Michelin, the French restaurant guide company that also makes tires, held off on rating California’s restaurants as the pandemic shuttered businesses across the state. They resumed some honors in recent weeks, most recently honoring three East Bay spots as “new discoveries” worth seeking out. On Wednesday the company announced the newest Bay Area restaurants to be honored with its “Bib Gourmand” distinction, which is reserved for spots that offer “exceptionally good food at moderate prices.”
The list announced Wednesday is just a taste, though: When the guide announces its coveted star rankings on Sept. 28, we’ll see the full list of local Bibs. Then, and only then, will we know if beloved East Bay honorees from the last Guide — spots like Millennium and Ippuku — have retained their Michelin position.
Those who have been following regional Michelin news likely guessed three of the East Bay’s newest Bibs: Horn Barbecue in Oakland and San Leandro’s Vietnamese/Californian restaurant Top Hatters got Michelin nods in August, making them safe bets for the affordable honor.
Joining Horn on the list in Oakland are modern Fillipino restaurant FOB Kitchen, standby Mexican spot Taqueria El Paisa@.com (that’s its name, though to many it looks like a typo) and shipping container taco shop Tacos Oscar.
To be considered for a Bib Gourmand, a restaurant must offer “a three-course meal with starter, main course and dessert” for under $40 per person. And, of course, the food must be delicious. Below, you’ll find the full list of the newest East Bay Bib Gourmands, with the review notes from Michelin. (And here’s the full list of new Bibs across all of California.) We’ll see you back here on Sept. 28, when Michelin will announce its California star selections, as well as its full, 147-strong Bib Gourmand roster for restaurants across the state. Will the East Bay retain its single starred restaurant, James Syhabout’s two-star Oakland spot Commis? We shall see!
FOB Kitchen (Oakland): This popular Filipino restaurant began as a pop-up. The menu is loaded with keepers, but keep your options open for tantalizing specials, such as sweet and sour sinigang with pork, eggplant and daikon or Janice’s ribs.
Horn Barbecue (Oakland): Arrive early to this local sensation from pitmaster Matt Horn as there is bound to be a wait. It’s well worth your time though, as the chef’s “West Coast Barbecue,” complete with inspiration, is nothing less than rich, delicious and decadent.
Los Carnalitos (Hayward): The two brothers behind this operation, which started as a wildly popular food truck, present delicacies like huaraches and quesadilla de huitlacoche that rarely appear on other menus in town. Here, quesadillas are made from housemade tortillas, so try the one filled with squash blossom, queso fresco and tomatillo salsa.
New Dumplings (El Cerrito): It is all in the name at this vivacious and cheery spot where dumplings are the star of the show. Watch them being made in the open kitchen, then consult the chalkboard for featured menu items.
Range Life (Livermore): Tuck into appealing bites like fig toast with a drizzle of olive oil and salt, or delicately fried yellow squash and green tomatoes over toasted pumpkin seeds and basil aioli.
Spinning Bones (Alameda): On the quaint island of Alameda comes this casual concept from restaurateurs Mike Yakura and Danny Sterling. Billing itself as a Californian rotisserie, the menu is also strewn with Hawaiian and Japanese accents.
Taquería El Paisa (Oakland): This Oakland institution is widely hailed as the temple of tacos. Meat is given the starring role here, and offal, including tripe and cabeza, are of special note.
Tacos Oscar (Oakland): The menu is scrawled in chalk, and while it’s simple — tacos and tostadas — it changes often. Meat, such as the braised pork shoulder topped with an avo-tomatillo salsa and chicharrónes, is a staple; but clever vegan versions, like the charred broccoli with soy-cashew cheese, give animal proteins a run for their money.
Top Hatters Kitchen (San Leandro): Husband-and-wife co-owners Matthew Beavers and DanVy Vu opted to honor this fixture’s former life as a family-owned hat shop by keeping the name. Chef Vu leads the kitchen, and her skillful contemporary combination of Vietnamese and Californian flavors is tantalizing.