Jul 11, 2017
Five top Picks From Our Senior Editor.
If you’re anything like me, you probably have a surplus of food blogs bookmarked. Or, perhaps you follow an inordinate amount of Instagram accounts, accounts dedicated only to food. Or maybe, you’re very different from me. Maybe you’re an average human being with a relatively safe and healthy relationship with food, who just so happens to enjoy the occasional fine dining experience every once in awhile. Maybe you’ve never obsessed over grocery lists. No. You’ve never asked to discuss new menu items with the chef at your favorite restaurant. You don’t have a problem. Even if you are that lucky, I still find it hard to believe that anyone can resist spring and summer additions to local produce options. From artichokes to arugula to rhubarb, there’s so much these seasons have to offer. And still, I’ll admit I rarely have time to make it to the farmer’s market - meaning I have even less time to consistently cook. Luckily, I live in the Bay Area, where I have access to an assortment of restaurants with seasonal menus, offering the best in local, sustainably-sourced food. Keep reading for a list of restaurants I’m looking forward to visiting in the near future.
The Trappist / Tamarindo
Up first is not one, but two, Oakland Old City favorites. The Trappist, conveniently located at 460 8th Street in Oakland and 6309 College Avenue in Berkeley, not only boasts an extensive beer menu, but Chef Lorraine Rosenthal has also developed one of the most delicious beer-pairing menus I’ve ever tasted. And it always includes local, seasonal products. As if their bacon brownie weren’t enough, when spring hits, the most delightful Taco Tuesday happy hour commences. The Trappist opens its backdoor area, and its neighbor, Tamarindo, serves up all the Tacos del Campo your heart desires … for under $3 a piece.
As East Bay Express’ Luke Tsai puts it, “while many of Oakland's … Ethiopian eateries have labored in obscurity … Enssaro's ... dining room [is] consistently packed.” Their menu offers a wide variety of vegetarian options using locally-sourced vegetables. And since moving to their new location at 357A Grand Avenue, the family – Enssaro is run by Nesenet, Solomon, and Zenebech Tamirue – has not only upped their Ethiopian beer offerings, but also started making an in-house honey wine. If you’re looking for me at all this spring, I’ll be the one with big hair stuffing my face with the spicy lentil injerrito (their newest menu item) while sitting on Ensarro’s brand new outdoor patio.
Entering Comal doesn’t necessarily feel like you’re walking into your average restaurant. That’s most likely because it’s chic main dining room (featuring a fully-stocked bar and “reclaimed tables, concrete walls accented with lathe siding, scarred Douglas fir floor from the original 1924 building that originally housed two retail shops”) opens into the perfect outdoor patio and beer garden. Aside from its ambiance, Comal also delivers on the flavor. Its “earthy, modern interpretations” of Mexican dishes emphasize “Oaxaca and neighboring coastal regions.” The “gathering place” also offers an ‘all-Mexican’ list of craft cocktails, house-made sangrias, agave spirits, and local wine and beer on tap.
Despite it’s uneasy beginnings, Brix581 has grown into what I feel is a neighborhood staple. If you visit 581 5th Street in Oakland on a Sunday between the hours of 11 am, you’re in for a pork belly and waffles, shrimp and grits, and crispy fried steak-filled treat. And any other night of the week, Chef Stephen Kit is likely cooking up a hearty serving of just about anything that screams decadent bar and comfort food. From cheesy polenta to beef and sausage chili with cornbread – even tofu pad thai – Brix 581 literally has something for even the pickiest eater. And I haven’t even mentioned their outdoor patio space yet.