Opposition towards Oakland ghost kitchen battle with Flint’s reopening

Oakland barbecue icon Flint’s just signed a lease at this nascent ghost kitchen that some area neighbors are hoping to halt. Credit: Sarah Han 

A fight over a ghost kitchen might stymie the return of Flint’s Barbecue

A cheer rose in the local barbecue community at the news: Flint’s Barbecue, the 1960s-era Oakland icon that shuttered in 2010, had finally found a new brick and mortar space, Nosh reported last week. Crystal Martin, the granddaughter of founder Willie Flintroy, announced that she’d signed a lease in North Oakland. 

According to KQED, however that location is inside an as-yet-unopened ghost kitchen facility located at 5325 Adeline St. near Oakland’s border with Emeryville. “There won’t be any seating for customers; there won’t even be any signage for Flint’s outside of the building,” KQED reports, and, in fact, there might not be a Flint’s there at all. That’s because area residents, led by longtime neighbor Cathy Leonard, say they don’t want the CloudKitchens space to open in the location, citing concerns with traffic, noise, exhaust and parking.

The issue was first reported by The E’ville Eye, which notes that CloudKitchens is owned by former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, who it says “has turned his focus to disrupting the food takeout industry since being ousted from the company in 2017.” (Nosh reached out to a CloudKitchens spokesperson, but has not received a response as of publication time.)

According to a flier circulated by opponents of the project, when it opens in July, the CloudKitchens site will house “36 commercial kitchens that sell to more than a 1,000 takeout customers per day, 16-18 hours a day, 7 days a week, without off-street parking.” The CloudKitchens opponents, which include community groups like the Golden Gate Community Association and Oakland Neighborhoods for Equity, say that Oakland’s Planning and Building Department approved the business “without public notice or consideration of its impacts on residents.” (A message to the city’s Planning and Building Department was not responded to as of publication time.)

Speaking with Nosh, Leonard said that the opponents brought the matter to Oakland’s City Council on June 1, calling into the open forum portion of the council’s weekly meeting. Her hope is to get the CloudKitchens location on the council’s official agenda, so “they can get a full report from the city” on the impact the business would have on the area. In the interim, her group is pushing city leaders to freeze construction at 5325 Adeline St., and says the opposition groups are demanding a public meeting about the business, with the participation of local officials and “with full input from the community,” she said.

The Adeline Street building has always acted as a low-traffic warehouse or manufacturing business, Leonard said. Her family has lived near the upcoming CloudKitchen for 65 years, she said, and the decision to open a commercial kitchen where “workers from 36 businesses will need to park every day, not to mention the delivery drivers” will have a significant impact on nearby streets. “We finally just got a bike lane after advocating for one for years,” Leonard said, “and you know that now it’s going to be blocked by double parkers day and night.”

Leonard said that she’s been called a NIMBY by some supporters of the CloudKitchens space, but says that’s not the case. “We love being able to walk to local restaurants, and we support small business,” she said, fondly citing nearby spots like The Kebabery that she supports. According to Leonard, it’s those same small businesses — Flint’s included — that could suffer if the CloudKitchens complex is allowed to open. “Do these ghost kitchens help or compete with our local restaurants?” she asked, rhetorically.

She also says that she’s a fan of Flint’s, and would love to see it return to glory, just not like this. “I was around when Flint’s started up,” Leonard said, “they were something else, with that sauce!” According to Leonard, a CloudKitchens Flint is doomed to fail. “They won’t be able to survive here,” Leonard said. “These CloudKitchens are 200 square feet for $6000 a month. How can they scale up enough to stay in business?”

Yet another ghost kitchen has launched in Oakland

About eight miles from the controversial Adeline CloudKitchens development, another ghost kitchen has just started operation, landlord TRI Commercial confirms. Last month, REEF Technologies — a Miami-based parking lot management company turned trailer-based ghost kitchen company —  signed a lease for a vacant parking lot at 1242 35th Ave., a 3,000-square-foot lot adjacent to International Boulevard and about a block from the Fruitvale BART station.

