Note about details: I usually get water as a beverage (to save money and avoid gas-inducing soda) so prices reflect no drink, unless specified that I got one. Overall Ratings from 1-5 stars, differ from individual ratings listed on the spreadsheet which are specific to the visit.

Back to the Food Chart

Close Burrito Place, ***: On the 1900 block of Franklin, this place is right next door to my work and has an "X" in the name, but I can never remember it. Has the distiction of being my first place I went to in Oakland upon starting. Convenient, but not as good as the other burrito places mentioned. Charges extra for Guac, but the quality was good. Played some cool Hispanic instrumental music last time I was there. The plates are not a good deal; stick with the a la carte burritos. Haven't been there for a while because am saving for when I am busy and need something quick. Haven't been busy for a couple months. Plan to spend $5, no drink.

 

Pho 84, 354 17th St., *****: Currently, my favorite Oakland place and in the tops of all time favorites. Vietnamese, great quality and quantity. Special rice is great, nice salad. Water pitcher at the table. Efficient service. Nice waitresses. Interesting artwork and crafts on the wall. Credit card accepted. Recommend #18 and #19 (pork). The fancy drink you may see going around is not worth it, the mango shake. I found it not fruity enough and the food is too much to add that anyway. Is getting some competition with Hyunh, but still the tops in my book. Usually spend $9-$10.

 

Happy Burrito, 1616 Webster, ****1/2: Great quick burrito place. Will never live up to the -Erto standard of San Diego, but this is the best we can do in NoCal. Get the Happy Burrito with Carne Asada, no sour cream. I like that it comes with lettuce and tomato which is rare these days. Their guac is pretty light green, which means they've cut the avocado substantially, but I can overlook this one fallacy. Hot sauce not bad, use real cheese with a mega shredder you can see in the back which is nice compared to the pathetic practice of using the slice of cheese like so many other places around. Table to sit at in abandoned room next door. Plan spend $4.60

 

Jimbo's Burger House, 400 15th St., ****: This place is a classic. Only in Oakland would you find a 1950's diner run by Koreans that you can barely understand. The seats are all in big trouble with major duct tape and springs missing. Right next door is a real sleazy bar I've never been into. I love the old signs with rope bordering them on the wall advertising the different selections, such as apple pie (with Frim Fram Sauce!). I've only had greasy burgers and the turkey club with bacon and they've been great and good quantity. Fries good. Salad instead of fries if you want and it is spartan, but fine for lunch. Chococolate shake is a nice treat if you deserve it, but get the salad if you do to cut out a bit of grease. Recommend the French Burger Combo, which give you 1/4 cheese burger on french roll with fries PLUS salad for $4.00. This place also doesnít charge tax for some reason even though the menu says they will add it. Usual cost of meal: $5 with tip. Only negative is the lady is hard to understand sometimes and not too friendly, but it may be a cultural thing. I once thought she was being mean to a blind guy and was going to ban it, but can't be sure she was really being nasty or just didn't understand he was blind or was frustrated because he couldn't understand her and he couldn't read the sign she was trying to show him since she couldn't pronounce the special. I don't know how this place stays is business because hardly anyone is ever there, which make for concerns regarding turnover of food, but I've never noticed anything or gotten stomach trouble from here. Looks good for breakfast too, though never tried it yet. They have this He-man breakfast for $6 which looks like a meal for 3 people if you are starving. They usually will make breakfast for you during lunch time if they aren't too busy.

 

Burger Gormet, 351 19th St., ***1/2: I've had a falling out with this place. It's a place with expensive burgers and other classy sandwiches and they are worth the extra cost. But the guy that runs it and is the cashier is really unfriendly and makes me not want to go there. Similar to the Burger Bistro in SF financial district (in fact, it's owned by the same people, the menu fonts are exactly the same which tipped me off). All the burgers are good, the tuna melt is not very good, and that's all I've had. Fries good. Nice eating envronment. Pitchers of water with and without lemon. Clean, spend $7, no drink.

 

Belly Roll Ben's, 382 19th St., ***1/2: A catch-all greasy coffee shop. Burgers, cheesteaks, chicken stuff, etc. I got a Salmon burger that wasn't bad. Good prices. Quick service. Fries ok. Bring to your table service, order at register, nice biz. Recommend the Chicken Melt special with fries, $5 total. A good place when you can't think of anything else. Nice napkin quality.

 

Sabina Indian Cuisine, 1628 Webster, ****1/2: Go when hungry. Buffet is $7.50, incl tax. Soda included from fountain. Recommend being a meat-eater to get best value. LOVE their tandoori chicken, which they always have. Get the pork if they have it. The nan is awesome. The fruit cup for dessert is awesome. Salad, potato item, more than enough to satisfy everyone. Cool metal sectional plates which I am told are traditional Indian flatware due to the runny nature of lot of the food. Pitcher of water at the table. Interesting building with non-operating fountain in the middle of the bottom floor.

 

Pho Hoa Tho, 2300 Webster, ****: I love the name, to start. Everything is $4.95 plus tax, tip. Mega soups with about a hundred things in them that take forever to eat with all the sauces and the special sauce plate, the noodles are tough to manuever, for me, but with practice I am sure it gets easier. All sorts of crazy vegatables to put in, lemon, some green stuff. I have no idea what I am doing or eating, but it's good and hearty. Recommend the House Soup (No Tripe, naaaasty). The rice plates are pretty good too and come with a cup of mystery soup that is pretty good, but seems to be made with pure chicken fat. Tables are a bit cramped with all the sauces and utensils, but eating environment is fine. Popular place, but never too crowded.

