Swan's Market in Oakland. Photo: Emilie Raguso
Swan’s Market houses many of our favorite Old Oakland restaurants. Photo: Emilie Raguso
Swan’s Market houses many of our favorite Old Oakland restaurants. Photo: Emilie Raguso

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 Old Oakland.

Just a few short years ago, a trip to Old Oakland wouldn’t include much more than a jaunt through the farmers market or a stop into La Snackeria (RIP) for tamales and tortillas. But following the opening of The Trappist and revitalization of Swan’s Marketplace, the neighborhood situated between the Convention Center and the 880/580 interstates has become a boomtown for good eats. There are so many restaurants, in fact, that it was a challenge to narrow down our list of favorites to a manageable 11. We’re sure you’ll disagree with some of our choices — feel free to share your picks in the comments below.

Galeto Brazilian Grill

Galeto Brazilian Grill. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Galeto is a fairly new addition to the neighborhood; it’s been on Clay Street since last summer. As with other Brazilian steakhouses, it offers all-you-can-eat buffets for lunch ($18.95 on weekdays and $28.95 on Sundays) and dinner ($38.95), showcasing traditional grilled meats with table-side carving service. Galeto has about a dozen different meats on the menu, plus pasta and several appetizers like fluffy Pão de Queijo (cheese bread). And while meat is certainly the showcase, we are also big fans of the abundant salad bar. Make sure to come hungry. Very hungry. Galeto Brazilian Grill is at 1019 Clay St. (between 10th and 11th streets), Oakland. Connect with the restaurant on Facebook and Twitter.


Shrimp tacos at Cosecha. Photo: Kate Williams

While it could be easy to scoff at the prices for tacos ($4 to $5) at Cosecha, you’d be remiss not to swallow your pride and dive into a (small) plate of them. Friday’s special shrimp tacos are a prime example. Two shatteringly crisp fried wild shrimp intermingle atop a stately pile of cabbage slaw with a drizzle of brilliantly orange chipotle crema and a sliver of jalapeño balancing on top. The single warm, slightly sweet house-made tortilla underneath is thick enough to support the fillings without coming close to ripping. If the taco prices or eating challenges are still too high for comfort, take solace in a bowl of pozole. A mildly spicy rendition of the classic Mexican stew, Cosecha’s pozole holds in balance bright lime juice, earthy hominy, grassy green chiles, and comforting chicken. Cosecha is at 907 Washington St. (at Ninth Street), Oakland. Connect with the restaurant on Facebook.

Hen House and Deep Roots Wine Bar

Yukon potato and garlic cream pizza from Hen House. Photo: Hen House/Facebook

In a building full of petite restaurants, Hen House still stands out for its diminutive proportions. The pizza-focused Italian restaurant serves up a rotating selection of seasonal pies, salads, and an entree or two out of its 240 square foot restaurant. While we (obviously) like to chow down on a pizza or two, the meatball sandwich is also a killer choice. Chefs Celeste Cooper (Pizzaiolo) and Alexandra Lopez (Oliveto) know their way around rustic Italian comfort food, which pairs well with wine from Deep Roots, the bar that shares the space with Hen House and pours wine from Brendan Eliason’s Periscope Cellars. Don’t miss the low-alcohol cocktails on deck, either. Hen House and Deep Roots are at 907 Washington St. (at Ninth Street), Oakland. Connect with Hen House on Facebook. Connect with Deep Roots on Facebook.

The Cook and Her Farmer

Co-owners Romney Steele and Steve Day of The Cook and Her Farmer. Photo: The Cook and Her Farmer

It’s not every day that you can nosh on a fried oyster po’boy in Oakland. And it’s even more rare to find one made from impeccably sourced seafood, vegetables and bread. But it’s par for the course at The Cook and Her Farmer, the seafood-heavy California restaurant in Swan’s. The Cook and Her Farmer also serves up killer grilled cheese sandos, with and without shrimp, plus sides and vegetables like a hefty kale and quinoa salad and house-made pickles. Oysters on the half shell and steamed mussels are a must-order. Like Cosecha, this restaurant is definitely not cheap, but worth it for the quality of the food and convivial ambiance. The Cook and Her Farmer is at 907 Washington St. (at Ninth Street), Oakland. Connect with the restaurant on Facebook and Instagram.

AS B-Dama

Uni chawanmushi special from AS B-Dama. Photo: samayou kodomo/Flickr

Behind The Cook and Her Farmer, you’ll find AS B-Dama and its steaming bowls of udon soup, crisp karaage, picturesque sushi and, if you’re lucky, a special bowl of uni chawanmushi. The savory steamed egg custard comes adorned with a generous portion of briny, rich uni and earthy maitake mushrooms. (It’s not on the regular menu, so you’ll want to make sure to look out for it on the specials board or just ask the kitchen.) The afternoon lunch “sets” offer the best value in all of Swan’s — for $10 or less, you can get a main like katsu curry or sushi rolls with miso soup, salad, rice and often a bowl of sautéed vegetables as well. AS B-Dama is at 907 Washington St. (at Ninth Street), Oakland. Connect with the restaurant on Facebook.

