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Fruitvale

A Mecca of Cheap, Fresh Food

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Although the name was changed almost fifteen years ago, International Boulevard is still nostalgically known as "E One Four" by many local residents. Stretching from Lake Merritt to the San Leandro border, where it continues under its old name (East 14th), the street remains a busy commercial thoroughfare in the heart of East Oakland.

A good place to start exploring and get familiar with the area is at the Tacos Mi Rancho truck (1434 1st Ave., 510-485-3054). Serving tacos, burritos, tortas, and more, with your choice of meat for a reasonable price, it is a nearly unbeatable deal for delicious, good-quality food.

There is no shortage of taco trucks in East Oakland. They are most densely packed in Fruitvale, the predominantly Latino neighborhood centered at the intersection of International and Fruitvale avenues. Though many deserve rave reviews, a great pair of taco trucks are Tacos Mi Grullense (typically parked in front of Goodwill, 2925 International Blvd., 510-261-3325). Choose from asada, pastor, lengua, cabeza, carnitas, pollo, or tripas. Between the two trucks you will never have long to wait.

Walking distance from these trucks is an unusual eatery that sticks out among the neighborhood's abundant taquerías and fast-food establishments. Powderface (3411 E. 12th St., 510-536-3223, Powderface.net) is not the sort of coffee-and-doughnut shop you'd expect to find in Oakland, or anywhere outside Louisiana, for that matter. Specializing in beignets, or New Orleans-style, deep-fried, powdered-sugar doughnuts, the shop is a unique find and an easy alternative to the 2,000-mile mission to Cajun country.

Continuing down International towards San Leandro, if you turn left on High Street, you can't miss Mi Pueblo Food Center (1630 High St., 510-261-4826, MiPuebloFoods.com). Since it came to town in 2005, Oakland's Latino community has flocked to the mecca of fresh food. Featuring a deli and bakery; fresh seafood, fruits, and vegetables; and tortillas made onsite, not to mention a self-contained restaurant, the huge store is a truly a one-stop shop for all your grocery needs. Try the carnitas (fried pork) at $6.49 per pound; it is some of the best in town.

Heading back towards downtown, if you're looking for a meal for under $3, try the Vietnamese sandwiches from Banh Mi Ba Le (1909 International Blvd., 510-261-9800). With more than a dozen varieties to choose from, ranging from the typical chicken, beef, and pork to unusual choices like sardines and eel, and including a vegetarian option, this shop is sure to have something for everyone.

Don't miss: Cinco de Mayo (typically held in early May) and Día de los Muertos (typically held in late October) festivals in the Fruitvale district are the largest in the East Bay. The celebrations generally center around the intersection of Fruitvale and International or at Fruitvale BART. ... Find great deals on just about anything new, used, or of dubious origin at the Coliseum Flea Market (5401 Coliseum Way, 510-534-0325). ... Medical marijuana patients can check out the high-grade medicines at Harborside Health Center (1840 Embarcadero, 510-533-0146).

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