By Michael Davidson
It starts as a crawl and ends as a waddle.
On a recent week night, Dishcrawl, a food tour in which up to 40 participants dine at four restaurants that define a city in one night, landed in Alameda for the first time.
The event, which costs $45, started with everyone sitting at a handful of tables at Angela’s Bistro sharing their stories of how they ended up on the tour and discussing their choice of “last dish before you die” which they had been asked to note on their nametags.
Many guests were local Alamedians who were curious about this new event, and keen to find out about some of the recently opened restaurants in town. Much of the initial conversation centered on concerns about the temporary closure of the local Starbucks.
Angela’s Bistro has a nice atmosphere, although the dishes came out somewhat sporadically due to the slow crawling in of guests at various times. The first meal was a trio of a house salad, meatball sliders, and a lobster arancini. The somewhat disorganized beginning to the evening was reflected in the varying portions and look of each plate on offer. Alcohol was offered separately at each location (usually for $5) and started flowing immediately, helping to bubble up more conversation throughout the group.
Guided by our ambassador for the evening, Fer Fernandez, we “crawled” to our second location, PS Eatery, which was a short walk away. The restaurant opened in November and has a great atmosphere. Owner David Le shared the story behind the place with us all before announcing the dishes coming out.
The food was a mix of traditional American cuisine alongside Asian dishes. We shared some excellent mac and cheese, fried chicken wings with buffalo sauce that had a nice kick, and, lastly, some garlic noodles and drunken beef.
It was at this point, as I ordered a flight of beers with my new writer friend, that I realized that going through four restaurants and eating this amount of food was most going to be challenging. Already by the second restaurant, the group seemed like family and was sharing conversations at their tables and between other tables to check in with friends they had made from the first spot. By the end of the night I think I had spoken with at least three-quarters of the people attending and made some great new friends in the area.
Spot number three was Sidestreet Pho which opened in February. Here owners Hanh Nguyen and Minh Nguyen also told us the story behind the restaurant. The restaurant’s key design items are oversized photographs of traditional street vendors whose food the restaurant is emulating. The dishes were definitely the most beautiful and probably the tastiest of the evening, and received rave reviews from many of crawlers.
We ate seafood salad with grilled calamari and shrimp, sugarcane shrimp, and wok-fried clear noodles with meat and seafood.
Last stop was going to be dessert but, even as a dessert fanatic, I was concerned. How I was going to fit more food in my stomach, and then how I was going to bike home with said food?
Café Q is next door to Sidestreet Pho, which is not a coincidence as it is partly owned by the same people. (The partners are Jesse Branstetter, Minh Nguyen and Thu Huong Nguyen.) Café Q’s chef proceeded to tell us about the orange panna cotta, caramelized banana cake, and caramel bacon bread pudding we would be feasting on. He lost control of the crowd at bacon. Not only did the dishes he described sound impressive, so did the list of restaurants he had worked at. Everyone was sold that they would be ending on a good note.
This was confirmed the moment I bit into bread pudding. However I could only do a couple bites before having to tap out. I wanted to make sure I could maintain my rank as one of the Dish-crawlers and not become a Dish-coma or a Dish-roller.
Edible tours to try in the East Bay
- Dishcrawl: A food tour in which up to 40 participants dine in one night at four restaurants that define a city
- Edible Excursions: Runs tours of Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto and Oakland’s Temescal district in the East Bay, and several tours in San Francisco
- Savor Oakland Food Tours: Organizes the Jack London Square Food Tour which includes the historic Warehouse District with its restaurants, hidden foodie gems and urban wineries
- Localite Pork Tour: A 10-block walking tour of Old Oakland and Chinatown with more than six different pork-related stops and an introduction to Old Oakland’s history
- Wineries of Berkeley: Berkeley Path Wanderers hosts this tour periodically. Check its calendar of walking tours for details.
Dishcrawl’s next event is in Temescal in on Tuesday, May 7, and tickets can be bought online.
Michael Davidson is a local scientist by day and GrilledCheezGuy caterer by night. He also hosts his own pop-up events called Behind the Cart and produces another series called Eat My Heart Out. He lives in Oakland.