Chef and Chez Panisse alum Charlie Hallowell has been expanding his popular Oakland culinary empire over the past decade with Boot & Shoe Service and the recent Penrose on Grand Ave, but if you have to choose one, his flagship Pizzaiolo is still the place to head for some of the most exciting food in Oakland. With perfect wood-fired pizzas, handmade pastas that often outshine everything else, great cocktails (homemade tonic!), and a breezy casual atmosphere, this place serves up big plates of happy at fair prices. On warm nights, eating on the expansive back patio is sublime, and the outdoor movie nights draw crowds for food and films throughout the summer.
Cop-out alert: Old Oakland’s Swan's Market is actually MULTIPLE destination-worthy restaurants in one. It’s what a food court should be but never is -- it’s more of a food incubator. Cosecha got things started, serving up bright and innovative Mexican fare that shines even among Oakland’s many great Mexican restaurants, both old and new. Popular izakaya restaurant B-Dama recently moved from Piedmont Ave and brought with it homey Japanese food. And then there’s The Cook and Her Farmer, Hen House, Taylor’s Sausages, Miss Ollie’s, Rosamunde Sausage Grill, and probably more on the way.