Last week, I signed up to go on a Dishcrawl with Mr. K, where a group of 40 food enthusiasts band together to dine en masse at four different restaurants that are within walking distance of each other during the course of a single evening. We had a great time touring along the Park Street district in Alameda, which is a bustling neighborhood with blocks of interesting looking storefronts, cafes and many many restaurants. You pay ($45) in advance, knowing only that you will dine at four restaurants in a certain area. Depending on your ambassador, you may receive hints beforehand about restaurants you will visit and on the day of the event they send out instructions of the first restaurant to meet at.
This is J.P aka Fer of Fer’s Bite, our fearless leader/dishcrawl ambassador who determined our eating plan for the evening. He was full of enthusiasm, a pleasure to hang out with, and he somehow managed to keep our unwieldy group of 40 in line with the evening’s schedule.
We began at Angela’s Bistro and Bar, which was posh and elegant and has a nice bar area where we could congregate, sign in and get our nametags. Yes, when there are 40 people, it is a good idea to have name tags. We were instructed to also note what dish we would want as our last meal on earth. Me – sushi, Mr. K – oysters. It was a good ice breaker to compare dishes while introducing ourselves to the other crawlers.
We sat at several tables and there were printed out menus for each restaurant, which was a nice touch and that makes it easier to remember what we ate where. Each restaurant serves some “small” plates to introduce to items of note from their menus. We were served a salad with green goddess dressing, a Meatball Slider piled with sauce and melted cheese on a ciabatta roll and fried Arancini made from Lobster risotto. We introduced ourselves to our tablemates who were mostly local except for one couple who previously were local, but had recently moved out of the area.
The next stop was a cozy restaurant called PS Eatery (1363 Park St., Alameda, 94501 | 510.522.5007). They just happen to have a 50% Groupon now, click here for the deets. PS stands for Park Street Eatery which specializes in creative comfort food and we found it to be a fine spot to hang out at. We squeezed in at a table and commenced to chat and chew with our neighbors…
The Fried Chicken Wings were tossed in a liberal dose of spicy buffalo sauce and set out family style to share. While we were eating, J.P introduced the Chef/Owner David Le, who welcomed us and talked for a time, but I was too distracted by the food, drinks and meeting our neighbors…
The Mac and Cheese was just how I like it, although my next door neighbor did not because he had a preference for the kind made from the box. The crunchy baked top was fabulous, the noodles were tender but not overcooked and the ratio of creamy to cheesy to crunchy was madly addictive. It was hard to remember to pace yourself…
Shaking Beef and Garlic Noodles, the beef was a bit overdone (not juicy and succulent like you get at Slanted Door), and the noodles needed more butter to compare with the Anh Family secret recipe at Thanh Long, but both were tasty. Mr. K and I both enjoyed a flight of 3 beers for $5 each.
We moseyed on down a few blocks and over to Sidestreet Pho (2304 Encinal Avenue, Alameda, CA 94501 | 510.808.5298) a cozy Vietnamese restaurant that ended up being my favorite stop of the evening. The owners Hanh and Minh (a brother sister duo) gave us a very warm welcome and talked about the family involvement in opening their restaurant and serving traditional Street Food, gesturing to the photos arrayed on the walls depicting daily life in Vietnam.
One of the fun things about going on a Dishcrawl is that you sit with different people at each restaurant. Here, I was delighted to share a table with Arnold whose blog Inuyaki, I’ve followed from way way back…. Even though we were slowing down, I loved the dishes we were served, a piquantly seasoned seafood salad with grilled calamari and shrimp served over crunchy cabbage and cilantro, succulent sugarcane shrimp and wok-fried clear noodles topped with barbecued pork and seafood. One of our tablemates introduced me to the joys of chewing on sugarcane, which I had never tried before! Mr. K and I definitely plan to come back here to try the pho, and I noticed they have a gorgeous looking shaved ice on their menu too.
Our final stop was next door at Cafe Q, (2302 Encinal Ave Alameda, CA 94502 | 510.521.8848) a casual restaurant with an outside patio area in front, the cozy dining room continues on through to the rear where we met to enoy a trio of desserts.
J.P. introduced us to Executive Chef Jesse Branstetter who welcomed us and talked a little about his menu, while we enjoyed the desserts, which were magnificent by the way… He was one of the founding partners at one of my favorite Oakland restaurants Chop Bar, (with stints at Farallon and Rubicon) and is working in partnership the Huynhs from next door to realize their vision of an excellent neighborhood restaurant.
At the table we shared two desserts: Caramelized banana cake, and orange panna cotta. I was completely smitten with the caramelized banana! The thin slices of fresh banana had a thick crust of crunchy caramelized sugar that was so refreshing and just an incredibly good taste sensation that had me craving for more…
And everyone received their own Bacon Caramel Bread Pudding, which was topped with a good mound of smoky bacon pieces in a spicy sweet savory sauce. The bread pudding was densely tender, rich and buttery.
After all this, we all were given a bag of Chunky brand Candied Bacon Caramel Corn, which was dang good. A little bit spicy, each bite was infused with salty bacony, buttery caramel flavors, with the light crispy coating like Screaming Yellow Zonkers. Hmmm, the description on the website says they use only the finest rare mushroom kernels so you get more caramel in every bite. I suppose that accounts for the unique flavor?
It was a very fun and festive time, we ate more than we should have, met some new friends and were introduced to some new restaurants that we plan to go back to check out. A successful evening all around!