The Loring Café puts the “fun” in “funky”. Walking inside feels like stepping backstage and finding the Old World living room furniture stored in small clusters, or into an elaborately furnished, full-size dollhouse. Gazing at the collection of wonders lit by lamps and candles that the manager, Stephen Pivot, calls “an eclectic and mystical mix” you cannot resist smiling.
The owner, Jason McLean, is well known in Minneapolis where he opened several restaurants and performance venues, including the Loring Pasta Bar and the Varsity Theater which he continues to operate, and the original Loring Café (named for Loring Park, one of the largest parks in that city) that became a Mecca for actors, musicians, writers and artists. According to an article in Oakland Magazine, when Jason’s long-time love, Abby, moved to San Francisco for a new job, he followed her, at first hoping to woo her back to the Twin Cities.
Instead, both stayed, married, and discovered a new love – Oakland – a restaurant epicenter that welcomes newcomers and particularly embraces the unorthodox. The new Loring Café fits splendidly with the Oakland Uptown vibe. On the restaurant’s website, Abby notes that the Loring signature style evokes the comfort, history, and romance of the European café scene with a twist of surrealism.
Jason describes the food as the “new culinary state of the union.” It is not high concept, and there are no apparent themes. Instead, there is enough diversity among the appetizers and entrees each night to please every palate. The menu varies by season, of course, and specials change weekly. This week’s feature is Tuna Nicoise Salad served with avocado. Several dishes are vegetarian, and the chef will happily modify other dishes upon request.
The house specialty is the artichoke ramekin appetizer, sized to share, served with buttered, toasted bread. Other favorites include mussels in a bacon and bourbon cream sauce spiced with jalapeno peppers; peas and pasta with ham and cream sauce; bangers and mash (sausages on creamy mashed potatoes drizzled with garlic butter) with caraway-seasoned red cabbage served on the side.
During Happy Hour, which extends from 3 pm to 6 pm, beer and wine are $3 and $5 and appetizer dishes are 50% off. Every evening from 7 pm to 10 pm, different piano players, other musicians or singers perform. The mezzanine provides additional seating and is available for private parties of up to 35 guests.
As you wait for your dining companion, relax in a comfortable overstuffed chair inside the front door. The business card describes the Loring Café as “Bohemian Global / Elegantly Relaxed / Affordable” and it is all of these.
Mon. 11:00 am – 2:00 pm (lunch only)
Tue – Thu 11:00 am – 11:00 pm
Fri 11:00 am – midnight
Sat 5:00 pm – midnight
Tue – Sat. 3:00 pm – 6:00 pm