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The following reviewers have been approved by Marc as being dedicated lunchers that appreciate all aspects of lunching in Oakland.

Reviewer Profiles:

MP is perhaps the only well-known food critic from upstate New York. After spending 4 years as a consultant traveling around the country, eating expensive meals on the company dime, he has now resorted to seeking out the best values throughout the Bay Area and complaining incessantly about little things like “too much ice” and “why didn’t they wave to us when we left?”.MP has an extensive gastronomic background in the following areas…buffalo wings (ranch is an automatic 1 point deduction), pizza, bagels, hot dogs, burritos, Indian food, and burgers. He is also the self-proclaimed inventor of the burger club, and the lazy man’s chicken wings. When he retires, he plans on opening a restaurant based on the ability to split everything on the menu. MP has a wife and young daughter, the latter has caused him to begin writing reviews for such places as Red Robin and Chuck E Cheese. MP eats lunch with CK at least 4 times per week.

Not Submitted Yet, but works for a major financial institution, is an avid biker (resulting in a serious appetite), and has been lunching in Oakland since early 2001.

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Note: (#) indicates that restaurant also detailed on my original Oakland Food Chart

MP (Last Updated 2/18/2004)

This place is crawling with police officers...and I always say “cops know food”. The OBC has daily specials (try the meatloaf on Tuesdays and fish and chips on Fridays) and the burgers are very good. The daily specials ($6.25) come with a choice of a great green salad or homemade potato or macaroni salad. The portions are very good and the owner remembers you and treats you better the more you go there. Order at the counter and they bring the food out to you. Self-serve water is a plus, but they put ice in the cup and there is ice in the water pitchers which makes the water too cold….get a cup with no ice…problem solved. Their desserts are homemade. We had the carrot cake and it was very good…(interspersed diatribe follows)…I don’t know why dessert is not more popular at lunch…appetizers either for that matter...maybe it is because appetizers and desserts are nearly as expensive as the lunch itself…I blame the corporate swine who have limited lunches to 1 hour…1/2 hour in some cases! (diatribe complete).

Want to watch that baseball game at lunch? Found that perfect lunch item but don’t want to eat there and don’t want to eat at your desk (a cardinal sin in the book of Schoenfeld)? Order the food and eat it at the 19th Street Station. The Station is a bar on 19th between Harrison and Webster. The drinks are potent and the owners are nice people. Make sure you order something to drink if you go in there to eat (Roy often recants stories of people eating there and not buying anything). They also have really good hot dogs (although I try not to make hot dogs a regular lunch item…for obvious reasons). CK recommends calling in your order and picking it up to maximize your lunch hour. One caveat…this is an owner operated establishment, which in Oakland means that you can smoke in the bar…very few people smoke at lunch, but often there is one person puffing away butt after butt…one point reduction for the draggin’ lady.

Burrito Gordo gets my only 5 star vote. This place is a delicious combination of quality and price. The counter person is super-sweet and cute, and she always gives me the impression that she likes me (as my wife would say “she is nice to everybody”…but I won’t let facts get in the way of my delusions). The shrimp burrito plate is outstanding and probably the only thing I have eaten in the last 10 trips. Burrito Gordo is a small place, but they are big on portions and high quality ingredients. The chips & salsa bar ($0.50) has many delicious salsas to choose from of varying spiciness and avocado salsa that is nice and creamy, not runny like so many other places. There are many Mexican places near work, but they range from dull to overpriced. Although it is a bit of a walk, it is well worth the trip.

Quick thoughts from MP (2/10/2005)

-Just to restate the already stated...the food at Pho
is 10x better than Hunyh...the magnificent 18 and the
-Manyda, the Thai place next to Gordo is getting
attention from lazy World employees who seem to be
willing to walk for good Thai food...go figure.
-Chef is either relocating or moving as some big plan
to renovate that part of Telegraph...he is excited
about it and working with Oakland agencies.
-There is a Chinese (Princesse Bakery) bakery on 13th
between Harrison and Webster...if you ever forget an
employees birthday now you can walk somewhere and pick
up a delicious cake at lunch.
-Take It Easy still maintains the right to refuse
service to anyone, especially if you knock over
napkins on his counter by accident
-Your Black Muslim Bakery has branched out to coffee
and they now offer delicious potato chips. No word
whether they have knocked off Aroma's as the top spot
for morning coffee.
-Khaza Kazani has replaced the Ethiopian food place on
19th across from CK's dry cleaner. It is good Indian
food, and they don't even have a kitchen. Apparently
they bring the food in from somewhere else and put the
food on a small buffet. Good deal at $5.99.
-Vo's is still closed

