Aren’t you sick of eating lunch at Max’s?

I have had the pleasure of working in downtown Oakland for most of the last nine years. During the period where I did not work downtown, I worked at night. Since I live downtown, this meant that even then, I was around here at lunchtime.

And not to sound like I don’t love downtown Oakland or anything, but there is a serious shortage of decent places to eat lunch around here. That’s not to say that there are no nice lunches to be had — I pack my lunch probably about half the time (well, more often than that now that I work in a culinary wasteland), but for those other days, I have my rotation of favorite places to go grab something quick and cheap, just like everyone else who works downtown.

Anyway. The DTO does okay for those kind of quick lunches. But when it comes to going to an actual restaurant where you, like, sit down and have servers come take your order and bring you your food and it tastes decent and you can talk to someone over a nice meal but it’s not some super fancy thing, the options shrink. I mean, I have nothing against Spice Monkey or Caffe Verbena. I quite like them both. But I do not need to go to either one of them every damn time I’m meeting someone for lunch. I refuse to go to Max’s, which I find disgusting. I swear, at least 40% of the time when people ask me to lunch, they suggest we go to Max’s. Why, people? Why?

Anyway. The point of all this is not to harsh on the DTO, but rather to say how excited I am that downtown Oakland now has two new places to eat lunch. The first is Disco Volante, which I wrote about when they first opened for lunch like two weeks ago.

Disco Volante

I have been to Disco Volante twice since they opened (I would have gone more, but I was out of town for over a week). I have sampled the fennel & pork pie, the sand dabs, and the burger. Every single one of them was really fucking good. They don’t have any liquor (hence the lunch-only status of the restaurant right now), but they do have a delicious blood orange soda drink. And they make a great cup of coffee. I was there yesterday for lunch and…well, let’s just say that if you had wanted to come get something to eat, you would not have had to wait for a table.

So come on, folks. Do you work in the City Center area? Give Disco Volante a try. 14th and Webster is an easy walk from your office. Go to Disco Volante instead of Max’s next time you’re taking someone out to lunch. The food is better, and it is also cheaper. Also, it is prettier. If you’re eating solo, that’s cool too. Just go sit at the bar. Aren’t you sick of getting the same boring sandwich every day?

Plum opens for lunch

The other exciting lunch restaurant news for the DTO today is that PLUM IS OPENING FOR LUNCH! Starting today!

You guys surely remember how much I loved Plum when I went there for dinner on opening night. And I can’t even think of how many times since then I’ve told people that I wished they were open for lunch. So I am delighted that my wish has come true and they are now open from 11 to 2. I don’t know if they’re going to have the same menu or not. The dinner menu is a little different now than when I went there, but reviews remain positive, so I expect that either way, lunch will be delicious.

One more thing

In other Oakland restaurant news, Inside Scoop reports that Chef Paul Canales is leaving Rockridge institution Oliveto. The story doesn’t say what Canales is doing next, but does reveal that whatever his new venture is, which we will more about “in the next few days,” it will definitely be in Oakland. Hooray!

21 thoughts on “Aren’t you sick of eating lunch at Max’s?

  1. ralph

    Max has never invited me too lunch :) But I agree, DTO does needs better lunch spots. At the same time I worry do we have enough people to support all of the new spots so that they can all be open for lunch.

  2. Daniel Backman

    While both of these new eateries sound awesome, there is hardly a dearth of good places for lunch in Downtown Oakland. I eat lunch in the DTO nearly every day. The quantity and quality of lunch spots is one of the best things about working here. I suppose if you desire table service, your options are significantly decreased. But here are some of my regular spots, all of which are delicious, affordable and are pleasant places to sit and eat:

    Cafe 15
    Cafe Rio California
    The Rising Loafer
    Binh Min Quan
    Ba Vo
    Rico’s Diner
    Cafe 817
    Farley’s East
    Cafe Madrid

    That said, Max’s is garbage and I am really excited to try Disco Volante soon.

  3. David

    What I took from the blog was that what V is looking for is more variety in reasonably priced locations appropriate for lunch meetings. I love Cam Huong too. But I can’t take a client there. I welcome these new additions to the menu of options.

  4. Jim T

    Tamarindo in Old Oakland (not to mention Trappist next door) has a killer lunch and beautiful digs.

