This East Oakland neighborhood was once called 'Brays' and 'Fruit Vale' thanks to the cherry and apricot orchards which could be found in the neighborhood before what we now know as Fruitvale became incorporated in 1909.
Now, 110 years later, you can still find an abundance of fruits and vegetables, thanks to the many markets around the neighborhood which spans from 29th Avenue to 42nd Avenue, and all along Foothill and International Boulevard, and of course, Fruitvale Avenue. You can visit places like Mi Ranchito, Mi Rancho, and Los Mexicanos, to name a few. You can also visit the Farmer's Market which takes place every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday at the Fruitvale Transit Village steps away from Fruitvale BART. While at the market, you will be able to find a variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables from local producers. Other vendors sell folk art and ready to eat food.
Fruitvale is a neighborhood where mostly Mexican and Central American immigrants reside. In recent years, a surge of immigrants from Guatemala now call Fruitvale home. While primarily a Latinx neighborhood, there's also a Southeast Asian population.
This melting pot of ethnic backgrounds is reflected in the cuisine choices that you can find roaming around the neighborhood. Within Fruitvale Village, you can find a variety of dishes from around the world. In the mood for middle eastern dishes? Look no further than Reem's California which opened in 2017. There, you can try Reem Assil's assortment of Arab's flatbreads with countless delicious toppings. In reflecting on the neighborhood's residents, Reem's employs 90 percent people of color, who are either immigrants or children of immigrants.
Steps away from Reem's, you can find Nyum Bai, a sit-down Cambodian restaurant ( which won a spot on Bon Appétit's 2018 top-10 list of America's best new restaurants) that opened in 2018 at the realm of owner and chef, Nite Yun, who was born in a refugee camp in Thailand. Make sure to try the kuy teav phnom penh (rice noodle soup with pork), or cha mee sor (stir-fried glass noodles with dried shrimp). Located next to Nyum Bai, you can find a summer refresher with Nieves Cinco de Mayo, one of the original residents of the Public Market back in 2007. Owner Luis Abundis and his crew will delight your taste buds with his artisanal carafe ice creams with unsuspected flavors like corn and rompope. In recent years, mangonadas have become a favorite, and on hot days the line to get one can span out the door.
Walk out of the Public Market and onto International Boulevard (which long-time residents still affectionately call East 14th), and you can immediately feel like you have traveled to Mexico City and Cabo San Lucas. El Huarache Azteca brings the flavors of authentic dishes from Mexico City, with delicious plates like huaraches and gorditas, or the quesadillas de flor de calabaza and huitlacoche, both made with handmade tortillas. Be sure to try the huarache with tinga de pollo.
Also part of authentic cuisine from Mexico City, there's La Torta Loca, a tiny locale that shares the space with a laundromat. While there, make sure to try a torta Hawaiana which comes with grilled pineapple and ham.
Not far from El Huarache Azteca and La Torta Loca, but still on International Boulevard, located in the remnants of what once was a car dealership, a newer truck called Aguachiles El Tamarindo is gathering cult-following thanks to its aguachile and tacos de Marlin. Recently, Aguachiles El Tamarindo earned a spot in the San Francisco Chronicle's Best Bay Area Food Trucks.
Aguachiles isn't the only establishment where you can find mariscos, another favorite among Fruitvale residents is Mariscos La Costa where the ceviche and shrimp cocktail often draws the largest crowds.
If you want to take another international trip out of Mexico and into Central America, look no further than Los Cocos Salvadorean Restaurant which has been a staple in Fruitvale since 1985 when the restaurant first opened its doors. The menu is two pages long, but that doesn't deter hungry-goers. Most are there for the coveted pupusas and their many fillings which include: pork rinds, spinach, beans, and loroco (a vine with edible flowers). If you visit Los Cocos, make sure to try the Salvadorean agua de horchata.
Another Central American country making its way into Fruitvale is Guatemala, the recent surge in Guatemalan immigrants moving to Oakland called for the opening of more restaurants aimed at representing this growing community. In Fruitvale, you can find restaurants like Rinconcito Chapin where you can try caldo de gallina. For those with a sweet tooth, there's Chapinlandia Bakery where you can buy traditional Guatemalan baked goods.
On Fruitvale Avenue, you'll be able to try a newer spot that specializes in cuisine from Guerrero, Mexico. La Guerrera's Kitchen opened a permanent location next to the Aloha Club earlier this year, steps away from Fruitvale Bart by mother-duo, Ofelia Barajas and Reyna Maldonado. While there, try the chicken tamales and vegan pozole.
If you want to try Mexican baked goods, Peña's Bakery is the place to go. The family-owned establishment has two locations in the neighborhood: one on International Boulevard, and the other on Foothill Boulevard. The Peña family migrated from Guadalajara Mexico in the '70s and began their life and business in Oakland. The bakeries opened within a year in 1997 and 1998.
PC: Peña's Bakery
Also located on Foothill Boulevard is where you can find La Casita (formerly known as Taqueria Campos). The small food place located next to Cesar Chavez Park is famous for its stews: pozole, birria, and Menudo. People not only stop by to get a taste of the different dishes, what also attracts folks are the murals: "Oakland Is Proud" adorns one outside wall, and "Oakland Over Everything" reads another one. The owners also started their very own "Oakland Hall of Fame" with luminaries like Mexican-American comedian George Lopez adorning the sidewalk with his very own star.
Still, on Foothill Boulevard, you can find Tacos El Tio Juan (which was also included in the San Francisco Chronicle's Best Bay Area Food Trucks.) The ice cream and food truck combo is an old-school 1950's Loard's Ice Cream truck. There is no fuss when it comes to the menu and the excellent service. Make sure to try the spicy chicken burrito, and while you wait for your food, admire the colorful metal arc that reads Fruitvale.
The culinary scene in Fruitvale reflects the hard work of immigrants who left their home behind in search of the American Dream and found it here in Oakland, in the heart of Fruitvale.