The Pill Hill neighborhood of Oakland hasn’t exactly been known for its great dining options. Petit Café, located on 30th and Summit streets, between Telegraph and Broadway, has helped change that.
Owner Sheila Hollander, became aware of the lack of a good food spot as she has worked in the neighborhood for the past six years and, in 2017, she decided to do something about it. Sheila envisioned a café serving vegetarian cuisine made from local seasonal produce. After finding the space for a cafe, Sheila, a Francophile at heart, brought in classic bistro and local artisan touches including a mosaic that spells out ‘Oakland’ on the wall behind the espresso machine by Oakland’s own Rachel Rodi Mosaics, as well as handmade reclaimed wood tables and shelves.
After navigating the hurdles of permitting and bureaucracy with the city of Oakland, eventually, on Valentine’s Day 2020, she was able to open the doors to Petit Café and her dream became a reality.
But, even once Petit Café opened, the journey ahead had detours. The COVID-19 lockdown in mid-March forced Petit Café to close. Due to the restrictions on dining and the unknowns that followed, Sheila decided to ride the pandemic waves and stand by. Dining restrictions eased a bit towards the end of the summer and, with that, came renewed hope in reopening the café. However, while a good amount of the infrastructure was in place from the short one month of being open, the café still did not feel right. It had not lived up to its potential.
To help right the ship and ensure a smooth reopening, Sheila brought in Dan Edelman and Maria Fangras. Edelman, having worked at restaurants in the Bay Area since 2010, was able to bring in his culinary expertise to improve the menu. Having worked at Greens, and as the sous-chef at Millennium Restaurant, vegetarian and vegan cuisine that used local and seasonal produce was firmly in his wheelhouse. Being the cafe manager as well as baker at Homestead restaurant had also given him the experience baking and creating all sorts of pastries. Fangras, who has extensive experience opening and managing restaurants in the Bay Area — such as Rambler, Cento Osteria, and both A16 locations — brings her expertise of how to get a restaurant up and running. It is Fangras who fine tunes the behind-the-scenes tasks like securing permits for outdoor dining and the soon-to-come beer and wine license, helping get Petit Café back on its feet after months of being closed.
Together they have created a space that lives up to the vision Sheila had all those years ago: to add a dining option dedicated to good and healthy food in a neighborhood that simply didn’t have one.
The menu at Petit Cafe focuses on breakfast and lunch items, including house-made pastries, various types of salads and grain bowls, toasts and sandwiches. Sheila, whose family is from Argentina, grew up eating quinoa and was adamant to have it showcased on her menu. Through a seasonally rotating quinoa bowl (currently channeling the southwest with roasted sweet potatoes, black beans and a roasted pumpkin seed and tomatillo salsa), the café is able to show off one of her favorite foods while sticking to its desire to remain seasonal. Another new addition is the grilled cheese sandwich. Heirloom apples, caramelized onions, whole grain mustard, as well as gruyere and aged cheddar, means this is not your average grilled cheese.
Protecting the environment is extremely important to Petit Café, and, to be as sustainable as possible, all of its to-go ware is compostable and no aluminum or new plastic bags are used in the kitchen.
For Thanksgiving: A special menu of ‘Sides and Pies’ with pre-orders happening now
The café offers catering and delivery, and, for this Thanksgiving holiday, it has a special menu of “Sides and Pies”with pre-orders happening now on the website (petitcafeoak.com). The cafe hopes to help alleviate the stress of cooking for the big day, while presenting great flavors and produce at the same time. The ‘Sides’ are sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, beets, cauliflower and, of course, stuffing; and the scrumptious ‘Pies’ are caramel apple and pumpkin. Check Petit Cafe’s website for the full list of offerings.
As a self-professed coffee aficionado, having darn good coffee was not only important to Sheila…it was essential. Using Oakland’s own Red Bay Coffee, who roast their beans right here in Oakland, Petit Café offers a quality cup while supporting a local business. With good coffee meant bringing in a good barista. Breeanne Savage answered the call, and has since been working her magic while creating such popular drinks as a lavender latte, house made chai, and a winter spiced latte, all using the best quality spices and ingredients available.
One of its most popular specialty drinks, The Sandman, includes an ingredient called chaga, a superfood made from mushrooms that offers various health benefits, and is combined with vanilla, cacao and cinnamon. Chaga, the superhero of the mushroom world, is packed with vitamins, minerals, and other healthful compounds that can bring benefits such as lowering blood pressure, supporting the immune system and reducing stress. The drink is aptly named after Sheila’s husband’s podcast moniker, Protect Your Assets with David Hollander, The Sandman, helping listeners sleep well at night knowing their assets are protected.
The Petit Café team is beginning to coalesce as the road ahead starts to smooth out, even throughout these strange COVID-19 times. With the diverse background of the staff, a desire to put out a great product, and positive outlook and attitude towards the future of the business, Petit Café hopes to provide the community with great vegetarian fare for years to come.