 

Take It Easy Thai, 351 17th, ***1/2: A lame name, but a good place. I haven't found the clinching item that makes me come back like I found at Pho 84, but I know it is there. The selection is huge, the kitchen is like a home's. Can't recommend a particular item, but so much to chose from you can't go wrong. Gets crowded at peak times and service can be a bit slow at times. Fun to watch the ladies making the stuff. Very fresh tasting. They care about their craft. $6-7

 

Hof Brau, 2221 Broadway, **: Have soured on this place (see 9/17/01 entry). Often I think the place is closed because it is so dank inside and the windows are grimy you can't see inside. I normally like scummy places, but was depressed last time I was there, and repulsed by dead bugs and living ones and the help isn't that nice and the prices aren't that great. Howerver, if you crave the carver's meat off the bone type sandwhiches you find at Vegas buffets and happen to be around here, by all means, be my guest. I won't say I will ban the place, but I don't plan on going very much in the future. Oh, and there is a couch by the front door which goes with some of the shady character I see hanging out there. I would NOT go here at night. $6 sandwich, chips, no drink (water).

 

IB Hoagies, 400 21st St., ***: I had some bad fries here last time there and that made me not return since, but it's a good place, greasy burgers, cheesteaks, hoagies, prices ok. Donít remember much more as it's been a while. I don't think it is outstanding, just a solid place for grease. But the place is one of the more popular spots with the suits and not in a great location which says something if you believe in the masses tastes. Packed at peak times. $6

 

Lana's Chinese, 435 19th St., **1/2: Greasy Chinese. Do NOT get more than 2 items. The body cannot take that much grease no matter how hungry you are. I have put a near permanent ban on all take out chinese places (Mr. Chau type) because I never feel good after (and during for that matter). Cheap as they come, but you'll pay for it. If you are homeless, I recommend it highly for it's value. Don't remember what I had last time, but I couldn't finish 3 items and that is very rare. $4 approx.

 

Pusan Korean Restaurant, 346 14th St., ***1/2: Got the BBQ chick over rice with all the crazy Korean vegatable, some of which are good, some of which are the nastiest stuff on earth. Make sure you know what is what before eating. Lots of food, good quality, value, $6-7. Small, but an out of the way location, so not too crowded.

 

Jade Villa, 800 Broadway, *****: Dim Sum. Great food, excellent price for amount eaten. Best to go with Chinese speaker who know what to order because they try to give you the expensive items on top when there are better things on the bottom of the carts that cost less. Help doesn't speak English. Lady with the Chow Fun cart very annoying in the way she wails "Chow Fun" in an annoyed tone and nothing else, reminds me of the Keno ladies in Vegas. Am not too big on the dessert items, but that's me. $10 per person. Go with 3 people for best deal. Everything has shrimp in it, so you need to like that. Foil Chicken excepted (and very good).

 

El Burrito Gordo, 326 23rd St., ***: More selection than Happy, giant burritos, better salsa bar. Still like Happy better, but this is a good change. Like that they give you real plates, unlike Happy and have better cleaning help. More crowded, but fast service. Guac is mostly missing in action, but mitigated a tad by precence of avocado salsa. $5

 

Subway, Inside 19th St. BART, ***: Not big on them, but when you want a simple foot tuna, they do the job. The help is slow and last time they didn't have any black pepper without salt in it. In BART station and depressing, don't recommend eating there and usually is empty except for BART police. $4.20

 

Juanita's Restaurant, 1734 Webster, ***: Mexican, served to you. Everybody raves about this place, but I think it is so-so. I've gotten the two Carne Asada Burritos and the meat was ok and amount ok, but practically no garnishments, no guac, hardly any salsa. Shameful. What I've had really hasn't astounded me and the cost is pretty high compared to better food I've had for less elsewhere. The guy running it reminds me of the Soup Nazi. The building is pretty cool because it looks like a crack house from the outside with the old 7UP sign but inside it's like an adobe house from the Westerns and nice decorations on the wall. Charges 10 cents for toothpicks which was apalling. This place suffers from public opinioin wanting to like it too much for it's uniqueness, but it really is below the standard that I have for such places. $10

 

Huynh Vietnamese Cuisine, 381 15th St., *****: This place is catching up on Pho. A bit cheaper and a little less classy, but the food is great, nearly equal to 84. Gotten vermicelli and rice items and both excellent. Imperial rolls great if in your selection. The amount is huge of the chicken bowl I had, I was amazed last time (can't recall the item number), lots of good vegatables, none of the pickeled flavor I don't like that smells like garbage. A very high ranking place. Not as hard to get a table at compared to 84, just a few blocks out of the way, which might be the reason. Help is friendly, all the guys wear these hawaiin surfing shirts. Get a pedicure next door if you want. 11/19/01: This place is remodeling and looks like it is going to be pretty classy and nice. They should be done in a couple weeks. Just sat in the back room with a great skylight and nice colors on the walls, new wood chairs, definately a move up for the family that runs the place. They deserve to move up. They're very nice and make great food, but I hope the cost doesn't jump too substantially. $8

 

