On Saturday night, I hopped on the bus and met up with some friends for dinner and a night out in Temescal. Now it wasn’t too long ago that you really couldn’t do this unless you had reservations or wanted to wait more than an hour because the only real options for a sit down dinner were Pizzaiolo and Dona Tomas. Last summer, Marc 49 opened and changed that, and now we’re lucky to have Barlata in the neighborhood.
We arrived at Barlata at 6:30, and the restaurant was half full. Our group was seated at one end of the long community table, which takes up a third of the restaurant. Our dinner was excellent. We quickly ordered a bottle of white wine and a couple of dishes, and then slowly ordered more dishes as the night went on. I was incredibly impressed by how quickly food was served – I think our salad came less than a minute after we ordered it! And everything we ordered was delicious. My favorites were the romaine salad, which I devoured, and the vegetable paella, which got me thinking that I should make a paella sometime. I’ll leave the detailed food reviews to City Homestead, but suffice it to say that everyone in our party was more than satisfied. Also, the bill came out to be much less than we expected – even with wine and a generous tip, we made it out of there for less than $30 per person, which was very reasonable considering the amount of food we ate.
By about 8pm, Barlata was full, and since we were finished eating, we decided to give up our seats and head a couple doors down to Marc 49. I had been to Marc 49 a few times before, but somehow I had never gone all the way back to their outdoor “room”. And now that I have, I can’t imagine sitting anywhere else. It’s a great space that’s entirely covered in wood planks – floor, walls, and ceilings. It was a bit warm for my taste, with strong heating lamps, but everyone else in my party loved that. We lounged in wicker chairs with very comfortable cushions in front of a table that was made out of a wine barrel. The space itself is huge – big enough to fit a large group, or several.
Feeling very full already, we skipped the food and went straight to the wine. One of my favorite things about Marc 49 is that you get to create your own flights of wine from their fairly extensive wine list. I got a flight of local whites, and all of them were delicious. Of course, I don’t remember the names of any of them, and their online wine list is terribly outdated so that’s no help to me either. You’ll just have to go down there and create a flight that suits your tastes.
As we were sitting in the back of Marc 49, sipping wine, I started to reflect on how great Temescal has become. I turned to a friend of mine who grew up in Temescal and started grilling her about the history. What had Marc 49 been? How about Barlata? She tried, but came up blank, saying that clearly nothing memorable had been there. As for the popular restaurants across the street – she thinks they were a grocery store and a hardware store, which is strange to imagine.
I realized that though I’ve lived in North Oakland for several years and know very well what it is now, I have very little perspective on what it used to be like. So I’d love to hear from you, especially if you’ve lived in the East Bay for a long time, what was Temescal like, before the hip restaurants and wine bars moved in?