GRAND AVENUE, WEST OF 580 – March 2015
Hello, Neighbors! Watch this space for monthly news and notes about tasty gems, handy services, art, and changes on Grand Ave., west of 580. – LZ.
Grand Lake Kitchen
Let’s say you want something to eat that is fresh, quick and casual at 2:30 in the afternoon on a Monday. You have an important meeting in an hour, but your stomach’s growl threatens to drown out the conversation because you have not yet had lunch. Where ya’ gonna go? For many people in the neighborhood, that place is the Grand Lake Kitchen – which is also their choice on sunny Saturdays on their way to or from the Farmer’s Market, even though the wait may be longer.
May Seto Wasem, co-owner with her husband David Wasem, says, “We are here for everyone. It would be easier for us to close between lunch and dinner or to close after brunch on weekends, as many do, but plenty of people do not work from 9 to 5, Monday through Friday, anymore. They need a place. We want to be that place where people hang out and make it their own.” The Grand Lake Kitchen is open from 9 AM until 9:30 PM every day except Thanksgiving, Christmas – and Tuesdays, because even these happy people need a day to re-charge.
May and David worked at high end, fine dining, and casual restaurants for other people before deciding to open their own place here in a neighborhood they love. Immediately prior to opening the Grand Lake Kitchen, David was the Chef de Cuisine at Balboa Cafe and May was the General Manager at Delfina Restaurant, both in San Francisco.
Originally, the Wasems thought the Grand Lake Kitchen might just offer take-out food, especially for picnickers going to Lake Merritt. “But we are restaurant people, not grocers,” grins May. “We knew we would miss the company [of diners].” There were challenges to opening their first restaurant. The City of Oakland was very helpful, but not quick. May and David did a lot of their own work. The restaurant project took 8 months longer than they expected and opened in November 2012.
As first time restaurant owners, they knew they were beginners and wanted to start with a small, manageable space. “We tried several things and kept what stuck. We will always be beginners because we will always be trying new things. We are incredibly proud of our hard-working staff and amazed at our customers,” says May.
Luke Tsai, in his January 9, 2013 review in the East Bay Express offered a great description of what May and David have created:
“[The Grand Lake Kitchen] fills at least three different niches for a neighborhood that didn’t have a great sandwich shop, or a cozy diner, or a posh grocery store carrying obscure sodas and organic baby food. The house-made pickles are great, and the deli case is stocked with seasonal, mostly vegetarian sides. But Grand Lake Kitchen’s biggest selling point is its sandwiches: a delicious riff on Italian porchetta; a better-than-solid Cuban; and, best of all, the “Oyako”: an open-face egg salad sandwich topped with thin shards of crispy chicken skin.Now they are expanding into the space next door, which will double their dining area and include much more inside seating when it opens this summer. Before renovations could begin, May and David invited local craftspeople to use the expansion space to display and sell their wares for 2 weeks last December, which benefitted the community, the craftspeople, and a local charity.”
For the expansion, May and David are working with a general contractor, but they are still being very hands-on with construction decisions. They took their architect to some of their favorite places and to new places where they would eat and drink while answering questions until they were certain the architect understood and could identify with their values and aesthetics better than if they tried to express them in email messages and drawings.
The expanded Grand Lake Kitchen will offer reservations for the first time, larger tables, more amenities for nighttime diners, an expanded menu, and a full bar. The kitchen itself will expand and there will be space for a walk-in cooler. Without the cooler, they must make their pickles and buy potatoes every day. May and David are looking at “thousands of menu items” they may want to add, but not tipping their hand until at least the plumbing and electrical work is done.
They love the neighborhood and enjoy walking around the Lake on their days off. However, May admits, “We have huge crushes on many neighborhoods and may open another location if it feels natural. For now, we are still beginners. We are humbled by a lot of things on a daily basis.”
The Grand Lake Kitchen offers breakfast, lunch, dinner and Happy Hour every day (except Tuesdays), brunch on weekends until 3 PM (including a savory version of French toast), carryout sandwiches and side dishes, meats and cheeses sold by the pound, and catering that can include delivery of large orders in Oakland, the East Bay and San Francisco. Check out Grand Lake Kitchen’s website for photos of their beautiful and mouth-watering catering trays.
576 Grand Ave.
Oakland, CA 94610
Every day except Tuesdays 9 AM to 9:30 PM
Happy Hour 4 PM – 7 PM
Brunch Sat. & Sun. 9 AM – 3 PM