Birria, Fire, and Mezcal: A Guide to Mexican Food in Oakland

GUIDESBy 2022-04-07T10:11:54-04:00January 21st, 2022|
  • Photograph by Edgar Castrejon, courtesy of Low Bar.

In San Francisco, Mexican food is synonymous with the Mission-style burrito. However, a quick trip across the Bay will give you easy access to the culinary depth of the region. The Oakland food scene continues to be an exciting space for experimentation and new takes on old classics. So whether you’re looking for a casual quesabirria taco or a sprucy cocktail, here is a small taste of food and drink rooted in Bay Area culture and Mexican heritage.

Courtesy of Aguachiles el Tamarindo.

Aguachiles el Tamarindo
3053 International Boulevard, Oakland, CA, USA

The brightly-colored family-owned truck in the heart of Fruitvale is hard to miss. However, what sets it apart from nearby joints is the plethora of playful marisco dishes. They have nearly every combination of seafood imaginable, from traditional options like ceviche and shrimp tacos to more experimental concoctions like their show-stopping torre de mariscos — a multilayered seafood tower made from jaiba (imitation crab), octopus, shrimp, scallops, and ceviche. 

Photo by Daniel Villarreal, courtesy of Bombera.

3459 Champion St., Oakland, CA 94602

Bombera, “fire woman” in Spanish, is housed in an old fire station in Oakland’s Diamond District. The long-awaited restaurant by Chez Panisse alum Dominica Rice serves regional Mexican food prepared in a wood-fired oven and mesquite grill. The accompanying bar program is run by Jessica Moncada Konte of Alkali Rye and serves one of the best mezcal selections in the Bay. The menu is grounded in food memories and includes tetelas, duck carnitas, and signature spicy carrots in chile misantla

Courtesy of La Santa Torta.

La Santa Torta
333 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94607

Satiate your birria cravings at La Santa Torta, where the stewed beef takes center stage in nearly every dish. Among their most popular options are their classic red birria tacos and consommé, but there are more daring options for the thrill-seeker, such as the stir-fried birria noodles. The food truck transports you straight to Jalisco with authentic flavors and techniques that exalt the ritual of birria-making.

Photograph by Edgar Castrejon, courtesy of Low Bar.

Low Bar
2300 Webster St, Oakland, CA 94612

If you’ve ever wondered where restaurant industry folks have a drink on their night off, it’s Low Bar. Co-owners Matthew Meyer and Daniel Paez are part of the booming Black and Latinx bar renaissance in Oakland. Their cocktail program is both exciting and accessible, showcasing Paez’s versatility. The “Honey Hi” evokes a summer afternoon, delicately balancing a sweet citrusy nose with potent botanicals and warm chipotle. For food, try their scotch egg wrapped in their house chorizo and corn tortilla panko crust or their corn & sweet potato fritters, a deliciously fried homage to esquite

Photograph by Grant Kerber, courtesy of Tacos Oscar.

Tacos Oscar
420 40th St, Oakland, CA 94609

Tacos Oscar gets a “bib gourmand” mention from the Michelin Food Guide. It’s for good reason: the taco, tostada, and quesadilla menu changes weekly and is guided by seasonal produce and hand-pressed tortillas. Previous combinations have included charred broccoli taco, carrot and farro tostada, delicata squash quesadilla, and their famous huevo tacos. Get your order in early as long lines are to be expected.