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.


Star on Grand: Pizza You Want to Know

The first time I dined at Star on Grand, a pizzeria near Lake Merritt in Oakland, it was over two years ago when they first opened. I was with my best friend and we shared one pizza. I remember thinking that it was really good, but I would have to go back to explore more of their menu. Today was the day I finally went back for lunch with my book club.  

We shared a large Goddess salad which is made of baby greens, chives, and toasted almonds tossed in a creamy pesto dressing. It was a simple, but I enjoyed the crunch of the almonds and the flavor and creaminess of the dressing.    

Star has a reputation for serving excellent Chicago style deep dish pizza. We ordered The Port which has toppings of sausage, mushrooms, onions, and green bell peppers. The tomato sauce that covered the pizza was chunky and well balanced. The biscuit-like crust held everything together nicely. It is not my favorite style of pizza, but I enjoyed this version. 
 If memory serves me correctly, I had a thin crust pizza from Star the first time I visited. On this occasion, the thin crust we ordered was the Adam’s Point which has pepperoni, salami, onions, green bells, black olives, and pepperoncinis. The combination of toppings were an awesome explosion of flavor. The crust was chewy, but the bottom of the pie maintained its crispness with the inclusion of cornmeal.  
 The pizza at Star on Grand is fresh and high quality. I recommend going with a larger group so you can try out different styles and toppings. If you are in Albany or San Francisco, visit Little Star, the sister pizzerias.