Hipster Fare: The New Food Revolution

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Restaurant critics often refer to the current post-Chez Panisse food revolution as the snout-to-tail craze, the farm-to-table movement, the return of retro cocktails and the new comfort food.

Starting in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, the hipster restaurant movement has come to Oakland in full force. Oakland is often referred to as the new Brooklyn. As a Brooklyn transplant, I find this all most amusing.

Oakland neighborhoods like Rockridge, Temescal Triangle and Uptown, have become ground zero for some of the hottest and hippest restaurants in California. Millennials or hipsters have emerged as a distinct demographic subculture with an edgy focus on food, art, and music. You often see tattooed hipsters snapping photos of their food and sending them out on Facebook or other social media sites. The young chefs at these restaurants are pushing the boundaries of culinary creativity. The menus defy simple categories such as Cal-Med, Asian fusion, or modern Italian. From food trucks to small and loud downsized restaurants in emerging urban neighborhoods, hipster fare has created a new food revolution.

On College Avenue, the Ramen Shop is a hipster's delight. A short menu offering locally sourced and house-made ingredients is a "noodle slurper's" ideal meal. How can you beat the Meyer lemon ramen and pork belly?

Down the street is the newly expanded Toast featuring innovative cocktails and small plates. Originally started as a wine bar, Toast has reinvented itself as a cocktail and lunch and dinner spot. Next door, the soon-to-open Box and Bells from Michelin chef James Syhabout of Commis and Hawker Fare fame, promises to be a new Rockridge destination mecca. Opening is set for late summer. Chef James will be offering a new hipster trend of staff meals from the Commis kitchen.

The newest addition to the surging Temescal Triangle is the ultra-small Juhu Beach Club from Top Chef finalist Preeti Mistry. Juhu Beach Club features street food from Chef Preeti's hometown of Mumbai. Juhu's menu features unique Pav combos. Pavs are slider-sized sandwiches with fillings such as smoky black cardamom-braised short ribs or pulled pork in a vindaloo BBQ sauce - very yummy.

Oakland's most booming dining destination is, of course, the hot and happening Uptown. Restaurants like Hopscotch, Marrow, Flora, Hawker Fare, Duende, and Luka's Taproom are creating a buzz throughout the Bay Area Twitter crowd.

The only warning I have is for the more-senior diner: the noise level of these restaurants can be high. Food at these hipster spots is worth trying, but the noise level can be a distraction.

I'm not sure Oakland is the new Brooklyn, but the emerging food scene is certainly putting the city on the culinary map.

Quirky burgers made with locally sourced grass-fed beef are the go-to bite for the Twitter and tattoo crowd. Check this month's recipe for a unique take on the hipster burger.

Pork (lamb, turkey or beef) Portobello Burgers

1 pound ground pork (lamb, turkey, or beef)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary or parsley
salt/pepper to taste
4 large Portobello mushroom caps, stems removed
Olive oil
4 large burger buns
Any burger fixings you like


  • Prepare a grill, set to medium high temperature.
  • Combine the ground meat, garlic, rosemary or parsley, and salt and pepper.
  • Use a spoon to lightly scrape away the mushroom gills to hollow them out.
  • Drizzle mushrooms inside and out with olive oil.
  • Press of the meat mixture into the hollow of each mushroom.
  • Grill the burgers, meat side down, about 4-6 minutes. Flip and cook another 6-7 minutes.
  • Serve on a toasted bun with any fixings you like

Barry Kaufman is a graduate of the California Culinary Academy. Barry is available for cooking classes and tours of East Bay ethnic markets. Barry's e-mail is: kaufman42@comcast.net