Chasing Flavors

Discovering the Food Scene in Oakland, CA

By Ashley Beck | July 1, 2013

On Marcus’s recent trip to the Bay Area, he was inspired by the local cuisines hitting the Pacific coast, and the oscillating art and rhythm of it all. From great chefs like Michael Chiarello all the way to the Mom-and-Pop shop that inspires with news ideas and a passion for food, Marcus made sure to hit all corners of the Oakland food scene (and a bit of San Francisco) in order to experience what the Bay has to offer. In his search were a couple of new places as well as some that have made the area a culinary gold mine for years.

Ike's sandwich shop, chop shop and even Michael Chiarello's new spot, Coquette, in San Fran.

Ike’s sandwich shop, Chop Bar and even Michael Chiarello’s new spot, Coquette, in San Fran.

Ike Shehadeh opened Ike’s Place sandwich shop Halloween 2007 and has yet to look back. With 9 locations now, Ike’s key to success is ensuring the happiness of his customers and really good sandwiches, of course. The clever names are a hit too, from Tony Soprano (ham, Italian dressing, provolone, salami, turkey) to Sometime’s I’m a Vegetarian (grilled mushrooms, marinated artichoke hearts, pesto, provolone).

Chop Bar, in a West African manner of speaking, is a roadside restaurant and bar that also serves as a community gathering center. When Chris and Lev opened Chop Bar, this notion is exactly what they had in mind. Their cuisine is comfort with a worldly twist. Looking to serve a whole roasted pig at your next shindig? Not to fret! The guys over at Chop Bar cater to your needs. They proudly serve roast coffee and their brunch menu spans from Housemade Gravlax, Corned Beef HashChallah French Toast with caramelized apples, and Huevos Rancheros. The cherry on top? Their unfailing dedication to giving back to their community and supporting local vendors.

Michael Chiarello’s new spot, Coqueta, Spanish for flirt or infatuation, in San Francisco was another must for Marcus. Chef Chiarello flirts with the flavors of Spain while adding his own unique and highly modern twists (e.g. White Gazpacho with marcona almonds, grapes, cabernet syrup and grapeseed oil, Sunny Side-Up Egg with shrimp, crispy potato, and chorizo dressing, and Grilled Ibérico Secreto spanish butchers’ secret cut of pork, with “tximi-txurri” and watercress). 

Spices restaurant: rich with both culture and flavor.

Spices restaurant: rich with both culture and flavor.

But probably the most memorable place for Marcus was Spices 3, suggested to him by modern Chinese wunderkind Danny Bowien, which started in San Fran as Spices!. This Oakland branch of this highly popular Chinese Szechuan Fusion Cuisine serves a combination of various Szechuan cuisines under one roof: Taiwanese, Chung Ching, Chen Du, and Shanghai. Their dishes include things like  Numbing! Spicy Ma Po Tofu, Salt and Pepper Fried Chicken, and Chef Wang’s Sizzling Beef with Basil. Loads of flavor, loads of spices, loads of love… But prepare yourself for the heat!

The next time you’re in the Bay Area, make sure to make the extra trip across the bridge to discover these fantastic and iconic Oakland spots.

For more City Recommendations:

The Awesome Diversity of Street Food in NYC

Wanderlust: New Orleans

California Meets France at Jardinière

Chicago and its Southern Roots

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