Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Picán Restaurant in Uptown Oakland Closing ... For Now

by Nick Miller
Wed, Jun 7, 2017 at 5:18 PM

Picán's Southern fried chicken and mac 'n' cheese, as photographed by the Express in 2009. - FILE PHOTO BY CHRIS DUFFEY
  • File Photo By Chris Duffey
  • Picán's Southern fried chicken and mac 'n' cheese, as photographed by the Express in 2009.

Picán Restaurant
opened in Uptown Oakland in March 2009, before the Broadway neighborhood evolved into a hip hospitality district. This Sunday, however, the expansive Southern dining spot will serve its final plate of fried chicken and close its doors.

Picán's general manager Trevor Little told the Express that he hopes the shuttering will be temporary. "We're looking at this as a hiatus," he said on Wednesday just before dinner service. "It's a great location. It's just unsustainable."

Indeed, Picán is one of the largest downtown restaurants, at 6,500 square feet, which Little described as "enormous." He praised his "wonderful, hard-working staff," but joked that they have to "run the length of a football field to bus a dish," and that it is very costly to staff for such a large room.

Ozumo, a similarly large Japanese restaurant on the same block as Picán, also recently closed in the fall of 2016.

Little also cited increased dining competition in Uptown, and what he described as a 30 percent increase in labor costs in recent years, as additional reasons for the hiatus.

In a 2009 review of Picán by the Express, critic Matthew Stafford wrote that Uptown Oakland "was a ghostly, decrepit shadow of those early-20th-century glory days" back then, but that Picán was "an anchoring restaurant worthy of the neighborhood's aspirations."

Today, Uptown is hopping — "and we’ve kind of fallen victim to the success," Little explained.

Nevertheless, Picán hopes to re-open in the same location, but with a smaller footprint. In the meantime, loyal customers can visit Playt, in Hayward (1036 B Street), “which is the same kind of Southern concept, but more causual,” Little explained.

Picán will serve dinner Wednesday through Sunday, and also brunch on the weekend. Learn more at

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Jamaican Jerk Cook Off Returns To Oakland On Memorial Day

by Momo Chang
Sun, May 28, 2017 at 12:51 PM

  • Courtesy of Jamaican Jerk Cook Off
Which local chef makes the best Jamaican jerk? This Memorial Day, head to The HIVE and Drake's Dealership for tastings of chicken, pork, goat and fish jerk at the Jamaican Jerk Cook Off to support My Yute soccer camp. Chefs competing include James Syhabout (Old Kan & Beer Co.), who took home the People’s Choice Award last year.

Other local chefs include Kristen Thibeault, who will be cooking jerk fish with the Nybll catering team. Chris Pastena of Chop Bar will make jerk goat. Drake’s will not only be serving cold brews, but their chef Taylor Smith will also prepare jerk duck. Berkeley’s La Marcha team, award winners from 2014, hope to reclaim the crown this year with a jerk chicken paella dish. August Varlack of Mohari Wellness Cafe is teaming up Howden Market to serve a whole roast pig.

"Soccer is really a huge part of Spanish culture, and isn't as popular here in America," said La Marcha's co-chef and co-owner Sergio Monleon, who will be cooking with co-chef and co-owner Emily Sarlatte. "My Yute is helping spread soccer here in America to kids that otherwise wouldn't be able to participate."

The fundraiser supports My Yute Soccer camp, an Oakland-based nonprofit, which runs a free youth summer camp and teen mentoring program, as well as mini camps during the year. Rovel "Steve" Sparkes, president and founder of My Yute Soccer, is originally from Kingston, Jamaica and wanted to bring his passion for soccer to local youth, as well as bring his hometown flavors to the annual fundraiser

Kids under 12 are free at this family-friendly event, where they can enjoy a jumpy house, face-painting, and of course, some soccer. Singer Sharon B and Tropixx band will provide live entertainment on the steel drums.

A $25 ticket will get you two tastings at any jerk or beer station (additional tastings are $5 each), or go for unlimited food and drink tastings ticket for $60. Craft brews provided by Drake’s, Old Kan Beer, Ale Industries, North Coast Brewing Co., Federation Brewing, Line 51 Beer and 41 Hills Brewing Co. Calavera serve cocktails at the event.

