My Oakland neighborhood continues to evolve with recent food additions including a Blue Bottle Cafe and a Trueburger in the works. Another newcomer is the community-building Hog’s Apothecary.
An American-style tavern with an emphasis on everything pig, Hog’s Apothecary opened earlier this year by Bradford Earle and John Stewart-Streit in what’s being called the Jewel Box neighborhood, which technically is the 40th Street corridor near Broadway. (It’s the same spot as the popular Homeroom and a surge of small businesses in a compact block much like, um, a jewel box.)
Hog’s Apothecary’s airy space (made more airy by an opening in the roof) gives off a modern and casual beer hall atmosphere, and the impressive row of handles behind the bar is where the changing list of local craft brews are poured.
Many probably come for the beer and camaraderie, but there’s also an interesting menu that — like what you’d expect with beer food — has an emphasis on sausages and meats. The menu is broken into categories, including “bits” (think pretzels and “Cracker John” or home-made Cracker Jacks), starters, butcher coffer (terrine and jarred spreads), sausage sandwiches, plates and sides.
The food has a seasonal touch, such as the starter of “chokes and favas” ($10) that I ate at the bar. It’s a plate of marinated artichokes, fresh favas, ricotta salata, olive, and barley all topped with a Schmaltz-fried farm egg. The barley added a nice heftiness to contrast with the soft-yolk fried egg and tender artichokes and fava.
When I think of beer, I think of German food and there’s a nod to that with the weiner schnitzel ($19), which was a big plate of food including two large pieces of perfectly cooked pounded veal evenly pan-fried to a golden brown color. It came with a warm German potato salad, horseradish and beetroot chrain, arugula, and dijon cream. I wished the potato salad had more of a vinegar taste like how I typically have had German potato salad (the potatoes were too soft and lacked much flavor), but I loved the dijon cream.
If you decide to have the home-made brownie ($6) for dessert, be sure to order it early on because it takes awhile. That’s because the brownie comes out oozing like a molten chocolate cake that turns the accompanying mint chocolate chip ice cream into mush very easily. It’s a rich dessert that probably was too much for me after the weiner schnitzel.
The Last Bite
With shuffleboard and a friendly staff, Hog’s Apothecary is a gourmet beer hall and gathering place drawing out residents of the neighborhood who typically would head to Piedmont Avenue or Rockridge. But now in the tiny Jewel Box, this American tavern is bringing good food and cheer to Oakland.
Hog’s Apothecary, 375 40th St., Oakland. PH: 510.338.3847. Open Wed.–Mon., 5 p.m. till midnight (kitchen closes at 11 p.m.). No reservations. Major credit cards accepted. www.hogsapothecary.com
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