It's Saturday night, and we're circling the block like two vultures, looking for a soft place to land. It's Oakland Restaurant Week and the little "Gourmet Ghetto" -- the Glenview -- is jumping.
Tough economy? You wouldn't know it by looking at Oakland's emerging restaurant scene, where young chefs are clamoring to open new venues for eclectic East Bay diners. Consider the question the server at Hopscotch asked us last Friday just after 4 p.m.:
"Do you have a reservation?"
Within minutes, it became clear why a bar seat was our only option. The new Uptown eatery (1915 San Pablo Ave.) was filling up fast, with a hip mix of Oaklanders eager to try Chef Kyle Itani's Japanese-infused comfort food. And to think Hopscotch got started with just $20,000 in seed money from the entrepreneurial website Kickstarter.
At a Restaurant Week kickoff at Lake Chalet Seafood Bar, Mayor Jean Quan told a room full of young, Yelp Elite bloggers that they were a key part of Oakland's future. The more they ate and blogged about our restaurant scene on Yelp, the more police she could afford.
Quite frankly, her comment didn't sit well with me at the time, but now that I've had a chance to digest it -- I understand. I'm making a point to try every new Oakland restaurant, and I hope you will too.
P.S.: Oakland Restaurant Week ends Sunday.
Traveler's dream: Oakland resident Don George is leading a 12-day tour to Shikoku and Kyoto, Japan, from April 8 through 19. The esteemed travel journalist has been to Shikoku, the smallest of Japan's four principal islands, more than a dozen times. Geographic Expeditions says "exploring Shikoku with Don will be like looking at the stars with an especially amiable, astute and amusing astronaut." If you want more information, see http://www.geoex.com/trips/japan-journey-don-george.
Zoo news: There's a lot of chatter at the Oakland Zoo these days, as a trio of hyenas settle into new digs. Two males and a female came from the Berkeley Hyena Center -- no laughing matter since they were displaced due to cuts in University of California research money. And actually, the "laughing" sound hyenas make is not really laughing at all.
It's a sign they are anxious or uncomfortable. The vocalizations you want to hear are whoops, groans and grunts -- all funny noises in their own right.
Bumper snicker: And speaking of animals, this bumper sticker was spotted on a car on Broadway Terrace: "My chicken is an honor student ..." It's good to know the bird isn't a dumb cluck.