Photo by Judy T. Yelp.com
This homegrown restaurant was charming when it opened four years ago, but its former location on a sketchy stretch at the edge of Oakland’s Uptown district made return visits unpalatable. So I was psyched when Mockingbird’s eclectic culinary couple, Melissa Axelrod and William Johnson, relocated to a more soulful space across from Tribune Tower. Their new digs appear cavernous and bar-centric—reverberating with the shake-shake-shake of signature cocktails—but a secluded upstairs dining balcony offers cozy refuge. My favorite signature dishes—Moroccan-spiced chicken, fried brussels sprouts, and prime hanger steak—still rock, but I was most taken by Axelrod’s duck liver pâté on Acme walnut bread with pickled strawberries. Also extraordinary was the ahi tuna served with assertive tomato compote and nutty chickpeas. The thoughtful and compact wine list, murals of Oakland landmarks, and carefully crafted menu reflect owners who deeply care. 416 13th St., (510) 290-0331, mockingbirdoakland.com. Lunch Mon.–Fri., dinner Mon.–Sat.