Posted on Nov 21st, 2013 in Restaurants & Travel
| 1 comment
My friend Preethi, from The Eager Traveler
, and I were hosted by Localite Tours this past weekend for a foodie walking tour of Oakland. I’ve always wanted to do a food walking tour, so I was super excited.
But before we got started, we made a detour.
Walking to the food tour, we passed by a total dive Chinese bakery called First Cake Bakery. We decided to get our stomachs ready for the food tour with a warm up snack. OMG. The best bbq pork buns. Ever! Seriously. The bun came straight out of the oven and it was incredibly light and fluffy – I’ve honestly never had a bbq pork bun like this. I wish I had taken a picture, but I was too busy stuffing my face. And the bun was only $1. Score!
Now that our tummies were stretched out, we were ready to get our foodie tour on.
We were on the Key to the City Tour, which took us to various attractions in the Lake Merritt region (which, btw, is the only natural urban saltwater lake and home to the first bird sanctuary in the US!), all while feeding us snacks constantly. I was a little surprised that most of the food was brought along by Gretchen, our guide and co-founder of Localite Tours, instead of stopping in restaurants, but I didn’t mind since it let us experience more of the sights.
Our first stop was the sculpture garden at the Oakland Museum, which was beautiful and tranquil. There, we had the Green Chile tamale from La Borinquena. I liked the flavors of the tamale, which had the right amount of heat and salt, but the corn was a bit too dense for my taste.
Next, we crossed the street to Lake Merritt, where we learned the above trivia about the lake and the history of the Black Panthers. We had almond butter and homemade plum jam (Gretchen’s business partner made it!) sandwiches on sprouted bread. I really liked the nuttiness of the butter and the jam was really good! Sweet and tart with nice, juicy pieces of plum.
We then walked to the Camron-Stanford House, the last Victorian house standing on Lake Merritt. This was absolutely my favorite stop on the tour. The house was a private residence in the late 19th/early 20th century and is now a museum. It’s been beautifully and painstakingly restored to show how it would have looked during its heyday, and it is gorgeous. The docents were super knowledgeable and taught us lots about the culture of the time. Did you know that back in the day they had uncomfortable furniture in the parlor, so that guests they didn’t want to hang out with wouldn’t overstay their welcome? Or that Victorians had crazy cluttered houses because they liked to show off all the souvenirs from their travels to demonstrate how worldly they were? The visit was really interesting – a must do in Oakland!
Along the way we had another bbq pork bun (didn’t live up to First Cake’s, not sure if any could now!) and a taste of a locally made beef jerky, I wasn’t too excited about either. Lake Chalet Restaurant was the next stop, a few steps away from the Camron-Stanford House.
We had a tasting of the Lady Lake Pilsner, locally brewed and named after a women’s rowing club that practices on Lake Merritt. The ladies in the rowing club are in their 70s and 80s, and often stop by Lake Chalet for a drink after practice, according to the GM of the restaurant. How cute is that? The pilsner was refreshing and had a honey flavor, which I really liked. Beer + beautiful lake view was a pretty nice combo. We also had some apps, but they were unspectacular.
Last stop was the Terrace Room, in the lobby of the Lake Merritt Hotel, which used to be a residence hotel but is now a senior living building. Pretty unique setup, as the residents will come down to the restaurant daily for their meals. The Terrace Room is absolutely gorgeous, with floor to ceiling windows facing Lake Merritt and beautiful wrought iron details throughout the dining room. The owner regaled us with stories of the history of the building, the murals of the wall, and general trivia about Oakland. We had some other Oakland natives in our group, who shared their perspectives about Oakland development and perceptions of the city. I was struck by how passionate and proud they were about the city.
Oh yeah, and while we were ate the Terrace Room, we had some champagne and the Chocolate Ganache cake Pretty good.
To wrap up, I really enjoyed the Localite tour, primarily because of all the history I learned and being able to meet the local Oakland-ers who are obviously super proud of their city. The food was ok, but honestly, it could have been crappy and I would have still liked the tour because it was so interesting. Recommend!
Note: The tour was comped but my opinions are my own.
First Cake Bakery
734 Webster St, Oakland
1000 Oak St, Oakland
1418 Lakeside Dr, Oakland
1520 Lakeside Dr, Oakland
1800 Madison St, Oakland