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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Oakland's an Emerging Center of Bay Area Food Culture

Posted By on Wed, Jul 8, 2009 at 3:22 PM

The kitchen at Pizzaiolo -- like the Oakland restaurant scene itself -- is bustling. - DOGMILQUE/FLICKR
  • dogmilque/Flickr
  • The kitchen at Pizzaiolo -- like the Oakland restaurant scene itself -- is bustling.
The New York Times' Christine Muhlke got it all wrong last week about Oakland: "With its high crime and poverty rates, Oakland doesn't have nearly the same precious food culture -- or produce -- that defines nearby Berkeley and San Francisco." Not even close. Besides the opening last night of Scott Howard's Five, the biggest news out of Berkeley may be that Downtown has shut down for the summer. Meanwhile, economic crisis or no economic crisis, Oakland is experiencing a surprising restaurant renaissance, with a slew of major new openings either already accomplished or in the works -- including new projects from MarketBar's Rich Hackett, and Sarah Kirnon of The Front Porch (more on those tomorrow).

Former state senator (and Oakland mayoral candidate) Don Perata was closer to the mark last week when he was quoted saying: "I'll put our top 10 restaurants against the top 10 in San Francisco any day." He didn't list them, apparently. But when Perata's state-leased Dodge Charger was carjacked from under him in Temescal last year, he was mere blocks from Doña Tomas, Pizzaiolo, and Bakesale Betty, three superb Oakland destinations. In 2007, the Doña Tomas owners opened Flora, a New American spot in Uptown, whose neighbors include Luka's Taproom, Ozumo, and the upscale Southern place Pícan.

Pizzaiolo's Charlie Hallowell is planning a pizza spin-off in the Grand Lake neighborhood, already home to Camino, Sidebar, and Taste of Joy Southern Bistro. And Alison Barakat was hoping for a Thanksgiving opening for the Uptown clone of Bakesale Betty.

But wait, there's more! Tomorrow we'll report on developments in Jack London Square and along Piedmont Avenue.

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Meredith Brody

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