The husband and I have one night a week that we designate as our eating out night – gotta stay true to our food budget without compromising nutrition or quality. And we go big on this night; if we have a Google Deals coupon at our favorite Indian street food spot in Berkeley (Vik’s Chaat Corner, baby)? Then that’s where you’ll find us. As those of us thinking we are well-versed in the ever-evolving culinary scene of the Bay Area know, their are plenty of spots to hit up to get amazing food on the cheap. And then there are the splurges…
Doña Tomás is not just a Mexican restaurant. It is one of the establishments guilty of starting the Temescal District revolution… creating something very, very special in an otherwise forgotten and downtrodden area of Oakland. The husband had never been, and I have always loved it. The atmosphere is perfect, and having just been to Oaxaca over the holidays, it felt even more authentic than I thought it always was. The clean, white stucco walls with what look like vintage Frida Kaho tunics sparsely adorning the walls make their way through the hallway separating the bar area and main dining area. The bar feels like members of the Buena Vista Social Club will be setting up soon to play in the corner. It has deep, deep red walls, making you feel really comfortable and ready to settle in. Their thick and crispy chips with cotija cheese crumbled atop and thinner, smokey salsa is a perfect starter. We also ordered the following to share:
Quesadillas con Betabeles: house-made tortillas filled with goat cheese, beets, fennel and thyme, topped with tomatillo-guajillo salsa
Sopes con Platanos: crispy masa cakes topped with fried plantains, black beans, crema and epazote
Chile Verde: a stew of Niman Ranch lamb with potatoes, poblanos and avocado leaves, topped with crema and cheddar,
served with green rice
The food was, as always, amazing. I usually always go for the carnitas, but decided to venture out. With no room for dessert, we were satisfied. Until. Wait, wait. As we know, this side of the street has a great line-up of places to rival any Mission or Meat Packing type district have gone up around Dona Tomas, as well:
Bakesale Betty – BEST apple and pecan pie I have ever had, and when you are standing in the 20+person line on a sunny afternoon, they’ll bring out fresh baked cookies while you wait, on the house.
Article Pract – I just want to pile their yarns in beautiful hues and textures and dream away – and I gotta get back into knitting and purling myself.
Pizziaolo - I believe a few veterans from the Chez Panisse kitchen started this up, so it was sure to be good from the get go. I have never actually been, but it’s one of those place that has been on my short list WAY too long. I will for sure forgo my gluten issue for a slice of this pie.
Scream Sorbet – we aren’t talking your Dreyer’s rainbow weirdness here. With flavors like Almond Pink Peppercorn (the nut makes the cream base – there’s not dairy!) and Hazelnut Chocolate (better than I would imagine frozen Nutella to be – AND CREAMIER) this place rocks my world. Hard on the budget, but a MUST for the senses.
You get my point. This particular block is the place to be. And down the street we’ve got one of the East Bay versions of Burma Superstar and Lanesplitter’s Pizza. How can you go wrong? On the contrary. You can’t go wrong, but you can find a welcoming surprise inside…the street. Sitting pretty behind the lineup is a modest alley way that I believe was first opened to the public via the Temescal Alley Barbershop. The shop welcomes you to peer in to see the notably attractive barbers in hipster jeans and checkered shirts (my husband is the most attractive man I know, but this is like Blaine from Glee attractive). And as you head past a few of the sandwich boards, alluring one’s curiosity, you must also notice a unique finds vintage furnishings shop, a jewelry and home goods shop and much more to be perused. See the lineup here and make your way down there on a warm summer evening after dinner for music and open doors to the shops. Oakland Art Beat posts such happenings on their calendar online. Many neighbors were also sharing the fruits of their labor along the alley (pictured below).
This was such a perfect end to the evening. There were homemade doughnuts being served outside as a small band played what sounded like a mix between Fever Ray, The Postal Service and Air. And as our friend Tim would say in response to being told about a meal or scenario that satisfies his…? “Perfect.”