It seems as though new restaurants are popping up all over the neighborhoods in Oakland. Whether it is Downtown, Piedmont Avenue, Uptown, Jack London Square, Temescal, Rockridge or Grand Lake, the food scene is exploding in Oakland. Perhaps it is fueled by reasonable rents, city officials or changing demographics, there are certainly some wonderful hot spots to visit.
On my list for quite sometime is Wood Tavern on College Avenue in Oakland. It came to life in 2007 by its proprietors Rich and Rebekah Wood. It is a contemporary yet rustic neighborhood haunt which focuses on American comfort food with flair and whole bunch of style. The menu is focused and inspired by California culture and uses local and sustainable ingredients. Maximilian DiMare is the executive chef and loves rustic hearty fare. He worked at Scala’s in San Francisco where he met the proprietors and opened Paragon in San Francisco.
The moment you enter Wood Tavern, you almost feel like you are someone’s home. The rich wood of the floors, tables and bar are warm and welcoming. The green walls compliment the wood and bring it all together. It is not a large place, so reservations are highly recommended. I went for lunch on a Saturday with my friend Helen, who discovered this hidden gem with her husband. They are frequent guests and I felt right at home, since she introduced me to several folks who work there. In fact for her husbands birthday in January, a couple of members of the staff did the bartending and catering for the party.
As expected the place was super busy, however we were lucky to capture two seats at the “chefs table" in front of the exhibition kitchen. It was a four seat mini bar area and we could see the entire action taking place. In my mind, we had the best seat in the house. We both started off with an adult libation, since it was a Saturday and a perfect way to wind down from the long work week. I had a glass of Santa Caterina Vermentino, from the Ligurian DOC of Colli di Luni. Aromas of flowers, rosemary, straw, grapefruit and apple introduce the flavors to follow on the palate. Bone-dry, with a chalky mouth feel, this wine shows a perfect balance between lively herbaceous fruit and a hint of minerality.
Helen enjoyed a Pimm’s Cocktail with Pimm’s No. 1 Cup, muddled cucumber, ginger ale, fresh lime juice in a tall glass. It was really refreshing and perfect for the sunny day that we visited Wood Tavern. The bar portion was hopping that day and each patron was enjoying a wonderful libation. We decided to share a few different items, so we could taste more of the wonderful things on the menu. We started with Burrata & Warm Roasted Wild Mushrooms. It came on a wood cutting board of sorts with a watercress salad, the creamy burrata with toasted crushed hazelnuts on top and a quenelle of pureed mushrooms with a hint of truffle oil. To enjoy these delicacies, toasted walnut bread points were served to spread the burrata and accent with the mushroom quenelle.
Next we had the Shaved Brussels Sprouts sautéed in brown butter, accented with lemon and garnished with toasted pecans and a touch pecorino cheese. Even if you don’t like Brussels sprouts, these may just convert you. Since we sat at the chef’s bar, we experience the chef firing these up one pan at a time. Pure deliciousness!
What is a Saturday decadent lunch without having dessert? Of course we could not pass up the opportunity to continue the feasting. We decided on the House Made Ice Creams. We enjoyed four different flavors – Salted Caramel, Cole Coffee, Peanut Butter-Chocolate Fudge and Vanilla. All of the flavors were amazing but the Salted Caramel took first place.
Overall I would give Wood Tavern an A+ for ambiance, service, food and wine. If you are planning a trip to Oakland put this on your agenda – you will not be disappointed.
6317 College Avenue
Oakland, CA 94618