We know that there’s more to East Bay dining than Temescal, Rockridge and the Gourmet Ghetto. NOSH’s neighborhood guides explore the best of the rest. This month, we explore Oakland’s Koreatown-Northgate neighborhood, also known as KoNo.
The neighborhood is bordered by 35th Street to the north and 20th Street to the south, but we like to think of it as the stretch of Telegraph Avenue between Uptown and Temescal. Oakland’s First Friday celebration has moved towards KoNo in the last year; the regular nighttime bar scene is also growing in popularity. There are, of course, still Korean restaurants in the area. However, newer, hipper spots seem to opening every few months and will likely define the growth of the neighborhood in the coming years. Below are our picks for the best in KoNo, and we’ve included a map so you know precisely where they are.
Oasis Food Market
There are multiple Middle Eastern grocery stores on this stretch of Telegraph, but the fan favorite seems to be Oasis Food Market. Oasis has both a grocery and restaurant component; its freshly baked pita bread and pastries are consistent objects of adoration. Savory dishes, like falafel and halal shawarma also get a proper nod. Yelpers like to shop for traditional Middle Eastern ingredients and bulk goods while waiting for their meal. The owners of Oasis also just opened Oasis Grill and upstairs hook lounge on Grand Avenue, which features many of the same food items on its menu. Oasis Food Market is at 3045 Telegraph Ave. (between 30th and 31st streets), Oakland.
Black Spring Coffee Company
Black Spring Coffee opened in 2013 in what was previously an empty stretch of storefronts around Telegraph Avenue and 30th Street. The shop offers a standard coffee menu, but uses a unique coffee bean. Called Monsoon Medley, the Indian coffee is one of the least acidic beans available. Another feature (or a perhaps drawback depending on your stance)? There’s no wifi, leaving guests more free to mingle and chat. Black Spring Coffee Company is at 2930 Telegraph Ave. (between 29th and 30th streets), Oakland. Connect with the café on Facebook and Instagram.
CommonWealth Café and Pub
CommonWealth has been pouring beers and serving British-inspired pub food out of its 29th and Telegraph location since 2010. It’s a cozy spot, with deep wooden booths and tucked-away corner tables. The beer list features a mix of local brews and British ales, and the food runs the gamut from comforting shepherd’s pie and Scotch eggs to more austere vegan curry and roasted beet salad. CommonWealth keeps early hours, so it’s best to stop in for an afternoon bite and a beer. Or come by on Sundays for (challenging, in this reporter’s opinion) Trivia evenings. CommonWealth Café and Pub is at 2882 Telegraph Ave. (at 29th Street), Oakland. Connect with the café on Facebook and Twitter.
Dan Sung Sa
There’s a whole subset of Korean restaurants called soju bangs, where comically large bottles of beer, yogurt flavored soju, and deep-fried, American cheese-coated drinking snacks reign. There are three soju bangs on Telegraph Avenue; the most infamous is Dan Sung Sa, also known to regulars as “Porno Palace.” Despite the name, it’s a porn-free restaurant that often looks shuttered from the outside. Step inside, though, and there’s a bustling crowd. Favorite bites include “Porno fries,” which are basically chili cheese fries topped with spicy pork, cheese corn, and several varieties of fried chicken. Dan Sung Sa is at 2775 Telegraph Ave. (between Merrimack and 28th streets), Oakland. Connect with the restaurant on Facebook.
If strange bar snacks aren’t your thing, head across the street for Korean barbecue. Gogi Time is the only Korean barbecue restaurant in Oakland that uses live charcoal fire, which makes for a delicious, if smoky meal. Meats, seafood, and vegetables arrive to the table slicked with spicy-sweet marinades and then diners cook the meat table-side on a hot grill or in a simmering pot of broth. Meals most often come with an abundance of side dishes, soups, and rice, so it’s pretty much always a feast. Beer and soju cocktails are also in abundance. We recommend having a chat with your waiter before ordering; oftentimes they can steer you to a better deal than what’s written on the menu. Gogi Time is at 2600 Telegraph Ave. (at 27th Street), Oakland. Connect with the restaurant on Facebook and Twitter.
This small Ethiopian restaurant and grocery at 2504 Telegraph really only sells one dish — a vegetable combo plate on housemade, 100% teff injera bread. And it’s this bread, in particular, that keeps locals coming back to Café Dareye. It’s good enough to engender exclamatory full-caps praises like “THE BEST injera in town” and is available as a base for the combo meal or to-go on its own. Regulars recommend calling ahead of time to make sure there’s still food available; Café Dareye frequently sells out. Café Dareye is at 2504 Telegraph Ave. (between Sycamore and 25th streets), Oakland.