Giant Burgers, 2150 Telegraph, ***1/2: Looks like it was built in the 50's. 24-hour (don't go at night). The guy running it is this old black dude with an incredibly gravely voice and talks real loud and is sort of nuts. Made me a bit uncomfortable at first, but ok after a while. Burgers, fries, shakes. Shake was pretty good one time I had it, burger satisfactory, fries had great grease, whatever they used for it. Not really worth going out of you way for and slow service, but occasionally it's nice to have a different experience and support establishments that seem like a miracle they are in business still. Salt shakers are coffee cups with holes poked out in the lid. Clean inside, but outside, they had just hosed down the parking lot last time, so I can't comment on what goes on out there at other times. Across from INS if you need those services. $5

 

Four Seasons Café, 410 21st St., ****: I love how word puts the accent in for you now. Anyway, this place is pretty interesting. Get a teriaki plate with rice. Lots and good taste. Or get the weighed salad bar with all sorts of stuff such as tuna, eggs, chicken, noodle salads, giant meat balls, shrimp, and more than I can remember. Great for having a little of everything and just the amount you want. I think mine was $6.

 

Vo Restaurant, 59 Grand, *****: Vietnamese. This place was good, but farther away and more expensive than Pho 84, so haven't gone too much. Bigger place is good for large amount of people if you go in a group, very nice interior and wairtresses and service good, though the soup was nasty. But that's an extra, so it is no matter. A bit classier than 84, high quality, a good choice. $11

 

Hawaii of China, 333 17th, ***: Only been once, but this was a fine meal, nothing memorable, but quick, cheap, not greasy. $5

 

Yen Heung Restaurant, 7th/Franklin, ***1/2: I'm not sure this was the name of the place I went to in China Town, but I had some shrimp soup in a giant bowl and it was packed and they crammed the table with strangers, which isn't bad, but I like my own table to have plenty of room to maneuver the soup. I was not astounded by the soup, but the place definitely derserves another chance based on the fact that it was packed with locals, if I can find it again since I don't really remember exactly where it was. Ho Fun noodles were cool, translucent. $5 As always, though, there is less competition in Oakland China Town than SF, so the quality has been lower in my estimation so far, but more analysis is needed.

 

Da Vinci's, 1814 Franklin, **1/2: This is another place that people seems to like, but isn't that good. Possibly because they are the only game in town, people have forgotten what good food is. I mean, if you are a suit type use to classy dining in SF, this place has cloth napkins, a rare sight in Oakland. But the thing I had was no better than a Hot Pocket. The bread on the other hand was excellent and saved the rating from being any lower. Was pretty expensive too if I recall. Not worth going for, even if on an expense account. Save the company money and go to Belly Roll Ben's across the way. Of course, I have only been there once, but it was bad enough that I will not give it another chance. $12

 

Tacqueria Del Sol, 390 14th St., ***1/2: I think this place was pretty good, but don't remember much about it. Need to go there again because I think it was pretty good, a bit far for me, but still doable.

 

New Lakeside Café, 326 #D 23rd St., ***1/2: Very similar to the Hawaii of China experience. Location makes it not a place to go to very much for me, but it was a solid performer and good price if you are by there. Might return if in the mood for a long walk in that direction one day. $6

 

Golden Peacock Restaurant, 825 Webster, ****: They have a cool Peacock metal thing by the entry, but it's not gold. The dining experience was though. For around $10, if you get on of the family meals, you will have too much food and an incredible selection. See review. Not too many people in at peak time, but I think most of the dishes were pretty good. Dark inside, don't remember much more.

 

Wendy's, 1500 Broadway, ***: What's to say. Sub $4, satisfying and fast. A bit of a scummy crowd, so get there early before they do so you can leave fast. I miss the bums opening the door for you like in the SF locations, but I've learned to live with missing such amenities.

 

Shan Dong Mandarin, 328 10th St., ***: See review. Don't remember much more, but nothing to rave about.

 

Grand Palace, 2216 Broadway, **1/2: Greasy Chinese place #2. See review of Lana's.

 

Hawaiin Walk-in, 402 15th St., **: This place might be good, but I had such a bad meal there, I may never find out. I ordered some porkchop thing and it was nasty and small and had some nasty side dish I forget. No one in there. I think it may suffer from lack of traffic. Near Jimbo's so I may check out if anyone in there next time in the vicinity.

 

Kyoto Express, 1721 1/2 Webster, *: At first, it was OK. Very cramped (note address with the 1/2 in the street number), but ok food. Then the night came. Severe stomach pain, seen only last when I ate some bad mayo from my refrig that I should have know not to do. Pepto saved the day, but barely. Definate ban on this place. Any place that can make me ill should be shut down immediately because I can take a lot of crap before my system shuts down.

 

Grand Street Grill, 146 Grand, ***: Not worth the walk for me. Nothing special, but only there once. Didn't seem to have anything great except for location for the Cal Trans folks working across from it.

 

Suzy's Hob Nob, 2200 Broadway, ***: Another place with a crazy character working. Again, nothing special, similar fare to Belly Roll Ben's. Might return to check out again, but at first pass, it seemed not to have anything worth walking the extra block to go to, other than the desire to spread the wealth of my $6 to different ailing parts of the city. Actually, they have a cool old coca cola sign above their place and some classic archectiture that will never be torn down till it falls apart so it's worth supporting.

