The story: Owners Alice Woo and Alan Chun worked at fusion-focused restaurants like Nobu and Asia de Cuba. But when they moved to Oakland, they couldn’t find restaurants serving similar fare so they decided to open their own, a tiny fast-casual corner spot on San Pablo Avenue on the same block as the popular Hopscotch.
Why I went: I work in the area so was excited to learn there was another option for lunch. It’s a bit of a walk on the edge of Uptown (a block west of the Fox Theater).
The vibe: Casual and simple, the clean tiled wall behind the counter gives it a Pottery Barn-look than a place serving Asian-influenced street tacos and burritos.
The menu: Items are listed on a big chalkboard on the wall, which can seem overwhelming when you first arrive, trying to decide while in line. The first column list the gourmet options that can be turned into tacos or burritos. Then there are a few burger and salad options (not necessarily fusion) and another column of specialty French fries and a few desserts like ice cream sandwiches.
The booze: No alcohol but serves up fountain sodas and two specialty drinks: strawberry lemonade and mango iced tea. Both sound enticing but are on the sweet side IMHO.
My favorite dish: Several of the items are deep fried, which narrowed the choices for me to a few chicken dishes, including the grilled chicken and spicy chicken (which I suspect is also deep-fried and coated in a sweet-sour sauce). Of the two, I enjoyed the grilled chicken, which is made with house marinated chicken, Korean slaw, pickled cucumbers and garlic aioli. Like all the dishes at Belly, the grilled chicken tacos I add were packed with flavors.
Insider tip: On occasion, there are specials that are not on the regular menu. You’ll see it on a sign at the counter, so be sure to check out the specials before making your final decision (one special I saw once included ahi poke tacos and another day it was Korean BBQ pulled pork sandwich).
The last bite: Belly’s dishes might seem on the small side for the price, but they’re packed with flavor. The burgers and salads are on the average side, so for creativity stick with the left column and order the tacos and burritos.
The rating: 2.5 out of 4 camera snaps
The deets: Belly, 1901 San Pablo Ave., Oakland. PH: 510.839.0000. Open Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. No reservations. Major credit cards accepted. www.bellyuptown.com
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