Oakland Restaurants – Everyday Guide, Vol. 1 – Grand Lake

OMG, I haven’t looked at this in three years.  Some places are still here, others  gone and many more new ones.  I will update or contact me.

Last Saturday we ate at Ensarro on Grand Avenue.  Both coming and going the street was alive with people and a few new places not included below. Keep your eyes open for an update or make your own visit any weekend evening

Oakland and Berkeley contain an wonderful collection and range of good restaurants and the list grows monthly.  It’s hard for visitors to find the best places from among the crowd.  Most “Best of” Lists focus on  handful of well, the best, coolist, hippist places in town.  At least the hippist this month.   But if you live here and go out frequetly, you can’t go spending $100 at every meal and many of “the best” are reserved into the future.

This post began as a restaurant guide that Susan prepared for our airbnb guests.  This is the first of several posts for the Grand lake District, the area near our home, within 10 or 15 minutes walking distance.  We’ve updated it and will add new places as they emerge.  These are the places that we go to and love and some that have some special appeal or noterierity.

See Best Oakland Restaurats – Vol. 2 for restaurants outside our neighborhood and Best Oakland Markets for Markets, Bakeries, and other shopping.

You could go down any street where we’ve listed a restaurant and find other places, maybe as good.  Sometimes the places we recommend don’t always get the best Yelp reviews. Not getting picked doesn’t mean they aren’t good, they just aren’t ours.

This post is a work in progress and we will add more detail, websites and photos in the near future.


Sidebar – Restaurant & Bar
A ten-minute walk from the house, this restaurant is a true neighborhood gem, with a lively bar run by Jared Hirsch, the one wearing the hat, known for his great innovative cocktails and inventor of Caged Heat Cocktail Syrup.

The master at work

Locals come here, sit at the bar, and have conversations, just the way we imagine  a neighborhood bar, only brighter and without the  Coors sign.  Most times I just ask Jared to make something I would like, and I’ve never been unhappy.  They serve consistently excellent comfort food that’s  well-priced:  Deviled eggs with bacon. Pork N’ Beans – actually a delicious pork chop –  an exceptional burger and fries.


Talk about a personal connection to the bartender, my daughter met Jared at Burning Man years ago; he has new twins and even performed a Bay Area style “wedding ceremony” on the roof of the San Francisco Academy of Sciences, for Susan, me and a hundred other people!  CLOSED SUNDAY. – 542 Grand Avenue, Oakland, CA 94610, 510-452-9500

Grand Lake Kitchen – Restaurant & Bar
We love to sit outside and enjoy the lake view and the neighborhood passing by at this café with fantastic food.  The menu is varied with unusual twists on traditional dishes.


The egg salad, one of the world’s best mayonnaise delivery systems, is so rich and delicious you won’t need to eat for the rest of the day!

My go-to, the BLTA

With their recent expansion, they have more capacity and a full bar.  You can often walk in with little wait, especially at off hours but there are big lines on the weekend for brunch.  They do take reservations on Open Table.  OPEN AT 9:00 IN THE MORNING, a wee bit on the late side for weekday breakfast – 576 Grand Avenue, Oakland, CA 94610 510-922-9582

Room 389 – Neighborhood Bar & Coffeehouse
Oakland is spawning a new breed of local bars; this is one of the best, some days with live music, DJ and a trivia night.  While Room 389 is mostly patronized by millennials, don’t pass it up if you are older.  In our sixties, we feel quite welcome.  They love it when the olds come out at night.

But that’s at night.  They open a coffee bar/café at 7:30 each morning, 9:00 on weekends.  Great coffee, quiet and inexpensive.  No cooked food, just pastries and hot burritos, wraps, breakfast sandwiches.

Los Cantaros – Mexican
Large portions, excellent Mexican  food, low prices.  You order at the counter and the food is delivered to the table.  Nothing fancy, but fast and good.  Great place for kids. – 336 Grand Avenue (Between Perkins and Lee), Oakland, CA 94610, 510-834-4300

Oasis Kitchen – Medeterranian
A fairly new to the neighborhood family run Medeterranian restaurant.  Schwarma, hummus….all good.  Eat in or call in advance for take-out.  This is right next door to Los Cantaros, so if your family can’t make up their mind, you can easily do take-away from both.

Enssaro – Ethiopian
Our neighborhood has a large Ethiopian community.  This is one of the newest and most popular restaurants.  I am not drawn to Ethiopian food, so I haven’t been there, but Susan has tried several Ethiopian restaurants and thinks this is among the best.

Perch – Coffee House
Coffee and pastry/lunch menu.  A favored milllennial workplace with a kids room.

