Banh Mi Ba Le
I hadn’t tried banh mi before coming to the Bay Area, and quickly learned that it is “a thing” here. The people have spoken and this place is Oakland’s best bahn mi, in addition to being one of the go to places for simple, cheap, delicious takeout starting at 6:30 am.
I was talking to someone in San Francisco recently and when they found out I live near Oakland they immediately recommended Arizmendi bakery. Arizmendi is a worker-owned cooperative whose constant hum of busy-ness is good for banishing malaise. The pizza and baked good selection changes daily, and the speed of the operation makes this a great place to stop in and grab takeout.
This no frills taco place has perfect meats (including seafood) and a range of colorful and pickled toppings. Many Oaklanders come here for cheap, quick, fresh authentic Mexican food to go. As someone who moved to the Bay Area from a city that was an hour away from the Mexico border, I can attest that this Mexican food is incredible.
This West Oakland spot is known for having all the charm of a true longstanding greasy spoon. I like the breakfast sandwich (which is under four dollars) and the shared U-shaped counter has a certain camaraderie to it.
Souley Vegan serves the most filling, complex and delicious vegan food I have ever had (and I spent three years in a Northern California college co-op bursting with dietary restrictions). The menu consists solely of recipes developed by the owner, a single mom who wanted to see how she could blend soul food with veganism. The combo plates are enough food for two people, and both vegans and butter-lovers like me love the dessert offerings.
Oasis Food Market
This combination deli and food market is a great place to get a quick takeout meal or supplies for a picnic. Prices are reasonable, the falafel wrap is wonderful, and both the deli and market are open until 9:30pm every day of the week. This is the kind of place that leads Bay Area yelp reviewers to produce multi-paragraph manifestos about the merits of a particular product that they can’t find anywhere else. If you want twenty adjectives for really good baklava, hop on the internet and check out Oasis’ reviews.
Primavera is famous for its sandwiches. This is a cheap, simple take out option, and the owners, a couple, are beloved by all of the Oaklanders who come here three times a week on lunch breaks.
I first found out about Café Gabriela because it is extremely convenient to 12th street Oakland Bart. People love the pulled pork adobo sandwich and the changing selection of soups and salads. Though they offer takeout, the friendly service and walls covered with local art make eating in the restaurant a pleasure.
If, like me, you just moved to Oakland from a land-locked place, Marica is a chance to try some of Oakland’s best seafood. Their “Happy Evening” special starts at 5:30 (when the restaurant opens) and includes deals on oysters, mussels and cocktails.
This is the place to go when you find a free dresser on the street that just needs to be moved, sanded down, de-spidered and painted. Get a bag of these bagels and your friends will actually show up to do your dirty work (with your help) Beauty’s yelp reviews have an evangelical fervor to them, and the place is loved by native Oaklanders and bagel-snob East Coast transplants alike.
This North Oakland hole in the wall is perfect for a fancy picnic. While a bit pricier than your Tuesday-night-stale-fortune-cookies-Chinese-takeout-spot, this is a wonderful takeout food for special occasions. Everything about the food is spectacularly intentional: each carefully curated meal comes in a hexagonal cardboard box that seems to evoke a set of positive American stereotypes about the aesthetic grandeur of the French. My sister and I still have the takeout boxes from the time we went here six months ago: the memories are good and the boxes double as gift-wrapping and jewelry storage (come at me, lifestyle blogs!)
I am thinking about developing various dietary restrictions just to have more reason to go here – this pizza place has great veggie, vegan, and gluten free options. Chicagoans consistently rate The Star as the best deep dish pizza in the Bay, and the thin crust is also delicious. Though the happy hour involves worthwhile deals on food and drinks, this is also a good spot for takeout or delivery after a day of moving furniture around.
This tiny, family owned Chinese food restaurant is beloved for its daily specials and huge portions. The location is great (definitely the most affordable place near Jack London square) and I love the energy of a place that serves as many people in a day as Ben’s does. Strangely enough, their most popular dish is the Wednesday fried chicken special (which apparently feeds a grown human for days).