I love to indulge in delicious food and drink—who doesn’t right? Finding new places to eat — whether in my backyard or across the Bay in Oakland — is definitely one of my favorite ways to both explore the Bay Area and spend time with friends and family. Living in San Francisco has spoiled me with a huge variety of restaurants and pop-ups that cover more cuisines than I can probably list and I’m here to have a taste of it all! From over-the-top Michelin-starred cuisine to incredible dim sum to world-class seafood and everything in between, this city is known as one of the best places in the world to eat.
This month, I’m switching my “best of” list up to showcase my favorite new Oakland spots. Oakland’s food scene is blowing up, thanks to an array of new and esteemed expert chefs. Since Covid rocked the restaurant industry, many chefs in the East Bay are stepping up to help and support one another. And despite tough circumstances and oftentimes a limited budget, both up-and-coming and established chefs are innovating and impressing guests in the kitchen. With that said, some of the Bay Area’s hottest spots are opening up across the bay and you need to know about them!
Here are six Oakland restaurants I recommend checking out in the coming weeks and what to order at each! My hope is that this list gets you started on your Oakland post-Coronavirus eating journey. Make sure you don’t forget your mask and be sure to check hours of operation prior to visiting.
Check out my previous Best of San Francisco Restaurant posts here!
My Top Oakland Restaurant Picks: June 2021
Horn Barbecue | 2534 Mandela Pkwy
Within a matter of years, Matt Horn grew Horn Barbecue from a humble farmer’s market pop-up to a remarkably popular pop-up to a now extremely popular brick and mortar restaurant in Oakland, California in October of 2020. If you arrive to see a line wrapped around the block at this bbq spot, don’t be surprised. Chef and Pitmaster Matt Horn never set out to cook the best barbecue around. Thanks to the initial introduction, and subsequent experimenting with bbq in his grandma’s backyard, his passion for meat-smoking grew. Fast forward to today, people can’t get enough of his “West Coast” style of barbecue which takes inspiration from Texas, the South and his own family’s passed-down cooking traditions and methods of meat-smoking.
What to order: The beef and spare ribs; brisket; pulled pork; hot links and the banana pudding!!!
Check out my Forbes piece on Horn Barbecue here!
The Bussdown | 2353 E 12th St
If you haven’t yet tried Pan-African Soul Food, the fine dining Chef-Owners Solomon Johnson and Michael Woods of The Bussdown are here to change that. Operating out of a tiny cloud kitchen in Oakland Food Hall, The Bussdown is currently only take-out and delivery. That said, the chef duo makes it a priority to cook with only the freshest ingredients, with everything they make from scratch. Their cuisine is inspired by the food they grew up on, the food they’ve discovered abroad, and that of their ancestors.
What to order: Adobo pork with whole bone-in pork shoulder braised with pineapple skins and local citrus for eight hours; Smoked Sofrito Seafood featuring shrimp covered in a charred vegetable sofrito served with fried plantains, charred citrus, grilled fruit, house pickles and two condiments; and the Jerk Yard Chicken which is seasoned and marinated for 24 hours in a custom spice blend.
Check out my Forbes piece on The Bussdown here!
Sobre Mesa | 1618 Franklin St
Created by Top Chef Season 18 Contestant, Chef Nelson German of alaMar Kitchen & Bar, Sobre Mesa is a chic, spirited Afro-Latino Kitchen that offers vibrant, opulent-jungle-vibe interiors, refined cocktails, seasonal cuisine, and lively music. The libations and energetic atmosphere are inspired by Chef Nelson’s Dominican roots and African ancestry, with influences from other Latin countries. Sobre Mesa is definitely one of the hottest cocktail bars in Oakland, distinct from others thanks to its cocktail/chef-driven menu—the beverages expertly pair with the delicious variety of tapas offered on the menu. The dishes use local ingredients and flavors and are ideal for sharing with your party! It’s a super fun place to unwind or turn up depending on your agenda.
What to order: Spiced Tuna with smoked trout roe, harissa mango puree, olive, avocado, cured egg yolk, meyer lemon mint, aguachile; Gambas Al Ajillo with gulf shrimp, garlic confit, palm, nit’ir qibe spiced butter, house bread; Pork Tenderloin “Pernil Style” with pineapple sofrito, garnet yam romesco, pickled pink apple; Braised Oxtail Has with marble potato, sweet plantain, tiger bean, pickled onion, poached egg, hollandaise criolla; and Curry Lobster Hash with chanterelle mushroom, marble potato, padron pepper, rocket, poached egg, hollandaise criolla.
Daughter’s Diner | 326 23rd St Unit D
Daughter’s Diner is a charming, family-friendly restaurant that takes a modern approach to the classic diner. The menu is comprised of fun, diner favorites cooked upscale and even more delicious than you remember. Co-owner and Chef Keven Wilson seeks to modernize and elevate the stereotypical diner dishes with techniques he has learned throughout his illustrious career. The inspiration for the restaurant? Their daughter, Mila who loves coming to the diner for her milkshakes with sprinkles!
What to order: Gnocchi tots; Beast mode egg sandwich; Sloppy Sally with roasted chicken, watercress, and whole-grain dijon; D burger; Warm duck and potato; Princess pancakes with raspberry jam and almond marzipan; and Wild mushroom fricassee.
Check out my Forbes piece on Daughter’s Diner here!
Rocky’s Market Brooklyn Basin
Last year, a new market and outdoor dining restaurant opened in the historic 9th Avenue Terminal Building along Oakland’s scenic waterfront—Rocky’s Market Brooklyn Basin and The Kitchen at Rocky’s Market. The Kitchen at Rocky’s Market offers a seasonal menu that continually changes dependent on what organic, sustainable, and locally sourced seasonal ingredients from Bay Area farmers and artisans is available. The spacious restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner and features an expansive outdoor dining patio on the waterfront that seats 75. It’s perfect for a sunny day or sunset dinner!
What to order: Roasted bone marrow with shallots, Oaktown spices, served with a baguette; half roasted herb chicken with chimichurri and grilled lemon; Korean short ribs; garlic herb prawns; roasted beet salad with burrata; asparagus wild mushroom salad with Barely Buzzed cheddar.
Check out my Forbes piece on Rocky’s here!
Señor Sisig | Multiple locations
The Filipino food movement is in full swing and leading this movement in the San Francisco Bay Area is none other than Señor Sisig. Inspired by the success of Roy Choi’s Kogi Korean taco truck in Los Angeles, childhood friends Evan Kidera and Gil Payumo recognized that Filipino food in the Bay Area — an area with a major Filipino population (myself included!) — was on the verge of blowing up. Fast forward to today and they widely known for their Filipino-American-Mexican fusion of sisig tacos and burritos and has celebrated 10 years in business this past year. Most recently they launched their 100% plant-based “vegano” food truck and more. For those that have never had it, sisig is rustic drinking food — a highly seasoned mixture of chopped meat from the head and snout of a pig.
What to order: Señor Sisig burrito adobo garlic rice, pinto beans, lettuce, pico de gallo and cilantro cream sauce; California Sisig burrito with French fries, shredded cheese, sour cream, guacamole, & pico de gallo; Señor Sisig fries; and Sisig tacos.
Check out my Forbes piece on Señor Sisig here!
What Oakland spots are you loving right now? Let me know in the comments below!
Love these spots? Pin them for your next Oakland dining adventure!