Grand Avenue, West of 580 – December 2016

GRAND AVENUE, WEST OF 580 – December 2016

This month’s blog shares news about the successful relaunch of the Loring Cafe as Small Wonder Bar & Café, kickin’ it old school so far – i.e., with no phone & no website. Tonight, jazz singer/songwriter Gabby McGee will perform live.

Small Wonder Bar & Cafe






SmallWonderInterior“There are only 2 rules” grinned Dan, bartender and order taker at Small Wonder Bar & Café. “Be comfortable and enjoy your food.”

Our October 2014 blog introduced readers to the Loring Café at 37 Grand Avenue. Eight months ago, owner Jason McLean relaunched the Loring Café as Small Wonder.

The atmosphere at Small Wonder continues to be a relaxed scene with quirky décor. Dan encourages you to come by between 9 AM and 11 PM on weekdays and until midnight on Saturdays. Drop in for live music every Saturday night in December and most First Fridays. This month (tonight) jazz singer/songwriter Gabby McGee will perform on First Thursday. “It’s a joy to work here!” he beams. And that spirit infuses the whole place for the rest of us.

At the full bar, Dan serves budget-friendly cocktails, beer, wine and cider. At the open kitchen, three colleagues prepare a limited menu of tasty appetizers, small plates, and large plates, including some favs held over from the café’s previous incarnation. The menu declares, “No chain-crap deli meats here – we actually cook!”

SmallWonderMenuPlace and pay for your order at the far end of the bar. Take your drinks and your order number and sit wherever you want. When your food is ready, a cook will find you. Seating choices on the street level include several overstuffed couches and living room chairs, three communal tables, a few smaller tables, and the bar. Or go upstairs for seating at a table overlooking the main floor or some counter -style seating behind this table. .  There are also tables with street views a few steps higher. Napkins and silverware await you at each seating choice and self-serve water is available on both floors.

Cubano Sandwich
Cubano Sandwich

Recently I enjoyed a large pour of Cuvée – a red blend including Syrah and Granache for $7 – with a large plate of Bangers & Mash. The side of chopped beets was a tangy (not sweet) complement of flavor and texture. My guest paired a Cubano sandwich with a Crispen Pacific Pear Cider (4.5% alcohol) that had subtle floral notes in addition to the pear. We shared a soul-pleasing appetizer of Artichoke Ramekini.

Share your experiences at Small Wonder via word-of-mouth (or Facebook, Twitter or Yelp if you want to use that stuff). So far, Small Wonder has resisted creating a website. Sometimes you can hear staff playfully muttering “Kill the Internet.” Furthermore, there is no telephone at present. After all, Small Wonder does not take reservations or offer take-out.

Small Wonder Bar & Cafe

37 Grand Ave. (between Broadway & Webster)

Oakland, CA 94612

No telephone

No website


Monday – Friday: 9 AM – 11 PM

Saturday 9 AM – Midnight; live music after 7:30 PM

Closed Sundays, usually