When Firebrand Artisan Breads opened last fall in Oakland’s Uptown neighborhood, it attracted the weekday lunch crowd from nearby offices with a partnership with Pal’s Takeaway who sold creative sandwiches from a window embedded in the modern bakery.
But earlier this summer, Firebrand and Pal’s Takeaway parted ways and Firebrand co-owners Matt Kreutz and Colleen Orland (he’s the bread maker, she’s the pastry queen) brought in Tommy Schnell.
Chef Schnell brings the big guns having most recently worked as chef de cuisine at San Francisco’s high-end Coi restaurant. While Schnell’s lunch menu (offered from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily) is similar to Pal’s Takeaway with seasonal ingredients and a couple of salad offerings, the quality and sophistication have definitely been pumped up a beat.
A clear example is the braised pulled pork sandwich ($13), which is one of the best pulled pork sandwich I’ve had in town. It seems to have the basics of tender pork with BBQ sauce and coleslaw, but everything sandwiched between Firebrand’s brioche buns were another-level good, from the tangy BBQ sauce to the B&B pickles.
Side note: I’m obsessed with Firebrand’s ceramic plates shaped to look like a paper plate you’d take on a picnic. Check it out if you dine there and see if you agree!
A simple fall chicken salad ($13) was bursting with chunky chicken with walnuts, crab apples, and carrots on a multi-grain bread. For people hoping for a fried chicken sandwich, you can go for the fried fish sandwich ($14) made with beer-battered petrale sole, served with cabbage slaw and tartar sauce on a challah torpedo bun.
While I don’t eat red meat too often, there’s been a lot of buzz about Schnell’s roast beef sandwich ($13) made with Kobe beef and served with provolone, fresh horseradish, and caramelized onions. Once I went with my friend Sue who went the vegetarian route and had the Vegan Veggie Sandwich ($13), made with grilled squash, heirloom tomatoes, roasted red bell peppers and spinach pesto on a walnut wheat bread.
Not every sandwich blows your mind. The prosciutto with Taleggio cheddar sandwich ($14) seemed more like a grilled cheese sandwich with the melting Taleggio overwhelming the flavors of the crisp prosciutto and green apple.
The last bite
The prices are about $1 to $2 more than when Pal’s Takeaway was in charge of the kitchen, but it can seem more satisfying because all sandwiches comes with the choice of a side (potato salad, green salad or cup of soup). The high costs is reflected in the quality of the ingredients and the sophistication in how the sandwiches are composed. I might not be able to afford the sandwiches every day, but I’m excited that this is an option in my lunch rotation in Uptown.
The rating: 2.5 out of 4 camera snaps
The deets: Firebrand Artisan Breads, 2343 Broadway, Oakland (in the HIVE). Open daily from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., lunch served from 11 a.m. www.firebrandartisanbreads.com
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