Upcoming Reviews From MP:

Chef Edwards
New Thai Place on the corner near El Burrito Gordo
Take It Easy

Andy (Last Updated 3/6/2004)

Chef Edwards is a hidden gem that is destined to remain hidden thanks to its appearance from the street and its location in a sketchy area. My only two gripes are the crappy vinegar based coleslaw (slaw should always be mayo based), and the limited seating. The limited seating can be a plus if you can get a seat at the counter in that it offers you an intimate eating opportunity with the always friendly chef, and it also puts you up front for some great meat cleaver action. I still fondly remember the day that Marc and I were in there and the Chef was getting satellite TV installed (for a Raiders game I think). The Chef is kinda expensive (why is BBQ always so damned expensive?), but not as much as E&J, although the Chef obviously doesn't spend as much money on the décor or silverware. The Piggly Wiggly lunch special is a pretty good deal (BBQ pork sandwich and slaw for only $4.25), but as mentioned above, I don't like the slaw and the Chef doesn't allow substitutions with this one. I really like his hot sauce; it's got a great flavor and just enough kick to make me sweat a little. He says he doesn't make it too hot because of his mostly older clientele, but I'd put it at about the same level of spiciness as E&J's hot sauce, and they claim their hot sauce is "fire hot", which it's not (it is hot, just not fire hot). Marc likes the baggies that come with every meal which include plastic silverware, a napkin, wetnap, salt, pepper, and a toothpick. I always enjoy chatting with the Chef as he's a really friendly guy. I always leave in a good mood and with a full belly.

From the outside this place looks like a Vega$ strip club (a bright pink stucco box with no windows and a satellite dish on the roof), and on the inside it looks like a Mexican version of a Denny's, circa 1976 or so, complete with the tan brown vinyl booths. It's located right across the street from the jail and down the block from the police station, so there's a good chance that you'll run into a few cops in this place, but unfortunately, this is one situation where I think the cops are there because of its convenient location rather than the quality of the food. My number one gripe about the place is that it's made me sick, and I personally know people who have suffered severe food poisoning due to things they ate here. That alone is enough to keep me away from now on, but there's more: No matter what Mexican restaurant you go to, one of the most important aspects of the meal are the chips. Places like Chevy's are boosted by their great chips and salsa, even though their entrée's are usually so-so at best. Mexacali Rose has by far the worst chips and salsa that I have ever had anywhere. Their chips are about twice as thick as standard tortilla chips (supposedly "old fashioned" style) and are extremely tough to eat. It's almost like chewing on shards of glass; I've even cut the inside of my mouth on the things. And to add insult to injury, they lack any real flavor and are usually in need of salt. The salsa is also terrible. Somehow they've been able to formulate a salsa that is both tasteless and so spicy that it leaves your mouth too burned to enjoy your meal. It's also too watery to stick to your chips, and is served in a cup that is too narrow to dip a chip into. I also strongly suspect that they recycle their salsa from earlier customers. Their entrees are usually OK, and their servings are large, but may make you sick or even put you into the hospital. I'd like to see the health inspector's report on this place. The waitresses are an interesting mix of women that remind me of a south-of-the-border version of Flo from Mel's Diner in the TV show Alice, but their sassiness sometimes crosses the line into rudeness. I suspect that's the result of serving so many police officers, however. On the positive side, the water service is very good, they have a full bar, and their prices are quite reasonable (if you don't take into account your hospital bills from eating here). Were it not for the chips, salsa, and food poisoning, I'd probably eat here and would rate it maybe 3 stars. They bill themselves as the oldest continually operating restaurant in all of Oakland, but unfortunately they are one of the few Mexican places that are located downtown (there's lots of fantastic Mexican restaurants in the Fruitvale area and central east Oakland, however).