Monday, May 29, 1-5pm, $25-60, The Hive, 2335 Broadway,

Friday, March 24, 2017

Corporate Beer Overlords AB InBev To Open Golden Road 'Craft' Beer Garden in North Oakland

by Nick Miller
Fri, Mar 24, 2017 at 10:21 AM

AB InBev, the world's largest macro beer corporation — owner of such brands as Budweiser, Corona, Stella Artois ... you name it — is coming to North Oakland.

The beer empire's arrival will be clandestine, however, in the form of Golden Road Brewing, one of formerly craft-beer brands that AB InBev gobbled up in the summer of 2015.

Permits filed with the city of Oakland this month show that Golden Road is planning to open a 7,000-square-foot brewery and beer garden in North Oakland, which will take up three lots on 40th Street between Broadway and Manila Avenue.

According to this application with the Planning and Zoning Division, Golden Road intends to brew on site, serve food, and also feature an outdoor beer garden with fire pits. The entire structure will be — wait for it — constructed out of shipping containers.

There are several locally owned breweries within a mile of the proposed Golden Road site, including newly opened Temescal Brewing and Drakes Dealership.

The AB InBev incursion into Oakland isn't its first announced foray into Northern California. Last year, the corporation released plans to open a similar Golden Road beer garden in Sacramento's Midtown neighborhood. AB InBev also purchased Oakland-based Horizon Beverage Company, a distribution outfit, in 2015.

Golden Road co-founder and president Meg Gill said in a statement that the company "happened to have found two great markets in NorCal that embraced Golden Road’s Flipflop Pub (our concept of a nano-brewery made out of container), that also both have a relaxed, yet active, outdoor atmosphere.”

Last year, when the Express spoke to Tom McCormick, head of statewide advocacy group the California Craft Brewers Association, he said the No. 1 threat to the thriving craft-beer industry is AB InBev's takeover of independent breweries:
"If you were to ask me the greatest threat to our industry now, that is far and away it," he said of macro beer. "And it is clear now what their strategy is: If you can't beat them, buy them."
Also last year, AB InBev paid more than $100 billion to absorb its chief competitor, SABMiller , an acquisition that the Department of Justice antitrust officials (inconceivably) green lit.

AB InBev now controls more than 30 percent of the global beer market.

Correction: A previous version of this story reported that AB InBev owns MillerCoors. That is incorrect; when AB InBev acquired SABMiller, the MillerCoors holdings were not part of it.

AB InBev also does not own Modelo; they are owned by Constellation.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Complex Oakland to Focus on Coffee and Creole Food Instead of Clubbing

by Luke Tsai
Tue, Mar 14, 2017 at 2:30 PM

Available Friday nights at Complex Oakland: Dungeness crab, blackened shrimp, and garlic noodles. - INSTAGRAM @CHEFSMELLY
  • Instagram @chefsmelly
  • Available Friday nights at Complex Oakland: Dungeness crab, blackened shrimp, and garlic noodles.

Oscar Edwards saw all of the shiny new high-rise apartment buildings planned for Downtown Oakland and figured the writing was on the wall: There probably wasn’t much of a future in running a nightclub in that neighborhood.

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Lady Esther’s Rises Once Again, Now in Downtown Oakland

by Luke Tsai
Tue, Mar 14, 2017 at 11:39 AM

Esther Clay opened the first Lady Esther's in 1968. - DEIMENTRIUS CLAY
  • Deimentrius Clay
  • Esther Clay opened the first Lady Esther's in 1968.

Lady Esther’s has been open a little over a week, and the place is already drawing on five decades of Oakland soul-food history.

The restaurant only recently took over the Frank Ogawa Plaza space last occupied by Crossburgers, but oldtimers should remember the name: In 1968, a Louisiana native named Esther Clay — aka Lady Esther — opened the original Lady Esther’s, then moved the soul food restaurant down the road a few times before settling into the tiny East Oakland storefront at the corner of E. 14th and 53rd streets that it occupied for 27 years.

