This Chinatown breakfast and lunch counter serves “organic bicycle-pedaled roasted coffee” and Sri Lankan homemade Chai tea. There’s also an array of tropical smoothies, and a lunch menu full of Caribbean and Sri Lankan flavors that rotates daily and often sells out. (You can order a day in advance.) The muffins and breads all come from Semifreddi’s bakery. Prices are very reasonable, seating is limited, and catering options are available.
Located along a quiet stretch of Washington Street in downtown Oakland, Caffe 817 — under the new ownership of Scott and Emily Goldenberg — offers a European cafe experience with meals worth the relatively high prices. Loyal customers come back for the delicious Italian flourishes in breakfast and lunch offerings, with daily specials that appeal to the palette, the eye, and, when read aloud, to the ear — “Roasted pork shoulder sandwich with arugula and aioli.” The service, though sometimes slow, is solicitous, and the baristas make impressive coffee art, as worthy of display as the latest art show on the walls. On a sunny day, sidewalk seating under umbrellas perfects the experience. Bottled beer and wine selections vary with the season.
The outdoor entrance to this small cafe is like the entrance to a knock-knock club, hard to find and not inviting. Keep faith as you enter and proceed into the dimness, rounding a corner to emerge in a small, lamp-lit space with the cafe counter to your left. Now take two steps forward and look to the right. The view astonishes. Mammoth columns reach to the sky inside the Oakland Rotunda building. As if in counterpoint to the sublimity, the cafe serves simple, reasonably priced fare — toasted bagel with an egg option, standard pastries, and a standard selection of espresso drinks, four types of pre-made salad, daily soup, and sandwiches such as turkey and roast beef. Free wi-fi and a comfortable couch, with several issues of Oprah and House Beautiful neatly arrayed on the coffee table.
Located in the business district of downtown Oakland, this is a serviceable cafe for a bite on the run or a pleasant lunch break in the courtyard outside. If you have a sweet tooth, the earth tones that predominate in the decor are likely to bring chocolate to mind and trigger sugar cravings, which you can satisfy with a slice of rich, frosting-laden cake, pastry, or a sugar-bomb cereal such as Fruit Loops and Coco Puffs. There’s also a decent salad bar to offset the guilt of indulgence, as well as pre-packaged wraps and salads. The fair trade and organic-certified coffee is roasted locally by the McLaughlin Coffee Company in Emeryville.
Ahna Adair co-owns the CommonWealth with her brother Pete Jeffryes and her husband Ross Adair, a Scot who learned to appreciate traditional cooking in his grandmother's kitchen. He prepares it here in the form of English-style breakfasts and pub grub with a California twist: Steel-cut oats, beans and toast, egg-and-chutney sandwiches, and the like augment an impressive selection of beers from the UK, the East Bay, and even a few locales in between.