The story: Sacred Wheel Cheese Shop is a longtime cheese store across the street from a corner strip mall in Oakland’s Temescal neighborhood, but along with the cheese and specialty food items people come for Chef-Owner Jena Davidson’s creatively-named sandwiches and world-famous mac n’ cheese.
Why I went: I didn’t know about this place until I saw it featured on a Travel Channel Show called “Chow Masters,” where an LA chef goes around with his Hollywood director pal finding the best of the best around the country. In this episode they were looking for the best mac n’ cheese and Davidson won for her special “Sleazy Mac,” which is a mac n’ cheese with Sloppy Joe meat on top and pressed into a grilled panini. I thought it was criminal that this little spot would catch the attention of a national TV show but I live 15 minutes away and haven’t even tried it. So I had to right this wrong, and I’ve been visiting for weekend lunches since.
The vibe: With the tats on the chefs (including Davidson) and the funky decor, there’s a bit of the cheese shop meets tattoo store vibe going, but the friendly people behind the counter and picnic-like tables inside and outside the store gives it a very neighborly feel.
The menu: There’s a creative list of sandwiches, which are the stars of the menu, but there are also regular sandwiches and salads. There’s also a section for mac n’ cheese, but because I don’t eat a lot of cheese, I skipped that section during my visits.
My favorite dish: There’s no doubt Davidson’s version of Sloppy Joe is great, in any form. I tried the “Sri-roppy Joe” sandwich ($8.50), so named because of the use of Sriracha sauce in the Sloppy Joe, served on a nicely toasted bun.
Insider tip: If you’re looking for cheese after your sandwich, don’t be afraid to ask. The guy behind the counter is always willing to give suggestions that match your cheese-eating occasion.
The last bite: In a time when fancy sandwich shops are opening and charging $10 to $12 per sandwich, it’s nice to see a local spot making great sandwiches with fun twists and still charging a reasonable $8 to $9 per sandwich. Sacred Wheel is a friendly neighborhood spot with gourmet American comfort food made with love.
The rating: 2.5 out of 4 camera snaps
The deets: Sacred Wheel Cheese and Specialty Shop, 4935 Shattuck Ave., Oakland. PH: 510.653.1353. Open Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; and Sunday, noon to 6 p.m. No reservations. Major credit cards accepted. www.sacredwheelcheeseshop.com.
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