This month, our day-long tour of five perfect meals comes courtesy of Oakland's Matt Johansen, who did us all a huge favor in co-founding Biergarten and is now hard at work making the co-working food space Forage Kitchen a success.
“I’m a pretty old-fashioned guy, so I’m a sucker for any place that has either been around for a long time or has been designed specifically with community in mind. When we built Biergarten in San Francisco, we were really inspired by the idea of creating a multi-generational spot, someplace for people of all ages to gather and just be together.
Forage Kitchen riffs off this same idea, gathering together people who really, really love food, so passionately that they want to share it with everyone around them. It’s a pretty inspiring place to spend some time, hanging around all that passion and excitement.
Oakland is so wonderfully diverse and has such an interesting history, so I tend to gravitate towards places that celebrate this.”
Breakfast: Mama's Royal Café
“Breakfast is my favorite meal to eat out. I have two little kids so we tend to get to places pretty early. It’s always fun to see who is hanging out at Mama’s Café for early breakfast. My wife did her residency at Highland Hospital in Oakland, and most mornings the night crew would all gather there in their scrubs to eat a super hearty breakfast before heading home to bed. Mama’s has been around, well, forever, and it feels about as classic a place as you can get.”
Lunch: Café Dareye
“For lunch, my favorite place is right down the street from Forage Kitchen. It's called Café Dareye. It’s an Ethiopian spot, kind of a bazaar. They have only one dish on the menu, a killer vegetarian plate with the best Ethiopian coffee. You can pick up extra homemade injera bread to bring home for dinner, although I always eat it all before I get home. The whole place is owned and run by a family. I go almost every day. It’s the epitome of what I love: family, great food, community.”
Coffee: Cro Cafe
“Oakland has also done a great job of creating places that feel like they have been around forever even if they are brand new. My favorite example of this is Cro Cafe in Temescal Alley. Sarita Waite has curated a little street that feels like any corner in a village in small town Europe. I grab a coffee from Cro, find a spot outside in the sun, and watch as the world goes by. It’s always a beautiful mix, from grandparents out walking their little charges to the crème de la crème of hipster culture. There are little tables and cobblestones and never a laptop in sight.”
Dinner: Wood Tavern
“For dinner, I will pick Wood Tavern almost every time. The food is just right, Every. Single. Time. We sit at the bar, order a perfect martini and enjoy the wonderful company of the incredibly personable bartenders. Some places just have a kind of magic that brings hordes of people back year after year after year. When I lived in S.F., Delfina had this same kind of special sauce. It’s some kind of intangible. Many people have tried to copy it, but I do think it’s just magic.”
“I really love the Commonwealth on Telegraph, just down the street from Forage Kitchen. It’s more of a pub really and they have totally nailed it. I always stop in with the idea of grabbing one beer before heading home and end up calling my wife three drinks in having to explain why the ‘meeting’ ran late ... again. It’s that kind of place — I feel like I’ve already arrived home when I walk in the door.”