 

Dai Ten, 1830 Webster, **: Banned. Terrible food. Beef was weird and shriveled. Expensive for what you got. Ichi Japon much better and close to it. $10

 

KFC, 2800 Telegraph, ***: Was a lot farther than I thought. Hot day too which is a bad day for greasy chicken. Shady characters made me take my order to go. Neighborhood right on the border of kill zone, West Oakland. Watch out. Probably won't go to again, but I can't believe there isn't a close one that this. More KFCs, less wig stores, is what I say. $5

 

La Salsa, 501 14th St., **1/2: Had to check out the city center one day. Was not impressed, since I can get this stuff anywhere and I want unique stuff for much lunches most days. See review, but this place is banned, though the area was a nice place to sit outside and eat when the weather is nice.

 

Vachi Medditeranean, 326 23rd St., *1/2: Terrible. Immediate Ban. See review. These places must be fronts for something because no body is there. There's lots of places like that in Oakland. The rent must be so cheap they don't have to sell anything to make money. The menu had all these comments from prominent Oakland people saying how much they liked it, so maybe it's my tastes, but maybe they were paid off with free food, also.

 

Restaurant Peony, 388 9th St. #288, ****: A madhouse, must be popular with the people. need to try again because wasn't with a dim sum expert and that caused problems with ordering because we got some nasty shrimp with legs and god knows what else that I had to extract before eating and it wasn't fun and I think it must have been some gormet item because the bill was $43 for 3 people and one of the people hardly ate anything. Beware. I think Jade Villa is fine for me next time. Cheap Dim Sum is fine with me, but I'd go here again with a person in the know only. No English again. Shrimp in everything, and I mean everything.

 

Ichi Japon, 382 17th St., *****: Latest find was great one, yet so close. Bad Dai Ten experience scared me from my Japanese in Oakland, but this place is great. Went the day of the WTC tradgedy and it was still good, so you know it must be great on a non-tradgic day. Can't remember what it was called, but order the special in the middle for like $7.50 and substitue california rolls for sashimi (if you want). Lots of food, good variety, miso good, even though I normally don't like that, good ambiance, friendly staff. $9.

 

Chef Edwards BBQ, 1998 San Pablo, ****: Great authetic feel and taste. Has Pork, Beef, Chicken, Briket, links. Old School. Great looking desserts, though had none. The Chef was very friendly. Service can be slow due to the complicated nature of preparing the meal. Sit at counter for nice close meat-cleaver action. Not the classiest place. In a bad area, so DO NOT go at night. I loved the little baggie they give you containing fork, knife, napkin, toothpick, wetnap, salt, pepper, and mint. Got the mild sauce but would probably get the spicy next time. Cole Slaw looked nasty, but I had the po salad which was fine. Stop by Angel's massage parlor down the street on 20th if you so desire. $6-7.

 

Athenian Deli and Cafe, 2125 Franlin, ****: Had passed this place a bunch of times and finally checked it out after almost 6 months. Got a Gyro and chips. $4.63. Tasted very good. They had nice selection of things to have and a lot that looked good for a return visit. My first visit was somewhat negative because I was carrying too much stuff or daydreaming and lost my change ($16!) and also took the wrong number so my food took forever to get to me. These things were my fault (I've been somewhat careless lately), but it still hurt the experience which is why the rating was down. I have no doubt the first time rating will be improved upon in the future visits. But the place was pretty disorganized and seemed inefficient, so avoid peak time if in a rush. Had all sorts of salads and sandwhiches, smoothies, yogart, some seemed pretty classy, yet not too expensive.

 

Cheese Steak Shop, 3308 Lakeshore, *****: Needed car to go to this one, by the East side of Lake Merritt. As good as the Walknut Creek location. Much better than the SF location. Best Cheesesteaks you can get, even in Philadelphia. Great rolls, Amoroso, imported from Philly. Lot's of meat packed into the 15 in. sandwich I had so be hungry and don't get fries or soda if you get this size. A bit pricey for greasy spoon food, but the uniqueness of it and the taste make it worth it. The melted Provolone here is heavenly. I think a vegetarian could be converted by bringing them here, and they have a vegetarian sub as a lure. $8.25, double stamps on Tuesdays on frequent eater card.

 

Sandwich Express, 311 20th, ***: Had a meeting and also wanted something light. Typical corporate drone cheap sandwich shop, sort of like Lee's in SF, but much lower quality. Only condiments offered were lettuce and tomato on my chicken salad sandwich. Roll was nice. Good value and enough food, but poor selection, and just average quality. Value pretty good, but not great. $5.

 

L&L Chinese Restaurant, 1116 Franklin, ***1/2:(Recently soured a bit on this place, lowered rating 1/17/2002. Still good for an occasional visit.) Fabulous find. I have a theory that isn't revolutionary, but it says that places packed with locals must be good because they aren't stupid and won't return if a place isn't good both in quality and value. I had passed this place recently and noticed it packed with Asian, maybe 95%. They knew something and I found out what it was. The deal was phenomenal. Large amount of food and great taste. Entree comes with choice of steamed rice, friend rice, or noodles (larger amount), egg roll, and soup of the day. Soup and Egg roll was just ok, but the other two things were excellent and plentiful. Seems like they have Dim Sum here also. Slight language barier. Fairly spicy, at least when I got the General Tsao Chicken which didn't have a pepper on the menu, but not too much. Made me sweat a tad. Only negatives: slow service (had to ask for my soup and egg roll and they didn't take my order for a long time), cheap toothpicks like Yen Heung, no extra napkins. These were faults I will overlook due to the outstanding value of the meal and relatively friendly staff. $6, incl tax/tip.

