With the influx of upscale, gourmet-oriented food options in North Oakland, let’s not forget about all of the family-run holes-in-the-wall and tiny international markets that give many of the Town’s neighborhoods their charm.
During a recent trip to scout out the location of a new — and, almost assuredly, fancy — butcher shop and whole-animal restaurant coming to the corner of Broadway and 40th Street, I stumbled upon one such gem: Minto Jamaican Market (4042 Broadway).
In the world of artisan sweets, you hear a lot about pâtissiers and chocolatiers, and even makers of specialty doughnuts are having their moment in the sun. What you don’t hear about much is the humble candy bar.
But that may change soon enough if Oakland’s Shiyuan Deng has her way. Since last fall, the self-taught confectioner has been selling an all-natural, 100 percent handmade version of a Snickers bar — a product she’s dubbed the Ramona Bar, after the protagonist of the popular Beverly Cleary children’s books — at high-end Bay Area food shops.
There’s something about finding interesting eats at an unlikely location that really gets the ol’ food writer’s blood pumping. Authentic ghormeh sabzi at an Oakland Hills delicatessen? Hell to the yes. Cambodian meat skewers from a hole-in-the-wall donut shop? We hardly knew ye.
A few weeks ago I saw a post on Chowhound indicating that the Grand Avenue bar Room 389 was serving Cameroonian food, of all things, on Tuesday nights. “Anyone try it?” the curious tipster had asked.
Apparently, no one had. And so, on a recent Tuesday, I decided to go check it out.
Last week I finally got word back on Double D BBQ, adding a new wrinkle to the ongoing saga (yes, it's been upgraded from mystery to saga). If you recall, I’ve made multiple visits to this mythical joint during apparent business hours, only to find the doors locked, the lights on, and the smoker in chains. Writing about it allowed me to vent, but what I really wanted was to smoke the owner out of seclusion.
Ladies and gentlemen, I believe we have a full-on food mystery here.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been mining the Express archives, researching crucial pit stops on the East Bay foodways. Double D BBQ, this year’s Best Of winner for “The Best Barbecue Place You’ve Never Heard Of,” struck a particular chord. Promising tender and lush slow-cooked brisket by-the-pound, the blurb mentions Double D is only open limited hours, three days a week.
A restaurant review, a former editor liked to say, is a snapshot in time. Kitchens change: staff moves on, recipes change, ingredients move in and out.
Back in May, What the Fork broke the news about The Local Butcher Shop, Aaron and Monica Rocchino’s whole-beast meat shop just starting its build-out in Berkeley. Last week it opened, a lovely space that feels more Upper West Side than North Berkeley, all gleaming white tiles, soaring blackboards chalked handsomely, and a rambling case with squab, beef, chickens — all sorts of pristine-looking meats — overseen by butchers rocking neckties and crisp-looking aprons.