Located 14 miles west of San Francisco, this industrial city is home to Pixar Studios–famous for animation movies such as Toy Story and Finding Nemo—and also a plethoral of food-related businesses—Clif Bar, Inna Jam, Jamba Juice. Big box stores and plentiful contemporary condos also call it home.
Bay Street Emeryville
Bay St./Christie Ave.
Built atop a large Indian burial ground, this shopping center has shops and restaurants galore plus a 16-screen AMC movie complex.
Arizmendi Bakery and Pizzeria
4301 San Pablo Ave./43nd St.
Located in a sort of strip mall with plenty of parking in back, this worker-owned cooperative is named for a Spanish priest who established worker-owned co-ops in the Basque region of Spain. Organic flour and natural ingredients are used to prepare vegetarian pastries, cookies, breads, and pizza. A different sliced pizza is available hot each day after 11:30 a.m. When I was here it was a surprisingly delicious roasted cauliflower with cilantro. More varieties of whole pizzas and bake-at-home pizzas are also available, and you can call to reserve one. Organic coffees and teas are also served. A few tables are provided inside, but many more are outside on a sheltered patio.
Chevys Fresh Mex
1890 Powell St.
The bar here is as spacious as the restaurant and it also has the best bay views, so you might just want to settle in on a stool at one of the high tables. Families will be more comfortable in the dining room, where comfy booths and larger tables are available. Menu stars include a variety of build-your-own fajitas, a fajita salad or guacamole prepared tableside, sopapillas a la mode, and deep-fried ice cream—but don’t forget the hand-shaken margaritas and premium Tequilas. A la carte items and a kids menu are available. Entertainment is provided by El Machino, the tortilla-making contraption that offers a kid’s-eye view of the process.
The Public Market
5959 Shellmound St./Powell St.
This food court presents a variety of tasty ethnic cuisines. Most are Asian, and include Cambodian, Korean, and Japanese. For dessert, think macarons and vegan cashew ice cream. Several more restaurants are located adjacent, including a Peet’s. The facility was recently rearranged and freshened up with wood tables, sturdy metal chairs, and shiny clean floors. People-watching is prime.
Hong Kong East Ocean Seafood Restaurant
3199 Powell St.
Reached via a scenic waterfront drive, this out-of-the-way restaurant serves superb dim sum. Items are not brought around on carts or trays. Instead, diners mark selections on a menu form and present it to their server. The deep-fried taro balls and jumbo shrimp dumplings are simply the best. Light Cantonese seafood and vegetable dishes are also available. A gorgeous bay view is part of the package, and a trail alongside the bay is perfect for an after-meal stroll.
Honor Kitchen & Cocktails
1411 Powell St./Hollis St.
Where should you go when you’ve had a depressing day and you’re too down to cook? Why, here! Featuring a cozy, noisy roadhouse atmosphere, this casual spot will serve you up an unusual cocktail and satisfying meal. Diners seat themselves at the red-top bar-where everyone eventually shows up to place their order–but also at achoice of mostly communal high tables with stools that surround the bar. Drinks include complex cocktails such as a Guy Fawkes (gin, PX sherry, Amaro Montenegro, maraschino, acid phosphate, and absinthe) and aBleeding Monarch (bourbon, passion fruit, orgeat, Campari, and balsamico amaro) as well as help-yourself-beers from an ice-filled bucket–you’re on the honor system to pay for them. The menu is short, but includes essentials such as BBQed Texas Mop Pork Ribs (they’re short but fall-off-the-bone tender and come with a side of cold macaroni salad just like grandma used to make), Short Rib Sliders, and a Bucket o’ Yard Birds (fried chicken). Do order a side of sweetish house-pickled vegetables or a deep-fried artichoke as anappetizer. Antsy? A pinball machine awaits in a corner.
Weekend brunch was recently added, so now you can drag in here after a hard night and cheer yourself up with a menu that includes a trendy fried chicken and waffle with blueberry chipotle syrup, an eggs Benedict made with seared pork belly and tomato relish, and a vegetarian-friendly mushroom frittata. Many items come with “taters,” which are way oversized tater tots that are crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside and very good. Sharing, you might have room for the tempting giant bourbon-pecan sticky bun or ricotta beignets with chocolate and berry sauces, but for sure you’ll be able to make room for the delicious crisp and warm sausage biscuit with honey butter. As in the evening, drinks are interesting and varied, but one of the four different Bloody Marys is an easy choice (they come topped with a little salad of perhaps asparagus, cornichon, and cocktail onion). A house punch or Painkiller #2 should also be considered, or perhaps a carafe of fresh orange juice and a bottle of sparkling wine for make-your-own mimosas. And so that you don’t need to face the glare of morning light, they keep the Venetian blinds drawn shut, and music is hard rock-style but not too loud.
Ikea Self-Serve Restaurant
4400 Shellmound St.
Some tables provide a view of the freeway to go along with this bargain-priced Scandinavian fare. Menu items include little Swedish meatballs in gravy with lingnonberries and boiled red potatoes or sometimes mashed potatoes, open-face sandwiches, crisp shoestring potato fries, and more. After dining, it’s on to shopping in this massive furniture store. Don’t forget to get some frozen meatballs to take home.
Townhouse Bar & Grill
5862 Doyle St./59th St.
A speakeasy when it opened in 1926, then transformed into a western honky-tonk joint in the 1970s, this spot retains its rustic charm and sense of history but has morphed now into a comfortable, uptown-style dining destination. Diners are seated in one big room, with a deck option in warm weather. Starters include delicious grilled gulf shrimp with chipotle aioli that is so good some diners wipe the plate clean with bread. The daily soup and hefty Caesar salad are also winners. Entrees include pastas and fish, but meats seem the way to go–succulent roasted baby-back pork ribs or a juicy flatiron steak, both served with crisp French-style frites. The hamburger is also a favorite. Bar drinks are colorful and tasty and made without mixes (try the Whiskey Sour), and desserts sometimes includes a fresh peach-blueberry crisp. Live jazz is sometimes scheduled.
9 Anchor Dr./Powell St. Free valet parking.
The original Trader Vic’s opened in Oakland in 1934 and is said to be where the Mai Tai was invented in 1944 (the name of the drink is coined from the Tahitian phrase “Mai Tai, Roa Ae,” which translates as “Out of this world, the best”). Be sure to order the Original Mai Tai if you want that tasty version and all-fresh ingredients. That location closed and then reopened in this new incarnation. Now it is a link in the world-wide chain of Polynesian bars and restaurants. Famous dishes include bongo bongo soup (spinach and oysters) and Calcutta curry. At lunch—the perfect time to be here because the lovely water view can be fully enjoyed–I had a macadamia nut chicken salad sandwich that was delicious, though the nuts were chopped too small to taste and I couldn’t figure out what made the potato salad side Hawaiian. Next time I’ll order either the Chinatown chicken salad, the Green Goddess salad, or something smoked in the big red Chinese wood-fired ovens (you can view them in action through glass walls). Another great time to be here is on a rainy day because your car is dropped off and picked up under a covered drive-thru.
Emeryville Chamber of Commerce