  5. Naomi Schiff

    Annalee: Really, the Big Apple is a classic Middle Eastern-Mexican culture mashup, with inexpensive (but I think rather too salty) soup. Slightly dishevelled, food passable, but friendly, close by, and low hassle. I don’t take clients there though. Has anyone tried the vegetarian Filipino place Franklin/15th yet? It looks like it has customers and they have cleaned it up nicely.

  6. Navigator

    How about Flora, Lukas, Pican, Ozumo, Vo’s, Bread’s of India, Le Cheval? Are these places open for lunch?

  7. Naomi Schiff

    All of those are good possibilities (Cheval just moved). Some of us are limited in what we can spend on lunch, though, unless we are hungrily eying a client.

  8. Matthai Kuruvila

    I agree with you on lunch in downtown: there aren’t enough places. It’s rare that I’m going to splurge on a sitdown lunch, but Disco Volante is indeed terrific (shared the pork pie, the sand dab and the jar of bacon and chicken liver mousse).

    Another great sit down place is Shanghai on Webster in Chinatown, which has terrific dumplings. In Old Oakland, Caffe 817 is outstanding.

    If I’m going for a quicker bite, Cafe Gabriela on Broadway has a great pulled pork adobo sandwich. And there are a few places in Chinatown that I go to, including Cam Huong. The Breakroom has, surprisingly, the best BLT ever even though it’s a vegetarian/vegan restaurant.

  9. Colin

    The vegan Filipino place (No Worries) starts out with 2 strikes against it: neither vegan nor Filipino cuisines are known for their range or quality. It was slightly better than I expected, but I won’t be going back. Since Filipino food mostly revolves around meat, this place opted to go for simulated meat, and faux adobo just can’t compare. Plus the adobo was waaaaay over salted and tasted like it had been on a burner for a couple of days. Yuck.

    Don’t get me wrong – I eat vegetarian all the time. But I like vegetarian food that is about vegetables, not trying to make converts by tricking meat eaters with pasty meat replicas.

  10. Daniel Backman

    I was also dissapointed with the food at No Worries. It is a very pleasant place and an interesting menu, but the faux meat definitely needs some work. Too dry, chewy and salty, not enough flavor.

    But I will give it another shot.

  11. V Smoothe Post author

    Most of the feedback I’ve heard about No Worries so far has been pretty negative, so I haven’t been in a hurry to get there and try it. I’m sure I will go at some point, though.

    Another place I kind of like for a sit-down lunch downtown is called Da Vinci’s. It’s on 19th between Franklin and Webster. The food is…well, honestly, the food isn’t very good. And the menu is fairly boring — pizza, lackluster salads, and pasta (which I can’t say whether it’s good or not there, because I don’t eat pasta). Still, you can get an inexpensive glass of inoffensive wine, they have cloth napkins, and there is just something really charming about the place. The service is also extremely friendly, if not particularly fast.

    Jim T –

    I wasn’t aware Tamarindo was open for lunch. That’s great to know! I only somewhat recently discovered that the Trappist is open for lunch now, which I am also really excited about.

    Matthai –

    I had not heard of Cafe Gabriela before, but people on Yelp seem to really like it. I’ll put that on my list of places to try.

  12. Matt C.

    Cam Huong! Nice staff, grrreat food, and it’s so cheep!

    Cafe Madrid is good, but be warned: they have no concept of time. Last week is typical of all my experiences so far. I walked up to the counter and the adorable cashier did not take my order, she took a minute or so to put things away and shoot the hay with the cook. I ordered the simplest sandwich on earth. The guy took 10 full minutes to make it. This included two two-three minute breaks to talk to a guy who stopped by to say hi. I was hungry and it took everything in me to not go ape shit on them for being complete douches.

    Ya for Punchdown! Franklin Square is destined for greatness -our very own Belden Place!

    Add Specialty’s to the list of fast, good, and reasonable lunch eats.

  13. Leonard

    I agree with all that is written here. One of my favorite sit down places is Chef Edwards just on the other side of the Fox. Its not fancy, but they do a good barbeque. The other thing, I’m not sure why people are dissing Max’s. I think they do a pretty good pastrami sandwich. I also agree that I would love to see more nicer, sit down, table clothed restaurants. Something similar to Flora’s, or Pican’s or Ozuma’s. A good steakhouse would be nice.