Ahn’s Burgers – Burgers
Wonderful non-chain fast food.  Burgers, fries, shakes—simple and very tradi otional and ample breakfast.  This isn’t one of those  new gourmet  burger places with volunteer beef.  It’s  old school and yummy.  You can call ahead for take-away and they have parking.  Order the huge bag of fries extra crispy.  Susan’s son grew up on the block with the owner’s son, so we have a special affection for the place.  Veggie burgers, too. – 439 Grand Avenue, Oakland, CA 94610, 510-763-4328

Bay Grape – Wine tasting

Kinja Sushi Bar – Japanese

Bacheeson – Middle Eastern

Grand Avenue Thai

High Peaks Kitchen


Mijori – Japanese
We think this is the best sushi restaurant in Oakland.  Nothing fancy in décor, but the fish is consistently fresh and well-prepared, and the service is excellent.  Often long lines at dinner, especially on Sundays. – 3260 Grand Avenue, Oakland, CA 94610, 510-465-8854

Boot and Shoe – Restaurant &  Coffee Houae
You have to hunt for this foodie recommended hip place as they hardly have a sign.(Their name reflects the past venue—a cobbler)  Breakfast, lunch, Sunday brunch, and dinner.  Outdoor terrace.  Everything is delicious, including the pastries and coffee in the morning.  No reservations.  Crowded and noisy, but in a good way. – 3308 Grand Avenue, Oakland, CA 94610, 510-763-2668

Penrose – Restaurant & Bar
Everyone raves over this new restaurant, the third (Pizziaola, Boot and Shoe and Penrose) of celebrated restauranteur, Charlie Hallowell.


The space is beautifully designed, the cocktails are creative and delicious, and the food is amazing.  The portions are artisan style, meaning very small. – 3311 Grand Avenue, Oakland, CA  94610, 510-444-1649

La Parisienne – French Pastry and Coffee House
A small new very French Patisserie.


Delightful.  I forget the french name, but do not miss the donut holes.

The Star – Pizza
Should we admit we’ve not eaten here.  We don’t eat much pizza, but their SF location is very good.  Pizza, deep dish and thin crust, subs, and salads in a newly renovated space. – 3425 Grand Avenue, Oakland, CA  94610, 510-843-7827

 Camino – Major Foodie Venue
This extremely foodie-gourmet restaurant is controversial.  Restaurant critics love it and heap stars upon it as do many patrons who flock here from all over.  However, to many, including us, the very limited menu, which changes every day and the community seating are big drawbacks. – 3917 Grand Avenue, Oakland, CA 94610, 510-547-5035


Cana – Cuban Cafe
Wonderful Cuban café and restaurant.  Best place to sit and watch the crowds on Saturday afternoons during the Farmer’s Market.


They have live music on Saturdays and a dance party on Sunday afternoons. – 530 Lake Park Avenue, Oakland, CA 94610, 510-832-1515

Spettro – Italian Mexican Fusion
Moderately priced interesting Italina/Mexican Fusion restaurant with lots of other ethnicities  represented on the menu (something for everyone).  The food is completely adequate if not great.  No corkage fee.  Great place to bring kids. – 3355 Lakeshore Avenue, Oakland, CA 94610, 510-451-7738

Flipside – Burgers
We love this family-owned and operated  bright and clean burger joint.  The  brothers who run it are so attentive and friendly. Once my grand daughter changed her mind after her lunch arrived, and for no charge, they brought her a new selection!  They have excellent hamburgers, turkey burgers, veggie burgers, hot dogs, and a kids ‘menu—all kinds of fries and great milkshakes.   I get the bunless turkey burger served on top of a salad. My granddaughter loves the Neopolitan milkshake. – 3401 Lakeshore Avenue, Oakland, CA 94610, 510-879-7195

Arizmendi – Bakery Coffee House Pizza
Another fantastic people watching spot with wonderful artisan breads, rolls, muffins, and pizza of the day.  This is one of six collective bakeries in the Arizmendi Association.


The collegial atmosphere of the collective staff spreads out to the wonderfully diverse cleintelle and makes a stop there a delight.- 3265 Lakeshore, Oakland, CA 94610, 510-268-8849

Top Dog – Hot Dogs with an Attitude
Top Dog started with two locations near UC Bekelery.  The owner and staff always had strong political opinions that have evolved to vague Liberterian rants.  But the dogs remain first class.

Peet’s Coffee & Tea – Coffee House
Peet’s was founded on the north side of Berkeley in 1963.  The original Walunt Square store is still there.  Peet’s gave rise to the whole modern gourmet coffee industry.  Starbucks was started by a Peet’s alumni. In the early Starbucks era, when it was sweeping the nation, there were no Starbucks in the Bay Area due to a ten year non-compete clause.  Now they go toe-to-toe and Peet’s does just fine.


So there it is.  An amazing collections of places to eat withing walking distance of our home.  And I could make a similar list for many neighborhoods throughout Oakland and Berkeley.  But I won’t, see Best Oakland Restaurants – Vol 2. The Rest, for highlights of special places more far afield.

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