Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Uncle Dougie’s Italian Heroes in Oakland’s Uptown--CLOSED

Everything New York, Including the Attitude
UPDATE (11/14/11): Just noticed this location closed up this month, but Uncle Dougie's continues to operate out of his shop in Berkeley.
362 17th St. (near Webster), Oakland
Uptown neighborhood
PH: 510.832.3131
Open Mon.–Fri., 11 a.m.–3 p.m.; Fri. and Sat. nights from 9:30 p.m.–2:30 a.m.
No reservations, major credit cards accepted

Continuing the growth of food options near my Oakland offices is a little sandwich shop right out of Manhattan’s Little Italy.

Uncle Dougie’s has all the little touches to scream “New Yawk” when you enter, from the recently painted colorful graffiti scene on the wall to the New York magazines hanging from the rack. There’s no question that Douglas Leong — the not-so-Italian Chinese guy aka Uncle Dougie — wanted to tap into his years spent living in the Big Apple.

The shop specializes in one thing: the Italian hero sandwiches that Leong dreams about when he thinks of New York. We’re talking nice-sized roll stuffed with meat and lathered in sauce.

Leong offers just four heroes: chicken parmesan, eggplant parmesan (he says that’s the most popular), peppers and sausage, and Italian meatloaf. All are sold for $7.50, which comes with an individual size bag of potato chips.

When I first went to check out Uncle Dougie’s, I ordered the Italian meatloaf, which Leong pieced together into the roll almost like a puzzle and then poured on his tomato sauce.

The roll was real nice and crusty, just like a French roll, and overall everything was simple and light, not densely packed. The tomato sauce had a slight sweet edge instead of acidic. The hero wasn’t anything fancy but was very comforting. (I can see why you should eat this right after you order it and not take it back to your desk because it can be messy and probably soggy from the walk.)

Another time I got the peppers and sausage, and this time the roll seemed a bit darker but still light and toasty. The sausage was split in half and then layered with the tomato sauce and roasted bell peppers (a mix of red and green) and some onions. It was a bit hard to eat because the sausage was dense so it kept wanting to squeeze out of the roll. The taste of the sausage wasn’t that exciting, and the overall hero was saved mostly because of Leong’s tomato sauce.

I wasn’t about to try the eggplant because you know that’s not my favorite vegetable, and I skipped the chicken parmesan since that’s probably breaded and fried, so one time I thought maybe I’ll try the only non-sandwich offering on the menu — spaghetti and garlic bread ($5.50).

When I got my plate of spaghetti, it was almost like something you’d order for a child because it’s just pasta with sauce, and the garlic bread. There’s no meat in the sauce (I guess you can request to add meatloaf and pay extra, but that’s not clearly marked on the menu) and the garlic bread had no garlic, just butter. There was a lot of spaghetti but not as much sauce to go with it, and the sauce wasn’t even topped with cheese. (I later saw a canister of processed parmesan cheese on the table.)

Uncle Dougie is often behind the counter plating up the orders and when he’s not, he’s out with the guests chatting up the regulars and making new friends, just like what you’d expect from the neighborhood sammie shop in the Bronx or Brooklyn. Leong, just like a New Yorker, just wants to engage his guests about any topic of the day.

As for the food, I say stick with the heroes and skip the spaghetti. The Italian meatloaf is worth every bite but I wasn’t a fan of the peppers and sausage. Some of you can let me know whether the eggplant is as good as Leong says.

The place has a lot of character (even though the character is transported from the East). Still, it’s a nice mix for the area.

Single guy rating: 2.75 stars (Filling Lunch)

Explanation of the single guy's rating system:

1 star = perfect for college students
2 stars = perfect for new diners
3 stars = perfect for foodies
4 stars = perfect for expense accounts
5 stars = perfect for any guy's dream dinner

Uncle Dougie's on Urbanspoon

More sandwich places:
Il Cane Rosso
La Baguette
The Sentinel


Mary Bergfeld said...

Ben, if ever I'm in your area I'll know where to eat :-). Your photos in this, and your other posts, are terrific. You have an eye for food and know how to capture it. Have a great day. Blessings...Mary

foodhoe said...

Looks yummy! I love big sammies with lots of sauce, and am a big fan of eggplant or chicken parmesan (I think both are breaded and fried)... Is it close to bart?

Single Guy Ben said...

Foodhoe, it's about four blocks from the 19th St-Oakland BART station. Let me know what you think of the eggplant if you get there!