Siam Bay is one of my current favorites, and I eat there frequently with one of my co-workers. Located right next to the well known La Cheval, it can sometimes be overlooked, but they still seem to do a good business (and are large enough to usually be able to seat you without a wait, even during the busy lunch period). They have a buffet that is pretty good as far as buffets go, but I usually won't eat from steam trays unless I'm at a wedding or in Vega$. Everything that I've ever eaten here is absolutely delicious. It's one of those places where you can close your eyes, point to something on the menu, and chances are you're going to enjoy it, even if you don't necessarily know what it is. Even better, all of their meals come with a cup of their fabulous soup (I think it's lemongrass something and is served with fresh mushrooms), so you're already warmed up and ready to go once your meal arrives. The soup is what warrants the extra ½ star. The service is always friendly and the décor is a nice mixture of things that look like they're from Thailand (my favorite is the illuminated message symbol sign for the restrooms that looks like a man and a boy rather than a man and a woman, although in light of recent news events, maybe the man and boy is correct). Of course the food is the reason you come there, and in that arena they won't disappoint you. Fight the urge to just order the Pad Thai (which is quite good by the way), and try something more unusual from the menu, you'll be happy you did. Lunch will run you about 7 bucks plus tax and tip, and more if you order a drink (I usually stick with water when I eat out, or in for that matter).

Pasta Cuisine is one of those places that does well with the corporate crowd, but because it’s in Oakland, it’s not as snobbish or filled with suits as it would be if it were in SF. Pasta Cuisine is a nice place to eat. The restaurant is roomy and clean, and the service is good. They also have an outdoor seating area near the fountain in the middle of City Center where you can enjoy the scenery walking by while eating your lunch when the weather is nice. Their menu is a somewhat original mix of yuppie styled quasi-Italian pasta dishes, sandwiches, and salads. The operation works very similar to Carl’s Jr. in that you order at the front register, and they give you a little sandwich-board style number and your drink-cup to take to your table, where they bring you your food after preparing it to order. I’ve had nothing but good meals here and I’ve always left full. The best part of Pasta Cuisine, however, is their all-you-can-eat bread. And I’m not just talking any bread here; I’m talking about Semifreddi’s sourdough bread (both with seeds and without). They also have wheat bread and bread sticks, but I always skip those. The bread allows you to start eating once you reach your table and also makes for a great dessert. The only downsides of this place are that they are a bit pricey (especially for a place with trays and where you have to get your own drinks), and the balding guy who runs the kitchen service counter is a bit rude.

E&J is the well known Mecca of BBQ in Oakland. Their Jack London location is within walking distance of downtown, or you can catch the free Downtown Shoppers Shuttle (on a side note, if you’ve never ridden the shuttle before, you should do it at least once. These former airport parking shuttle vans are usually unmarked, but chances are, if you get on an SFO AirPark parking lot shuttle bus that’s driving down Broadway, you’re on the Shopper’s Shuttle. Once on board, you’ll likely be greeted with some classic soul music playing at a comfortable volume over the van’s radio, something that always gets me in the mood for BBQ). You should generally try to get to E&J about 10-15 minutes before the lunch rush because otherwise you’ll have trouble getting a seat. Also, you should plan on spending at least an hour and a half because the service is slow, and BBQ pork ribs don’t lend themselves well to fast eating. E&J’s ribs are outstanding (I recommend the hot sauce, which while not deadly hot, may still be too hot for most), and you may get lucky and see them being basted with sauce in a large 33-gallon plastic trash can in the kitchen prep area. There’s nothing like seeing a full slab of uncooked pork ribs being pulled out of a yellow trash can, dripping with BBQ sauce. Something else special about E&J is their sides. Marc doesn’t care for sides in general, but for me, they are an integral part of any BBQ meal. I’ve tried most of their side dishes, including the slaw, mac ‘n cheese, baked beans, candied yams, collard greens, and I think even their potato salad, and all were top notch (especially their yams). The one down side to E&J (aside from the slow but friendly service) is their prices. As is the case with most BBQ joints, E&J can make for an expensive lunch. There is, however, a way of reducing your costs if you are with a group of at least 4 hungry men: the BBQ platter. For something like $25, you can get a huge platter of ribs smothered in their delicious BBQ sauce. Toss in some sides for another $10 or $15, and some cornbread (also good), and you’ve got yourself one hell of a meal for around 10 bucks a person! And trust me, this platter is nothing to scoff at, it’s fricken huge! It’s really a sight to behold as it is delivered to your table. You’ll be needing those free “I –heart- ribs” bibs for this one. A meal like this can easily feed 5 hungry people, and probably even 6, especially if you tossed in some more side dishes and cornbread. Overall, a trip to E&J is well worth your time.

