Dine About Oakland: Oasis Food MarketNovember 30, 2009
Tucked in amidst the medical buildings on Pill Hill in the KoreaTown-Northgate District, Oasis Food Market opened earlier this fall as a combination restaurant/grocery store. I’d had my eye on it for months since I frequently catch the 1R bus across the street and had been admiring the beautiful tilework they were restoring on their building—but little did I know what was in store for me once they finally opened!
Oasis is divided into two halves: restaurant on one side, grocery on the other. It’s worth noting that the grocery is remarkably complete—they carry a nice selection of produce, all sorts of Middle Eastern and British specialties (canned, boxed, prepared, and frozen), and organic coffee beans. There’s even a halal meat counter hidden way in the back. This is important since they’re open until 10 pm (and even later during Ramadan, when many Muslims fast during the day), providing a nice late-night alternative to Whole Foods and the 24-hour Safeway. There’s also an impressive selection of Middle Eastern spices.
But what you really want to head to Oasis for is the Middle Eastern/Mediterranean restaurant that occupies the other half of the (huge!) storefront. First, there’s the deli counter, lined above and below with fresh Middle Eastern breads. You can get all sorts of spreads, salads, and other goodness here (including, of course, hummus and baba ghanoush—very reasonably priced!) The last time we visited, they had started to label the dishes, which is good since one of the major challenges is figuring out what each dish is. But all of them are tasty, and there’s a huge selection of fetas and other cheeses to go alongside. The house-made pita bread is excellent, as are the stuffed breads. The Afghan bread also looks like it has a lot of potential, though I have yet to try it.
Then there are the sandwiches. From the street, you can see the lamb and chicken shawarma roasting on spits, and both are good, though I thought the lamb was a notch above. We’ve tried them both as wraps (my pick) and as a plate with rice and salad. The falafel offers a good option for vegetarians (or for anybody who appreciates a good falafel sandwich!) The lines can sometimes be long—the neighborhood has definitely discovered this spot!—but it’s well worth the wait. There are still a few holes to fill—the coffee bar (or what looks like it will be the coffee bar?) isn’t quite set up yet, and the staff are still getting into the swing of things as they get through opening kinks like what to do when the restaurant’s credit card machine goes down and takes the grocery store’s computer system with it. But all of that will sort itself out in time, and the staff are good-natured and patient. (They’re also very willing to help; on one visit, the owner wanted to know what else he could stock for someone, even with the impressive array they already have!) It’s a great addition to the neighborhood, and will definitely have us heading over to that stretch of Telegraph a lot more often.