Typically, food from businesses at REEF properties — many of which are REEF-created brands with names like “Rebel Wings” — are prepared at a brick-and-mortar commissary kitchen. Those meals are then delivered to trailers in lots like the one on 35th, where workers put the final touches on dishes then hand them off to delivery drivers from all the usual apps.

According to TRI Commercial, five businesses are already passing online orders to drivers, including Jack in the Box and “a small grocery operator” that will “do some delivery items off of the lot.” REEF joins the East Bay’s jam-packed ghost kitchen landscape, with includes CloudKitchens’ Oakland Food Hall (2353 E 12th St.) and a slew of smaller commissary-style operations. REEF Technologies, 1242 35th Ave (at International Boulevard), Oakland

Lion Dance Cafe has ended its preorder service

Diners no longer have to order online in advance to enjoy the Singaporean-Chinese vegan fare at Lion Dance Cafe in downtown Oakland. Credit: Lion Dance Cafe

Lion Dance Cafe, the pop-up turned crowdfunded vegan restaurant that opened last September as a preorder-only spot, will soon offer its incredibly popular sandwiches (and the rest of its Instagram-posted menu) on a walkup basis only, co-founder C-Y Chia told Nosh.

Chia — who went by her middle name of Marie until recent months, when “I started going by the initials of my first (and Chinese) name again,” — says that starting on June 3, Lion Dance will serve walk-up customers only, operating from 5-8:30 p.m., Wednesdays through Saturdays.

“Some loved it and others hated it,” Chia says regarding the Singaporean-Chinese restaurant’s long-standing preorder system, which often sold out days in advance. But don’t expect to sit down at the 17th Street spot: Chia said that “although restaurants in California are allowed to reopen fully starting June 15 and our team is fully vaccinated, we will remain takeout-only for the foreseeable future.” If all goes well as the state continues its pandemic-era reopening, Chia says that Lion Dance hopes “to consider indoor dining by late fall/end of 2021… but the safety of our workers and more vulnerable folks remains the priority.”

In addition, Chia said that she hopes to serve brunch every Sunday by the end of the summer, but for now, patrons should expect it once a month, on every second Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Brunch, too, will be takeout, but Chia suggests that diners take a “very short walk” to Lake Merritt and make it a picnic affair. Lion Dance Cafe, 380 17th St. (between Franklin and Webster streets), Oakland

Oakland restaurants are celebrating Pride month with a rainbow of specials

Ordering rainbow cookies or Pride sprinkles at Petit Cafe will benefit the Oakland LGBTQ Community Center. Credit: Petit Cafe/Instagram

It’s true, Oakland’s LGBTQ+ Pride celebration isn’t until September, but area restaurants are still recognizing national Pride month this June with treats and fundraisers. Some highlights:

  • Oakland Black Pride, which runs from June 24-27, will host a Queer Pub Crawl from 5:30-6:30 p.m. on June 25. Participants, which will offer food and drink specials, include Sobre Mesa, Kingston 11, Port Bar and Oeste. The night before, Sobre Mesa owner Nelson German and Jusla Eats founder LaLa Harrison will host a seven-course benefit diner for the organization, tickets start at $250 and are available here.
  • Mica Talmor, the chef-owner of Cal-Israeli restaurant Pomella will be baking her popular specialty rainbow cookies the last week of June, a representative says, so keep an eye on its Insta for those treats. Pomella, 3770 Piedmont Ave. (at Yosemite Avenue), Oakland

The East Bay’s oldest boba tea shop just scored a National Trust for Historic Preservation grant

Sweetheart Cafe, which purports to be the East Bay’s “first Bubble Milk Tea Cafe,” received a small restaurant grant for being a “cornerstone of Oakland’s Chinatown.” Credit: Sweetheart Cafe

Sweetheart Cafe, which says on its website that it was the East Bay’s “first Bubble Milk Tea cafe” when it opened in Oakland Chinatown in 1996, is one of only 25 recipients of American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Backing Historic Small Restaurants Grant Program.