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Monday, March 6, 2017

A Black-Owned, Woman-Owned Craft Bottle Shop Is Coming to Uptown Oakland

by Luke Tsai
Mon, Mar 6, 2017 at 11:53 AM

Jessica Moncada wants her bottle shop to be a resource for Bay Area bartenders. - NEIL ROCHE
  • Neil Roche
  • Jessica Moncada wants her bottle shop to be a resource for Bay Area bartenders.

Jessica Moncada is no stranger to breaking barriers: She was one of the first female bartenders to be hired at the Uptown Oakland bar Flora, and over the years she’s gotten her fair share of funny looks when telling strangers that she works in the craft spirits industry — because she doesn’t have “the mustache, or the height, or the look.”

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Thursday, March 2, 2017

Mid-Week Menu: Old Kan, Drip Line, and a Korean Fried Chicken Heavyweight

by Luke Tsai
Thu, Mar 2, 2017 at 5:12 PM

The open-face meatball sandwich at Old Kan. - INSTAGRAM @OLDKANBEER
  • Instagram @oldkanbeer
  • The open-face meatball sandwich at Old Kan.

Welcome to the Mid-Week Menu, our roundup of East Bay food news.

1) This week’s big new restaurant opening is more of a reopening: James Syhabout has rebranded the former Dock at Linden Street as a full-fledged brewery called Old Kan Beer & Co. (95 Linden St., Oakland). Head brewer Adam Lamoreaux, will focus on classic, all-American beers — a sensibility reflected in their no-nonsense names: “Old Kan Original,” “Old Kan Dark,” and “Old Kan Light.”

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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Six East Bay Restaurants Where You Can Score Killer Fish and Chips for Lent

by Jasmine Guillory
Tue, Feb 28, 2017 at 1:16 PM

Fried catfish and shrimp at Mississippi Catfish. - ANDRIA LO/FILE PHOTO
  • Andria Lo/File photo
  • Fried catfish and shrimp at Mississippi Catfish.

Ash Wednesday, which falls on March 1 this year, marks the beginning of Lent. For Christians, the forty-day religious observance has different emphasis and meaning depending on what denomination a person belongs to — and how Christian they are. But for more than half a million East Bay Catholics (and many more former Catholics), Fridays during Lent mean one thing: fish and chips. Luckily, the East Bay has a wide variety of fried-seafood purveyors to keep us guilt-free for the next six Fridays.

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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Mid-Week Menu: Brazilian Comfort Food, Filipino Groceries, and Even More Ramen

by Luke Tsai
Thu, Feb 23, 2017 at 2:12 PM

Feijoada, with all the proper accoutrements. - PAULISTA (VIA FACEBOOK).
  • Paulista (via Facebook).
  • Feijoada, with all the proper accoutrements.

Welcome to the Mid-Week Menu, our roundup of East Bay food news.

1) The East Bay isn’t known for its Brazilian restaurants — and most of the ones we do have are all-you-can-eat steakhouses, which, obviously, aren’t the kind of place you can eat at every day. Berkeyside Nosh reports that two Oakland residents are planning to fill that void with by opening Paulista (4239 Park Ave.) in the former Rumbo al Sur space in Oakland’s Glenview neighborhood. Owners Alex Yamamoto and Jesse Madway plan to serve homestyle comfort food — things like feijoada, the classic bean-and-sausage stew. The idea is for it to be a family-friendly place that will be open all day, with an emphasis on local craft beer. Look for a July 1 opening.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A Burmese Resurrection: Grocery Cafe Will Get a Second Life in Jack London Square

by Luke Tsai
Wed, Feb 15, 2017 at 2:00 PM

The future site of the new Grocery Cafe. - WILLIAM LUE
  • William Lue
  • The future site of the new Grocery Cafe.

Nearly every week, some Bay Area restaurant ends not with a bang but a whimper — or, in the case of the well-loved East Oakland Burmese spot Grocery Cafe, a single all-caps Facebook status posted in early January: “DEAR ALL WE ARE CLOSED INDEFINITELY. THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT.”

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