Holiday Gift Ideas for Foodies

Aside from the classic gift card to any number of amazing Bay Area restaurants for the foodie on your list, here are a list of great local(ish) places from which to procure yummy holiday treats for all the stockings you’re preparing to stuff.


TCHO Chocolate

Touting themselves as “The New America Chocolate“, this locally made and conscientiously sourced chocolate is a delicious treat anytime. For the holidays, they have a few great gift options that are as cute as they are yummy.

Lai "Ornaments" Holiday Chocolate Gifts - Starting at $6.95

Lai “Ornaments” Holiday Chocolate Gifts – Starting at $6.95


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Atmosphere: 4/5   ♦   Service: 3/5   ♦   Food Quality: 3/5   ♦   Value: 4/5
Times Visited:  Once   ♦   Will I Return?:  Not for the brunch

Otaez is a Mexican restaurant (with full bar, as noted on their site) with two locations: Oakland and Alameda.  My family had Sunday brunch at the Alameda location a couple weeks ago and had a decent experience.  Because we only had brunch, however, I’m not qualified to comment on the diversity of their menu or the speediness of their standard service, since we only received minimal buffet-style waitress visits.  Therefore, I write only of the Otaez brunch buffet.

Mexican brunch buffet is all the rage in my little life at the moment.  Never have I had so many Mexican Sunday brunches as I have in the last couple months (note: I’ve only had about four).  See my El Torito review for further notes on this fact.  Because El Torito is actually the only other restaurant where I have experienced the Mex brunch buffet, it’s hard not to compare one to the other.  And if I had to choose, I’d choose El Torito.

The main reason I like ET better is because I do not eat meat (except for fish).  In the way of non-meaty Mex food, Otaez has far less to offer, leaving me stuck with salad with beans and rice.  My mom was kind enough to order my boyfriend and me a cheese quesadilla, and we also asked for some tortillas, but still, not much to choose from.  (Again, see the El Torito review for further info on what they offer for us vegg-os there.)  As for the other food, it looked really good and there was quite a variety.  If you eat meat, I’m sure you’d have a better time at the Otaez brunch.

One end of the Otaez brunch buffet.

That being said, I still think the the food at El Torito is better overall.  My fellow diners weren’t quite raving about the food like they do at ET.  The enchiladas were notably not worth eating, as evidenced by the one-bite-missing remainders left on everyone’s plate.  Also, there appears to be an omelette bar, as is wont to occur at a Mex buffet, but there was no one staffing it until just before we left.  We had asked our waitress if the area that looked like an omelette bar would open up and she dutifully informed us that it will not.  But then it did.  As we were leaving.  Hmm…

The other end of the Otaez brunch buffet.

Otaez does have a really nice facility, however.  It’s a large place with tons of tables, a full bar area, a sunny, open atrium where the buffet is set up, and even some outdoor seating.  Their website boasts a banquet room as well, so the place is even bigger than it looks.  It’s nicely decorated inside and out, clean and tidy, and is a great place to spend a relaxing meal with family or friends.  The lunch buffet seemed to be rather popular and they are set up to handle many large groups, so maybe we just caught it on a bad day (for the food).

The seating area in Otaez.

As for the price, the buffet here is actually really cheap!  That was one of the draws for us – we were wondering how they could offer a full brunch buffet for only $10 a person.  And I’m not really sure how they do it.  There was a large selection of food, and it didn’t seem like they really skimped on anything in particular.  Maybe they lose money on the buffet just to get people in the door, who knows.  But, if you’re a meat eater and Mexican sounds good to you for brunch, I may recommend you try it out since it’s such a good deal and such a nice place, even though it wasn’t my favorite.

Statue lady welcomes you to Otaez.

Beware of the weird guy guarding the parking lot though – I thought he was a vagabond, but we collectively decided that he was employed by Otaez to monitor the parking lot, though we weren’t exactly sure for what purpose.  Note to Otaez: either outfit this guy in a more official looking shirt or chase him outta there so your patrons stop all the wondering and flinching.