Oakland Restaurant Week 2018
And we're back with #ORW18!
If you've followed me for a little while now, then you may remember that last year I worked with Visit Oakland to show you guys some of the best vegan restaurants that my favorite city has to offer. From Guy Fieri favorites to my go-to spots, we scoured Oakland for the best of the best vegan food, and it was so. much. fun. If you want to read more about that journey, check out the #ORW17 post here.
So when the Visit Oakland team approached me this year about continuing on our excursion from last year, I was stoked, and couldn't wait. After all, what's better than eating your way through your favorite city, right?
However, there were a few more "ground rules" this go-around. Unlike last year, where I pretty much explored by myself, this year, we tackled all the restaurants in groups. I had no idea who was going to be in my group, so it was a pleasant surprise when I saw my friend Shruti at the first restaurant.
This may come as a surprise to some, but I'm actually a huge introvert, so showing up at group events where I don't know anyone can be pretty scary for me. So you can only imagine my sheer delight when I saw Shruti there. Having her there made that day all the more better, and really helped to ease my anxiety within the massive group setting.
The second thing that slightly different from last time was that this go around, we weren't going to exclusively-vegan restaurants. And, the restaurants we went to had pre-set menus, meaning this was a day of "making it work with what ya got". Thankfully, I'm always up for a challenge, so having this curveball thrown my way was no problem whatsoever, and even added a little more excitement for the day.
So without further ado, let's get into the food, shall we?
Our first stop of the day was Itani Ramen, which is a place I was so excited to see on our itinerary for the day. Although I'd only been a handful of times before, Itani Ramen is hands-down my favorite ramen place in the East Bay. Not only for their amazingly rich bowls of ramen, but for their abundance of veggie options, too. Their miso ramen is 100% vegan (as long as you remember to ask for it with no egg!) and their gyoza is 100% vegan, too (which I've been dying to try but alas, gluten).
My favorite way to oder the ramen? No egg, extra green onions, and soft tofu. It's the kind of buttery-soft ramen that just melts in your mouth as you eat it, and fills your belly with the perfect balance of savory and sweet. Plus, with all of the veggies they throw in, it helps make what would ordinarily be a "cheat meal" a perfect compliment to your healthy diet. Call me a crazy old lady, but anytime I can sneak greens into a meal, I will.
Find Itani Ramen Here: 1736 Telegraph Ave. Oakland, CA 94612
The next place we checked out was actually one I had never heard of before: Agave Uptown. Nestled on the corner of Franklin and Telegraph, conveniently just a few blocks up from Itani Ramen, Agave is the hip Oaxacan joint of your dreams. I was immediately drawn in to their bright, open interior, full of large windows, tall tables, fireplaces and pillows. It felt cozy, warm, and friendly, and the type of place that would be perfect for gathering your whole group of friends together for a cozy evening full of great food.
Speaking of great food, I wish I could say more about it, but unfortunately, all I ate was the guacamole (with a spoon, no less). I spent more time than I probably should have styling this plate, even making note to wipe the edges so that it didn't look messy, and spent an even more considerable amount of time searching for the perfect grey background to shoot my creation against (hey, a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do). In fact, I spent so much time (re: 10 minutes at most) that by the time I got back to the table, where our buffet-style trays of food were waiting, all of the vegan-friendly rice, beans, and veggies were gone. And as I sat, staring at the whole fried fish head that sat on the plate in front of me, I can honestly say I'd never been more happy to have that big bowl of ramen from earlier sitting in my stomach. No offense to anyone who likes fried fish heads with the eyeballs still in them, but even when I was a huge fish and seafood eater, I still probably would have gagged at the sight of that. So, I resorted to eating the leftover guacamole with a spoon, and hoped that the next restaurant would hold more offerings. Oh, and for the record, I would love to go back and experience Agave to its fullest vegan potential one day. Because it seemed really cool, and from what I heard from others, the food was actually pretty good.
Find Agave Here: 2135 Franklin St. Oakland, CA 94612
Finally, our last stop of the day was Curry Up Now, which was as close and far from an authentic Indian restaurant as you can get. I say close, because you could get Thalis (giant platters of currys, chutneys, and naan) as big as your head, but far, because, well... sweet potato fries smothered in green chutney and friend raviolis filled with paneer aren't exactly Indian. Being Indian myself, I've been blessed to be surrounded by great Indian food my whole life (although we didn't eat it much at home, we always had relatives who made great food) so I am, admittedly, pickier than the average person when it comes to Indian food. But, with that said, I was incredibly excited to try this unique spin on my cultural heritage.
I ended up getting the "hella sexy" vegan fries which, just by the name of it, I was all over. I mean, French fries are sexy as hell to begin with, but when they're actually called sexy, then they must be damn good.
Although I'd never thought of putting green chutney on sweet potato fries before, it was actually quite a pleasant surprise. The flavors blended together nicely, and the sweetness of the potato offset the spiciness of the chutney, making it the perfect balance for those who may not be used to the traditional Indian spice. While I probably would opt for traditional South Indian food over this in the future, it was such a great experience trying this out, and I think it would be a great place to take non-Indian friends, to ~*lightly*~ introduce them into the world of Indian cuisine, in a way that's familiar, not super overpowering, and dare I say, sexy. ;)
Find Curry Up Now Here: 1745 San Pablo Avenue, Oakland, CA 94612
And that is my (long overdue) recap of #ORW18! Although I wouldn't say I discovered any new favorites, I definitely was glad to be able to re-experience a past love, and discover two new restaurants that I would't have otherwise tried.
Do you love any of these places? Let me know in the comments below, and click here to read last year's post!
** This post was written in partnership with Visit Oakland. All opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the sponsors that allow TRTH to continue existing!