This Sunday, January 27, marks the end of Oakland’s 3rd annual Restaurant Week – a yearly East Bay staple that brings some of the best and most delicious of Oakland’s gourmet cuisine to the masses. Since this is my first year living in Oakland, I was excited to scope out the local hot spots that I hadn’t been able to dine at before.
The mission of Restaurant Week is to open the doors of the more elusive (ie. fancy shmancy) restaurants to the poor folk like me. The 46 restaurants that partake in the Bay Area food orgy all offer an exclusive multi-course lunch or dinner at a fixed price of $20, $30 or $40. I wasn’t willing to dish out major dough, however, so I scoped out the four most affordable places to treat yo'self. Here are what the most thrifty – but still delicous – options looked like.
Wild arugula salad with Fuji apples and toasted apples, Yukon potato pizza, Strauss organic ice cream.
(Image courtesy of Marzano)
I wanted to make sure I hit up an Italian place on my restaurant hopping foray, and lunch at Marzano was my cheapest option at only $20. Plus, I figure you can't really mess up potato pizza. Luckily, this particular pairing of bread and starch was amazing – the caramelized onions, fontina, and thyme really melted together in taste pairing heaven and I literally saw them pull my pizza from the wood-fired oven. I also love arugula (especially the more bitter Italian version), and the salad was green leafy goodness.
Grand Tavern, $20
Steak burger with avocado and swiss cheese on an Acme bun with a draft beer, and a gluten-free donut.
(Photo by Kristi D.)
What brought me to Grand Tavern was simply curiosity – what does a $20 burger and beer combo taste like? Turns out, it's pretty damn good. I opted for steak rather than the mushroom burger (which also looked delicious) and the result was juicy, delicious, and topped with avocado. Plus, the Grand Tavern itself is a really cool space. It made me feel like an old English gentleman while I sipped my beer and chowed down on my American staple. As a side note, the gluten-free donut didn't really float my boat, but overall, a meal worth my money.
Roasted Winter Squash and Shaved Tasso Salad, Fried Duck Egg, & Creole-Spiced Bacon Bourbon Beignets
(Photo by Gina)
Again, at Pican I opted for the lunch rather than the dinner which was $40. Although I wasn’t a huge fan of the duck egg (its strange consistency kinda weirded me out0, the beignets were melt in your mouth delicious and the bourbon fudge sauce was just the right amount of chocolate and booze that made me want to spread it on everything for the rest of my life.
Bay Scallop Ceviche, Quinoa with Pomegranate and Grapes, Hanger Steak, Sand Dabs, Banana Cake
Bocanova was a bit of a splurge since dinner was $30, but the menu looked too good to resist and it included four courses. Nestled right in Jack London Square, the restaurant overlooked the bay and the ambiance was warm and fun. The entree included both steak and fish (wow!), but the winner that night was the ceviche, which was both spicy and scrumptious.
All in all, I can say without hesitation that all of the meals were delicious and filling and worth the dent they put in my wallet. Since an average entree at one of these high-roller restaurants will usually cost you more than $20, you’re definitley getting your money’s worth. Plus, this deal only comes around once a year – make this weekend the night you decide to go out and explore all the gourmet options Oakland has to offer. (Even Chez Panisse has a Restaurant Week special).
Check out these Oakland restaurants and more before the discounts end this Sunday. And if you’re looking for some gourmet but affordable San Francisco options read Wendy’s pics for the best of San Francisco's Dine About Town.