Oakland’s Homestead winds down its fine-dining operation

The Piedmont Avenue dining destination will serve its last dinner next month. The Humble Sandwich, its casual offshoot operation, will remain.

Owners Liz and Fred Sassen announced they’ll be closing Homestead, seen here when it opened in 2013, but keeping open their casual offshoot The Humble Sandwich. Credit: Emilie Raguso

Homestead, the upscale Oakland restaurant known for a seasonally rotating menu of comforting dishes and its airy, copper-and-green dining room, will serve its last dinner in June, owners Liz and Fred Sassen say. But while the Michelin-recommended restaurant will cease operations, its pandemic-inspired offshoot, The Humble Sandwich, will remain for now.

Homestead opened at 4029 Piedmont Ave. to great buzz in 2013, due in part to its founders’ pedigrees: Fred is a veteran of high-profile kitchens like Farallon and Camino, and Liz also did time at Farallon and the splashy Bay-adjacent Waterbar. Homestead is a departure from those spots, though. Serving exceptional, thoughtfully prepared food that goes the extra mile — baking its own bread and crafting its own pasta, for example — Homestead is an unpretentious and glitz-free restaurant. It gracefully walks a line between relaxed neighborhood hangout and fine-dining destination, a balancing act that’s harder than you think.

When the pandemic hit, the Sassens temporarily shut Homestead down, pivoting to a delivery and takeout daytime operation called The Humble Sandwich, which serves high-quality deli-style sandwiches and a selection of salads. Speaking with the SF Chronicle in April 2020, Fred said that the sandwich-focused move was intended to “allow us to reach a different demographic and clientele because of the price point and the potential to be in a recession beyond this,” and said that if things went well, they might continue to operate the sandwich shop inside Homestead during the day, then serve Homestead’s posher dinner menu at night.

As the Bay Area shutdown continues, Homestead resumed service as a takeout venue, opening for outdoor dining when it was again allowed earlier this year. But according to an email sent to the restaurant’s regular patrons Wednesday, “the time has come to turn the page on this chapter of Homestead” as “This past year has highlighted many necessary changes that we need to make in our lives.”

After the pandemic closed its dining room in March 2020, Homestead pivoted to become a delivery and takeout operation called The Humble Sandwich.
The Humble Sandwich will continue “for the forseeable future.” Credit: Homestead/Facebook

One of those changes, they say, is that “Even as things are slowly opening up we have realized that it’s time for a lifestyle change.” For the Sassens, that means that “our last dinner service will be in mid-June,” with a date to be announced shortly. “However, as we navigate these changes The Humble Sandwich will remain open,” the Sassens said, offering “take-out lunch service for the foreseeable future.” The Humble Sandwich is open 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.

It’s unclear what this means, longterm, for Homestead’s/The Humble Sandwich’s carefully designed, 48-seat dining room, and though Nosh has attempted to reach the Sassens for comment, we have not received a response as of publication time (a spokesperson for the restaurant said the Sassens will not be speaking to media at this time). Perhaps the Sassens don’t know, themselves, as in their farewell message they say that “This is going to be an evolving transition for us,” and that “We achieved what we set out to accomplish and then some” and “feel we can gracefully move on to something new.”

Eve Batey is Berkeleyside's interim Nosh editor. Email: eve@berkeleyside.org.