Gourmet Grand Lake
A cluster of new restaurants makes this part of town more than a movie theater.
The famous marquee at the Grand Lake Theater, which opened in 1926
Photography by Caren Alpert
For many of us, the Grand Lake area of Oakland is like an old friend. Well, maybe an old friend getting a fabulous new makeover. With new restaurants in every price range, including a nouveau Indian restaurant and a gelateria, Grand Avenue (and its sister street, Lakeshore) is rapidly becoming the Next Big Thing for food fanatics. Much of the buzz has to do with the early 2008 opening date of Chez Panisse chef Russell Moore’s first independent venture, Camino, on Grand Avenue.
Di Bartolo's art-laden brick wall
Photography by Caren Alpert
Opened in August 2006. Nestled next door to Café Di Bartolo, this stylish restaurant aims much higher than coffee and sandwiches. Try the Moroccan-spiced leg of lamb or a thin-crust pizza topped with duck confit. Don’t miss the fancy cocktails—try a watermelon julep or a Drop of Gibraltar, made with house-made ginger syrup. Many of Di Bartolo’s raw ingredients are sourced from the Grand Lake farmers market. 3308 Grand Ave. (near Lake Park Avenue), (510) 451-0576.
Opened in April 2007. Neecha Thian-Ngern and her brother Arnold come from a long line of restaurateurs. Serving traditional dishes made from their mother’s and grandmother’s recipes, the brother-sister team have updated some favorites and serve their savory dishes with a choice of white or brown rice or quinoa. Plenty of vegetarian selections, cool and contemporary decor. 3236 Grand Ave., (510) 451-9419.
FLAVORS OF INDIA
Opened in June 2007. Judging from the nightly crowds, the Grand Lake nabe has been pining for an Indian restaurant, and the second branch of Flavors of India was apparently worth the wait. The menu boasts old favorites such as lamb samosas and chicken biryani, done in a modern way that matches the decor. Original location at 3211 College Ave. 3276 Lakeshore Ave. (between Lake Park Avenue and Trestle Glen Road), Oakland, (510) 268-8957, www.flavors-india.com.
Opened in July 2007. Ashley Young, owner of this cute little scoop of ice cream heaven, has traveled to Italy numerous times, and it shows. Her tiny shop is decorated with mini murals of famous Florentine views, and each tub of her house-made gelato is topped with a bit of the main ingredient, just like in Florence. Perfect for after a movie at the adjacent Grand Lake Theater. 478 Lake Park Ave, no telephone.
DAY OF THE DEAD Café
Opened in July 2007. Replacing the former Colonel Mustard’s hot dog stand, Day of the Dead Café takes its theme and runs with it. Skulls and skeletons are everywhere, and the strong coffee will make you feel really, well, alive. Since the shop shares the building with the Grand Lake Theater, you can take your coffee, sandwich, or hot dog into the theater to enjoy with a movie. 3208 Grand Ave., (510) 325-3113.
VINE WINE BAR AND TAPAS LOUNGE
Opening date still to be determined. The website for this long-awaited wine bar and tapas restaurant says the still-under-construction location will feature an Enomatic pouring machine. Wine lovers can purchase a “tasting card” and insert it into a gleaming machine, which dispenses a glass, half glass, or taste of any of the boutique wines. 3343 Lakeshore Ave. (between Lake Park Avenue and Trestle Glen Road), www.vinewinebar.net.
Opening in early 2008. The latest of the many talented Chez Panisse veterans to jump ship and make a go of it on their own are chef Russell Moore and his partner (and Chez hostess) Allison Hopelain. Camino means fireplace in Italian, and the pair, with Russell in the back of the house and Hopelain in the front, plans on serving food cooked in a large, waist-high stone oven. The focus will be on rustic, affordable food made with locally sourced ingredients. 3917 Grand Ave, no telephone.