 

Big Apple Cafe, 401 14th, ***1/2: Kosher NY Deli style place. Wasn't overly impressed with the turkey New Yorker I had, but it was pretty good. Excellent pickle included, even though I'm not a big pickle person. They toast the bread and it was a pretty meaty sandwhich with high quality turkey. I'd try it again and perhaps the pastrami or corned beef would have wowed me more. Did see a roach or similar big insect crawling around the counter, but felt embarrassed alerting the help to it. No tax if you get it to go. Eat in or take out, need more data for a full opinion to be drawn on this place, but with the list of places growing, it may not be a while before I get back to here, if ever.

 

Hyang Won Restaurant, 308 14th, ****: Korean place near Pusan but a little worse location, so that means it's better to attract the repeats since they aren't using their corner location as a crutch. Looked like some real appetizing things others were ordering. I got the standard BBQ beef plate with a hundred side items. Another in the party got the BBQ spareribs plate (deboned for you) and another the chicken. I would try one of these next time as they looked a bit better than the beef. The spareribs cost a bit more than the other two. Came with soup that wasn't bad, and the usual sides and some not-so-usual ones, rice, noodles, kim chee, greens, fried zuchhini, various sprouts, a potatoe-like thing, and some more stuff that I can't recall. But it was a lot of food, pretty good, except for the stuff I don't like, and looks like more items on the menu that deserve a repeat, like some thing in a bowl with meat and a fried egg on top. The Juicy Fruit Gum at the end tops this great meal off, but it's not enough to stop the fragrant burps that were with me the rest of the day. It was okay, though, as the memory of this meal was a pleasant one and the burping only enhanced that memory throughout the day. May get upgraded a notch based on next visit. Unfortunately, no Korean place can get a 5 from me only because I don't care for pickled stuff and there's always some of that taste in these meals. $7.50

 

Quick Bite, 15th/Franklin (Next to Jimbo's), ****: Even though it's only a 4, gets the thumb for being unique in style and a good value when hungry. $4.88 buys you 6 fried chicken wings of fairly good size, seasoned fries, 2 slices of quality wheat bread, and a Safeway Select soda of your choosing in any of 5 flavors (recommend Black Cherry). The also have fried catfish, chicken strips combos, and some steak sandwich item, but the fried chicken was what everyone was ordering. It was a lot of food and I was hungry. I couldn't even finish my bread. Caused mild, non-spicy, burping throughout the day. Hot sauce was nice as chicken wasn't that spicey. I prefer KFC to this chicken, but enjoyed the meal still. The place has some eating inside, but it's small and gets crowded with all the people waiting, so it's best to take out, though they were playing some nice jazz inside and the sound system was pretty good. Also a tv in there, but it wasn't on and might not have worked. Took a while to get our food and people were ordering by phone so they must be slow always. Similar to Chef Edwards, these family places in tight quarters usually aren't too fast. Forgot to get the phone number, but if it's in the book, call 'em up before heading over. I love how they have no complex about offering the generic soda which I respect and also am glad since Select black cherry is one of my favorite sodas and they pass the savings on to the customer. Best deal is the 6 wing combo, but I'm intriqued by the steak sandwhich and might try that next time. Loved the seasoning on the fries, too. Oh, and they only have wings here, no other pieces of the chicken, which lowers it a bit for me since I'm a breast kind of guy when it comes to chicken. They probably buy some giant bag of wings from Costco or something.

 

Everett & Jones BBQ, 126 Broadway,****1/2. This place has really bad service the only time Iíve been there, but the food was outstanding, so Iím giving it a higher rating than my first initial visit rating, though I reserve the right to lower it should the service be very slow again. The ribs were great, lunch amount was plenty. The potato salad has some yellow coloring, possibly mustard based seasoning, that made it a delightful accouterment in temperature and taste to the ribs. Also came with slices of wheat bread and maybe something else Iím forgetting. They have fresh squeezed lemonade which was awesome and worth getting even though Iím usually a water person to save the extra dollar (It adds up!) Since they were nice and comped us our meal for losing our order, Iíll return because the food was terrific. Get the medium sauce at the least, and the hot isnít too bad either. Do allow a lot of time because I think even under good conditions, this place is slow. But as I found out, it is worth some wait. $10

 

Mambo Mambo, 1803 Webster / 19th,***: Sort of a Jamaican type of place, I guess. Looks like a front for illegal activity, or the people donít really know how to run a business. Only someone crazy like me would even consider trying it and only a fool would return or recommend it to someone else. Flies greet you as you enter the place, which is a night club with tables. No one is there. The place is dark. The booth springs are 50 years old and you sink down pretty far. The celery soup was nasty. We ordered 2 steak plates and they only had one, thankfully, since I got chicken instead and it was actually pretty tasty, but the rice wasnít good and the beans were weird. The steak was disgusting and greasy and had no flavor. A bad meal and if they are in business one month from now, then that means they are into some shady stuff. A perfect place to transact illicit business if you need to since no one goes there and you can still get an ok item. If you insist on going, get the Chicken with BBQ and spicy sauces, but I have a feeling that since no one ever goes there, you might get old meat, which is maybe why the steak was NASTY. There really is no good reason to go here with the other good places around. $7.50 Update, 5/7/02: Place is now buffet, $7.50. Earlier, declared it the worst place ever and banned it, but word about the buffet has spread and had to check it out. Has same good chicken, plus two rices, taro root, plantine, some fish thing, some veggie crap. Really, I just enjoyed the plain white rice and BBQ chicken with great flavor, onion, and green and red peppers. Wasn't into the other items, so this is not enough selection for me, so won't return, but the place definately has improved over it's past and the ban is over, still only 3 stars though. Cashier/Hostess had major rack, but as some don't consider that an important aspect of a restaurant being good or bad, I have not factored this into my rating.

 

Merritt Restaurant and Bakery, 203 E. 18th, ****: A classic old time 50s family restaurant. I was alerted by a thread on the great site www.chowhound.com that this place had good fried chicken. And this was the reason for our visit. But this place has an incredible menu and everything looked great. Breakfast I'm sure is awesome and served all day, if I recall correctly. I wish I could scan in a menu on the web site, but it's too big anyway to fit. The chicken was very good and crispy, not too spicy, but I liked it. The biscuits were ultra fresh, large and fluffy and they were good, though I must admit, I have a thing for KFC biscuits and I really haven't had ones I like better than those. The smells from the bakery were intoxicating and it looks like that section of the establishment is quite an operation with all sorts of donuts and cakes and pies and such. I had 2 fried chicken breasts and two biscuits a la carte. After the last fried chicken at Quick Bite which only had wings, these meaty white pieces where a joy to consume. The fried chicken meal is rather pricey for what you get, so I suggest doing what I did which was around $5 if you don't require all the fixins. Also, if you order to go, it looks like it is much cheaper, but then you can't soak in the ambiance, so it's a tough choice. I will say that I was a bit dissapointed that there weren't more old waitresses with big hair working (there was one), but I guess there is a new generation of servers now. All I can say, is that I'll be biking over to this place again for lunch. Open 24 hours, I can tell it gets real interesting at night here. This is the kind of place that you would go to every day if you lived nearby, sort of like the Seinfeld coffee shop, but much bigger. This place caters to large events; their takeout menu has pricing for 500 pieces and 10 gallons of salad for something like $575. That is serious grub.

 

Siam Bay Restaurant, 1009 Clay, ****: Thai and we got the buffet. I simply cannot pass up a lunch buffet (2 in a row, 11/15-16) if it is offered and this one was pretty good. Not the biggest selection, but enough to satisfy my hunger and varying tastes. I enjoyed these little chicken wings (not really Thai, but still good), rice, pad thai, red curry chicken, and very classy and fresh green salad with house dressing. They also had some yellow curry chicken, some clam item, and some veggie stuff and weird desserts that I passed on. I liked it, but it's not the kind of place I would go too often, sort of like Sabina, because I kind of get it out of my system for a while and I eat a little too much. Also, it's fairly far for me, so I need the bike (which I had) or shuttle. They had this really cool toothpick dispenser that you pressed a button and the tooth pick came out and this bird head went down and picked it up and then lifted it's head back up for easy pick up for the human. I love good low tech devices. Nice waitress, $7.50

 

Phnom Penh House, 251 8th/Alice, ****: Cambodian, somewhat classy, nice atmoshpere, don't remember much but the seafood soup was not to my liking. A bit expensive, portions sort of small, but I would try again. $13

 

Tam's Fish and Chips, 362 17th, *1/2: Got the fish and chips the one (and most likely only time) here. Really wasn't great fish quality, had a funny taste, cocktail sauce consisted of bottle of ketchup and vinegar. Did not give me water like I asked for. Came with cup of wonton soup, which was the only saving grace to the meal. Fries ok. I think this place is mostly used for it's greasy chinese food, but there are better ones (Lana's) for people into that sort of thing. Since I'm off greasy Chinese, I doubt I will ever return to this place. Between Ichi Japon and Pho 84, accross from Take it Easy Thai, so you can do much better on this street. $5

 

Cerventes Original Mexican Sandwich, 320 17th, ***: Located in the middle of a deserted block, this place intrigued me and I finally had to check it out. What I found out, which confirmed what I had heard from the good folks on www.chowhound.com, was that this place isn't very Mexican, except for the jalapenos they put on their sandwiches. I suspect it used to be a place that had more Mexican stuff in the 70's and someone just bought the place and kept the sign to save money and not have to change the name. It's a tiny sandwich shop, one-person operation and from what I saw, high-priced for just an average sandwich. It was a good sandwich; great roll, moist turkey, but cost $6 which is outrageous, unless it is a giant sandwich. This was a regular sized one and I needed a cookie afterwards as well from Aroma. There were a few other people in there and the lady told me they were out of chicken because of a big catering thing, so maybe there is something I'm missing. Or maybe people just like supporting this little places. I do, but this place really doesn't deserve it from what I've seen. Has a few tables to eat there. Toasts the roll, which was a nice touch.

 

Grand River Bakery and Restaurant, 723 Webster, **: A Chinese place with a strange name. A very unpleasant meal and costly, at $8. Ordered the combo meal with salt and pepper shrimp and lemon chicken. Shrimp were lightly breaded and fried with eyes and feet still on. Nasty and a real pain to eat and didn't even taste that great. The lemon chicken was plentiful, but no better than average. The vegetables were nasty hot green cabbage with oyster sauce that I could barely stomach. The soup was ok mystery style. White rice. This place has a lot of weird things like subs and other non-Asian or American stuff mixed with Asian stuff so maybe there are some ok things here, but from what I got, I'm never giving it another shot. Service not that great also, almost spilled some of the nasty cabbage sauce on me when clearing the table. Yuck.

