Dine About Oakland: ArizmendiApril 7, 2009
I’m lucky to live in a neighborhood that not only has an increasing number of nice spots to get dinner or a drink, but also has some of the best value spots of any place I’ve lived. I realized recently that I’ve never written any of them up, though, which is terrible because we actually eat many more meals there than at the schmancy places I’ve posted about! So in homage to the recession, I’m going to devote a few posts to some of the wonderful under-ten-dollar spots we have in Oakland.
First up: Arizmendi. This little bakery and pizza joint on Lakeshore near Grand is actually one of three locations that were all modeled after the Cheeseboard Collective in Berkeley, which opened in 1967. (The other two are in Emeryville and San Francisco.) The Cheeseboard philosophy is that employees and owners should have equal power and equal wages, so each employee is a shareholder and member of the board of directors. The Arizmendi locations, which are each independently owned but which all use variations of the Cheeseboard recipes, all serve cookies, pastries, breads, soups, and pizza. (On a side note, you can also buy the Cheeseboard cookbook, which includes many of the recipes; it’s one of the few “restaurant cookbooks” I have where the recipes do really turn out just like the real deal! But don’t let that stop you from visiting the store, either, since there’s nothing quite like sitting on Lakeshore with pastry and coffee on a Saturday—or, since their new hours went into effect, Sunday!—morning.)
One of my favorite things to do is to walk along the lake on a Saturday morning to hit up the farmer’s market and then Arizmendi for some coffee and pastries—or better yet, a pizza lunch! Here’s the deal: there’s one kind of pizza each day. Period. It’s always vegetarian, and it’s always on a thin crust. Ingredients are fresh, local, and often organic. You can buy it by the slice (which often includes a sliver), as a half pie, as a whole pie, or half-baked if you want to finish it off in your own oven. Ingredients are often creative, so if you see things like lemons or walnuts or anise on the list, just trust the chefs, because it’s always goooood.
Arizmendi also sells excellent breads and a small assortment of cheeses. The breads are on a rotating schedule, so you either need to be willing to go with the flow or remember to check the schedule in advance. For breakfast, there are scones, muffins, sweet breads (including “Chocolate Things!”), and occasionally sticky buns and other special treats. Coffee is fair trade and cheap, or you can head across the street to Peet’s if you’re hankering for a fancy latte. Cookies come in a wide variety (my favorite is the chocolate chip pecan, especially on days when it’s super crispy) and are sold by the pound. (Bread used to be sold this way too, but lately seems to be priced by the loaf; it’s still quite reasonably priced, though.)
For eat-in customers, there’s a small indoor seating area and an even smaller (and dog-friendly) sitting area outside that’s great for Lakeshore people watching, but most of the business is takeout. The best thing about Arizmendi? Pizza for two with drinks and some cookies for dessert is under ten dollars! Breakfast runs even cheaper—often under five dollars for two. The staff are also wonderful, which makes waiting in the long weekend lines bearable. Take a walk around the lake and treat yourself afterwards….you won’t regret it!