Rosamunde Sausage Grill

Rosamunde Sausage Grill. Photo: Rosamunde

Say you want a good sausage and a beer but don’t want any muss or fuss. Say you want to enjoy said sausage and beer at a picnic table. Rosamunde Sausage Grill is your place. The San Fransisco transplant now has two Oakland locations, the (superior, in this writer’s opinion) Swan’s Marketplace joint and a newer, shinier spot in Temescal. Both Rosamunde locations boast an extensive menu of sausages, both meaty and vegan, plus several local beers on draft. Try a lamb or wild boar sausage with grilled onions, with a humongous pickle and a bowl of the surprisingly delicious potato salad on the side. Pro-tip: the happy hour at the Old Oakland location almost always includes $3 Racer 5 beers. Rosamunde Sausage Grill is at 911 Washington St. (at 9th Street), Oakland. Connect with the restaurant on Facebook.

Miss Ollie’s

Fried chicken at Miss Ollie’s is served with greens and potato salad. Photo: Kate Williams
Fried chicken at Miss Ollie’s is served with greens and potato salad. Photo: Kate Williams

With so many great restaurants opening seemingly every day in Oakland, it is rare that we return to the same restaurant more than a couple of times. It is even more rare to return to the same spot for the same dish, over and over. But Miss Ollie’s is a different story. The almost three-year-old restaurant serves some of the best fried chicken in the Bay Area. Injected with a mysterious and delicious herb and spice blend, breaded, and carefully skillet-fried by chef-owner Sarah Kirnon, this chicken is the stuff of magic. The thin, crackling, and just-salty-enough skin is worthy of a trip all on its own. The fact that the meat is consistently juicy to the bone, no matter if you’re noshing on a drumstick or a breast quarter, is just icing on the cake. Find it as a Friday lunch special or as part of a family-style platter with potato salad and stewed collards at dinner. Of course, it would be a shame to ignore the rest of Miss Ollie’s Caribbean-inspired soul food menu; we’re particularly big fans of the salt fish and ackee, phoularie fritters and whatever curry the kitchen is currently dishing out. Miss Ollie’s is at 901 Washington St. (at 9th Street), Oakland. Connect with the restaurant on Facebook.

Caffe 817

Caffe 817. Photo: Tracey Allison Altman/Flickr

While Old Oakland has restaurants aplenty, it isn’t quite as saturated in coffee shops as in other parts of town. Caffe 817, however, is a solid choice for a cuppa joe and a bite or two. The slender café space gets packed on the weekends for brunch (poached eggs on polenta or toast are always a good move), but at most other times of day, you can easily find a table. We’ve also been known to get into one of their extra large chocolate chip cookies. Coffee comes courtesy of Mr. Espresso; there’s also a short beer and wine list to make brunch or lunch all that much better. Caffe 817 is at 817 Washington St. (between Eighth and Ninth streets), Oakland. Connect with the café on Facebook and Twitter.


Piatto della casa: Smoked duck, roasted porchetta and rabbit terrine ($10) at Desco. Photo: Emilie Raguso

Venture across the street to Desco for an always excellent happy hour. Running from 3 till 6, the specials include half-priced drinks and very cheap (think $4) bites. Fried arancini, roasted olives, and house-made salumi mix well with a glass of wine or a cocktail. Eat them on the small sidewalk patio while its still warm. The indoor seating is, of course, nice as well, boasting floor-to-ceiling window, rustic wooden furnishings and a vintage brick wall, all contributing to a comfortable, old-world feel. If you stay for dinner, go for the homemade pasta — the pappardelle, in particular, is a standout. Or go for lunch and grab a generous panini with pork belly. You might need a nap afterwards, but it will at least be a pleasant one. Desco is at 499 Ninth St. (at Washington Street), Oakland. Connect with the restaurant on Facebook and Twitter.

The Trappist

The Trappist. Photo: Colin Burke McClure

Serious Belgian beer connoisseurs flock to The Trappist for good reason. The bar stocks an always interesting mix of Belgian imports, Belgian-style American beers and high-quality local brews, poured in proper glasses. Not only that, but you can soak up all of that booze with some good food, prepared, as they say, “with an eye toward beer friendliness.” Think cheese and charcuterie boards served with bread and accouterments, grilled cheese with tomato and garlic confit, and bratwursts from sister San Francisco bar Mikkeller. Their patio is pretty darn nice as well. The Trappist is at 460 Eighth St. (at Broadway), Oakland. Connect with the bar on Facebook and Twitter.

Umami Mart

Umami Mart. Photo: Noelle Chun/Flickr

Around the corner is Umami Mart, likely the only shop dedicated to Japanese bar- and kitchenware in town. (If not the only one, it’s certainly the cutest.) Knives, mugs and coffee makers dot the store, but its the bar section that is most impressive. You can find just about any shape glass out of which to drink, a crazy abundance of bar spoons, and even five different types of ice picks. In the age of Amazon, these details may not be impressive, but it is refreshing to actually want to shop in a store. Plus, earlier this year, Umami Mart got an active ABC license, so they’re now selling Japanese beer and sake — lots of it. Its bottle shop has the largest selection of Japanese beer anywhere in the United States. Umami Mart is at 815 Broadway (between Eighth and Ninth streets), Oakland. Connect with the store on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Honorable mentions: Le Cheval, Pacific Coast Brewing Company, El Gusano, Tamarindo Antojeria, District Oakland, Parliament, Siam Bay Authentic Thai Cuisine

Check out our other neighborhood guides:
West Oakland
Berkeley Design Loop
Oakland’s KoNo District
Berkeley Warehouse
South Emeryville

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Kate Williams

Kate Williams has been writing about food since 2009. After spending two years developing recipes for cookbooks at America’s Test Kitchen, she moved to Berkeley and began work as a freelance writer and...