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The Oakland 100: 25-49

Edited by Sara Deseran | May 22, 2014 | Story

Editor's Note: This is one of many dispatches from Oakland that San Francisco is publishing over the next month, all part of our June "Oakland Issue." To see the rest of the issue's contents, and to read stories as they become available online, click here.

25-31. Tasty, Not Touristy: A Walk Through Chinatown
Unlike its San Francisco cousin, Oakland’s Chinatown is a place mostly free of gifty tchotchkes; it’s geographically compact and easy to walk; and, most important, the food is good and cheap. Start your day at the Pacific renaissance Plaza, where you can grab a taro milk tea at the Sweet Booth (388 9th St.), whose boba drinks feature real fruit and even a scoop of vanilla ice cream. From there, head over to Franklin Street’s cluster of small Chinese bakeries. among these, Ruby King Bakery (718 Franklin St.), a hangout spot for octogenarians, makes the best egg custard tarts—quite likely still warm from the oven and only 60 cents each. At Wonder Food Bakery (340 9th St.), on the other side of the plaza, grab a lao gong bing (or “husband cake”), a kind of sweet-and-savory meat pie. Then it’s over to Best Taste Restaurant (814 Franklin St.). Order the off-menu soup of the day, just $2 for an individual-portion clay jar. These “double-boiled” soups are loaded with healthful Chinese medicinal herbs. If you’re up for trying something new, grab a bowl of noodles at Classic Guilin Rice Noodles (261A 10th St.), which serves a crave-worthy, regional Guilin dish: slippery rice noodles topped with peanuts, pickled long beans, and a choice of meat, plus a bowl of beef broth to sip alongside. Don’t leave without stocking up your pantry and freezer. Yuen Hop (824 Webster St.), a noodle factory, has dumpling wrappers and fresh noodles of every imaginable shape and size. Not far away, Layonna Vegetarian Health Food Market (443 8th St.) offers a dizzying array of mock-meat products. If you’re into that kind of thing, you’ve found the place. —Luke Tsai

32. Empire Builder: Tanya Holland
Chef-Owner, B-Side BBQ and Brown Sugar Kitchen
Q: If you expand your restaurant group, where will you go next?
Still one of Oakland’s biggest proponents, Holland is actually thinking of—gasp!—expanding to San Francisco. “My dream would be the Ferry Building,” she admits.

33. Urban Winetopia
The warehouses near Jack London Square have been turning this neighborhood into a de facto urban winery district for years now, but as of next month, the area will have a marquee name: Rosenblum Cellars (2900 MaIn St.), the 36-year-old urban wine behemoth, plans to relocate its tasting room from Alameda to Oakland. —E.C.

34-36. Where the Food Biz is Calling
If you want to dive deep into the culinary world, you have a couple places ready to help you do it. At the two-year-old Food Craft Institute (65 Webster St.) in Jack London Square, would-be butchers and fancy-jam makers get schooled by experts in the field: Blue Bottle founder James Freeman lectured at a recent three-month coffee course, while Ryan Farr (4505 Meats) and Taylor Boetticher (Fatted Calf) taught last year’s Business of Butchery class. For those who are ready to start cooking, Sophia Chang’s Kitchener Oakland (372 24th St.) is there to provide the affordable commercial kitchen space to do it in. Since 2012, the incubator has been home to a rotating cast of some 30 small-batch makers who sell their wares at Kitchener Snack Bar, a Kickstarter-funded takeout window. Sustainable ingredients, after all, are nothing without a sustainable business. —R.F.M.

37. Alterna-Order: Fried Rice at the Ramen Shop
Sure, critic Josh Sens loves the ramen at his number four pick, the Ramen Shop (5812 College Ave.). But what he doesn’t know is that the restaurant’s boldly flavored, very un-Japanese fried rice ($13)—tossed with quirky but tasty things like squid, wild nettles, and spicy shrimp paste—might even be better. Don’t miss it. —S.D.

38. Key Player: The Book Cooker
“It was not until this book that I was excited about the word ‘vegan’ being in the title,” Bryant Terry admits of his fourth and latest cookbook, Afro-Vegan (Ten Speed Press, $27.50), a vibrant collection of recipes inspired by the flavors of the African diaspora, released in May. “I know what that term brings up for people: bland, boring, disgusting food. Or dogmatic, self-righteous, and emaciated white hippies. All those things. I really just wanted to reinvent the way people were thinking about plant-strong food, and I felt like the term could get in the way of it. Now, you have Jay-Z and BeyoncĂ© very proudly going vegan for three weeks. So it’s not so marginal.” —R.F.M.

39. Of Course, There Is Off the Grid
San Francisco’s dozen weekly Off the Grid iterations may be mobbed, but the vibe at Oakland’s only OTG event—every Friday evening at the Oakland Museum of California (1000 Oak St.)—provokes more family-friendly relaxation than foodie anxiety. Get a bowl of oxtail and grits from Go Streatery and a glass of wine from the museum’s makeshift bar—then park yourself near the live music. —E.C.

40. Empire Builder Charlie Hallowell
Chef-Owner, Boot & Shoe Service, Pizzaiolo, and Penrose
Q: Who are your patrons?
“Everyone from a hyper-entitled 50-year-old with a dozen dietary restrictions to a hip younger crowd who just trust you and will put themselves in your hands.”

41. Alterna-Order: Breakfast Crepe at Tian Jin Dumplings
A little window of dumpling heaven, Tian Jin (989 Franklin St.) also makes what you will now crave: an egg crepe wrapped around a Chinese doughnut ($4)—think crispy-creamy, savory fried-dough stick—with chili sauce and pickled vegetables. —S.D.

42-49. A Picnic-Worthy Farmers’ Market
The festive Grand Lake Farmers’ Market (Saturdays at Grand Ave. and Lakepark Ave.) is arguably the best market in town—and a damn good place to put together an alfresco spread meant for a sunny day at Lake Merritt. Start with a chub of soft, spreadable nduja from Boccalone (its maker, Chris Cosentino, might live in San Francisco, but the store’s salumi are made right here in Oakland) or perhaps a rustic olive loaf from Phoenix Pastificio. Hidden Star Orchards’ apple chips and the bags of variously spiced nuts from Malik Ranch are key for kiddos. Starter Bakery pastries are all here too—try the financier, the lemon tart, or the seasonal-fruit-stuffed kouign amann. Come June, you’ll find shirt-stainingly juicy strawberries from Tomatero Farm: Look for the plump Rosas and the tiny, intensely sweet Seascapes. And during stone fruit season, Kashiwase Farms has the most generous free-sample spread of the ripest, truest-tasting pluots and peaches around. —L.T.

1-11: The case for soulful food; Josh Sens's top 10
12-24: Fancified doughnuts; the 1 a.m. hoagie guy; so many taco trucks
25-49: Walking Chinatown; urban winetopia; a farmer's market picnic
50-82: The bagel boomlet; Uptown bar-food hoping; healthy soul food
83-100: Fried chicken sandwiches; gourmet shops; roasters to buzz about

Originally published in the June issue of San Francisco.

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