New Pub on the Block: Aisle 5

Aisle 5 is a newly opened pub located in Oakland’s Grand/Lakeshore District. They serve twenty craft beers on tap and have a food menu focused on cooking from a wood fired oven and grill. Aisle 5 is Tina Wadhwa’s first business venture and she is likely the first East Indian woman to open up a pub in the area.  
I stopped by a couple weeks after they opened and had some trouble navigating through the business. The way things work is that you order at the counter, get a number, claim a seat, and your food comes to you. This might work well in a food court, but for me it didn’t at Aisle 5. My friend and I ordered drinks first. I got a refreshing local cider from Healdsburg and my friend had a glass of wine. We sat down and took a menu with us. When we decided on what to eat, I had to get back in line at the counter to order and it was five or six people deep. I can say it was partly my fault since I didn’t know what I wanted to eat from the start and wasn’t prepared for the “food court system.”

Nonetheless, our food came and I was happy. Chef Mark Scott is behind the pub menu. The first item that arrived by number was the chimichurri shrimp and it was wonderful. It was grilled to perfection and included a tomato and cucumber salad that was a nice companion piece. It was my favorite dish of the evening.

We also shared the smoking duo which is both chicken wings and baby back ribs. You get to select the sauces for both meats. I went with buffalo wings and habanero baby back ribs. The chicken wings fell flat for me because it was not crispy leaving a very soft rubbery skin. The ribs however was a redemption as they were cooked well and packed a lot of flavor. I really enjoyed the apple jicama slaw. If that is a definition of slaw, this would be my favorite preparation. At one point, Chef Mark stopped by to say hello, so I took the opportunity to inquire about the slaw. He revealed that he added a little honey to sweeten this side dish. 

With Boot and Shoe Service next door and The Star on Grand across the street, I was a bit wary about ordering pizza from Aisle 5. But they had the wood fired oven and an extensive pizza menu, So I wanted to give it a try. I got the smoked sausage and mushroom pizza. Sure the toppings were good, but I was pleasantly surprised by the flavor of the pizza crust. I even ate some of my friend’s leftover pizza crust (she is watching her carbs). I wouldn’t say that the pizza is better than Boot & Shoe Service, but it is an excellent alternative in the neighborhood.

I’m really hoping that Aisle 5 considers the feedback and hire some excellent wait staff to pull everything together. They’ve got a lot going for it- great food and drinks, perfect location, and a nice space.  
*Disclosure- this meal was comped, but writer has made every effort to remain objective.


English Breakfast: Just Can’t Get Enough

A big congratulations goes out to Germany for winning the 2014 World Cup. It was an exciting game to watch as both Germany and Argentina was at its best. I watched the game at Commonwealth Cafe & Pub on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland. It was my first visit and it was a packed house. I’m not sure if I was having British pub withdrawals that brought me here, but it was definitely a good time.
My friend ordered the French Toast which came with mixed berries, clotted cream, and syrup. I love clotted cream and it made for a perfect brunch item for Commonwealth. It wasn’t on their regular menu, but a special item for the day. My friend was really happy with the dish and she shared some of it with me. I liked how the toast was made into strips so you get a lot of the crust which I think is the best part of French toast. The berries were fresh and in season. And did I say I am in love with clotted cream?
In London, I enjoyed a typical English breakfast with eggs, bacon, sausage, tomatoes, hash browns, beans, and toast. I highly recommend the Regency Cafe for it. Here is the photo of my recent breakfast in London.
I noticed the Commonwealth had beans and toast which I ordered. It sounded so comforting and not too heavy. I am sure it’s not the top item on their menu but I enjoyed it and it hit the spot.
We watched a lot of food being served and it all looked really fresh and good. Commonwealth is a great place for food and to watch sports. The menu seemed quite authentic to British pub fare and I know I’ll be back soon.

I forgot to mention Commonwealth serves a variety of beer on tap as well as bottled, have ciders available and makes a decent Bloody Mary. They also carry beans from Oakland’s RoastCo and have an espresso machine. All your drink needs will be met.