Best Burmese Restaurant

Grocery Cafe

The East Bay is home to Burmese restaurants that are more popular, more upscale, and better appointed. But if your interest is in the food, you'll be hard-pressed to find a better option than this humble hole-in-the-wall, where the prices are jaw-droppingly low and the cooks don't shy away from the bold, funky flavors of a cuisine that American diners often experience in a watered-down, sanitized form. Grocery Cafe's tea leaf salad, for instance, is as potent a rendition as you'll find in the Bay Area — loaded with the dark green fermented leaves, along with tiny dried shrimp that add an extra layer of umami. And if you have a craving for spicy curries or chowder-y noodle soups, the restaurant's down-home versions are sure to please.

Meanwhile, the place has an appealing, off-the-cuff vibe, with its mismatched tables, walls lined with album covers from the Seventies, and, especially, the eclectic deli display case in front, which offers other unexpected sensory pleasures: tubs of balachaung (a spicy, and delicious, dried-shrimp condiment) and, for those who indulge, the chewable narcotic known as the betel nut.

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