Blue Oak Cafe: Inside Oakland’s Museum

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It has been over a year since the Oakland Museum of California went through a major renovation. Today it is much more modern. Although it has kept its extensive California History exhibit, it has brought in some great exhibits. When they reopened in 2011, they brought the fun Pixar exhibit. Today, they have the 1968 Exhibit which describes the major events of that year. My book club met there today and afterwards we had lunch at the museum café, Blue Oak.

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The café was also upgraded during the renovation and the food has gotten a little fancier. Blue Oak Cafe serves mostly salads and sandwiches, but they seem to do it well. I ordered the tuna nicoise salad, which came with seared Ahi tuna, haricot vert, potatoes, boiled egg, and olives. This is actually one of my favorite salads and they did a good job with it.

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Several of my friends ordered the chicken salad sandwich on focaccia bread. I had a bite and thought the filling was excellent and the thinly sliced apples in it made a huge difference in texture and taste.

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When my friend’s beet salad came out, there were “oohs and ahhs”. It was such a beautiful presentation unexpected for the museum café. I suspect that this was a tasty dish as the plate was licked clean.

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If you are visiting the Oakland Museum, you should not bypass the Blue Oak Café. The food is pretty good and you can feel good about supporting a local institution.

Watching MLB Around Oakland

It’s been a fun month of baseball in the Bay Area. Watching the Oakland Athletics win the American League West Division and the San Francisco Giants one game away from the World Series has been truly exciting. What makes baseball fun to watch is having people around you to help cheer on your team with food and drinks. My friends and I have been checking out places in Oakland to watch games and having a good time.

The Warehouse (Bar & Grill) in Jack London Square is a dive bar where you can easily find a spot at the bar and have inexpensive food and drinks. Their chicken wings are something to talk about as they sell them by the pound.

If you are looking for something bigger with a sports bar feel, the Grand Oaks Restaurant & Sports Lounge in the Lakeshore Area is a place to consider. There is an upstairs and downstairs with plenty of big screen televisions.

Quinn’s Lighthouse is a historic landmark in Oakland. Not only can you watch the game in the upper deck pub upstairs, but you can eat peanuts and throw the shells on the floor.

When my BFF asked me to happy hour and watch the Giants play on Friday at the Vietnamese restaurant Vo’s in Uptown Oakland, I was intrigued. Happy hour runs from 3pm-7pm daily and their bar bites menu looked good with lots of fun finger foods.

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We shared several items. The crispy harvest rolls are basically fried egg rolls with shrimp and chicken with Vietnamese fish sauce. They were delicious even without pork.

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The chicken lettuce wraps are iceberg lettuce that you use as a cup for their filling of chicken, mushroom, water chestnuts, and peanuts. They have Sriracha sauce on the side.

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We also ordered the shrimp spring rolls which are the healthy version of egg rolls. Rice paper is used to wrap around the shrimp, rice noodles, lettuce, and cucumber and dipped into a ginger peanut sauce. This is a typical Vietnamese appetizer, but it was quite fresh.

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I have never heard of basil onion rings, but they were really good. Onions as well as basil pieces are deep fried. I really thought the fried basil was amazing. It came with a house made tomato-mustard and basil sauce to dip.

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My absolute favorite thing was the spicy chicken wings. This bar bite proves that you don’t need a batter to fry good chicken. It came with a pepper lime sauce.

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It wasn’t my first time at Vo’s, but it was the first time it made a good impression. Of course it did as the margarita and the bar food was good, and the Giants won!

Hibiscus Cafe: Offering Up Some Of The Best Fried Chicken

My BFF and I were craving fried chicken recently and we actually planned ahead for it. We had been to a Southern food restaurant called Hibiscus awhile back, but not too long ago it reopened as Hibiscus Cafe. Hibiscus is located on San Pablo Ave in Uptown Oakland.

The Cafe reopened with a limited menu in the hopes of offering quick service. You order at a counter and bring your number to the table. Seems weird since you don’t actually pay for your food at the counter. Alcoholic beverages are available to purchase separately next door and you can bring it into the restaurant.

My BFF and I ordered the exact same meal. We got the fried chicken dinner plate. It comes with two pieces of fried chicken and two sides. We requested a drumstick and breast. Our sides were macaroni and cheese and the skillet cornbread.

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It took about thirty minutes before our dinner came out which is a long time in my opinion. But when the food did arrive, it looked great. The fried chicken was crispy, juicy, and seasoned with herbs that put this on the top of my list for fried chicken. I really liked the fact that the breast was only half a breast. I think it probably helps to cook the chicken evenly. Usually the breast is such a large piece of meat that it’s hard to get through if you are eating more than one piece so I didn’t feel like it was skimpy.

The macaroni and cheese was creamy and delicious. The noodles were cooked perfectly and provided a balanced consistency. We were given about half a cup or so which might seem like a skimp, but it was the perfect amount for me.

We were each given two pieces of skillet corn bread. I loved it especially with the jalapeño flavor and the honey butter.

Overall our meal was awesome, but I can’t ignore the fact that Hibiscus offers the slowest service ever. If you are hungry or in a hurry, you will likely be disappointed. Luckily we were not in a hurry and drinks were keeping us occupied. Their hopes to offer quick service seems like a faraway dream.

Speisekammer: Celebrating Octoberfest

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I have been changing up my walking patterns lately and last Sunday hit Alameda beach. For an early dinner I thought it would be nice to go to Speisekammer Restaurant and Bar since we were in the neighborhood. My friend had never been to Speisekammer and it’s been awhile since my last visit.

Speisekammer was packed and appeared festive with balloons and even a few ladies dressed in bar maid costumes. Duh! It was an Octoberfest celebration. Awesome!

There was a limited menu for the celebration. I was disappointed that the potato pancakes were not available. This is something I usually order when I am there. It’s really tasty and comes with a delicious homemade apple sauce.

I love smoked meats and decided on the smoked pork chops. My friend ordered the beef stew over spaetzle. We decided we would share.

You can’t go to Speisekammer without having a drink. I ordered my usual Framboise, or raspberry flavored beer. It was nice and refreshing for this warm evening.

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Our waitress brought me something that was not my pork chop. She mistakenly thought I ordered the smoked pork shank. Since it was still a smoked meat, I told her I would take it. It actually looked really good. The pork shank came with mashed potatoes and my meal was really tasty.

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I explained to my friend that spaetzle is a German pasta. I have a friend who occasionally makes spaetzle and I have had the pleasure of watching it being made. It’s a thin liquid dough that cooks into boiling water that creates a soft noodle. I had no doubt that her beef stew over spaetzle would be good and it was.

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Speisekammer is continuing to celebrate Octoberfest each Sunday through October 14. If you don’t make it next Sunday, don’t despair because Speisekammer is a great place to hang any time of year and have German comfort food.