopping. When we were done, we found a seat to finish our coffees. It was clear we could hold an effortless conversation and things were going smoothly, so we found a place for lunch down the street on Grand Ave.

PRO TIP: Use the date to build the perfect picnic and walk over to the shore of Lake Merritt. If the date is going well, slyly make this suggestion as you pick out some fresh fruit.

2: Impress your date with the BEST Thai food in the Bay Area

photo from Daughter Thai

If an SF restaurant held a title of “Best Thai Restaurant in the Bay Area” you’d see a line down the block. But if you tuck that same restaurant into the hills of Oakland, you’ll still get a table in less than 30 minutes.

Enter, Daughter Thai. The ambiance is beautiful with reclaimed sewing tables and bright white walls. The only downfall is that it gets very loud in this space. This isn’t first date friendly, but once you’re at the stage in your relationship where you’re comfortable slurping noodles, head over to Daughter Thai and sample as much of the menu as possible without breaking the bank. I highly recommend the Pad Kee Mow as well as their “Mieng Kum Kung” appetizer – large tiger prawns with a sweet sauce wrapped in a leafy green with fresh ginger.

PRO TIP: Ask for mild if you can’t handle spicy food. Daughter Thai is known for a spicy KICK in its dishes, so we ward off the seasonal cold by diving into delicious Thai at Daughter.

3: Best Breakfast in Oakland: Sequoia Diner

photo from Berkelyside

The cure-all for any late night with your date is a meal together at a delicious AF breakfast place. Sequoia Diner is a locals-only gem in The Laurel. We make an exception here about standing in line because the food is THAT GOOD.

We’ve been going once a month or so for the last couple years – the waitresses know us by name and ask how life is going. But, this diner isn’t your typical greasy spoon. It’s a mom-and-pop diner with a rotating menu listing off seasonally appropriate dishes which are all made from scratch. Since they have an in-house pastry chef, they have hot out of the oven pecan sticky buns which are seriously heaven.

PRO TIP: If you arrive and the wait is 30+ minutes long, throw down your credit card at the counter and you can wait with two fresh coffees while you enjoy a pecan sticky bun appetizer. YUMmmo!

4: Take your date on an adventure to: The Temple Club

Photo form the SF Chronicle 

The Temple Club is not a nightclub, it’s Vietnamese food unlike any you’ve ever had in the Bay Area. Geoffrey Deetz is a Bay Area chef who lived in Vietnam for 16 years as a restauranteur before returning to the Bay Area with his wife and family and opening up The Temple Club. We see him there most times we go to the restaurant either in the open kitchen or seated close by at a small table talking with a patron or friend.

It’s hard to put into words how amazing and delicious this place is… as the restaurant’s tagline reads: it’s “The Bold Taste of Viet Nam”  – and that’s spot on. This is NOT your typical Bay Area Vietnamese with primarily Pho on the menu: Not only has his Pho won awards via The Food Network, The Temple Club has been raved about by almost every major Bay Area critic because…well, it’s THAT good.

You need to be a little adventurous coming into the Temple Club. This is partially because the location is a much less frequented stretch of International Blvd., but also because you’ll see some items atypical to what you’re used to on a menu like: beef tongue, frogs legs and pork liver sauce. But don’t let any of that scare you away. Expect to be blown away by the food and I promise you that you’ll want to adventure there again.

PRO TIP: Take that Foodie you have been swooning over on this culinary adventure ASAP. I suspect that in the coming months and years we will see a line out the door of The Temple Club as the word gets out how amazing this place is.

5: Dessert Before Dinner

photo from Food Talk Central 

Our first time to Kiraku, we had no idea that the wait could be up to 2 hours without a reservation. We’re really not ones to wait in line, but since this place is worth it, what we do is put our names on the list and go have a snack down the street.

If you’ve never had Japanese Tapas, you don’t know what you’ve been waiting missing. Kiraku is known for their small, delicious and thoughtful dishes and very limited seating (hence the wait). Their flavors are savory and complex. My favorite is their Stripped Bass Carpaccio, which has a smokey spice that pairs nicely with citrus notes in the sauce. My boyfriend loves ordering the giant squid, which is larger than you’d expect, so prepare to share.

PRO TIP: Since the wait is like, forever, our favorite thing to do is to sneak over to Little Gem for dessert before dinner. We walk a couple blocks to Little Gem for fresh Liege Belgian Waffles with Pearl Sugar and powdered sugar on top. Little Gem is owned by the world’s nicest guy named Chong. Before he was a baker, Chong was a scientist who dreamt up this waffle company with his wife. They both pivoted their lives into a delicious direction.

Each waffle comes warm in your hand and as you pull away each quadrant, the dough is pillowy and light. B and I like to take ours to-go and nom on our warm waffle as we walk back over to Kiraku to finish out our long wait.

READY TO MEET THE FAM?

photo from Studio KDA

Try out these places with the perfect atmosphere for getting to know each other’s friends and families!

Family Run Cambodian: Phnom Penh House
Quiet space great for conversation and also a family run business.

A Place to Watch the Warriors Together: Longbranch Saloon
Open seating in the bar for the perfect view of the game + great whiskey cocktails

Favorite view of the Sushi Bar: Kamado Sushi
Amazing daily specials and enough space for a larger group. Small group, snag seats at the sushi bar!

Best Chinese Food: Great China
Large round tables make this the perfect group date or a place to bring your families together & the food has family-style portions.

Great Place for a Birthday Dinner: Comal
We love to sit at the chef’s counter to watch the tortillas being made. But we’ve both held out birthday dinner’s here. Comal does a great job accommodating large parties of people + their cocktails are amazing!

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Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, poet, TV host, activist, and general shit-stirrer. His website BrokeAssStuart.com is one of the most influential arts & culture sites in the San Francisco Bay Area and his freelance writing has been featured in Lonely Planet, Conde Nast Traveler, The Bold Italic, Geek.com and too many other outlets to remember. His weekly column, Broke-Ass City, appears every other Thursday in the San Francisco Examiner. Stuart’s writing has been translated into four languages. In 2011 Stuart created and hosted the travel show Young, Broke, and Beautiful on IFC and in 2015 he ran for Mayor of San Francisco and got nearly 20k votes.

He's been called "an Underground legend": SF Chronicle, "an SF cult hero":SF Bay Guardian, and "the chief of cheap": Time Out New York.

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