Oakland Restaurant Week kicks off following some tough pandemic years

At the Home of Chicken and Waffles in Jack London Square, Diana Ellison and her daughter enjoyed a 2-for 1 special to kick off Oakland Restaurant Week.

"It’s a very good incentive to get us here. It really is," said Ellison.

For 10 days, Oakland’s diverse culinary scene - from food trucks to Michelin-star restaurants - are showcased. There’s specially-designed menus and customers are encouraged to try something new.

"I heard about restaurant week and I said we gotta go!" said Ellison.

Ellison’s daughter Erika Dozier said, "We’ve never been here even though we live here. Now we know this place is really good. We will be back."

Derreck Johnson, the founder and owner of the Home of Chicken and Waffles said having a week devoted to restaurants really helps, especially after some tough years for the industry. "Just come out and support," said Johnson.

This event comes on the third anniversary of the Bay Area’s shelter in place order. This forced many businesses to close, restaurants could only offer takeout, and people were told not to gather.

"Restaurants as you know have taken a huge, huge hit during the pandemic and even after. The after-effects have been traumatic for most of us," said Johnson. "Most of us have had to cut hours, cut staff. We are not even back to full capacity."

At Calavera along Broadway, the kitchen staff was busy Thursday evening, cooking up specialty tacos, enchiladas, and other dishes.

"It’s super exciting," said Ryan Dixon, manager and partner of Calavera. "It’s great after a couple of years having an empty house to have a room full of people again."

Dixon said three years later, things do feel back to normal. The bustling crowd Thursday was a huge change from 2020 – when the dining room had to close.

Three years later we have some good things and we have some bad things," said Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease expert at UCSF.

Dr. Chin-Hong said we now have tools to protect ourselves against Covid-19. The most important tool is the vaccine.

California’s coronavirus emergency officially ended last month, But Dr. Chin-Hong said the virus is still spreading. "Our numbers are still too high in terms of deaths per day. There are about 400 deaths per day in the country," said Chin-Hong.