There’s a reason you can’t get any of the infectious Shazam Cambodian folk music that catches your attention when you step into Nyum Bai in Oakland, California. For the perfect soundtrack for their lunch and dinner venue, owner Nite Yun and her boyfriend went to the Cambodian Music Archive in Long Beach to get digital copies of 45 rpm records smuggled out of Khmer Rouge Cambodia. “The music was so important to us to find,” says Yun. “It’s such a special trip.” The rock and roll of the 50s and 60s celebrates the good times of the golden age in Cambodia, as does the restaurant with a pastel accent. And it makes the meal even more enjoyable, like the prahok ktiss dip, a mix of crispy, seasonal vegetables that encircles a bowl of fried ground pork that has been slowly cooked in coconut milk, sugar, spices, and prahok fish paste. You’ll want to scoop up the bright red dip forever with your purple cabbage spoon. You’ll feel full and happy on the way out. A feeling that you will soon notice is common when visiting Oakland.
Oakland is one of America’s most exciting food cities. While the past five years have seen a particularly large number of notable restaurant and bar openings, the thriving food scene is not a new chapter in the city’s history. “We always had good food,” says 10-year-old Oakland resident and James Beard Award-winning chef Daniel Patterson. What sets Oakland Food apart from cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York is that it is grown for itself, not for outsiders. “Oakland businesses have never relied on tourists, also because there are almost no hotels in Oakland. That means chefs cook for the people who live here. The restaurants really stay in tune with their communities,” says Patterson Me think there’s something about a restaurant culture that moves out of the spotlight and allows you to anchor more in your community. “
“Are you going to SF?” Many Uber drivers will ask you in East Bay, where you are separated from the big city by a wall of smoke. No, you are not. It’s way too busy in Oakland to waste time exploring anywhere else. There is also sun here.
Where to sleep
As Patterson said, there aren’t many hotel options in the East Bay. But don’t worry – right on the border between Oakland and Berkeley is the Claremont Club & Spa, a Fairmont hotel that has been part of the neighborhood since the beginning of the 20th century. As in Oakland, the hotel is undergoing significant changes. It’s recently been updated with tennis courts, an expansive spa, pools (which may be Warriors trainer Steve Kerr’s swimming), and a modern fitness center so your home base can easily counteract all of the meals you’ll be eating.
Where to spend your day
In Oakland, you’ll find an almost daunting number of restaurants trying to serve you your next meal. You can’t go wrong starting the day at the family-run Grand Lake Kitchen, where you can brunch on the sidewalk and watch the pedestrian jog, the pedal and Power Lake Merritt go by. After taking down the porcini-coated savory French toast with porcini batter, join these pedestrians and walk around the lake to the nearby Oakland Museum of California.
Your biggest problem with lunch will be where to eat. There’s the fried chicken sandwich, Bakesale Betty; the food-coma-inducing griddles at Smokin ‘Woods BBQ; Shandong’s handmade dumplings; The Middle Eastern magic of Dyafa where you absolutely must order the Steph Curry flatbread wrap that won’t make you a super athlete but will make you feel great eating tasty, healthy things wrapped in carbohydrates.
If there’s some room left in your stomach, it’s best to fill it up with a few local Okaland beers. Hop on a beer crawl tour at Roses’ Taproom, a municipal brewery adorned with dangling plants in terracotta pots and bouquets of fresh flowers – just like your standard brewery. A sample flight of three types of beer – like the rice porter in the bourbon keg at Horchata y Churros – will bring you back just $ 9. Hang left on Telegraph Avenue, walk past the Korean mall, wear a “fuck you Trump, you suck” shirt and a church chicken, and you’ll find your second stop, Temescal Brewing. This is where you’ll want to take your tasting flight, can, or pint of Breezy Days fluffy, citrus blonde ale out onto the patio (soaking up the Oakland sunshine, remember?) To dwell for a while.
Where to spend your night
When night falls, you can see an Oakland A play or a show at the Fox Theater or a showing of something nostalgic like Animal House at the Paramount Theater for their “Summer Throwback Thursday” series. The question is less what to do than where to start. Make your evening plans at Ordinaire, a natural wine bar in the Grand Lake neighborhood. Take your funky glass or bottle to the sidewalk so you don’t miss the people watching the opportunities as a woman on a Vespa drive by wearing a helmet shaped after a disco ball.
Your next steps could be trying the E-40’s tequila at Lake Chalet or dancing your gluttony at one of the clubs on Telegraph. Some say the world’s best greyhound is ripe for harvest at Cafe Van Kleef. Then there is the clerk, an ice cold stunner who will make you fall in love with good food. Perhaps the duck fat washed Armagnac cocktail speaks, but the food is so beautiful, creative and delicious that you are considering getting the name of the chef and owner James Syhabout tattooed on your person. (Maybe don’t do that). It’s not just the gorgeous food or the chic, minimalist vibe of the place that steals your heart. It’s the completely unpretentious staff – perfectly suited and professional, but to the point of slinging jokes. Round off your meal in Syhabout’s CDP bar in the adjoining room, where you can feverishly book your return trip.