 

Szechwan Restaurant, 366 8th, ***: This place caps a 3 in a row disappointing meal trifecta (12/18/01-12/20/01). Even though 3 stars is average, that is a disappointment when I know there are 5 star places right by me. This place was a trek but was recommended by some people who went there for dinner, which might be better. In the name, it says "Mandarin Cuisine" which is weird because they name it Szechwan Restaurant. Anyway, we got the lunch special. I had Kung Pao Chicken with fried rice, "appetizer", and mystery soup. The "appetizer" was one of the nastiest items I've seen in a long time. Simply a won ton with nothing in it. Pathetic. And then there is the grease. This thing was dark from grease. I am not lying when I say that I was able to literally pour grease out of the air bubble of one of the wontons. Too much grease for me, and I like the stuff. I have not seen grease like this since I was able to squeeze it out of donuts from a Chinese buffet I went to in San Diego (Dragon House in PB). The soup was typical mystery style, edible with a touch of the red chili sauce added. The fried rice had nothing in it and looked exactly like the steamed rice except for the brown top to the rice, most likely from colored grease. The main course was actually pretty good which is why this thing even made 3 stars. It had a good amount of chicken and the sauce was tasty. My partner's beef dish looked bad. The service was bad, inattentive, took a long time to take our order and payment at the end. Really no reason for anyone to go here, especially for me being 12 blocks away. I couldn't believe they actually had a good crowd there. I wonder sometimes about the tastes of the workers down at this end of town. $5.50.

Mexicali Rose, 701 Clay, ****1/2: Mexican sit-down. Outside of building looks like a cheap Vegas strip club. It's square and purple with no windows. Inside is pretty nice, looks like a coffee shop with weird seventies wall patterns. Excellent service; brought us fresh refills of chips immediately and refilled water promptly without asking. I got the giant Steak Super Burrito filled with carne asada, guac, beans, rice, and cheese. I left out the sour cream. It would do nicely with a little lighter beans, and maybe a touch of salsa fresca, but still, this thing was close to a masterpiece. Huge amount and generous and nicely seasoned steak. Guac was the real deal, dark green with chuncks of avocado present. Chips were homemade, thick style. Could use a little salt, and the salsa was just ok. Also, I'm more partial to the thin Chevy's chip style, and these were very thick. Still, the chips were enjoyable. Has a full bar, serves some American type foods as well, burgers on the menu I recall. Also has half orders that are cheaper for lunch, which comes with a salad and beans and rice for around $5.50. Located across from the Oakland jail. Go down 7th toward Broadway for a nice stroll past the assortment of Bail Bonds establishments afterwards. $9.

Shanghai Wang Restaurant, 1437 Franklin, ***1/2: Value sitdown Chinese. Hot and Sour soup was good, best since the famed Hunan Homes of my SF work days, won ton, small salad, beef chow fun, all very fine. Nice atmosphere, though the place looks sort of dingy from the outside, nice waiter in a suit who seemed like a character, but I think you have to be a regular before you really get to know him well. Seemed to have a loyal following. Worth going to if in the area. $6

Le Cheval, 1007 Clay St, ****1/2: Sort of like the PF Chang's of Vietnamese. Fusion style. I mean, the soup with the meal was clam chowder for goodness sake. And it was pretty good, just unexpected. The seating area is this giant floor, almost like a former warehouse. But the decorating is nice still. It can hold a real lot of people, but was still full by the time we left, with a couple waiting outside around 12:30. I had the Le Cheval combo which included the soup, skewers of BBQ pork and shrimp, a large and very meaty imperial roll, little fried chicken wings, and some orange "French Rice." There were 2 negatives. The rice was just so-so, didn't really have much taste in my opinion and I like the yellow rice at Pho 84 much better. Second, the chicken wings were not good and totally out of place in the meal. This really needs to be changed on the menu to some other chicken item, because the kabobs of pork and shrimp were awesome. Great flavor and very grilled taste. A nice place, though being far away, I probably won't hit it too often with 84 and Hyunh right nearby. $9.50

Quizno's, 2101 Webster, ***1/2: An upscale sandwich chain which features grilled classy breads and unique sandwich combinations. I got the Angus Steak sandwich which came on grilled basil parmasean bread, with onion and cheese and peppers and some spicy dijon sauce. The cheese was nicely melted and the grilling of the bread is a nice feature, even though I have scoffed at this gimmick in the past during their TV ads. In all, I liked it ok, but the dijon sauce took away some enjoyment as it really didn't seem right on this sandwich or it might be that I just don't care for it personally. Still, I enjoyed it. They had some nice easy listening music playing on the in-house radio station, including that Midnight on the Oasis song, which was a very pleasant song to eat to. The other sandwich offering there looked enticing enough that I will probably return again to try the place again. Kind of pricey, though, for a regular meal, as just the sandwich (though very generous amount) was $6.50 without getting any chips or soda even. This did result in plenty of seating as it was not very crowded at all for being prime lunchtime and right in between two big buildings. But Oakland workers are pretty price-sensitive, so I am not sure this place will make it long-term. Their bathroom also is located far and you need a key, which was a pain for my guest.

