Saturday, September 18, 2010

Café Gabriela in Downtown Oakland

An Independent Café with Filipino Flavors
988 Broadway (between 9th and 10th), Oakland
PH: 510.763.2233
Open weekdays, 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Cash only

This tiny new café between Oakland’s City Center and Chinatown can get lost on the street level of a boring business tower. It’s not a typical corner coffee shop with big colorful umbrellas, but it’s definitely a small business worth supporting.

I noticed it one day while walking to Chinatown, and the pulled pork adobo sandwich on its menu out front caught my eye. I returned for lunch one day during work to try it out.

Café Gabriela is clean and contemporary, with a mini gallery happening on one side of the wall. There’s the same woman manning the store all the time, and I suspect she’s the owner Penny Bee. (There’s no Gabriela; the café is named after a famous Filipina heroine named Gabriela Silang.)

Penny serves up locally produced items such as coffee from Blue Bottle Coffee, baked goods from Arizmendi, and vegan donuts from Pepples Organic Donut. She makes sure everything is fresh, making the coffee only when you order it.

Since she also makes the sandwiches, Penny’s menu is pretty limited. There are only three items to choose from for lunch: the pulled pork adobo sandwich, a peppered turkey and cranberry sandwich, and a seasonal salad (currently a tomato salad with mozzarella and basil).

I ordered the pulled pork adobo sandwich, and it was served up on a Bread Workshop baguette that was crusty. The pulled pork pieces were dripping in adobo sauce of soy and vinegar that was well balanced, playing with your tastebuds going between the savory of the soy sauce and the tang of the vinegar. There were also cooked onions that I’m not a fan of but understand how they would be a nice complement to the pork. This was a full sandwich well worth the $7.

I returned another time to try the turkey sandwich, and this was also freshly made but a bit lackluster compared to the pulled pork. It was deli-style turkey slices with romaine lettuce and cranberry with a bit of mustard. It was good, but nothing spectacular.

Since I’m not a coffee drinker, I can’t tell you much about that service but as I hung around, I listened as Penny carefully explained her coffee-making process to visitors, always making sure it’s served up fresh and with no attitude.

Café Gabriela is a quaint spot in a dreary block of downtown Oakland (across from the Marriott) and its pulled pork adobo sandwich is well worth the long walk for me during the weekday (it’s 10 blocks from my office). The café is the type of independent small business that you want to support. It’s the little café that thinks it can, and I hope it does.

1 comment:

Nirmala said...

I couldn't agree more. Love this place too.