“Extra green sauce, ok, the total is $17.35, it will be ready when you arrive.”
Seriously? Another burrito joint?* I could’ve sworn this place was swarming with more Southern places than I can count (not that it’s a bad thing, *ahem* Brown Sugar Kitchen). Granted, this was my first time glancing at the corner burrito shop that evolved yet again. It was originally more catered to the local demographics pre-2008, but now it has changed to represent a new type of Oaklander.
Anyway, I knew about this place long before Yelp, 7 X 7, and every other foodie media avenue was fully vested with their Southern Californian influenced creations. Anything pseudo/futuristic Asian-Fusion, I’ve tasted and pondered on for way too long. Too many wacky contrast-hybrid of ethnic culinary delights are being brought out into the woodwork, so it’s hard not to be surprised anymore.
Today’s pick wasn’t something too far out of my comfort zone; in fact, it is something I grew up over my college years and the amount of peers I hung around, making it familiar and a humble destination for me. The classic Mexican-Korean fusion, combo (aka how Kogi headlined the Food Truck scene). Yes! We’ve all been there, some more than others but this particular spot hits close to home in numerous ways and it isn’t “atypical” Korean/Mexican hybrid joint upon first glance.
The decor simplistic, straight forward, humble, and a little bit of Chic. Co-owner/General Manager Alice spared no expense to give the new diners of Oakland exactly what they wanted.
The menu is pretty straight forward: you get your choice of Tacos or Burritos (same components just different dish structures), three different types of burgers, several salads, side dishes, desserts, and special drinks. The Tacos range from Californian flavor profiles to diet-friendly alternatives. Sure you can cheat yourself the full experience by diving into one of their healthier options, except why bother when they’re known for the cuisine we’ve all come to know and love?
During my first visit, we noticed a bit of uneasiness between the floor and kitchen staff. Granted, it must have been a crazy soft opening week for them; however, with time I’m sure they’ll get a hang of it. Let’s start with the initial portions, the tacos for starters. The spicy honey within the Pork BBQ one was heavily lacking and the cucumbers were minimal. When I think of Korean cuisine, the cucumbers play a role both in the banchan and the variation of Kimchi made dishes. On a good note, the slaw was well balanced, not too much mayo and the lettuce wasn’t clunky in texture and remained refined through its knife prep.
The shrimp and avocado taco was probably the better of the two. Despite a sloppy presentation, the core flavors were pronounced while the spicy sour cream didn’t have any spice at all.
What they lacked in impact regarding the dishes themselves, their in-house green sauce saved the day. Like many Mexican Tacquerias, green sauce is typically regarded as the “bitch mode” of spiciness in the manly spice scale. Red (or brighter) sauces, retain the fiery picante most native Latin-Americans indulge in. This same sauce needs (not want or must, but most definitely needs) to be slathered on this next item to serve up a classic Oakland Athletics grand slam…
There’s a lot of certainty in life, death and taxes remain as the first two according to Benjamin Franklin via Daniel Defoe. You might as well add Steak and Eggs on the list when it comes to certainty for a tasty breakfast item: Vegas, SoCal, and even your local Denny’s; Steak and Eggs are what Americans clamor for when you need a Farmer meal to get through the day. For Belly Uptown to up the ante and really shove this creation in your face (and into your mouth), the ideal SoCal Korean Style burrito, built with the same components but layered and interpreted differently. The star of the show is the Korean marinated steak (reminds me of my friend’s dad’s Galbi), with the subtle harmonization of chipotle and garlic making it work.
Sure there’s Koja Kitchen, Dan Sung Sa, and many other Korean-American destinations within the Bay Area to please your Korean-American palate, but what makes this place notable is the attention to detail, how the meat is seared, presenting a contrasts of textures with their shoestring fries, all delicately wrapped into a nice warm blanket of meaty deliciousness. Honestly, I tried to dismiss this burrito so hard that I wanted to find a reason to dislike it, even by the slightest. When something so good cannot give you a reason to find anything bad about it, you just have to find acceptance within yourself and the dish you’re grubbing on. It’s sort of like finding THE ONE in your life (regardless of sexual orientation), you can’t give it up if it’s just too good to let go.
The dessert was a bit of a letdown. C.R.E.A.M. (for UC Berkeley students), Diddy Riese (who was the originator on this craze for UCLA students pre-2007), Stax (for UC Irvine Students), and the list goes on.. Cookies were tasty, a little bit hard for my liking but that’s just preferential as for the ice cream, I appreciate Loard’s (classic and familiar for Bay Area residents) but was really hoping they made their own ice cream flavors from scratch.
Am I exaggerating quite a bit? Yes, of course but the pleasantries went beyond what I normally expected during a soft opening. The customer service was on par and I hope they continue with that standard. Majority of the places I’ve gone to within the past eight years are truly split down the middle. Half of them really good and the other half, needs a little bit of refinement.
So many adjectives and so much unnecessary rhetoric for this comeback article. What really matters is, if you’re craving Southern California nostalgia (circa 2008 food truck scene) without the luxury of visiting back and forth, look no further.
Thanks Belly, hope you continue to press forward with innovation.
“Death & Taxes via Wikipedia, “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_%26_Taxes” last updated, last seen 9 February 2015, last updated 2 Nov 2014″
*Author’s note*: Keep in mind, after this publication, I’ve tried a slew of items not presented within this article (albeit incomplete) but I’ve gotten a more coherent view of this place, considering it was my first impression and they weren’t ridden with accolades or more than a hundred Yelp reviews during the time of this review (Oct. 1, 2014)
…now can I finally find my tempo to write more stuff??
1901 San Pablo Avenue
Oakland, CA 94612