Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Eat in Oakland: Mama’s Royal Cafe

Croque Madame made with ham, Gruyère, dijon, grilled Acme bread, and an over easy egg

I visited Mama's Royal Cafe in North Oakland for the first time this past weekend. Located on Broadway at 40th, this cafe has been a big part of the neighborhood for over 40 years. It's an old-school breakfast and lunch spot for hipsters, artists, and longtime Oakland residents alike.

Feeling a bit adventurous, I opted out of having my usual brunch pick of Eggs Benedict and ordered the Croque Madame instead. I think I made the right choice. This is basically an open-faced ham sandwich covered in salty Gruyère cheese and tangy dijon mustard on Acme bread. It is grilled and then topped with an egg made over easy. The strong flavors of the ham, cheese, and mustard provide quite a kick that makes this sandwich anything but boring. I would definitely order this again.

What was really exciting about this visit was learning a bit of the cafe's history. While chatting with my friend Anisa of Young and Seamless about what to order, I mentioned that it reminded me of the setting of a graphic novel I read a few weeks ago called Over Easy by Mimi Pond. The novel is a fictionalized account of the illustrator's stint working at a cafe known for its quirky staff and their entangled lives in late 1970's Oakland. The green trim used inside the restaurant was similar to the main color used in the book, while the cups and glasses were held on shelves decorated in the Asian-influenced style of what I'd imagine would be in the book's Imperial Cafe. I then saw a sign on the wall advertising the author's book signing and knew this was not a coincidence. Our waitress confirmed that this, indeed, was the cafe in which the novel was based. I was starstruck, to say the least.

If you're looking for a good brunch and a bit of Oakland history, make your way over to Mama's Royal Cafe. We encountered a very short wait time and experienced wonderful service. The prices are also pretty good; most dishes are around the $10 mark.

You should also check out Mimi's book if you can. It provides great insight into what kind of characters roamed Oakland at this specific time in the city's history. (Many of them you still see around.) It's also got mostly 5-star reviews for a reason. Just sayin'.

Looking for more photos from Imperial Cafe, I mean Mama's Royal Cafe? Here you are.

Mama’s Royal Cafe
Website | Facebook | Yelp
4012 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94611
Open: Monday - Friday 7 - 2:30, Saturday - Sunday 8 - 3

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Eat in Oakland: Subrosa Coffee


Subrosa Coffee is a tiny coffee shop on 40th between Webster and Shafter in the Temescal District of North Oakland. Located on the same block as Homeroom, everyone's favorite mac 'n' cheese restaurant, this hole-in-the-wall serves delicious Four Barrel Coffee any coffee fiend would love. I ordered a latte, which was as good as you can imagine.

Similar to Four Barrel's cafe in the Mission, they have a lovely parklet out front with space for people and bike parking alike. Here's a video that provides a peak into what Subrosa is like. Longtime readers will remember that Subrosa was where I shot Jerry Lin-Hsien Kung, an Oakland-based glass artist and fabricator, for an interview about his work.

Want to see more photos from Subrosa Coffee? They're all yours.

Subrosa Coffee
Website | Facebook | Instagram | Yelp
419 40th St., Oakland, CA 94609
Open: Monday - Thursday 7 - 5, Friday 7 - 6, Saturday 7:30 - 6, Sunday 8 - 5

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Monday, July 28, 2014

Eat in Oakland: Pepples Donut Farm

Organic Tofu Scramble with mushrooms, tender greens, spinach, carrots, and curry, served with hash browns and Acme sourdough toast

Counterclockwise from bottom left: Lavender Earl Grey, Salted Caramel, Philz Coffee, and Seascape Strawberry donuts

This weekend I visited Pepples Donut Farm for the first time. Located on San Pablo at 61st in North Oakland, this vegan donut shop serves a mean, all-vegan brunch on the weekends. When we arrived on Saturday at noon, we were surprised (and quite relieved) there was no wait.

I ordered the Organic Tofu Scramble made with mushrooms, tender greens, spinach, carrots, and curry, along with hash browns and Acme sourdough toast on the side. It was quite a treat. The tofu had a wonderful curry flavor, which made it so much better than the tofu scrambles I've had previously. I also enjoyed the hash browns and toast, two of my favorite breakfast sides. Although my friend was eager to try the Chik'n Waffle that's listed on their website, it's since been discontinued. Instead, she had the Breakfast Burrito that came with organic beans, potatoes, chiles, tofu scramble, and more, which she enjoyed.

