The Hit List: New East Bay Restaurants To Try Right Now guide image


The Hit List: New East Bay Restaurants To Try Right Now

We checked out these new restaurants in Oakland, Berkeley, and beyond—and loved them.

When new restaurants open, we check them out. This means that we subject our stomachs and social lives to the good, the bad, and more often than not, the perfectly fine. And every once in a while, a new spot makes us feel like experiencing the first ray of sunshine after a month of straight fog. When that happens, we add it here, to the Hit List.

The Hit List is where you’ll find all of the best new restaurants in Oakland, Berkeley, and beyond. As long as it opened within the past several months and we’re still talking about it, it’s on this guide. The latest addition might be a buzzy New York-style slice shop, or a new bagel hotspot we can't stop talking about. Or maybe it’s even a restaurant with caviar priced by the bump.

Keep tabs on the Hit List and you will always know just which new restaurants you should be eating at right now.

New to the Hit List (9/22): Popoca, Cellarmaker Oakland


Cellarmaker Oakland

A new Cellarmaker could open every day, in a different neighborhood, for a year, and we’d still get excited. This San Francisco-based brewery and pizzeria is always a good time, so we embrace its third iteration, now in Oakland’s Jack London. The Detroit-style pizzas are superb, bordering on decadent, with crisp cheesy bottoms and sides, while the snacks, like the polenta fries and briny pickled okra, are also very good (though not as epic). This warehouse-like space (an expansion of Blue Bottle’s former home) has plenty of room inside, on the sidewalk, and street-side deck—so bring a well-behaved dog or a stroller, and don't forget to grab a pint.

Ever since former pop-up Popoca opened their brick-and-mortar in Old Oakland, it's been easier than ever to get their we-can’t-stop-talking-about-it Salvadoran food. This place focuses on traditional Salvadoran dishes, with fresh and seasonal takes. The vibe is date night with sultry mood lighting, plants, and stained glass windows everywhere. It’s the perfect setting to eat perfect wood-fired pupusas made on a beautiful wood-fired hearth. They come with three fillings that change up depending on the day, like sweet potato, hog trotters, and classic beans and cheese. Each one is a master class in masa that's the perfect mix of meltiness to crispiness. The yuca con chicharrón with the softest chicharrón on record and the pollo en chicha with a tangy fermented pineapple sauce also need to be on your table. 

We’re grateful to any place that makes us intentionally drop the ball on responsibility, and relax until sundown. Mother Tongue is a coffee roasting company, and now an easy, fuss-free cafe and cocktail bar, in Oakland’s Temescal. Your double-header day starts with excellent espresso drinks (and pastries by Colonial Donuts and La Farine), best enjoyed on their front deck, or at the communal table under the disco ball. At night, transition into cocktails and wine, and chat with friends about culturally relevant things (“what is RICO?”) under the pink glow.

Mama’s Boy is making some of Oakland’s best new slices. And that’s saying something, given that great new pizza joints are popping up like wild rabbits all over the East Bay. The two-story spot (from the people behind Oakland and San Francisco Athletic Club) feels like it’s been around for years, and the combination of family photos, red stools, and Pac-Man give this place a nostalgic touch. This Uptown slice shop nails the New York-style, including a bubbly crust that’s sturdy enough to hold the toppings. Be sure to get the pepperoni slice, but don’t overlook the behemoth heros on pillowy rolls.  

This Berkeley cafe will inspire you to lock your phone in a closet and stay all day—it’s the antithesis of rushing out of a place with a to-go cup at lightning speed. The gorgeous space, a major upgrade from their previous takeout window on San Pablo, is decked out with deep green tiles, and tons of seating and natural light—so embrace a never ending coffee date or lunch that lasts for hours. Also, their frequently changing pastries (made in-house) are flat-out incredible, from the golden-brown coconut macaroons to the scones so fluffy and buttery you’ll never look at a scone the same way again. The menu’s showstopper is the Persian breakfast (served Fridays and Saturdays only): it’s a simple yet perfectly balanced plate of creamy lebneh, pickles, jam, and a bright green heap of fresh herbs.  