Battambang Restaurant, 850 Broadway, ****: Cambodian place next to Jade Villa. First impression was bad as there was a bad smell near the table they showed us to. But there was another open, so we were able to move there. I think I ordered the #1 chicken special which was a half chicken, bonless. More than enough, plus vegetables, rice, and soup. I forget too much more as I am lagging in my detailed review here. The service was a little spotty with poor water filling and slow bringing the check. Very popular, so get there at an off time or prepare to wait. Pretty good, but I was expecting much more. $9

El Torito, 67 Jack London Square, ****: A small chain of middle-class Mexican sit-down. I hadn't been to one for 10 years in San Ramon, where I'm not even sure there is one still. This one was in Jack London Square. Nice day, very windy. OK views from many parts of the establishment. My first meal here was very good, taco salad with a real lot of good stuff in it. I later found out the waitress put the dinner version into the ordering system by accident which is why it was so good and so much food. Lots of lettuce, nicely seasoned grilled chicken, 2 kinds of cheeses, tortilla strips, fresh guac, salsa fresca, some green taco salad dressing, sun-flower seed or equivalent, possibly some more things I can't remember. It's on the lunch menu, but the waitress said the lunch version isn't as good. Anyway, the waitress wasn't very good herself, she was new, but still, spilled stuff on the table, messed up our bill twice, was sort of nasty, homeless looking. They have good thin chips, sort of like Chevy's, not quite as good. Very nice salsa. Not a bad place for a big meal and if you're willing to pay a bit more than normal for Mexican. Mints available on way out. $9

Ba Vo, 416 13th, ****1/2: Basically, another branch of Pho 84. Menu looks the same, food is almost the same. Difference is ambiance. This one is roomier and not as crowded at prime time. Not quite as classy and the food is slightly less in quality, at least what I got, which was 10b, the same as 84's #18. Service a bit slow taking our order, but in all, a good alternative to Pho 84 if you are in the area or if 84 is too busy or if you don't want to chance seeing any of your coworkers at lunch. Price is the same.

Texas Original BBQ and Fish, 614 14th, ***1/2: Strange paintings on the wall of this place, including Black versions of Ronald Regan and John F. Kennedy. Texas Flag also, though it's really more Oakland than Texas in this place. Got the 1/2 Chicken, double potato salad (because I didn't want beans), 2 pieces wheat bread, country time lemonade, $8.50. Price was high vs. E&J which I think was much better. Clean place, fast service. No wetnap was a real negative. Hands were nasty. Po salad was ok, but tasted just like Safeway's Deluxe you get in the deli case. In general, if this was closer, I'd go again, but will probably not be going to again for a while. Nice walk around the less dangerous parts of West Oakland a recommended activity to digest the meal afterwards.

Sabuy Sabuy, 332 Frank Ogawa Plaza, ****: Good value Thai place near City Center. It's located in the bank of restaurants facing west in the plaza. Not very busy, but it's new so that may change. I've gone twice and gotten lunch special 4 with pork, medium spicy, which was excellent, but thought it had a little too much basil the second time. Large amount and generous pork in there, nice vegetables, sort of tomato touch to sauce, complimentary and good hot tea, nice service. Tooth picks were low quality, howerver. stuff is all around $5.25, served to you. This is the statellite location a much larger branch in Berekely, which I have not been to. I would probably get another item next time I go, and there WILL be a next time as this place deserves repeat visits. $7

Burger King, 1240 Broadway, ***: Pretty much a known place. Don't like how they have seperate lines per register vs. the one line formation. Went at off time, so wasn't an issue anyway. Went specifically to get new Chicken Whopper with the 50 cent discount for clucking which we did. A pretty good item, large amount, seemed good quality bird, too much mayo, but otherwise, a satisfying meal with a Dr. Pepper and large fries. Full for the day on this grease. Would get again, but not go out of my way for. Bathroom stunk of bubble gum freshener. This branch is in the scummy Broadway area where lots of sleazy types hang out so it's not a place you want to hang out (unless you are sleazy yourself). Recommend eating in the civic center plaza on one of those nice cushions by the water fountain. $5.50

Aroma Bakery and Cafe, 1900 Franklin, *****: On my block of work and a place I've gone by all the time, but never tried, except for their cookies and when in catered classes and I knew their product was excellent from that. Very crowded, mostly with Kaiser elite too busy for a long lunch, but still appreciators of fine food. Even at 11:30, there was a line when I went, though not too bad at that time. Is popular with good reason. They are fine craftsmen of the sandwhich and the prices are reasonable for the quality. I got a Smoked Turkey with Melted Cheese Wrap, which had some green (spinach) tortilla wrap with generous portion of real turkey, melted cheese (not sure what kind), lettuce, some greak tomato mixture with other things, mayo, honey mustard, jalepenos, onions (freshly sliced, expertly), and came with a pickle which was a good one as well. This for just $4.60 with tax. Also decided to get a semi-sweet chocolate chip cookie, but still too full as I write this to eat that, so I'm saving it for later. Their cookies are awesome and they have a great selection of different kinds, like peanut butter chocolate chip and both milk and semi-sweet chocolates, plus about 15 other varieties. Haven't tried other bakery items. This place is great and even though I like to take long lunches, and hence go far away, I will return. Small amount of seating there, but they package it nicely togo in a syrofoam meat tray with saran wrap. Also noticed they had the hard-to-find Tahiti Treat soda by Canada Dry in the refrigerator. $6 with drink and chips. For a little more than BK, you get fine quality and more healthy food.

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Note about details: I usually get water as a beverage (to save money and avoid gas-inducing soda) so prices reflect no drink, unless specified that I got one. Overall Ratings from 1-5 stars, differ from individual ratings listed on the spreadsheet which are specific to the visit.