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

Check out more posts from Oakland.

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