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Dining in the East Bay - You Won't Go Hungry

Dining in the East Bay - You Won't Go Hungry

The East Bay's cuisine scene is wonderfully varied, and as location-specific as its weather. Just as the inner East Bay is often cloaked with fog while the outer East Bay is warm and sunny, the two areas have their own distinctive food characteristics. In fact, the dining scene here often rivals that of San Francisco, so check out our list of the best places to dine in the East Bay, and make your reservation.

Inner East Bay

The inner East Bay – specifically the Oakland and Berkeley area – offers a plethora of ethnic restaurants. In some areas, it's hard to walk more than a few steps without encountering a Thai, Indian, Chinese, Vietnamese, or Mexican restaurant. A few of these serve bland or Americanized versions of these cultural cuisines, but many cook authentic dishes with all the brilliant complexity that entails.

 

Particular standouts in this category include either location of Sabuy Sabuy (510-653-8587) for Thai food, Ajanta Restaurant on Solano Avenue in Berkeley for Indian food, and Tacubaya for delicious Mexican food.

 

This emphasis on the variety of ethnic eateries shouldn't suggest that the area has no other types of restaurants to offer. Another facet of the inner East Bay's cuisine scene is its infatuation with using local, high-quality ingredients to create simple yet flavorful dishes. You can find this not only in the area's gourmet restaurants, but also in more casual (and less expensive) places. As you choose where to eat, you can expect to be tempted with promises of menus that change regularly to take advantage of seasonal produce.

 

The fine dining restaurants in the area are consistently excellent. You are probably well aware of Chez Panisse, Alice Waters' renowned restaurant that is credited with starting the movement toward using local and sustainable ingredients. Oakland's BayWolf offers some strong competition, serving creative and delicious dishes made with only the freshest ingredients. Rivoli in Berkeley and Oliveto in Oakland are slightly less well-known restaurants in the same genre.

 

There are a couple of specific areas that you should consider visiting as you explore the inner East Bay's culinary world.

 

Berkeley's Gourmet Ghetto – a small area located in North Berkeley – has far more than its fair share of good food. This area is home to the aforementioned Chez Panisse. If you're a pizza lover, get a slice (or two!) from the Cheeseboard, which is arguably Berkeley's most popular pizza spot. Other options include quirky and creative burgers at Barney's Gourmet Burgers and breathtaking French-inspired food at Gregoire Restaurant. You'll also find Thai food, sushi, tapas, and a New York-style deli.

 

Oakland's Jack London Square was, for years, a run-down and under-appreciated area. These days, that's all changing. Excellent restaurants now abound in the area. Try Bocanova, a Pan-American restaurant, for upscale and creative dishes (with a price to match). Yoshi's offers not only Japanese food, but also live shows, often by world-class musicians.

Outer East Bay

The cuisine scene on the other side of the hills – specifically the Pleasanton, Dublin, and Livermore area – is a bit different. You can expect to find a smaller variety of ethnic restaurants than in the Berkeley/Oakland area. That doesn't mean you'll be bored, though.

 

Eddie Papa's, located in Pleasanton, offers a new take on classic American cuisine. You'll find all your favorite dishes here, but made with high-quality ingredients and often with a gourmet twist. The informative menu provides a brief history on many of the dishes.

 

Livermore has quite a few excellent dining options. If you visit one of the vineyards or wineries with its own restaurant – such as Wente Vineyards or Garre Winery – try it out. Most of these tend to be excellent.

 

The options in downtown Livermore also tend to be very good. As long as you avoid the major fast-food chains, you should be happy with nearly any restaurant you choose. These tend toward the classic American rather than the ethnic. Try the burgers at John Char's (925-447-8372), the creative takes on pub grub at the First Street Alehouse, or even the almost completely customized 'dogs at Spanky's Dog House.

 

—By Gretchen Holm
Gretchen Holm, a Bay Area native and major foodie is the Guide to Oakland for About.com, a New York Times company. See her website at http://www.berkeleywriter.com.

 

 

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