Restaurant Week: Oakland’s economy keeps growing

Right now it’s Restaurant Week in Oakland (Jan. 18-27), but that isn’t entirely accurate because the city’s foodie scene has been so hot the past few years it feels like EVERY week is Restaurant Week.

Just check out the bars, nightclubs, coffee houses and eateries that opened recently in Oakland. There’s Duende, a Spanish tapas place across from the Oakland Fox, the wildly popular performing arts theater that has led downtown Oakland’s ongoing renaissance. Loring Cafe is just about to open on the percolating strip along Grand Avenue, next to Era nightclub, Farley’s East and another new coffee house called Anfilo Cafe. Next to the Uptown apartments is Hopscotch, which joined New Parish and Hibiscus on San Pablo Avenue. Right in the heart of downtown, the Tribune Tavern — a restaurant/bar on the ground floor of the iconic Tribune Tower on 13th St. — will open any day now. Several blocks west, the Old Oakland neighborhood is thriving. Ratto’s, Caffe 817, Liege, Pacific Coast Brewing Co., Air, Grand Oaks Bar and Grill, The Trappist and Tamarindo have been holding the fort for years. But in the past year, there are almost too many new additions to list: Le Cheval came back, District (nightclub and eatery), a trattoria called Borgo Italia, Miss Ollie’s, Cosecha, El Gusano and Rosamunde Sausage.

In Rockridge, a new eatery called Box and Bells soon will open. It’s being started by James Shyabout, the owner of Hawker Fare, the popular Uptown spot. The Grand Lake area soon will welcome Little Star Pizza, a Chicago-style spot specializing in deep dish pies. In the Temescal district, well-respected chef Preeti Mistry is set to open Juhu Beach Club in two months, when her fantastic Indian food will be served. In West Oakland, some Baseball Oakland members tried to eat Saturday night at B-Side BBQ, a new joint founded by Tanya Holland, the internationally renowned chef who first gained fame with her Brown Sugar Kitchen on Mandela Parkway. But just like Brown Sugar Kitchen for brunch,B-Side BBQ was too packed with customers and we had to leave. It’s like Yogi Berra used to say: “Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.”

In Oakland’s Glenview district, there isn’t much new but that’s only because some of the city’s best restaurants already are established: We love Marzano on Park, Bellanico and Rumbo al Sur. And in Jack London Square and nearby, the Night Light has routinely packed them in, as has the popular upscale waterfront restaurant, Haven. A few doors down another waterfront pizzeria, Forge, is due to open in about two weeks. Next month, in a location just south of Howard Terminal, the Italian eatery Lungomare is scheduled to open.

And on, and on, and on, and on …

Of course, none of this good stuff is happening in a vacuum. It reflects astrengthening East Bay economy (as well as a growing economy Bay Area wide) that added 21,000 new jobs in 2012. As a pundit recently told the Oakland Tribune:

“The longer-term trend in the Bay Area remains a story of very positive job growth,” said Michael Bernick, a research fellow with the Milken Institute. “It is the South Bay, it is San Francisco, and now it is the East Bay.”


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