Since mac n’ cheese mecca Homeroom opened in the Temescal neighborhood three and a half years ago, proprietors Allison Arevalo and Erin Wade have been asked on a regular basis whether they could host a child’s birthday party, an adult birthday party, or even a small wedding. The answer has always been the same: no.
But by next year, that no will be a yes.
Thanks to a potential tenant backing out on their lease, the space Homeroom had already leased to house its take-out and catering operation a block away, can now be greatly expanded. The new event space will be 1300 square feet, to be exact.
The restaurant serves such fancy mac n’ cheese variations as Dungeness crab mac, with Havarti and Old Bay Seasoning; Mac the Goat, with chèvre and scallions; and a Mexican mac with Chorizo and chipotle peppers. There are even vegan and gluten-free macs, as seemingly difficult to imagine as that may be. They are also known for their house-made Oreo cookie that puts Nabisco to shame – two chocolate cookies with a layer of cream in the middle, topped with sea salt.
Homeroom is almost always full, at both lunch and dinnertimes, with lines spilling out onto the sidewalk out front. Capacity is at 50 diners now, with at least 20 percent of its business coming from take-out orders. They also provide lunches for Kaiser and a few other employers nearby.
Since they opened, they’ve had to make due in a kitchen space that is “way over capacity,” said Wade. “We were already building a very large kitchen for the take-out spot, which was going to be the base for catering, and prep for the restaurant. When that happens, the tiny kitchen here will only be for the restaurant.”
Given its popularity, Wade and Arevalo are also often asked whether they plan to open a second restaurant, but they say that the expansion they are working on now allows them to take advantage of what they have in a new way.
“It’s perfect because as the business keeps growing, we have often thought how many things we could do, but don’t have the space for,” said Wade. “We’ve thought of so many ways to make the Homeroom experience more enjoyable, that we feel it’s premature to take it elsewhere.”
In addition to hosting groups and parties, they hope to hold events there as well, like classes on beer and cheese pairing, the best way to store cheese, and possibly mac n’ cheese cooking classes for kids.
And, while Homeroom has no plans to start accepting reservations, the event space will allow groups to reserve dinners in advance with set menus served family-style, though all of this is still in the planning stages.
In addition to the restaurant, “we wanted to be able to serve the community in a fun way, and this will allow us to do that,” said Arevalo.
The take-out space is scheduled to open Nov. 15 after the women return from maternity leave – both are pregnant with their second child, due a month apart). This will not only house the restaurant’s take-out operation, but also sell their own brand packaged desserts, condiments like their house-made salad dressings, their preferred hot-sauces, beer and wine and gear like their cookbooks and t-shirts.
The event space – which is still unnamed – will hopefully be open by their fourth anniversary, Feb. 14.
Homeroom is at 400 40th St. at Shafter in Oakland. Connect with the business on its website and on Facebook. The new Homeroom space is around the corner, at 4007 Webster St.
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Alix Wall is an Oakland-based personal chef and freelance writer, writing about food and other features for j. weekly, the San Francisco Chronicle and Bay Area Bites. You can find her at www.theorganicepicure.com.