Edible Excursions, which has been exploring San Francisco neighborhoods and finding the most interesting and delicious food offerings for several years, expanded to Oakland's Temescal recently and its timing couldn't have been better.
Lisa Rogovin, the company's founder, has been running regular San Francisco tours and in the East Bay in North Berkeley's Gourmet Ghetto but the new programs to Temescal cover a burgeoning food mecca not yet known to many Bay Area foodies. It won't stay that way for long.
By the month it seems new eateries are springing up along Shattuck and Telegraph avenues in this once-blighted area that is drawing refugees from San Francisco's high rent districts.
The tour has already gotten favorable national press, including in Forbes, and in local media.
On a recent Sunday morning, I joined Edible Excursions at the bustling Temescal market, one of several Urban Village Farmers Markets, in the DMV parking lot at 5300 Claremont Ave., where we sampled the spectacular Kouign Amann, a delectable croissant-like French pastry, from Starter Bakery (upper left) and tasty fish tacos and agua fresca from Cholita Linda stands.
Then it was onto the streets of Temescal, where Sunday mornings are quiet but you nonetheless get a feel for how the area has been transformed with the spruced up storefronts along Shattuck and Telegraph.
The Cro Cafe, which serves shots of strong, dark Sightglass Coffee, and Doughnut Dolly (right), where friendly servers fill scrumptious doughnut holes with cream or jam to order as you wait.
The main drag of Telegraph along Temescal has some wonderful well-known restaurants and eateries, including Bakesale Betty, Pizzaiolo, Dona Thomas and Genova Deli (where the lines are long but whose artichoke frittata has no equal).
Save those for later: this tour focuses on newer and lesser-known places.
You'll sit a while at cozy two-year-old Sacred Wheel, a cheese and specialty market that offers Virginia country ham, and have a half of grilled cheese sandwich with a small bowl of tomato soup. Then you'll hit several ethnic restaurants, including the colorful new Juhu Beach Club, where chef Preeti Mistry uses local and organic produce to serve up savory Mumbai street food based on her mother's recipes.
Temescal has been home to wave after wave of immigrants (a few remnants of mid 20th century Italian-American community remain, including Genova Deli and an Italian social club) and more recently it has drawn thousands of Ethiopians and Koreans. There's a mind-boggling array of ethnic restaurants to choose from.
The tour stops at Abesha, where participants mingle with Ethiopians stopping in for lunch after church, indulging in a variety of appetizers, such as sambussas (pastries filled with lentils, onion and peppers) and the traditional Ethiopian spicy stews of meat and vegetables scooped up with injera, the sponge-like bread.
At Sura Korean, which opened in 2007 and specializes in natural ingredients and lighter fare than standard Korean restaurants, we dove into a large sampling of kimchee (photo at right) and an outstanding tofu soup and then headed back out to the warm Oakland sun to explore a bit more on our own before heading home.
Edible Excursions' Temescal Tastes tour operates Sunday mornings 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
The cost is $75 per person. Check it out to discover this up-and-coming neighborhood that you'll be hearing a lot about in the coming years.