Food & Drink

The 12 Most Important Restaurants in Oakland Right Now

Published On 02/24/2015 Published On 02/24/2015
Andy Murdock/Thrillist
Flickr/Ernesto Andrade
Flickr/John Joh
Chop Bar
Flickr/Quinn Dombrowski
Beauty's Bagel Shop
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1. FuseBOX 2311 A Magnolia, Oakland, CA 94607

FuseBOX is a Korean-American restaurant in West Oakland that serves truly fusion dishes like spicy chicken wings deep-fried in rice flour batter, bacon mochi, grilled pork belly, and house-made tofu and kimchi. Located in a nondescript industrial space and surrounded by warehouses, the place feels secret, helped by the fact that there's almost no signage.

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2. Hopscotch Restaurant & Bar 1915 San Pablo Ave, Oakland, CA 94612

An upscale diner serving Japanese-American fusion cuisine, Hopscotch is a standout restaurant in Uptown Oakland. You could order anything and be totally satisfied, but the perfectly crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside buttermilk fried chicken is one of the best dishes on the menu, especially when paired with a sweet & smoke Maple Old Fashioned. Did we mention the delightfully unusual menu includes homemade donuts and custard cream?

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3. Wood Tavern 6317 College Ave, Oakland, CA 94618

North Oakland's Wood Tavern is a rustic, upscale American restaurant that might be the best date spot in the neighborhood. The menu features classics like grilled pork chop with pancetta, a burger with all the fixin's, and rotating pastas and gnocchi. Seats at the bar are reserved for walk-ins, so if you're having trouble securing a reservation, they're the best seats in the house.

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4. Haven 44 Webster St, Oakland, CA 94607

Coi's Daniel Patterson is bringing Michelin-worthy cuisine to Jack London Square with Haven, a Californian restaurant that found its groove with dishes that are both familiar and totally new. Take the aged beef burger with scallion aioli, or the confit chicken wings with harissa yogurt and pickled jalapeño. Food is served à la carte in the lounge area and prix-fixe in the dining room.

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5. Banh Mi Ba Le 1909 International Blvd, Oakland, CA 94606

Armed with crusty bread, generous heaps of pickled vegetables and jalapeño, and higher quality meats than you’ll find in other shops, Ba Le has all the classic options, plus about 20 others to keep banh mi fans sampling for years to come. Eel banh mi? Why not? Vietnamese meatball and egg? Most definitely. And with every sandwich priced at under $5, this might just be the best lunch deal in the Bay Area.

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6. Hapuku Fish Shop 5655 College Ave, Oakland, CA 94618

The expert fishmongers at this fish counter in Rockridge's Market Hall will clean, shuck, and peel anything you order. Aside from a seafood stand, Hapuku is also Oakland's best-kept, no-wait secret sandwich shop. They'll fry up the catch of the day (there are usually two to three options), sandwich it on a fresh roll with tartar sauce and cabbage and carrot slaw, and serve it with a side of crispy fries. Hapuku also sells fish and chips, soups, ceviche, and oysters on the half shell.

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7. Commis 3859 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 94611

This Oakland eatery is the only fine dining spot in the East Bay to boast a Michelin star (let alone the two that it has). Chef James Syhabout helped open Coi with Daniel Patterson and opened Hawker Fare, and you’ll see those Asian influences come through in dishes like Dungeness crab with coral and dried pickled celeriac or a simple radish with charred mustard broth and speck ham. The eight-course tasting menu is $125, while the pairing menu will cost you an extra $75.

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8. Chop Bar 247 4th St, Oakland, CA 94607

Chop Bar represents the best of Oakland: it's homey and funky, the crowd is diverse, and the food and drink are all local. No matter when you go, the all-day eatery on Jack London Square is bustling, particularly when you can take advantage of the indoor-outdoor front patio. The menu is always changing, but expect a mix of comfort foods like oxtail poutine, meatloaf, mac & cheese, and risotto. It's also one of the few places that serves wine (all from California, of course) on tap.

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9. Pizzaiolo 5008 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

Chez Panisse alum Charlie Hallowell's Pizzaiolo serves some of the most exciting food in Oakland and the best pizza in the country. The Telegraph Ave spot keeps its wood-fired pizzas and handmade pastas simple. A spot-on dinner includes rapini and house-made sausage pizza, rigatoni with pork ragu, and a house-made tonic cocktail. The huge back patio is particularly popular during summer movie nights.

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10. Swan's Market 538 9th St, Oakland, CA 94607

For over 60 years, Old Oakland’s Swan's Market was a major shopping destination for the East Bay and, after a renovation in 2000, it was revamped into a mixture of apartments, small businesses, and multiple destination-worthy restaurants, the latter of which make it exactly what a food court should be: there are endless options like bright and innovative Mexican fare at Cosecha Cafe, homey Japanese izakaya at B-Dama, sausages from Rosamunde and Taylor’s and so much more.

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11. Café Colucci 6427 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

There's no “Little Ethiopia” in Oakland per se, but the stretch of Telegraph from Temescal up to the Berkeley border seems to feature a different Ethiopian/Eritrean restaurant every other block. Cafe Colucci is the charmer of the lot, with fresh, vibrant flavors and an array of unique dishes served up with honey wine and spiced coffee. Ever wanted to try Ethiopian raw beef with spiced butter? This is the place to do it. Oh, and there's an attached shop where you can buy all the ingredients to make the food at home -- and if you don’t know your injera from your teff, chef and cookbook author Fetlework Tefferi is happy to share her secrets through cooking classes, which you can book online.

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12. Beauty's Bagel Shop 3838 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

Montreal-style bagels are hand-rolled, boiled in honey water, and served hot right out of the wood-burning oven. Get your Montreal-style bagel-n-schmear breakfast right here in Cali!