When Noodle Theory closed in Oakland’s Rockridge late last year after 15 years in business, our hearts shattered. So it was only right that we’d be skeptical of the new Italian spot that took its place. Lucky for us, Sfizio is our new beloved. Their whole shtick is affordable pastas, with the $10 rich red spaghetti serving as their headliner. But if you end up getting more plates (which you should), like the excellent tagliolini or rockfish ceviche, the bill adds up quick. Nonetheless, this is a spot to get excited about for fun walk-in dinners with friends when you want good pasta without too much effort or wait. What’s for dinner tonight? “Oh, Sfizio, sounds great.”

Edith’s Pie is adding a spark to casual lunch. The breezy cafe is serving savory hand pies to the Uptown Oakland worker drone crowd. They’re perfect—starting with the butteriest, flakiest crust in town. Is a $10 for a palm-sized meal worth it? That’s a resounding yes. Order anything featuring egg or cheese, though the pot roast-like brisket and carrot is the gem, march up to the loft seating, then power up your pie with bright chimichurri. Don’t overlook the seasonal dessert pies, like lemon verbena custard and the not-too-sweet strawberry key lime. Edith’s aims to please, so they also serve beer and wine, and are open 'til 10pm on Fridays and Saturdays.  

A fun new pizza spot is joining the ranks of Berkeley’s flourishing pizza scene. Pizzeria Da Laura is cranking out New York- and pan-style pizzas that sing. Pillowy, chewy crusts, simple yet bright tomato sauce, and high-quality toppings are how this spot (run by a Tony’s Pizza Napoletana alum) nails pie perfection. There are some homemade pastas and meatballs on the menu, but really, getting the Ray J overflowing with mozzarella, burrata, and deep pepperoni cups, or the Sicilian-style Regina (an international pizza award winner, if you care about that sort of thing) is the roadmap to pizza-party success. This place is buzzy, with two stories of seating, wine, and several TVs for your sports-watching pleasure. Think of this spot as the city’s new pizza-centric clubhouse for grad students and theatergoers, or anyone looking to have a good time.  

Master bagel makers Boichik Bagels has a new industrial Northwest Berkeley outpost that includes a large window into the adjacent factory. While the draw of this place is getting to watch the big robotic claw make bagels in the early hours, the stars of the show are the damn fine New York-style bagels. Chewy and rotund, they inspire feelings of gratitude and a giddy elation we haven’t felt since fifth grade. Do the right thing and get an everything bagel with any cream cheese (they have unexpected flavors like hatch chile, horseradish cheddar scallion, and seasonal pickled fennel and lemon) or topped with the smoky, silky lox. And consider an immediate bagel-and-sun stint on the patio—there’s really no time to waste when bagels this good are involved. 

You’ll know you’re in for a fun night the moment you step inside Parche. Every square inch of the walls and ceiling at this upscale Colombian restaurant in Uptown Oakland is covered with colorful balays and Colombian prints. Bad Bunny pumps through the speakers. And a golden elephant head statue with candles is periodically carried over with ceremonial fanfare to anyone celebrating a birthday. Adding to the buzzy atmosphere are the just as exciting shareable dishes. Cola and panela-braised posta negra slides clean off the bone and pairs perfectly with the yuca coconut mash. And hand-smashed patacones are the crunchy base for the juiciest shredded beef and salsa criolla. The beef empanadas, however, are comically small (like, Airpods case-small), but you won’t be mad about the two bites you do get. Zingy ceviches and guanábana-spiked cocktails round out the meal you’ll be thinking back on for a while. 

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photo credit: Cellarmaker Oakland

The Hit List: New East Bay Restaurants To Try Right Now guide image