OAKlAND TRIBUNE: January 26, 2011
With a celebratory clink of the glass, Oakland winds down its second annual Oakland Restaurant Week on Sunday. The culinary event features 10 days of deals at 37 local restaurants as part of a statewide campaign.
From San Diego to San Francisco, restaurant weeks have been boosting local economies by enticing diners to eat out in traditionally slow months. But few cities have had the kind of gastronomic growth spurt that Oakland has seen.
In the last year alone, at least 30 new restaurants have opened in Oakland, thanks in part to San Francisco restaurateurs looking for an emerging market. They see Oakland as affordable yet with patrons who have discerning palates.
The purpose of Oakland Restaurant Week is to introduce diners to new establishments at an attractive price point. From Uptown to Old Oakland and Rockridge to Montclair, restaurants are offering prix fixe menus of $20, $30 and $40 through Sunday.
One of the city’s “loftier” venues is Paragon, high above Oakland in the venerable Claremont Hotel. Executive Chef Josh Thomsen shows his creative flair during restaurant week with a $30 three-course meal that starts with a spectacular seasonal salad and ends with a tangy/sweet pink lady apple cobbler and cranberry crisp topped with French vanilla ice cream. Served between the two courses is a sassy rib platter that rivals anything you’ll find in Kansas City or St. Louis — meaty barbecued beef ribs served over a bed of baked beansand buttermilk onion rings.
In historic Old Oakland, B Restaurant and bar owner Kevin Best is serving Duroc pork chops, brined for 12 hours and finished in B’s brick oven. His three-course prix fixe dinner, including seasonal soup or salad and a pecan tart, is $30. He estimates he’ll see a 20 percent spike in business during restaurant week, not to mention all the positive publicity.
“I think it helps legitimize Oakland as a dining destination,” said Best. “Obviously we don’t have to have a group like the visitor’s bureau telling everyone how great the restaurants are, but this [event] just reminds them.”
Lindsay Wright, the marketing and communications manager for Visit Oakland, said early feedback from the participating restaurants is good. “They’ve been slammed,” she said, adding that Visit Oakland sends out a survey at the end of the 10-day event to see how well they’ve done. “Last year, 90 percent of the participating restaurants said their business increased. More than half of the restaurants saw a 10 to 25 percent spike in sales.”
Wright said Visit Oakland is still building momentum to get restaurants to participate, and she’s glad that so many neighborhoods are involved. “It’s kind of nice, because in Oakland there isn’t any one specific restaurant neighborhood.” The full list of participants can be found at http://visitoakland.org/restaurantweek2012.