On a recent Sunday, the twinkly light-strewn patio at Oakland’s new Korner Kitchen & Bar is buzzing with activity.
Claude Hizon of Pound 4 Pound Grilled Burgers flips a colossal Adobo burger. Grecia Sarabia of La More Artisanal Latin Kitchen whisks by with a plate of Tres Leches French Toast. And Dan Miranda, one of Oakland’s most celebrated bartenders, whips up a halo-halo inspired cocktail with ube-infused vodka, bitter melon syrup and whipped cream.
The vibe — multicultural, laid-back and a bit underground — is unique to this commissary kitchen and outdoor bar, which also acts as a food incubator for the up-and-coming Bay Area food businesses who call it home. Their public-facing hours may vary, but this mural-clad building next to the Fruitvale BART station is their production facility and collaborative home.
Located at 1014 Fruitvale Ave., around the corner from James Beard Award-nominated Wahpepah’s Kitchen, the lineup currently includes lactose-free Bad Walters Bootleg Ice Cream, garlic noodle favorite Noodle Belly and designer cake studio Full Belly Bakery. And Korner Kitchen is growing.
Just six weeks after its January grand opening, the owners are already welcoming two new businesses — Sammy’s, maker of Korean stuffed hot cakes, and Padrón Grill, which does plant-based Mexican food — and hosting weekend pops-ups, like Neapolitan pizzeria HapaZa. Come April, Korner will add Wednesday hours to its current Thursday-Sunday operations.
Co-owner Alex Tejada thinks the spot’s popularity has to do with the times we’re living in — outdoor dining reigns — and the increasing desire for people to support businesses in their community. Most of the Korner Kitchen businesses were born in Oakland or found their footing there.
“It feels like people are always looking to support local, but it’s hard to figure out where to do that,” says Tejada, who also owns West Oakland’s Magnolia Mini Mart, another community-driven hot spot for chefs and food makers. “We want this to be that hub for everyone.”
Tejada is a connector and problem solver. A culinary school graduate, she’s worked in all aspects of the restaurant industry, from dish washing at Slanted Door to cocktail service with the Future Bars Group, which owns San Francisco’s Rickhouse and Pagan Idol. But helping small brands expand and become “legit” has always been her dream.
“We give everyone full consulting here, whether that’s with ingredient sourcing, packaging or finding a good graphic designer,” she says. “(The chefs) bounce ideas off each other all the time. It’s really great to see.”
They certainly helped fresh-pressed sugarcane outfit Sugar Mama Sugarcane, which just signed a lease to open its first brick and mortar in Oakland’s Chinatown. They’ve been at Korner Kitchen since August.
“Korner Kitchen really helped us accelerate our growth,” says Sugar Mama co-founder Linda Nguyen. “Not only did they provide us a location to create and sell our drinks directly to customers, but they also provided mentorship and helped in building our business.”
Tejada says it was also important to her and the other owners to make Korner’s food and beverage programs reflective of the neighborhood, hence the focus on Latinx and Southeast Asian flavors. And they support their neighbors. In the bar alone, they use coffee concentrate from Red Bay, which is headquartered up the road, and horchata from Obelisco Restaurant over on 12th Street.
“We want to pay tribute to the area and don’t want to compete with anyone,” she says. “We’re planning block parties and nonprofit fundraisers this summer with our neighbors.”
Here are six Korner Kitchen & Bar businesses to check out. Unless otherwise noted, they are open to the public from 3 to 10 p.m Thursday-Friday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. A website is coming soon, but in the meantime, check www.instagram.com/korneroakland for updates and to see who’s popping up on the weekends.
Korner Bar: Famed bar consultant Fred Acebo helped build the full bar program, which includes 10 Asian- and Latinx-inspired craft cocktails, like the Toki High Ball with Japanese whiskey and lemon oil, and the tequila-fueled El Diablo with creme de cassis, lime and ginger beer. Also look for sake, wine and craft beer, including a Belgian-style Dokkaebier blonde made with yuzu.
Noodle Belly: Korner Kitchen & Bar co-owners Eugene Lee and Kevyn Miyata are also the garlic noodle specialists behind this operation. You can get their noodles with everything from grilled salmon to barbecue pork belly or braised greens. Don’t miss brunch items, like the dizzingly delicious chanterelles on grilled levain and Uncle Kevo’s hand-squeezed lemonade with li hing mui powder.
Bad Walters Bootleg Ice Cream: Sydney Arkin’s hand-packed, made-from-scratch ice creams are made with real dairy and no lactose. Look for chunky, imaginative flavors, like Campfire, made with burnt marshmallow custard, candied rice krispies and bourbon fudge swirl. Details: Online preorders open at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday and 9:30 a.m. Friday for Saturday pickup between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. www.instagram.com/badwalters
La More Artisanal Latin Kitchen: Husband and wife Antonio de los Santos and Grecia Sarabia specialize in gourmet versions of Latin American comfort food. Brunch standouts inlcude Tres Leches French Toast with caramel and strawberries, and Brunch Huarache, an oblong organic corn masa cake with chorizo, eggs and beans served with a zesty Mexcian orange sauce. Details: Open from 3 to 9:30 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday; www.lamorekitchen.com.
Full Belly Bakery: This designer cake studio is the brainchild of Oakland native Eva Allen. Her signature flavors, like Caramel Pecan Carrot, Triple Chocolate and Strawberry Vanilla, are made to order and available in 16-ounce cake jars and as small (6-8 servings) and medium cakes (12-16 servings). Allen does tiered cakes and pastries too. Details: Order two days ahead for pick up Wednesday-Sunday. Local delivery available; www.fullbellybakery.com.
Sammy’s: Sammy Pak will begin offering his stuffed Korean hot cakes or hodduck, a Korean street food rarely seen in the Bay Area, on April 6. Look for three versions of the crispy-chewy pancakes (sometimes spelled hotteok), including mozzarella brushed with garlic butter oil, and a sweet hodduck with brown sugar, cinnamon and sunflower seeds. Top it off with Pak’s halal Southern-style Korean fried chicken. Details: Wednesday and Thursday dinner service; www.instagram.com/sammysf00d