I live in Oakland but I admit I haven’t spent much time in the Fruitvale neighborhood, a vibrant and historical area in central Oakland that’s known for its Mexican food trucks and Latin American restaurants.
In recent years, the neighborhood has been marred by a reputation for crime and police brutality. But like many places in Oakland, it’s also one of the few neighborhood that’s still affordable for a lot of small businesses to find a home and prosper.
I was invited recently to preview Savor Oakland‘s new walking food tour of Fruitvale, and I decided this would be my chance to learn more about this community and the food found here. Led by food writer Ferron Salniker, I spent two-plus hours on a Saturday afternoon tasting my way through primarily Mexican dishes and one detour for Arabian flavors.
Check out my video of Fruitvale
The tour wasn’t all the stops that will part of the normal tour, but the places we visited were enough to give me a flavor of Fruitvale while getting me full on bites. Here’s a look at the stops we made:
- Tamales Acupulco. First bite was from this popular food truck where we tried a pork tamale with red mole that was filling and flavorful.
- Pipirin. Another food truck, this is where we tried a torta ahogada, a specialty from Guadalajara where a beef sandwich gets “drowned” (meaning of ahogada) in a mild salsa. I’ve never had a torta this way, which is comforting but means you have to eat with a fork (also, the bun was on the cold side, which threw me off a bit).
- Obelisco. At this restaurant in the Fruitvale Village Plaza (adjacent to the BART station), we got to try three types of pozole (soup) that ranged from a bone broth to red spicy to green spicy hot. We also tried two types of agua frescas (fruit drinks, one made from mango and the other from hibiscus).
- Nieves Cinco de Mayo. This stand inside the tiny Fruitvale Public Market serves up ice cream and other cold desserts, and here we tried the signature mangonada, a sundae made fresh mango chunks, mango sorbet, and a chamoy sauce made of pickled fruit and mixed with a chili spice. This was a unique treat for mango lovers, but I felt it was also a bit “drowned” by the chamoy and chili spice.
- Reem’s. Last spot was sitting in the large patio of this new cafe and Arab bakery that came out of the La Cocina incubator program. What a way to end. As we sipped on iced coffee drinks on a warm day, the people at Reem’s brought out an array of treats, from tumeric orange tea cakes to baklawa to pastries (savory and sweet), scones and ending with an amazing panna cotta topped with pistachio.
Savor Oakland plans to offer these Fruitvale food tours to customized groups, so for now they’re only available if you book a private tour for maybe your team or group. (Cost is about $65 to $75 per person.) It’s nice to see neighborhoods like Fruitvale (and its businesses) spotlighted in this way.
Thanks to Ferron for being a great tour guide, and Savor Oakland for the invite.
See more scenes of Fruitvale and the food tour in my gallery below.
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