photo credit: Krescent Carasso
It doesn’t matter if you’re walking, taking BART, or riding a scooter and contemplating if grinding down a stairwell will save you time - a commute is still a commute. And after spending however long traveling home from work after nine hours of people asking you to “touch base” and “circle back,” you want choosing where to have dinner to be as simple as deciding not to reply to any of the emails in your mounting inbox. That’s why it’s great to have a few neighborhood standbys ready and waiting for you to walk in. If you live around Temescal or Shafter in Oakland, that place should be FOB Kitchen.
FOB Kitchen is a Filipino neighborhood spot located near a pawnbroker and a Western Union in a small shopping center, and it’s a great place to go on a weeknight when you want to eat some reliably good food and relax. It’s always pretty lively, but everyone - from the couples on casual dates to the parents trading tips on what to look for in a new stroller - treats dinner here like a precursor to going home to watch a Netlfix documentary, rather than pregaming a Katy Perry concert. Between the sea-colored tiles and palm leaf walls inside, it feels like you’re eating in the apartment of a friend who wrote down “interior decorator on a tropical island” as their dream job on their college application. And much like the space itself, the food here is good, but you won’t be talking about in detail in the office the next day.
photo credit: Krescent Carasso
For the most part, what you’ll get at FOB Kitchen is solid Filipino food that’s good for a low-key meal after a long day, or when you want to get catch up over a few drinks with someone that you’ve had to cancel on multiple times in the past month. There are a few standouts, like the Shanghai lumpia spring rolls that are crunchy, sweet, and loaded with pork and carrots, the ensalada talong with eggplant and jicama that’s nice and light, and the thrice-cooked pork that sticks in your teeth like meat candy in the best way. Everything else, from the ribs to the whole-roasted fish, is good, but it’s the kind of food you eat while you’re having a conversation about how your boss recently decided to start dying his eyebrows, rather than what you’ll actually be having the conversation around.
If you live in the area, FOB Kitchen is here for you when you don’t feel like Googling 30 recipes or unwrapping individual green onions and ⅔ of a carrot from a meal prep kit. The food is good enough to tack on an extra 15 or 20 minutes to your trip home, the staff is super friendly, and the space feels like you’re hanging out in a beachside pool club that accidentally landed in Oakland. When you’re done with your commute after a long day, that might be exactly what you need.
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Crunchy little cigars of pork and carrot with a sweet chili dipping sauce. Ordering these is pretty much obligatory.
If we wandered through the desert for a few days, we’d see a mirage of this. It’s a cool salad of eggplant, jicama, tomato, and sea beans that’s refreshing and light.
This is a good small plate to start with. Order this and pile each piece of fried pork high with pickled red onion.
These are covered in caramel, Thai chili, garlic, ginger, and fish sauce, but they aren’t heavily sauced so you don’t really get much of what’s on them.
These spare ribs roasted with coffee and coconut beer are solid. They aren’t one of the first things we’d order at FOB Kitchen, but if you happen to be craving ribs, go for them.
Whole Roasted Branzino
A very well-roasted whole fish. You can taste the ginger it’s stuffed with in the meat, and it comes with a nice ginger-soy sauce too. Be careful of all the little bones though.
This is just a good piece of meat served with onions. It’s a ribeye marinated in soy and lemon, but you can’t really taste the marinade.
Glass noodles with carrot, red cabbage, green beans, garlic, scallions, and soy. It’s a great side that’s large enough to split with the whole table.