Ah, the early days of dating. In a world of swipe rights, likes, winks and thumbs up, committing to a date can be tricky business. So, what’s a casual meet-up look like outside of dive bars and a happy hour of cocktails? Why not meet your next date at the most important meal: breakfast or brunch? Oakland’s brunch game is strong as evidenced by the long lines you can typically expect to find when the clock hits 10. Here are a few spots around town that offer a great meal even if the romantic connection fizzles.
1. Nido Kitchen & Bar
Pop over to Jack London Square for bold flavors in Mexican food and cocktails at this rustic restaurant situated right next to 880. Put jitters to rest with a Tres Rojas Margarita (Mina Real Mezcal, blood orange liqueur, pomegranate / hibiscus / Tempranillo and citrus). Tuck into their Huevo con Chorizo de Coliflor, an egg dish with cauliflower chorizo and salsa, avocado, and cheese. Can’t decide between savory or sweet? Split the Chilaquiles Rojos to appeal to your savory side and the Pancakes de Requeson y Frambuesas made of ricotta cheese-lemon pancakes, raspberries, honey-lemon butter and dulce de leche.
Date’s Going Great? Walk or drive down to the marina at Jack London Square where the water sparkles as boats bob at the docks. In need of a caffeine fix? Both Oakland roasters Bicycle Coffee and Blue Bottle Coffee shops are in close proximity to the marina.
2. Firebrand Bread and Bakery
Photo by Annelies Zijderveld
Located in the buzzy borough of Uptown and several blocks from the 19th Avenue BART station, this artisan bread bakery owned by Matt Kreutz boasts a pastry case full of the likes of pretzel sticky buns and savory open-faced croissants for a quick and casual feeling-out your date kind of scenario. Settling in for a longer spell? Score a table in the intimate dining area upstairs after diving into their breakfast sandwich menu where you’ll find heartier fare like their croissant egg white sandwich with avocado and crispy potatoes or the Elvis with the requisite peanut butter, honey and bananas on levain toast. Stay tuned for brunch menu additions, including cocktails.
Date’s Going Great? Before leaving your date, plan your next one and sign up for one of their culinary classes, held on Sunday afternoons and taught by former COI Chef Tommy Schnell. When the sparks start flying, head to the kitchen to start cooking up a deeper connection.
3. Brown Sugar Kitchen
This West Oakland mainstay doesn’t take reservations but is worth the wait. Once you nab one of the tables in this cozy space, save room for crispy buttermilk fried chicken on tender cornmeal waffles with apple cider syrup and brown sugar butter or poached eggs on cheddar grits. Break a biscuit in two to share and slather on some of their house-made jam.
Date’s Going Great? Head outside and walk the parkway after the meal. On a sunny day, with its bold backdrop of brilliant graffiti murals, it’s a quiet area in West Oakland to take in more time getting to know each other.
4. Clove & Hoof
Photo courtesy of Clove & Hoof
When brunch winks toward lunch, plan a date here. This butchery slash restaurant perched on the edge of Temescal and Longfellow offers substantial sandwiches perfect for pairing with one of the beers they have on tap. Try the cheesesteak, topped with beer cheese fondue and onion confit, or their spicy hot fried chicken sandwich with blue cheese mayo and pickled carrots. Their riff on Panzanella comes with cubes of fried bread nestled in with butternut squash, pickled currants and shaved fennel on mustard greens with preserved lemon yogurt and vadouvan-honey vinaigrette for an ample main dish. Save room to share a side of their beef tallow French fries with pickle mayo.
Date’s Going Great? Take home a quart of house-made bone broth or a cut of meat to plan an evening edition to keep the date going strong into the p.m. hours.
5. Grand Lake Kitchen
Photo by Larissa Cleveland, courtesy of Grand Lake Kitchen
Brunch propelled this popular eatery to recently expand and swallow the space next door. Even after doubling their space, you’re bound to find a wait unless you show up right as they open. If you end up in that camp, take a short jaunt three doors down to Oaktown Spice Shop and add aromatherapy as an icebreaker activity. If you can catch an outside table at Grand Lake Kitchen, you’ll have views of Lake Merritt across the street. Savor the Savory French Toast with rye bread dipped in porcini batter topped with poached eggs, wild mushrooms, arugula and herb oil or veer into lunch territory for a salad or one of their inventive sandwiches like the Oyako, an open-faced egg salad sandwich, topped with crispy chicken skin. Try the side dish of Reuben fries with corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Russian dressing.
Date’s Going Great? Amble down to the Grand Lake Farmer’s Market, held in Splash Pad Park on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Or, stroll around the lake—it’s a picturesque way to walk off brunch and keep the date going for 3.4 more miles.
Photo by Annelies Zijderveld
Parking around Piedmont Ave. can be dicey but Kronnerburger more than makes up for it. This isn’t your typical burger joint. Outfitted with cool marble tabletops in a simple but chic space outfitted with blue banquettes, their burgers are not to be missed including the Kronnerburger served rare with cheddar mayo and an optional side of bone marrow or the Earth Burger, a vegan mushroom patty with tofu mayo to which you can add a side of yuba Dzbacondz. Split an order of perfect French fries with house-made ketchup or if you really want to go for it, try their version of poutine—Kennebec fries with cheese curds and Cream Co. beef shank and cheek gravy. If you’re craving greens, go with the pomegranate and chicory salad with smoked coconut dressing. Brunch drinks include a small but focused beer menu and cocktails like Milk Punch, made of rum, bourbon, milk and almond or the Buck’s Fizz, crafted of sparkling Folle Blanche, orange juice, and combier. If you’re sticking with the whole burgers and fries schtick, order one of their boozy coffee amaro bourbon milkshakes.
Date’s Going Great? Window shopping and people watching is prime time on Piedmont Ave. Right up the street from Kronnerburger is the Piedmont Theater, which shows mainstream movies and arthouse films, so adding a movie to your daytime date mix is easy. Several coffee shops are situated on Piedmont too, if you’re in need of liquid courage of the caffeinated variety.
Annelies Zijderveld’s first cookbook, Steeped: Recipes Infused with Tea, is available now. She has been published in Curator magazine, Arthouse America, and Sated Magazine. Follow her teatime antics and cooking with tea journey on Instagram;