Although this brunch was pretty good, especially considering it pleased an omnivore and a vegetarian, the vegan donuts were the main event. They come in a variety of interesting flavors, most of which I wanted to try. After consulting with an employee about which her favorites were (choosing the right donuts is a very serious matter), I tried the Lavender Earl Grey, Salted Caramel, and Philz Coffee. My friend ordered the Seascape Strawberry, which any fan of strawberries would like. All of these "top shelf" donuts, as Pepples calls them, had the same cake donut as a base and a unique sugary frosting on top. The Lavender Earl Grey had the subtle flavors that I love (especially in gourmet ice cream). The Salted Caramel was very salty, which added instead of subtracted to the experience. The Philz Coffee tasted like it was made with real coffee, which it most likely was. If I had to choose, my favorite was the Lavender Earl Grey. They also serve many more types of cake donuts, raised glazed donuts, and jelly donuts. Vegan or not, Homer Simpson would wholeheartedly approve.

If you're looking for a solid vegan brunch, Pepples is definitely worth trying. Their prices are affordable (about $8 - $9 for most brunch plates), while their donuts are between $2 and $3 a pop. The problem is that you may want to try every flavor like myself. Their donuts are also sold at a variety of locations across the Bay Area, as indicated by the donut symbols on this handy map. For the novelty photo inclined, they have a huge pink donut outside that makes a perfect photo op.

Craving more photos of vegan donuts? Grab a napkin.

Pepples Donut Farm
Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Yelp
6037 San Pablo Ave., Oakland, CA 94608
Open: Monday - Friday 7:30 - 3, Saturday - Sunday 9 - 3

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Eat in SF: Four Barrel Coffee

Cappuccino and Hot Chocolate

Given that I've been on a coffee kick for a few months now, there's little wonder why I stopped by Four Barrel Coffee in the Mission. Located on Valencia near 15th, this coffee shop is a mainstay for caffeine addicts and hipster café dwellers alike.

This was my first time visiting (shocking, I know). I ordered a cappuccino. It was everything I wanted: it had a bold flavor, a good kick of caffeine, and was rather photogenic. My partner-in-crime, a hot chocolate connoisseur in his own right, said theirs was pretty good as well.

Four Barrel has a wonderful parklet out front with space for temporary bike storage and laptop-toting patrons. Being that this is in the Mission and on Valencia at that, it's great for people-watching inside and outside the café. They also offer classes so you, too, can make delicious coffee at home in your undies.

The next time I visit, I'll try a latte or something more adventurous. (Sure, Jan.)

Here are more caffeinated photos from Four Barrel Coffee. Mm mmm!

Four Barrel Coffee
Website | Facebook | InstagramTwitter | Yelp
375 Valencia St., San Francisco, CA 94103
Open: Daily 7am - 8pm

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Eat in SF: Cups and Cakes Bakery

Rich Red Velvet, made with red velvet cake, cream cheese frosting, and red sprinkles, and Viva Las Vegas, made with banana bacon cake and peanut butter buttercream

While strolling through San Francisco this weekend, I visited Cups and Cakes in SoMa. Located on 9th between Harrison and Bryant, this bakery specializes in making cakes and cupcakes in your favorite flavors, like Deep Dark Chocolate and Lemonade, and unique flavors you've never tried, such as Pancake Breakfast and Mojito. (In other words, they're your soon-to-be favorites.)

We happened to be there during happy hour, which begins at 5 on Saturdays, when all cupcakes are two-for-one. I tried the Rich Red Velvet (obviously), which was aptly named. This mini-cupcake came with a relatively big helping of delicious cream cheese frosting on a very moist and very red cupcake. The Viva Las Vegas, which was made with banana bacon cake and peanut butter buttercream, was also supposed to be good.

The next time I'm craving some sweet treats, I'll be sure to stock up at Cups and Cakes.

Cups and Cakes Bakery
451 9th St., San Francisco, CA 94103
Open: Tuesday - Friday 10 - 6:30, Saturday 12 - 7

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