When Kyle Itani began work on Hopscotch, his upscale Asian-inflected diner in Uptown Oakland, his part of San Pablo Avenue was much emptier than it is today.
"Our neighborhood has greatly improved, and it continues to change more and more," he says.
Itani, who lives just five minutes away from the restaurant, notes that many of the local dining establishments are owner-operated, which results in a strong community.
Of course, Hopscotch is a key part of that: From his stellar take on fried chicken to his creative drink selection (an enviable whiskey list, vermouth on tap and killer cocktails), Itani's restaurant is one we'd go out of our way to visit. Plus, we absolutely trust his taste when it comes to local dining recs.
"I take a lot of pride in the neighborhood," he says. "And I love how increasingly vibrant and diverse dining options are in the area."
Check out his picks for where he likes to eat when he's not hard at work in the kitchen.
Kyle's Pick: Awaken Cafe
His Order: "It's a great neighborhood spot—they make a killer iced coffee ($2)."
Kyle's Pick: Hopscotch
His Order: "Because I don't get out for breakfast much outside of my own restaurant, I love the kimchi fried rice ($12) that we serve with our shoyu eggs."
Kimchi fried rice with shoyu eggs at Hopscotch | Photo: Courtesy of Hopscotch
Kyle's Pick: AS B-Dama
His Order: "The delicious curry rice ($9.50) served with seasonal vegetables."
Kyle's Pick: Duende
His Order: "The arroz negro paella ($40 for two people, $76 for four) is one of the best and definitely a centerpiece at the Spanish-inspired restaurant."
Kyle's Pick: Kang Tong Degi
His Order: "The naeng myun ($6 to $14) [buckwheat noodles]."
Kyle's Pick: Xolo
His Order: "The Vampiro tacos ($3 each) make a great, quick snack...and they're served in a fried-cheese tortilla."
Kyle's Pick: Penrose
His Order: "The Vieux Carré ($11), which is made with rye, brandy, sweet vermouth, Bénédictine, and Angostura and Peychaud's bitters."
Kyle's Pick: Dopo
His Order: "Dopo is a great spot on Piedmont Avenue with a good selection of handmade pastas ($18 to $20) and cured meats. My go-to is any and all of the charcuterie ($8 to $24)."
Kyle's Picks: Hutch, The Fox Theater, Plum Bar, Bar ThreeFiftyFive
His Orders: "The perfect Uptown night off: Start at Hutch for oysters ($14 for a half dozen), scallion hushpuppies ($5) and cocktails. Then catch a show at the Fox Theater. Afterward, head over to Plum Bar for the Adult Happy Meal ($22): a burger, fries, beer and a shot. Finish up with a nightcap at Bar Threefiftyfive."
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