Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Where to Eat: Celebrating Oakland Restaurant Week @ Bird & Buffalo

The Eats: Casual Thai cuisine including favorites like Grilled Spicy Lao Pork Sausage, Larb, Papaya Salad and Mango & Sticky Rice

The Location: Temescal (Oakland)

The Vibes: Down-to-earth, casual

Good for: Alone, dates, groups (small and large), the kiddies

When-To-Go: C
losed Mondays; Tuesday – Sunday, 11:30 a.m. – 2 p.m. // 5 – 10 p.m.

The $$ Factor: Snacks, $7.95; Entrees, $8.95 - $14.95; Sides, $2.50 - $4.95

The 4-1-1: No hard liquor, but wine and beers are available, along with specialty coffees, teas and even whole coconuts

Parking Situation: Street parking and a small adjacent parking lot

I’ll Be Back…: For the Mango & Sticky Rice!

As a huge fan of Los Angeles’ own dineL.A. Restaurant Week, I was excited to find out that The Town has its very own restaurant week, too. Duly named Oakland Restaurant Week, it recently commemorated a 10-year anniversary and held annual festivities over the course of 12 days earlier this month. Participating places offer pre-fixe menus at set prices and there was also a handful of events, including a chef dinner series, a scavenger hunt and more.

While more than 100 restaurants participated, I only had a chance to visit one this time around: Bird & Buffalo. Located on the bustling Telegraph Ave. in Temescal, this no-frills but homely eatery specializes in “rustic” Thai food. That includes grilled meats, larbs (a.k.a. meat salads), bowls and snacks like skewers and veggie rolls.

Specifically for Oakland Restaurant Week, Bird & Buffalo featured a $20 three-course “Thai Soul Food Tray.” Guests had the option to pick and choose items from three categories: Snack, Salad and Grill. The presentation of the entire dinner was super cute — with everything literally all on a tray.

From the four Snack options — fried mushrooms, garlic green beans, spicy Lao pork sausage and grilled chicken hearts — I opted for the green beans. They were well cooked and quite flavorful.

There were two Salad choices — larb with tofu and oyster mushrooms, or a green papaya salad, served either Thai or Lao style. I got the Thai salad while my friend got the Lao salad, which is similar to the Thai style, but with additional salted crab & fish paste. I thoroughly enjoyed my salad, which had a delightfully sweet and tangy zest to it, but we both agreed the Lao, which was more on the savory side, wasn’t our favorite for the night.

Finally, you could choose either grilled ½ gai yang BBQ chicken, pork ribs or lamb chops. I selected the BBQ chicken, and I was surprised at how much food it was. It came with wings, legs, thighs, breast and a few other pieces. The chicken itself was rather plump and juicy, with the skin perfectly charred on the outside.

Although it wasn’t an Oakland Restaurant Week option, ordering the Mango & Sticky Rice (pictured below) was an absolute must, and I’m so glad I did. Sweet slices of ripe mango sat on top of piping hot white rice oozing with coconut milk. I was tempted to order another one to go. 

And while it’s “casual,” that doesn’t mean the restaurant has skimped out on charm or character. The narrow, one-room eatery is packed to the brim with eclectic potted plants and nostalgic Thai knick-knacks and style, including vintage movies posters, hot sauces and canned foods. It feels so down-to-earth and inviting! 

Fortunately, you can visit Bird & Buffalo any time and not just for Oakland Restaurant Week.

So the next time you’re in the mood for tasty Thai food in a laid-back setting, I recommend heading here.

See you there soon!

For more information: 


Monday, January 13, 2020

Where to Eat: My Very First Time at Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto @ Corso (Berkeley)

The Eats: Corso has Italian fare with Tuscan roots and a modern flare, featuring house-made pastas, house-cured salumi and nightly butcher's specials

The Location: Berkeley

The Vibes: Homely, intimate, inviting

Good for: Alone, dates, small groups

Opens daily at 5 p.m.; closes at 9 p.m., Sunday – Thursday, and at 10 p.m., Friday & Saturday

The $$ Factor: Appetizers, $6 - $20; Entrees, $20+; Cocktails & Wine, $4.50+

The Names behind the scenes: Executive Chef/Owner Wendy Brucker and Wine Director/Owner Roscoe Skipper

The 4-1-1: Corso’s menu changes approximately every three weeks, with only the "classics" consistently remaining

Parking Situation: Metered and free street parking; also a couple of blocks north of the BART Downtown Berkeley Station

I’ll Be Back…: For the Tagliatte lamb & pork pasta!

As a self-proclaimed foodie, it’s been on my bucket list to visit Berkeley’s legendary Gourmet Ghetto every since I moved to the Bay.

Known as the alleged birthplace of California cuisine, the Gourmet Ghetto first made a name for itself in the 1960s and continued to grow in popularity, thanks to household names like Peet’s and Chez Panisse. Now, nearly five decades later, it’s still running strong, with a dozen or so restaurants huddled on or around the main Shattuck Ave. drag. They’re offering everything from Nepalese to French and Italian cuisines.

Bae and I were craving Italian one chilly Saturday evening, so after what felt like an eternity of debating which one of the Gourmet Ghetto Italian restaurants to stop by,  we settled on Corso. And I'm so glad that ended up being our choice!

The modest two-room space was packed to the brim, but luck found us a seat at the bar that overlooks the open kitchen. Warm subtle lighting and a casual ambiance made it feel so warm and toasty and homely inside. Soaring ceilings and dark wooden fixtures added a bit character, too.

We started off with the Olive Marinate (pictured below), one of the eleven different Antipasti selections. Olives come slathered in garlic, chile, lemon and other herbs. They’re a mix of colors and sizes. I was expecting something completely different — something more like a spread (my fault for not checking with the waiter!) — but was pleasantly surprised at how much flavor they had.

We then opted for the Tagliatte pasta, pictured below. A thick, hearty lamb and pork tomato sauce covers delicious house-made pasta. The essence of red wine and other herbs enhances the sauce nicely. This was so, so filling and tasty.

As an entrée, we selected the Spada, pictured below. Grilled swordfish is topped with a medley of olives, capers and fresh herbs. Surrounding it is almost what could be considered a stew of fava beans, tomatoes, garlic, carrots and other veggies. The swordfish was tender and you could subtly taste its grilled aroma. It went so well with the fava bean concoction, too.

While we saved absolutely no room for dessert, that didn’t stop us from taking home the flourless chocolate cake with whipped cream and caramel and chocolate sauces. And let me tell you about this cake. It’s beyond belief how decadent it is! I could only handle a few bites at a time, but it would be every chocoholic’s dream dessert.

No libations for us this time, but there’s a wine list and I peeped quite a few patrons with some sort of cocktail in their hands.

All in all, Corso hit the spot for satisfying Italian cuisine in a no-frills ambiance. Plus, the service was noteworthy; our server had a polite, reserved disposition and one of the chefs right behind the bar frequently checked in with us to see how we were enjoying each dish. I’ll definitely be back to try out some of Corso's other classics, such as the Branzino.

What about you? Have you already visited Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto? If so, drop your favorite restaurant in the comments section below and see you there soon!

For more information: