Foodies, rejoice! Oakland Restaurant Week is back for its 4th year with even more eateries participating. And if you are a landmark building buff, you are in for a treat, because many of the participating businesses are located within the city's historic districts. The 10-day event began Friday and continues until Jan. 26.

The easiest way to chart your 10-day excursion through Oakland's gourmet eating scene is to go to the Visit Oakland website (www.visitoakland.org/restaurantweek) and scroll through the offerings, district by district. This year, five of the participating restaurants are located in the Old Oakland Historic District.

Customers take a look at the menu high above the bar for their next selection at the recently opened Belgium beer bar, The Trappist, in Old Oakland, CA on
Customers take a look at the menu high above the bar for their next selection at the recently opened Belgium beer bar, The Trappist, in Old Oakland, CA on a busy Friday night, Jan 11, 2008. (Laura A. Oda/The Oakland Tribune)

According to the landmark files, Old Oakland was the "original" downtown during the 1860s, after the Central Pacific Railroad established a depot on Seventh Street that completed the last link of the nation's first transcontinental rail route.

Soon elegant brick Victorian-style hotels were established in the blocks surrounding the station to accommodate travelers. Many of these structures still survive and their facades have been carefully restored.

Businesses such as livery stables, saloons and grocers once operated in the street-level spaces of these hotels. Today, restaurants, cafes and shops abound and offices occupy the upper floors.

Records show a dramatic jump in the population from the 1860s to the early 20th century. In 1860 1,543 people were listed as living in Oakland, followed by 10,500 in 1870, 34,555 in 1880, 67,000 in 1900 and 150,000 in 1910.

Today "Old Oakland" refers to the six blocks bounded by Broadway, Jefferson, Seventh and Tenth streets. Both sides of Washington Street are also included.

The Italianate-style Ratto's Building on the corner of Washington and Ninth streets is home to District, a small-plates restaurant, noted for its elegant horseshoe shaped spirits and wine bar, its exposed brick walls and decades-old and well-worn hardwood floors. Call 272-9110 to learn about their Restaurant Week specials. Next door is the 100-year-plus family owned Ratto's Delicatessen.

Seison (495 10th St.), between Washington and Broadway, is located in the historic Washington Inn. It is American-bistro in flavor. Call 832-7449 to learn about their special offerings. Back in 1915 when the hotel building was new, it was known as the Hotel Ray and accommodated tourists who were coming west for the Panama Pacific Exhibition (across the bay in San Francisco). A convenient streetcar and ferry trip made the Hotel Ray a good East Bay choice for the arrivals. Be sure to notice the large black and white photographs of turn-of-the-last-century downtown Oakland in the hotel lobby.

Historic Swans Market (occupying the entire block from Clay to Washington and Ninth and 10th streets) is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In the 1920s Sherwood Swan was the manager of the marketplace, where soup to nuts and everything in between was sold by individual purveyors. Renovated and converted to a complex with housing, cafes and shops in the 1990s, Swans is home to Cosecha (serving Mexican-style cuisine) and Miss Ollie's (Caribbean soul in flavor). Both are on the list for specials during Restaurant Week.

Trappist, at 460 8th St., serves a variety of beers and ales with tasty accompanying small plates. Its building was once headquarters to the Contra Costa Water Co. founded by Anthony Chabot (1813-88) a French Canadian by birth who made his fortune during the California Gold Rush.