UPDATE: This restaurant closed and re-opened as Slicer Pizza in 2013.

The newly opened Local Café is hitching its wagon to the local sustainability gravy train, but to me its name takes a literal geographical definition because it’s just three blocks away from my apartment.

Opened next door to the popular Adesso on Oakland’s Piedmont Avenue, Local Café has a sleek, modern décor that’s part art gallery and part mini restaurant. It doesn’t have the feel of a neighborhood café from its appearance, but the friendly homey feel comes from the personable and inviting servers and owners Megan Burke and David Crombie.

The farmhouse vibe doesn’t continue inside with the sleek decor

When it opened in August, it was doling out breakfast and lunch. Last week it began to stay late for dinner service.

The menu is evolving but it plays on the local-ingredients-seasonal-freshness mantra of restaurants like Pizzaiolo and Camino, which happens to be stops made by Local Café’s chef Colin Etezadi. The menu can be limited, with more emphasis on a variety of salads that are the best showcase for the season’s freshest ingredients.

In my early visits, the dishes were a mix of pedestrian to sophisticated. A BLT was transformed into a $9 apple-smoked bacon with tomatoes and avocado, but it was served on what seemed like plain white bread (that wasn’t even toasted). But it was served with a small cup of tomato soup (or bisque) that was restaurant-worthy.

Bacon tomato avocado sandwich with cup of tomato soup ($9)

I enjoyed the soup so much that another lunch I ordered a small chef salad ($7) and the soup of the day, which again was the tomato bisque that I enjoyed so much ($8). But I spent $15 for my lunch since they didn’t offer a soup-salad combo, which you’d typically expect from a café.

But Local Café is evolving, like I said. The menu is still limited, but it seems to pick up on the half sandwich, half soup or salad offering. It’s also turning more into a restaurant where you sit down and order. (When it first opened, you ordered at the counter and got a tag that you took to your table and the food would come later.)

Local Café has a lot of potential given some of the highlights of Chef Etezadi’s cooking (especially the soups), but its high prices and limited menu may make it an expensive proposition to drop by for a casual lunch or even afternoon coffee. It needs to decide if it’s a restaurant or a neighborhood hangout.

Rating: 2 out of 4 camera snaps



Local Cafe on Urbanspoon

Local Cafe, 4395 Piedmont Ave. (near Pleasant Valley), Oakland. PH: 510.922.8248. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner from Tuesday through Sunday.

Local aspect is emphasized by local products sold at the cafe

Chef Salad ($7 small/$9 large) and Tomato Soup ($8)

Chalkboard column is adds a whimsical touch to the otherwise sleek dining room

Niman Ranch hot dog with carrot soup, stone-ground mustard and pickled vegetables ($6.50)

Picnic bench communal table at the center of the room

Fennel Frisee Salad with Seasonal Figs ($7 small)

Chef Colin Etezadi preps fish for dinner service

Afternoon sun shielded by screens

2 Responses to Neighborhood Café has a Bigger Dream

  1. agent713 says:

    Oooh that fennel frisee salad with the figs looks good, and the carrot soup too. Looks like a fun place!

  2. Carolyn Jung says:

    It looks like a very cute place. I hope it continues to evolve and has staying power.