There comes a time in most of our lives that we stop begging our moms to let us have McDonald’s for dinner and instead crave something more out of our meal. We don’t just want fast, instant gratification­­­­—we want an experience.

Ok, maybe not all children had this same realization as I did, but traveling to destinations like New York City, San Francisco, Rome, and Bangkok while growing up has given me a unique perspective on food. Of everywhere I have been, the most memorable restaurants have all had one thing in common: They provided me not only with satisfying food but also with a fulfilling experience during every aspect of the meal. 

Food is so much more to me than just energy we need to consume to survive. It brings me closer to the people I love, and it brings a feeling of undeniable bliss. I found this ultimate food experience at Mua, a trendy, innovative restaurant in Oakland, California, and you can find yours, too.

Savannah Phillips

I am naturally drawn to unique things. When I arrived at Mua with my dad and two sisters for the first time, I could already tell this restaurant was something special. Its matte black exterior, hand-painted logo, and potted plants allowed for a rustic feel on the outside. Upon walking inside, the atmosphere immediately sparked my interest. A renovated warehouse with high ceilings, graffiti-like art on the walls, and a DJ playing (unusually loud) remixes of songs such as “No Scrubs” by TLC was a new concept of a restaurant to me, to say the least.

But I was already hooked. Reading the menu, I discovered a list of eclectic tapas some of which included No Cheese “Mac n’ Cheese” (made with butternut squash and cream), beef bone marrow, and ahi tuna sashimi.

coffee, tea
Savannah Phillips

While waiting for our food, I don’t think I looked at my phone once. I enjoyed genuine laughs and conversation with my family and let my mind drift away from all my other worries. The moments of silence didn’t feel awkward: They felt peaceful and were spent observing little details around Mua, like the graffiti on one piece of art that read “U R Beautiful.”

It should come as no surprise that the food was everything I’d hoped it would be: original, gratifying, and leaving me wanting more. However, the reason this restaurant is so noteworthy to me is not just because of the food, but because of the feeling I was left with that night. My family and I didn’t even leave by choice. Only when the workers started stacking chairs did we realize that it was 12 a.m. We had been there for 4 hours just enjoying each other’s company, and Mua was closing.

Day-to-day life as a college student is stressful and full of responsibilities. For the next time you need a break, gather your friends, try out a new restaurant, and leave your phones at home for the night. Having a night of genuine communication with those closest to you will give you a feeling that endlessly scrolling through Twitter never will.

And you never know, maybe you’ll achieve your ultimate food experience and find your very own Mua.

beer, tea, coffee
Savannah Phillips