According to an announcement posted on AmEx-owned reservation app Resy’s website, Sweetheart and its fellow recipients will each receive $40,000 to “enhance restaurant exteriors, build new outdoor seating areas, and upgrade online businesses to help mitigate operating costs as they work to recover from the financial impacts of the pandemic.” 

Sweetheart, one of only two Bay Area restaurants on the list (the other is San Jose’s Casa Vicky), was chosen as “a cornerstone of Oakland’s Chinatown” and because of owner Jialin Pan’s work with the “Chinatown Chamber of Commerce and other Chinatown business owners to create a prosperous business community.” Sweetheart Cafe, 315 Ninth St (near Harrison Street), Oakland; also 2523 Durant Ave (near Telegraph Avenue), Berkeley

Oakland barbecue sensation MexiQ will be popping up at Luka’s

Chef Aaron Stewart’s popular MexiQ pop-up will be at Luka’s on June 6. Credit: Luka’s/Instagram

MexiQ, chef Aaron Stewart’s wildly popular Mexican barbecue business that began in his East Oakland backyard, will once again serve hungry patrons in person on June 6, the kick-off event for a new Sunday barbecue pop-up series at Uptown Oakland cocktail bar and restaurant Luka’s.

In a profile of Stewart last fall, Luke Tsai noted that MexiQ’s take on barbecue reflects his upbringing as one of the only Black kids “in his predominantly Latino East Oakland neighborhood,” with Stewart saying “I’m not just a Black dude trying to throw barbecue on tacos.” 

Stewart’s patrons seem to agree, supporting his business during the pandemic, as it pivoted from a catering company to a weekly takeout operation that would regularly sell out within hours. And now, with businesses slowly returning to normal, Stewart is back in the pop-up game. See what the fuss is about from noon-4 p.m., but be prepared for long lines. MexiQ at Luka’s, 221 Broadway (near West Grand Avenue), Oakland.

Popoca has found a semi-permanent home

Expect dishes like this enchilada de huevo y frijol at Popoca’s standing pop-up at Degrees Plato. Credit: Popoca/Instagram

Fans of chef Anthony Salguero’s beloved California-Salvadoran pop-up Popoca better block off their Sundays and Mondays: starting this week, he’ll be serving his cult-fave, wood-fire pupusas and tamales at Oakland taproom and bottle shop Degrees Plato, Salguero announced via Instagram. 

His stand at Degrees Plato is only semi-permanent, as Salguero fundraises to land a permanent spot. Readers may recall that Salguero announced in January that he aimed to take over the Classic Cars West space, where he first started Popoca, but that plan fell through; he’s currently seeking investors to open in a new brick-and-mortar space. Until then, folks can expect to find him at Degrees Plato every Sunday and Monday for the near future. Keep an eye on Popoca’s Instagram for the weekly menu; hours are 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., Sundays; 3-8:30 p.m., Mondays. Popoca at Degrees Plato, 4251 MacArthur Blvd. (at High Street), Oakland

Duende will open to diners on June 5

After a 10-month closure, Duende’s dining room will reopen on June 5. Credit: Duende/Instagram

As promised last month, chef Paul Canales has announced the reopening date for his 8-year-old Spanish restaurant, Duende. He’ll be back to serving diners again on Saturday, June 5, a fresh beginning after a 10-month, pandemic-spurred closure. Reservations for indoor dining (the spot won’t offer outdoor service) are strongly recommended and can be made via Opentable. 

Hours are limited for now, with service from 5:30-9:30 p.m., Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays and from 5:30-10:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays, but Canales said he expects the schedule to expand as the restaurant staffs up. What isn’t limited is the menu; Canales said he’s opening “full speed ahead” in terms of the food offerings, so expect favorites like house-cured jamón and paellas, house-made sausage and more. Duende, 468 19th St. (near Telegraph Avenue), Oakland

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