February 18th, 2012

Before I get into this month’s day trip recommendation, I have to acknowledge that I’m kind of on a kick. I am loving Oakland lately. A couple of months ago I encouraged all of you to just strike out and visit Oakland in a broad sort of way, but I feel unsatisfied and now want to start singling out my favorite places. This is only my second time talking to you about Oakland, so it’s still a little early to be too worried about redundancy, but the problem is that I can’t see this being the last time either.

At least, I can say, my enthusiasm has some validation and my desire to write more has some justification. The New York Times recently ranked Oakland #5 on its list of 45 places to go in 2012. Even better, it was right between London and Tokyo! Which is great and well deserved, but then they would have you rush up there to go, for example, to a restaurant called Boot & Shoe Service, which, yes, has a very fancy pedigree and is chock full of the hippest people in the Bay, but, as restaurant experiences go, is pretty unspecial.

The place I want to tell you to go instead, I have to warn you, is not very cool at all. There will be no hipsters at the Lake Chalet. It’s more the kind of a place that families go on special occasions, kind of a classic “nice” restaurant. So why should I single it out for you here? A few reasons. One is that the lake in its name is Lake Merritt, which is sort of unstoppably lovely, and there are very few seats that don’t have a view. Second, a staff that is genuinely friendly, almost conspiratorially friendly. And, finally, crazy as it seems to put this last, the food is super super tasty. I had such an easy good time at this restaurant. I felt comfortable and charmed in a way that is somehow unique to Oakland, different from the generic trendiness of a place like Boot & Shoe Service, whose aim seems to be successfully imitating the feeling of being in Brooklyn or Berlin.

I guess, as recommendations go, this one could send you off to either place, depending on what you’re looking for. Me, I’ll be at the Lake Chalet. Maybe I’ll see you there.

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