Pho Hoa Lao II

333 10th Street, between Webster and Harrison. This is a pretty crowded pho place in Oakland’s Chinatown. I had the pho tai bo vien (flank steak and beef balls), which was about the best pho I’ve ever had in a restaurant. The broth was flavorful but not too heavy, the portions of meat were generous, and the noodles cooked just right. The menu is a little sparse as Vietnamese restaurants go, with none of the bun (vermicelli) dishes that you see at a lot of places. But they serve up a mean bowl of pho, and one that I’m willing to make the trip into Oakland for, given the sparse pickings in Berkeley.

The wait staff is friendly and not pushy, even though we spent 20 minutes after finishing just yakking away. They even taught Dave how to ask for his pho without cilantro.

Powell’s

Hayes and Octavia. Powell’s is a soul food kitchen, and a damn fine one. It’s almost the best fried chicken I’ve ever had, juicy with a crispy skin that is to die for. The corn muffins, albeit a little small, provide the perfect complement. There’s never been a wait in the several times I’ve gone here, and the staff is pretty friendly and prompt. There’s usually gospel playing from the jukebox in the front of the restaurant for added atmosphere. If you’re really hungry and want to spend the extra cash, the dinner plates should fill you up. But for under four dollars you can get two fresh pieces of chicken and a corn muffin that would make the Colonel run back to his kitchen crying. How can you go wrong?