Tag Archives: Oakland restaurant

Take Five with Chef Gloria Dominguez About Closing Her Oakland Restaurant And New Beginnings

Chef Gloria Dominguez, who nutured Tamarindo Antojeria Mexicana for 14 years. (Photo by Eva Kolenko)
Chef Gloria Dominguez, who nutured Tamarindo Antojeria Mexicana for 14 years. (Photo by Eva Kolenko)

Chef Gloria Dominguez was nearly set to sign a lease for a restaurant space in Tucson, AZ in 2005 when her architect son Alfonso called to stop her. He had found the perfect place in Old Oakland, a Victorian with soaring ceilings and immense possibility. No matter if the neighborhood was rather a ghost town back then with empty storefronts all around, Gloria and Alfonso believed in it.

They put their heart and soul into creating Tamarindo Antojeria Mexicana. They transformed the space into a vibrant oasis with a pressed tin ceiling, vivid canvasses, and artsy white-washed wood chairs that Alfonso made himself. He created what’s thought to be the first Mezcal-focused bar in the area, serving up inventive cocktails to be enjoyed as old black and white Mexican movies projected on one of the walls of the lounge. Gloria attracted crowds, including the coaches and players of the Golden State Warriors, for her authentic chiles en nogada and chicken mole.

But now after 14 years, they plan to close the restaurant, following notice from their landlord that their rent was not only going to increase, but that they were limited to a two-year lease.

The restaurant’s last dinner service will be Nov. 30. After that, the restaurant will be available for private bookings through the end of December. The bar will be open during limited hours, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays until the end of the year. And a special mezcal and tequila tasting on Dec. 8. Tickets are $55 each.

I had a chance to get to know Gloria when I profiled her in my cookbook, “East Bay Cooks: Signature Recipes from the Best Restaurants, Bars, and Bakeries” (Figure 1). Last week, I had a chance to talk to her about the restaurant’s impending closure and what the future holds.

Q: How hard of a decision was this to make?             

A: Very, very difficult. Every day, I couldn’t sleep. It really hurt my son, too. There are so many beautiful memories here – all the graduations, proposals, bridal showers and weddings that were celebrated. People have been coming by with tears in their eyes and choking up.

Sometimes I think that things happen for a reason, though. I think better things will come along. Some investors who are doing projects in San Francisco and Walnut Creek have already approached us. We haven’t made any decisions. We’ll just see how it goes. We don’t want to rush into things.

Q: You still have your other restaurant in Antioch?

A: Yes, Taqueria Salsa, which we opened in 1988, which is much more casual. When we first opened, it was going to be everything with masa – like gorditas and sopes. But then we started selling burritos for the students and the Kaiser employees. Everyone always wants burritos. They are the Mexican burger. (laughs)

Q: When Tamarindo closes, what will you do with your time?

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A Special Time at Oakland’s Tamarindo Antojeria Mexicana with “East Bay Cooks”

Get a taste of fresh, zingy and vibrant shrimp aguachile plus other delicious noshes at a special event at Tamarindo Antojeria Mexicana. (Photo by Eva Kolenko)
Get a taste of fresh, zingy and vibrant shrimp aguachile plus other delicious noshes at a special event at Tamarindo Antojeria Mexicana. (Photo by Eva Kolenko in “East Bay Cooks.”)

Join yours truly on Saturday, Sept. 28 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., at Oakland’s vibrant Tamarindo Antojeria Mexicana, when Chef-Owner Gloria Dominguez and I will be signing copies of my new cookbook, “East Bay Cooks: Signature Recipes from the Best Restaurants, Bars, and Bakeries” (Figure 1).

The cookbook spotlights more than 40 top restaurants and bakeries in the Bay Area’s most populous and diverse region, including Tamarindo Antojeria Mexicana.

That evening, if you purchase a copy of the book at the restaurant ($32.99), you’ll receive a ticket for special complimentary appetizers, including a taste of shrimp aquachile, one of the restaurant’s signature recipes in the book. You’ll also enjoy a free surprise dessert.

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Fried Chicken Debuts At Duende

Fried chicken with corn on the cobb -- Basque-Japanese-style at Duende.

Fried chicken with corn on the cobb — Basque-Japanese-style at Duende.

 

When you hear that Duende in Oakland just put fried chicken on the menu, you might scratch your head for a moment, thinking how is that a Spanish dish?

Turns out it is.

In the land of paella, gazpacho and croquettes, fried chicken definitely has its place. That’s what I learned last week, when I was invited as a guest of the restaurant with other media to try the new offering.

As Chef-Owner Paul Canales explains, his father, who is of Basque heritage, would often fry chicken in olive oil in the morning, then let it sit out to cool to room temperature before the family ate it, garnished with a squeeze of lemon, for an early dinner, hours later.

Chef-Owner Paul Canales in the kitchen.

Chef-Owner Paul Canales in the kitchen.

Canales was inspired to put his version of fried chicken on the menu when an employee brought in some take-out Japanese karaage for staff meal. Canales considers the Japanese-style fried chicken the gold standard for fried chicken because of its light yet shatteringly crisp exterior.

After experimenting, he came up with a rendition that marries Japanese and Spanish sensibilities in one superlative crunchy bite.

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NIDO Is Pretty Neato

You can't miss finding this place.

You can’t miss finding this place.

 

Its name means “nest” in Spanish, and NIDO is very much a comforting place in every sense.

This Mexican restaurant was opened in Oakland in 2012 by husband and wife, Cory and Silvia McCollow.

It’s colorful and energetic, with a homespun air, as if a bunch of friends got together in a modern-day barn-raising to build a restaurant. Candles in mismatched glass containers give off a warm glow inside, along with a mini disco ball at the front that creates a party-like verve. The bar is built from repurposed wood pallets, giving it a “Gilligan’s Island” can-do look.

On Sunday nights, the restaurant offers a more truncated menu, dubbed “Sunday Night Tacos & Margaritas.” It’s super popular, too, as I found out, when I went a week ago, paying my own tab at the end. Even before the doors opened at 5 p.m., there were already more than half a dozen people lined up to get in.

Chips, salsa and guacamole.

Chips, salsa and guacamole.

A cocktail made with black vermouth.

A cocktail made with black vermouth.

The short and sweet menu encompasses two starters, two large plates, two taco choices, and chips with salsa and guacamole.

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Innovative Vegan Fare at Millennium

Tempeh and spaetzel at Millennium that taste like beef stroganoff.

Tempeh and spaetzel at Millennium that taste like beef stroganoff.

 

Recently, I dined with a companion at a vegan restaurant.

No, it was not with my husband, aka Meat Boy.

But even he enjoyed the leftovers I brought home afterward.

That tells you just how satisfying the cuisine is at Millennium in Oakland.

In fact, the majority of diners there are not strictly vegan. But they are lured by the creativity of Chef Eric Tucker’s dishes.

Millennium first opened in 1994 in San Francisco before moving to the Rockridge neighborhood across the Bay in 2015.

Even on a Monday night, typically a slow time for most restaurants, the dining room was packed.

Fried oyster mushrooms.

Fried oyster mushrooms.

My friend Sheila (also not a vegan) and I started with a big pile of Coriander and Arborio Crusted Oyster Mushrooms ($13.95). The Italian risotto rice used in the coating gives the mushrooms a heavier and toastier tasting crust. Pick one up and dip into the sweet-spicy habanero jam. It’s perfect finger-food.

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