"It is a difficult matter to argue with the belly since it has no ears." — Cato the Elder
Caffe 817 was a beloved Old Oakland spot before Emily and Scott Goldenberg came in several months ago.
Since the day it opened, Caffe 817 has had fans who are obsessed with the coffee (Mr. Espresso, headquartered right here in Oakland), the polenta (try it with a poached egg and Castello blue) and the toast with jam (pear with cardamon, please). There's always a line for coffee and the buzz after 9:30 p.m., when the leisure class comes in for food and talk, is always robust.
But did you know that Caffe 817's chefs are committed to sourcing as many ingredients locally as possible and that the Italian toast, a warm ham and cheese sandwich with mostarda di frutta, has a spicy spread that the owners make themselves? Or that Chef Emily makes all the jam herself - including a lip-smacking strawberry with berries from locals Swanton Berry Farm, Tomatero, Rodriguez Farms and Rio de Parras?
It shouldn't be a best kept secret, but if you want your roast beef sandwich to come on a homemade panini and have locally sourced, organic Marin Sun Farms roast beef with organic lettuce on the roll - pretty much for the price of a deli sandwich - this is your spot.
Scott and Emily Goldenberg came over from the city, where they both cooked at the famous Zuni Cafe. For them, the mix of regulars and new faces is part of what make the Caffe rewarding.
"We didn't want to change anything that the regulars enjoyed," Emily Goldenberg explained. "The Caffe has a loyal following and we were thrilled to meet them."
"But we also wanted put our own subtle spin on the menu," her husband added. "We've tinkered with some things, especially at brunch."
If tinkering means corned beef hash with eggs and the braised lamb dish, it's all good.
Where: 817 Washington St. (between Eighth and Ninth streets) in Oakland
Hours: 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday; closed Sunday
Phone: (510) 271-7965
More info: caffe817.com