UPDATE: This restaurant announced it will close on Aug. 1, 2016 because of increasing prices for its products.
I can no longer complain about the lunch options around my office in Oakland’s Uptown area – not after the opening of Stag’s Lunchette.
This gourmet sandwich shop/café, in the former home of Uncle Dougie’s (also a sandwich shop that moved to Berkeley), opened in mid-summer, transforming the spot to a cozy, lodge-like space with warm wood, mallards and antlers. The spot is owned by Chef Alexeis Filipello of the nearby bar Dogwood.
The early promotion of Stag’s took the whole locally sourced food movement a step further, promising that the meat used in the sandwiches are purchased from vendors who raise animals that are hormone- and cruelty-free. That’s on top of shopping organic and pesticides-free whenever possible.
I don’t know if eating cruelty-free meat tastes any different, but at least Stag’s Lunchette guarantees itself from being targets of picketers (like the ones against foie gras). After trying a few of the sandwiches, I found Stag’s sandwiches to be filled with quality ingredients, each perfectly constructed and well-balanced in taste.
The menu changes almost daily, depending on the ingredients available (it must take a lot of searching to find cruelty-free meats). Typically, Stag’s offers up about six sandwiches, with at least one vegetarian option. (One day I saw a tofu sandwich and another time, grilled cheese.)
The sandwiches are about $8 to $10, which are more like San Francisco prices. So you pay a premium to feel good about your food. There are also a few side salads in the refrigerated counter, and baked goods for breakfast.
But the focus is primarily on the sandwiches. While the sandwiches often changes, the house-made pastrami ($10) seems to be a regular item. Made with brisket from Bassian farms, the in-house curing creates a nice smoky pastrami that’s thinly sliced and served with piquant dressing, house sauerkraut, and Emmental cheese.
You can tell the pastrami is fresh, with a bit of chew to it, and the flavors meld nicely together, which is what I found with the other sandwiches I’ve had. The mix of ingredients are always well-balanced.
Just like a special Cubanito ($8), Stag’s version of a Cubano sandwich. Traditionally made with pork and thinly sliced ham, Stag’s just serves up Berkshire pork with white cheddar and pickles. Although it looked really thin, it was quite filling and I enjoyed the tiny pickle bits evenly spread among the cheese that melds everything together.
A chicken sandwich with mint ($8) had a lot of ingredients with a basil mint aioli, radish, heirloom carrots, fennel and poached garlic. The chicken was chunky and tender, and the flavors of the other ingredients came in bursts with each bite.
The limited menu can mean that some days there might not be anything to spark your interest, which is why I sometimes see people turn away. But that could also be that they didn’t want to stand in the line that’s consistently there from noon on.
The pricing at Stag’s Lunchette makes it hard for me to go there every day, but its creative menu, quality ingredients, and perfectly constructed sandwiches make me want to.
Rating: 3 out of 4 camera snaps
Stag’s Lunchette, 362 17th St. (between Webster and Franklin), Oakland. PH: 510.835.7824. Open Mon.-–Fri., 8 a.m.–3 p.m.; Sat., 10 a.m.–2 p.m. No reservations, Visa/MC accepted. stagslunchette.com
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