Queer chefs have been flocking to the Bay Area since the mid-20th century, searching for a place that could buoy their culinary aspirations and allow free expression. Somewhere to be out, and cook damn good food. But while San Francisco used to be the center of the queer food universe, it’s the city across the bridge that’s ushering in the newest era of queer dining. In Oakland, an emerging crop of queer-owned, queer-run, and queer-frequented spaces serve up dishes (and vibes) that are sexy, political, unapologetic, and most important, delicious.
Oakland’s queer landscape is constantly evolving. Sarah Kirnon, chef-owner of the legendary Afro-Caribbean restaurant Miss Ollie’s, has closed her brick-and-mortar space in Swan’s Market and will open a take-out window called Holder’s House in July. Chef Booli Huerta of Fish and Bonez hosts pop-ups at local breweries and other venues, serving mushroom, sweet potato, and yellow jack tostadas, along with albóndigas breakfast sandwiches. Oakland has long been a city of community and political organizing; adding to this legacy is Queer Wave Coffee, a decolonial coffee roastery that aims to shift the relationship between those who grow the beans and those who sell them by partnering with a profit-sharing collective in Honduras. Then there’s the Baqueery, a made-to-order sweets project that will create just about anything you request, from berry pie to vegan Pride-themed cupcakes.
Want more? Here are some must-visits:
468 25th Street
Even before this queer-owned downtown Oakland bar officially opened in April 2020, there were whispers in queer circles about the space on 25th Street that offered upscale cocktails, a rotating menu, and regular programming to spotlight local artists and artisans. Sit in the backyard or find a cozy spot inside, where the low lighting sets the mood for dancing and flirtatious conversation. Order Mom’s Carrot Cake, which is, you guessed it, made by owner Blake Cole’s mom, and a San Michele…My Belle cocktail if you’re in the mood for vermouth.