UPDATE: This marketplace suddenly closed on 11/21/15 by management for undisclosed reasons. No word on when it will re-open and in what form.
The ambitious Grand Fare Market has been attracting a slew of curiosity-seekers strolling pass its deli section or wandering outside the large patio space since it officially opened a month ago.
A project of husband-and-wife team, Doug Washington and Freya Prowe, Grand Fare takes over the large space on Grand Avenue that was formerly a combination cafe and high-end furniture store. Washington and Prowe have created a gathering place that includes a deli, rotisserie, oyster bar, market, coffee stand, and florist, all anchored by the 1,200-square-foot patio-garden space.
Washington reportedly was inspired by Rockridge’s Market Hall, and wanted to have a version of that mixed-use space to build a community for Oakland’s Grand Lake neighborhood. That all seems fine and good, except that the space is a fourth of Market Hall’s size, and it seems in this early stage Grand Fare is still suffering from an identity crisis.
With fire power for the food program from Ben Coe (previously at the now-closed Box & Bells in Rockridge), Grand Fare started off like a restaurant, where you sat at the tables outside and servers took your order for the food sold inside. Some side tables were reserved for people who just bought items inside and decided to stay and eat.
They’ve since scrapped table service (which makes sense because how can you call yourself a restaurant with just outdoor seating?) and now you order your food inside and get a number that you take to a table like a casual eatery.
The sandwiches and sides are restaurant-quality items. I tried a lamb sandwich early on that was delicious with the super thin lamb slices with roasted bell peppers and chimichurri sauce. The oyster bar has more of a restaurant feel with its marble counter bar seating. But for both the rotisserie items and oyster bar, the prices are a premium (oysters from Washington state were selling for $3 each and my lamb sandwich was $13; I also tried the charcuterie plate that for $17 gave you just three items: ghost pepper salami, regular salami and Iowa-made prosciutto).
The prices are high because it includes tax and tip, which makes sense for the oyster bar but would you really be paying tip when you’re just buying food to go or even to have someone bring it to your table without taking your orders?
The florist shop at the front, Brother and Sisters, is a project of Prowe; and the patio has a retro feel with a refurbished 1948 Airstream trailer that serves coffee from Linea Caffe from San Francisco. Bread sold inside come from Acme everyday and Revolution from Petaluma on weekends.
While some of the products are Oakland made, many are not, like the bread from Petaluma or ice cream from San Francisco’s Humphre Slocumbe. That doesn’t add to an Oakland vibe. I agree with my fellow food blogger, Christina of East Bay Dish, when she says Grand Fare would easily fit in anywhere in Sonoma or Napa because on a sunny day it glistens like a beautiful vineyard. But this is Oakland, and Grand Fare needs a bit of the funky street styles of the area to feel more like the community, IMHO.
The project is close to my gym, so it’s easy for me to get to for a quick bite or coffee. So despite the high prices, I’m still curious to see how this market evolves.
The deets: Grand Fare Market, 3265 Grand Ave., Oakland. PH: 510.889.9610. Open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily (coffee truck open from 7 a.m.). www.grandfaremarket.com
Explore Grand Fare Market with my gallery of images below. Like always, you can find this and more in my Exhibits section.
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