The Double Standard
The newest addition to KoNo, The Double Standard replaced longtime dive bar Kim’s Backyard earlier this year. Owner Ali Tahsini revamped the bar from the inside out, adding a redwood-filled back patio and a serious cocktail list. Tahsini is an alum of San Francisco’s Bourbon & Branch (the owners of which recently opened Tupper & Reed in downtown Berkeley), and his experience shows — the menu is curated with a classic bent and includes drinks like the bar’s namesake Double Standard, a potent blend of Old Tom Gin, rye whiskey, raspberry gomme syrup and lime juice, and several variations on the Old Fashioned. The Double Standard doesn’t have a food menu, but it hosts occasional pop-ups. The Double Standard is at 2424 Telegraph Ave. (between 24th and 25th streets), Oakland. Connect with the bar on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
The New Parkway
Yes, The New Parkway is a movie theater. It may not be the first place you think of for a drink or a bite to eat, but hear us out: movie viewing is so much better from a comfy couch with a pint (or two) of beer and a slice of pizza — or maybe a Mystery Meal, “could be just about anything,” its menu states, “a square meal and a gamble.” Movies run the gamut from new releases to sports game screenings and cult movie nights. The New Parkway is indeed a new iteration of the original Parkway Speakeasy Theater, which closed in 2009 after a 13-year run. New owner J. Moses Cesar re-opened the Parkway after a successful Kickstarter campaign. The New Parkway is at 474 24th St. (at Telegraph Avenue), Oakland. Connect with the theater on Facebook and Twitter.
Originally founded in 1973, Koreana Plaza is one of the best places to stock up on funky fermented kimchi and every size of dried shrimp imaginable. Prepared foods like kimbap (Korean sushi) and japche noodles are also popular. It’s a relatively small grocery store, but is well-organized (even a non-Korean speaker like myself has no trouble finding what I need) and staffed with parking lot attendants to make the small lot (slightly) more navigable. Koreana Plaza is at 2370 Telegraph Ave (at 24th Street), Oakland.
The Good Hop Bottle Shop
The Good Hop Bottle Shop is the newest hybrid beer store-bar in Oakland, offering around 600 bottled and canned craft beers for sale as well as 16 draft beers for sipping while contemplating that bottle purchase. Much of the selection is local or California-made. Owner Melissa Myers, who started working as a professional brewer 16 years ago, also hosts monthly events featuring beer and cheese pairings, as well as Meet the Brewer nights. The Good Hop Bottle Shop is at 2421 Telegraph Ave. (at 24th Street), Oakland. Connect with the shop on Facebook and Twitter.
Two Beer Gardens: Telegraph Beer Garden and Lost and Found
For those who would rather drink outside, there are now two neighboring beer gardens nearby. Telegraph Beer Garden (affectionately known as “Beeryland,” at least in my circles) has been around longer, as the many layers of graffiti on the walls and tables can attest. Telegraph has a rotating draft list, 12-strong, plus 70-ish bottled beers, sodas, Mr. Espresso coffee, kombucha, and (perfect for summer) frozen beer-and-cider-filled slushies. Hungry drinkers can nosh on surprisingly good burgers made with 50% bacon or house-made sausages. A block down the road is Lost and Found, a newer and shinier beer garden from the folks at Uptown’s The Layover. Lost and Found feels a little more grown-up than Telegraph, with a fancy printed beer menu that focuses on harder-to-find local-ish brews. The food menu is likewise higher-end; its dishes, like fried pig ears and kimchi deviled eggs, are work of former Haven and FuseBOX cook, Dennis Yadroff. Telegraph Beer Garden is at 2318 Telegraph Ave. (between 24th and 23rd streets), Oakland. Connect with the bar on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Lost and Found Beer Garden is at 2040 Telegraph Ave. (at 21st Street), Oakland. Connect with the bar on Facebook and Twitter.
Kingston 11 opened in fall 2013 after a successful pop-up run at Berkeley’s Guerilla Café and is now the best place in Oakland to eat jerk chicken. The chicken, which is delivered to the table with a friendly warning to “Be ready for fire,” isn’t immediately spicy. Its marinade of allspice, cloves, thyme, spices, and fiery Scotch bonnet chiles will creep up on you — the first few bites carry hearty smokiness and comforting warm spice. But then the Scotch bonnets hit, igniting a fierce, lingering burn. A few more bites in and the spice becomes one with the smoke, turning into an entirely different dish than that initial taste — robust, brash, and impossible to put down. Kingston 11 is at 2270 Telegraph Ave (at 23rd Street), Oakland. Connect with the restaurant on Facebook and Twitter.
Honorable mentions go to: Phat Matt’s BBQ, Taste of Denmark, Louisiana Fish and Chips, The Stork Club, The Legionnaire Saloon, and Hutch Bar and Kitchen.
Don’t see your favorite restaurant on our list? Let us know in the comments.
Check out our other neighborhood guides:
Berkeley Design Loop
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