Jack London Square Nibbles and Sips


I recently did a write up of the Oakland Urban Wine Trail for Bayarea.com. To be honest, I didn’t expect too much going into my initial exploration of the area, but ended up being quite pleasantly surprised. A good friend pointed out, ‘Why should you be surprised? Aren’t they sourcing grapes from all the good wine areas nearby?’ Excellent point. He was absolutely right.
I also found a lot of passion from the winemakers at these tasting rooms. Most are small family operations, with several husband-wife teams in the mix. Without making any appointments, I got to chat with owners/winemakers at Jeff Cohn, Stage Left, Brooklyn West, and Urban Legend. Maybe I was lucky, but getting that level of access at four of ten stops seems like really good odds if you’re a wine lover at any level who is excited to learn. I highly recommend stopping into a couple if you happen to be in the area. (I’ve also put recs for some of my favorites on the Zipkick App.)

It occurs to me, though, that wine tasting always requires food. Whether before, during, or after, you’re always going to need a little something. The majority of the wine trail radiates around Jack London Square. This is a convenient hub, since there are several large parking structures/lots. If you’re in SF, you can also easily take the ferry right in and not have to bother with parking. There’s also quite a bit to eat.

This district was formerly an industrial area, but it’s undergone a major facelift in recent years and now has a beautiful waterfront commercial area with restaurants and shops, warehouses converted to all kinds of uses (including wineries and breweries), as well as residential lofts and new builds. For the literary geeks, it also happens to be where Jack London spent a good part of his childhood, hence the name.

They have a farmer’s market on Sundays and night markets and other events during the spring and summer, often with food trucks and vendors–which very well might be all you need. I’ve got a couple of recs for you though, in case you’re looking for something more substantial.  This is by no means an exhaustive list, just a couple of spots I’ve enjoyed thus far. I’m sure there will be more to come in the future.

Forge

 
Let’s be honest, usually after a day of tasting, I’m often not all that in the mood for anything too fancy. Pizza is the just right thing.

I’ve been here a few times now and their Neapolitan-style pizza has not disappointed. We usually go with something meaty like a classic Mushroom and Sausage or the Fat Boy with bacon, sausage, pickled peppers. 


I often really like their vegetarian pies as well though. The Autumn Squash with roasted squash, caramelized onion puree, goat cheese, basil, and pomegranate reduction was a recent favorite.


You also shouldn’t miss the Crispy Cheese Curds with marinara sauce. I don’t think I need to to convince you further.




The salads and veggies are usually pretty solid too, in case you need something green to accompany your carbs.

 


The space is pretty huge, making this a great spot to go with a group. Inside it’s casual, with a vibe that manages to feel warm despite the size and bustle of the place. On a nice, the large patio outside is a great place to hang out and a sip a glass or drink beers with friends–if you’re not planning on drinking more on the wine trail that is.

Bocanova



I have to admit that I was skeptical when I first walked into Bocanova. It’s quite lovely, but it’s a huge space and polished in that was that seems meant to attract tourists, which always makes me a little skeptical. This is the case for pretty much all of the restaurants that are right in Jack London Square. My fears were assuaged soon after entering by the bartender who attentively took care of our group, carefully making each of our cocktails. I loved my pisco sour.


The size of the place does make it great for a big group, so this is a good spot to keep in mind for celebrations. Being a sizable group ourselves, we were able to share and taste quite a few plates. Among the appetizers standouts included the Crispy Polenta with spring onions, wild mushrooms, and chipotle butter and the fried Pig Tail with molasses BBQ sauce. The portion on that pig tail was generous enough to make it a substantial main dish as well. You also can’t go wrong with the Seasoned Papas Fritas with herbs and aioli.



As for the main dishes, we really enjoyed the Whole Chicken with wasaka sauce. The Peruvian Lamb Adobo with spices, marisol chiles, dark beer, and sweet was particularly was good.



Don’t miss out on Warm Chocolate Croissant Bread Pudding with Mexican chocolate ice cream for dessert. And of course, the churros were also delicious.



The concept behind this place is kind of interesting. Chef Rick Hackett noticed how good the food his kitchen staff (which, of course, was predominantly Latino) was making for family meal was, started researching the food of Latin America, and idea for Bocanova was born.

Being Latina myself, I love the food of Latin America and am always glad to see it getting more exposure.

Lungomare


 
Maybe you’re in the mood for something Italian. We had a solid experience at Lungomare. It’s another big sprawling space and it’s a touch formal in an a way that feels little old school.  That said, again, that size makes it great for a group. This would be a good spot for a big family dinner–particularly one where you have picky eaters or diverging palates. Classic Italian is always good for those situations.

Two standout dishes were the Grilled Octopus with Italian butter beans, tessa, Calabrian chili, garlic, and oven dried tomatoes and the Squid Ink Chitarra with cuttlefish, littleneck clams, chili, garlic, white wine, and parsley.




A Fennel Sausage Pizza with tomato sauce, potatoes, Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, and fresh mozzarella, was also solid, if nothing to write home about.


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