Today was the grand opening of Chow’s newest location — on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland. Nosh arrived on the scene this afternoon to a full parking lot and a restaurant that was already bustling with diners, as if it had been open for days.
Chow is Tony Gulisano’s restaurant empire, which started in San Francisco, first on Church Street in the Castro in 1997, and then later in the Sunset as Park Chow on Ninth Avenue. (The latter restaurant closed in January, timed with the opening of this new location.) Chow has offered gourmet comfort food before it was a thing. That means burgers, Caesar salads, lasagnas and other accessible and satisfying dishes made with good quality ingredients. What sets Chow apart from many others that do elevated comfort food these days, is that Chow’s always been fairly affordable.
Oakland isn’t Gulisano’s first entry into the East Bay — there are already two Chow locations in Lafayette and Danville. Chow Oakland — which has been four years in the making — is most like the Lafayette location, which is more a hybrid restaurant, grocery store and bakery.
Although it is most like Chow Lafayette, Chow Oakland is much larger, with half the store devoted to an organic produce section, dry goods and other groceries, a meat and fish counter and hot and cold food areas that at the time of our visit was still a bit sparse. We were told by an employee that things were still in progress and to expect more produce, products and prepared foods in the coming days.
The whole building has a lodge-like feel, with its huge deck outside, exposed beams, high ceilings and wood furnishings. You almost feel like you’re going into a restaurant in Yosemite, rather than on Piedmont at Yosemite Avenue.
The restaurant has seating for 132 diners. There are additional outdoor seating areas in front and on the deck for customers who buy grab-and-go items and want to enjoy them on site.
The menu offers breakfast and brunch from opening until close, and lunch and dinner items, from 11 a.m. onward. We were told that the offerings are most similar to Chow Lafayette’s menu, with some specials exclusive to this location. The opening menu included brunch dishes like avocado toast, smoked salmon hash with poached eggs and spicy huevos rancheros and lunch/dinner fare including soups, salads, sandwiches, pastas and pizzas that are made in a wood-fire oven that you can see right when you walk into Chow. All are in the $10-$15 range.
Main entrees including wood-grilled seafood and meat dishes like organic steak frites ($18), red-wine braised beef pot roast ($16) and chicken enchiladas ($14). Chow’s menu will change seasonally and prices include sales tax.
A kids’ menu includes items like mac n’ cheese, pizzas, chicken fingers and other innocuous ankle-biter fare.
For dessert, there are pies, crisps, chocolate cake, ginger cake and Sicilian-American cannoli from the Chow bakery, as well as organic ice cream, malts, shakes floats and other frozen delights. Baked items like muffins, loaf slices, cookies, scones and more can be bought by the piece at the counter.
Chow has a large full bar that serves cocktails like Mojitos, Yuzu Martinis and Bloody Marys, as well as draft and bottled beers and a fairly large wine list. Non-alcoholic beverages include squeezed-to-order fruit juices, iced tea, artisanal sodas, coffee and tea.
Chow Oakland’s hours are 7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday; 7 a.m.-10 p.m., Friday; 8 a.m.-10 p.m., Saturday and 8 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Sunday.