This small Japanese restaurant is where I go for cheap carry-out sushi when the urge hits and I don’t want to spend a lot or take a lot of time. Hidden in the shadow of the State Building, Aji’s seems to get most of it’s business from city and state government employees, and consequently seems to sell more fried catfish than tekka maki (raw tuna rolls). While technically you can eat in, I wouldn’t recommend it. The place seems to be unheated, which can be a problem for half the year, and you’ll likely be crowded by people waiting for their carry-out orders. Since they don’t serve a cliental that has an appreciation for the many subtle differences in raw fish, they don’t sell enough sushi to warrant having a wide selection of different kinds of sushi. You’re basically limited to tuna, cooked eel, smoked salmon (that’s lox to some of you’s), and fake crab (served in their California rolls, etc.). If you’re ok with the selection, however, you’ll be happy with their food (I’d probably rate them ½ star higher if they had a better sushi selection). The fish is always very fresh, and the prices are very reasonable for sushi. If you’re hungry, I recommend the Maki Combo, which gives you 12 sushi rolls, a small side salad, and an orange slice, all for $6.50. That’s a great deal for a sushi lunch that will actually fill you up. Be careful if you happen to be walking along the Jefferson Street side of the restaurant, though, as you may get blasted by their kitchen fan which blows warm fishy smelling air down onto the sidewalk.

CK (Last Updated 3/6/2004)

Chef clearly is superior to E&J...though occasionally I like to wield steel based cutlery when slicing brisket. I am tempted to bring my own silverware, but again I am afraid of offending Chef Ed. Sometimes I like to ask, "Could I have that for here"?

There is nothing quite like the sound of a cleaver on the block.

Now I have been to this Establishment at least 3 times, including its grand opening, but for the life of me can not come up with the name...not even the first letter: nothing. So, first off I would like to recommend to their marketing department to focus on branding their restaurant more aggressively...until then, it will be known amongst my small circle of lunch partners affectionately as: "The Thai Restaurant Near Burrito Gordo" or "The Thai Restaurant Near Gordo" for short. The atmosphere is fairly sterile and plain, but nonetheless seems to attract a good amount of business folk. I always approve of any restaurant that offers a free appetizer before your meal and for this I commend The Thai Restaurant Near Gordo. Yet, if you were to take away the shredded carrots and their zesty salad dressing, you would be merely left with iceberg lettuce. If they were to add, say raisins or seeds or nuts of any variety to their so-called salad, I may have been willing to give them another half star. I enjoy their many curry dishes and particularly approve of their Beef Massiman. The service is fairly inefficient, so don't be surprised if you have to wave down the waiter to remind them you have not ordered yet, but this could be due to their recent foray into the restaurant business.



Ted(Last Updated 3/6/2004)

I recommend the following dishes:
#8 broiled green mussels
#52 shaking beef salad
#60 sour eel banana blossom fire pot
#62 Lotus root salad
#67 catfish claypot
#72 Coco shredded pork with big rice noodle
#78 tamarinded tiger prawns
Actually, I have never had a bad dish here. I haven't tried the Pho or Bun (try
Vi's for pho and bun - they call bun southern style salad) - I've heard the pho
is not the best here. Prices range from 4.25 to 16. My wife and I go here for
lunch on Sunday's, get about 3 dishes + rice, total comes to $18

Cantonese. Don't miss the clams in black bean sauce (I think they call it XO or special sauce) and the hot and sour soup.


Note: (#) indicates that restaurant also detailed on my original Oakland Food Chart

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