Berkeley and Oakland’s best restaurants for 2021

Nosh’s 2021 in review
· The East Bay’s most reliable bar and restaurant destinations
· The East Bay’s best restaurant experiences

At the end of every year, East Bay Nosh surveys staffers across Cityside’s newsrooms as well as its regular writers and columnists. The goal: to bring you an overview of the region’s food and restaurant scene from our diverse group of contributors. Please keep checking back every day until the end of the for answers to 2021’s set of dining questions — and if you’d like, add your own answers in the comments at the bottom of this article.

Today, our respondents were asked: What was your best East Bay restaurant experience of 2021, either takeout or dine-in? 

A meal at Oakland’s Soul Slice was one of Nosh contrib Brandy Collins’s most memorable of 2021. Credit: Soul Slice

Sitting at the bar of Soul Slice hearing soul music, eating peach cobbler with a glass of chardonnay while talking to the owner Karter. A vibe. Brandy Collins, Berkeleyside, Nosh and The Oaklandside contributor

In 2021 I was relieved to be able to venture out of my home and start reporting in the community again. I’m grateful to the East Bay spots where I could grab filling meals to-go while on the job: a substantial lox bagel from the delightfully homey Romo’s Cafe in East Oakland during morning assignments, mouthwatering lunches from Tacos Panzon in West Oakland, and a great Indian dinner from Veg n Chaat the one time I journeyed to Fremont for a story. — Natalie Orenstein, Reporter: Housing and Homelessness, The Oaklandside

The first time we sat outside at Belotti was such a joy! Also, the BBQ takeout from Black Star Pirate was amazing! Risa Nye, Nosh contributor and memoirist 

I was unexpectedly delighted by a recent meal at Bartavelle. I ordered the humble-sounding “Bowl of Beans” because I wanted something warm (not because I love beans), and was blown away by the complexity of flavors. The gigante beans were delicious and melted in my mouth, and there was an unexpected but pleasant spiciness to the entire bowl. I am thinking chili oil was involved, along with other vegetables and spices. I ordered a slice of the Acme bread with garlic butter on the side, and purred as I sat outside and immediately devoured the little feast. Sometimes the simplest of meals can bring the greatest of pleasures. — Daphne White, Berkeleyside and Nosh contributor

This birthday dessert at Juanita and Maude was one of Nosh writer Moriah VanVleet’s best dining experiences this year. Credit: Moriah VanVleet

My birthday dinner on the beautiful back patio of Juanita and Maude in July.  From apéritif to scrumptious birthday dessert, the service and the array of creative, thoughtfully crafted flavors were a true gift. — Moriah VanVleet, Nosh contributor and founder of butter, sugar, flowers

The first restaurant my husband, son, and I visited after COVID restrictions eased up and we were able to dine out again was À Côté. We sat on their back terrace and had a lovely meal. Good food, good service, and such a relief to eat somewhere else besides our dining room! Elise Proulx, Nosh contributor and Berkeley-based freelance writer

The delicious black curry at Dela Curo in Oakland gave me deep comfort at a time when I really needed it: it’s earthy, a little spicy, and a little sweet — perfection. — Shirley Huey, Nosh contributor

Over the summer, I think it was one of the first if not the first time we’d gone out to a restaurant as a family since the pandemic started. We got an outdoor table at Brotzeit Lokal after work on a Friday. It just felt so damn good to be out in public somewhere, surrounded by other people. The weather was warm, the beers were cold and delicious, and the view of the marina from there is just really beautiful. The food is good too. I think I had the fish and chips. It was smiles all around. Jacob Simas, Managing Editor, The Oaklandside

My best restaurant experience was at Taqueria El Paisa. Ricky Rodas, Reporter: Immigrant Small Business, The Oaklandside

I was pleasantly surprised by Low Bar. I haven’t ventured out much to do indoor dining other than a handful of times pre-new variant and places where they check for the vaccine card. Low Bar’s ambiance is fantastic and allows you to chat with friends. The playlist is great, especially if you recognize the artists that they play. And the drinks are DELICIOUS! I’m ready for another “Honey Hi.” Also, shoutout to one of the waitresses who showed me the trick to use club soda to remove a stain. Azucena Rasilla, Reporter: Arts & Community, The Oaklandside

Sitting on the bus stop bench outside Acme Bread and devouring an overstuffed peach puff, its goo and ooze dribbling through my fingers and onto the pavement. — Zac Farber, Managing Editor, Berkeleyside

Together with Daytrip, we also got to try the new Tribune. It might have been our first post-vaccine return to a restaurant, and the overall excellence and attention to detail in both the food and service made us remember what we had missed so much about eating in restaurants. For take-out, we are big fans of Lion Dance Cafe, and have returned there several times (now that it’s easier to secure food) since I initially wrote about it in the fall of 2020. Though some of the tastes are familiar, visually, Lulu‘s brunch platter for two is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before — just gorgeous! Alix Wall, Nosh contributor and Oakland-based freelance writer

When older in-laws visit from Florida and wish to treat the family to a sit-down, indoor meal at a restaurant, you go. I was so grateful for our experience at Benchmark in Kensington. The interior was warm and comfortable for the Floridians, but it felt well-ventilated and safe. Also, the polenta! A family-friendly treat. Joanna Della Penna, Nosh openings/closings columnist

The princess pancakes at Daughter’s Diner capped off Nosh editor Eve Batey’s post-vacccination bar/restaurant crawl. (She did not get them with bacon.) Credit: Daughter’s Diner

In those heady days of June, when so many folks were finally, fully vaccinated, I had a night I can’t even believe now, when a friend and I went to all the places we’d been hoping to visit once indoor dining resumed. Artichokes and cocktails at Friends and Family, lobster thermidor and more cocktails at Sobre Mesa, a selection of desserts (and more cocktails) at Veridian, then nightcaps at Low Bar. The next morning, it was strong coffee and princess pancakes at Daughter’s Diner…and then I went back to bed for the rest of the day. Do I recommend a college-level bar-and-restaurant crawl after over a year of sheltering in place? If you’d asked me while in the throes of my hangover/rich food digestion, my answer would be “no.” Am I glad I did it, now that I’m suspending my indoor dining practice for the third time since the pandemic began? Yes, I am incredibly glad I did. Eve Batey, East Bay Nosh Editor

I, like many, love Jo’s. The food is delicious, it’s walking distance from my place, and I love the outdoor space. It’s a win-win-win. Jill Kunishima, Vice President of Development, Cityside

I had a pretty memorable night at Low Bar! Great drinks and very un-boring dishes. Flora Tsapovsky, Nosh contributor and culture write

Trisha Anderson

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