Thursday, August 30, 2018

80 North: Berkeley, Homemade Cafe


Homemade Cafe  2454 Sacramento St./Dwight Way, (510) 845-1940.  B-L daily.

exterior of Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California
exterior of Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California


exterior of Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California
exterior of Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California


Located on busy corner, this small, cozy, usually crowded neighborhood cafe has been around since 1979.  Seating includes a bank of wood booths that gets the cheery morning sun straight on, a small sea of tables and chairs, and a counter with swivel stools in the back where you can watch the kitchen action.  The work of local artists decorates the walls, and all are for sale should you grow attached.

interior of Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California
interior of Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California


interior of Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California
interior of Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California


counter seating at Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California
counter seating at Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California


The specialty is breakfast, which is available all day.  You know things are serious here when you glimpse the tattoos on owner Collin’s arms--“eggs” on one arm and “bacon,” added more recently, on the other.  Uncle Eddie’s cage free eggs and dairy products from Berkeley Farms keep things politically correct.  Choose from a large selection of egg items--including omelettes and scrambles (the LEO made with lox, eggs, and onion and served with a Baron’s organic bagel and cream cheese is a personal favorite)--and from a large selection of specialties—a whole-wheat waffle, blueberry pancakes, cinnamon-swirl French toast, housemade granola, and cheese blintzes with a seasonal fruit sauce.  For a pittance, toast can be upgraded to coffee cake or a muffin.  All the la-de-da coffeehouse-style drinks are available, too, including one I particularly like and got by special request--a dirty hot chocolate (hot chocolate is made here with milk and made ”dirty” with a shot of espresso).  The unimpressed can opt for a sandwich after noon.

dirty hot chocolate at Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California
dirty hot chocolate at Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California


LEO at Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California
LEO at Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California


sausage and eggs at Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California
sausage and eggs at Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California


cheese blintz with pluot sauce at Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California
cheese blintz with pluot sauce at Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California


Recently, a monthly pop-up dinner series was added to your options.  A special four-course, prix fixe menu is offered once each month and runs $85 (tax and gratuity are included; vegetarian option available by advance request) and an optional wine pairing runs $24 more.  At the end of August, I attended the night’s first seating at 6 p.m. for a dinner dubbed “A Late-Summer Night’s Dream.”

menu for monthly dinner at Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California
menu for monthly dinner at Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California


this table is having the wine pairing for monthly dinner at Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California
this table is having the wine pairing for monthly dinner at Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California


Several late couples straggled in through the first course, which was “Titania’s Tidbit”--a delicate pureed sweet corn soup topped with a fried basil leaf and served with heirloom tomato jam on crostini.  It was paired with a light French white wine from Vouvray winery.  The atmosphere slowly grew more festive.  Some people knew each other from the neighborhood, and others, like us, slowly got pulled in.

sweet corn soup for monthly dinner at Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California
sweet corn soup for monthly dinner at Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California


Next came “Puck’s Plate”--a stack of fresh mozzarella, heirloom tomatoes, and basil dressed with avocado vinaigrette and topped with a very big coconut-horseradish shrimp.  This was paired with a dry red Grenache blend from a Corsica winery--Domaine Petroni.

heirloom tomatoes and coconut shrimp for monthly dinner at Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California
heirloom tomatoes and coconut shrimp for monthly dinner at Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California


The main course was “Hippolyta’s Hungry”--a generous portion of flavorful butcher’s steak with salsa verde and sides of bacon-corn-cheddar mashed potatoes and fried green tomatoes.  We had enough left over for lunch the next day.  The tasty wine paired with this was a full-bodied Zinfandel from Seghesio Family Vineyards in Healdsburg.

butcher's steak for monthly dinner at Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California
butcher's steak for monthly dinner at Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California


Finally, as things became looser, “Bottom’s Up” arrived--a semolina-olive oil cake topped with sweet mascarpone cheese, flavorful and bright-red strawberries, and a fig-balsamic reduction.  A dry Chenin Blanc dessert wine from the French Jasnieres winery was the perfect pairing.

strawberries with olive-oil cake for monthly dinner at Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California
strawberries with olive-oil cake for monthly dinner at Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California


Congenial chef Collin Doran visited the dining room throughout the meal, checking on diners and preparing us for the next course with interesting comments.  And it seemed obvious he was having a great time himself, spreading his wings from the restrictions of a breakfast and lunch menu.  In fact, the entire staff was in large part his own family, including his young son whose job it was to keep the water glasses filled and which he took quite seriously.  I wonder what this talented chef will think up next?

chef Collin Doran describes next course at monthly dinner at Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California
chef Collin Doran describes next course at monthly dinner at Homemade Cafe in Berkeley, California
Homemade Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 



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