Paradise Park Café is located on San Pablo and Alcatraz in Oakland.

Paradise Park Café is located on San Pablo and Alcatraz in Oakland. (Wendy Goodfriend)

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San Francisco’s Park Group opens an all-day dining spot in Oakland’s Paradise Park neighborhood.

Who knew this neighborhood, the locus of which is at San Pablo Avenue and Alcatraz Street in North Oakland, was once called Paradise Park? When café co-owner Rachel Herbert was flipping through possible names for the new space, opening today in the former Actual Café/Victory Burger location, she found herself researching the history of the neighborhood. Herbert and her wife, co-owner Dana Oppenheim, have three cafés in San Francisco: Duboce Park Café, Precita Park Café, and the ever–teeming Dolores Park Café. Imagine their delight to be able to carry on the naming parallelism.

Co-owners Rachel Herbert (L) and Dana Oppenheim
Co-owners Rachel Herbert (L) and Dana Oppenheim (R) (Wendy Goodfriend)

Paradise Park offers a menu as diverse as the diets of its soon-to-be patrons. While there’s wine and beer, the bar is dominated by organic juices and smoothies. My favorite is the Popeye, with spinach (of course), celery and carrot, with a little ginger kick. Coffee is provided by the women-owned Equator in Marin, both Park Café Group’s own blend, a darker roast, and rotating single-origin selections. And there’s lots of pastries from local farmers-market favorite Starter Bakery.

Interior of Paradise Park Café with menu
Interior of Paradise Park Café with menu (Wendy Goodfriend)
The "Popeye" from the Organic Juice Bar
The “Popeye” from the Organic Juice Bar (Wendy Goodfriend)
Local beer on tap. Happy Hour 4-6 daily!
Local beer on tap. Happy Hour 4-6 daily! (Wendy Goodfriend)

The special kids’ menu includes gluten-free mac and cheese, Zoe’s hot dogs, and a sunflower nut butter and banana sandwich. (Sunflower nut butter is the new peanut butter in the current landscape of nut allergies, such that many kids have come to prefer it to the classic PB, verboten in many schools and summer camps.)

House-made gluten-free mac & cheese on Just for Kids menu
House-made gluten-free mac & cheese on Just for Kids menu (Wendy Goodfriend)

We tried a number of the mainstay lunch items, each of which was solidly conceived—in particular, the fried chicken sandwich, coated in a light tapioca batter and served on a challah bun with greens, carrots, radishes, pickled onion, and sriracha aioli. A twist on tofu, the housemade chickpea “tofu” looks like a wedge of the soy product, but is, in fact, akin to socca, the chickpea flower pancakes you see in Provence, here spiced with curry tones and available in any salad.

Fried Chicken Sandwich
Fried Chicken Sandwich (Wendy Goodfriend)
Paradise Salad with Chickpea Tofu
Paradise Salad with Chickpea Tofu (Wendy Goodfriend)
Vegan Wrap with Chickpea Tofu
Vegan Wrap with Chickpea Tofu (Wendy Goodfriend)

There are two burgers: grassfed beef and housemade quinoa, the former topped with Vermont cheddar and fried onions, and the latter veggie-laden, both served on brioche buns with perfect fries. It’s nice to be able to take a burger craving in either direction of the saturated-fat continuum.

Grassfed Burger
Grassfed Burger (Wendy Goodfriend)
House-made Quinoa Burger
House-made Quinoa Burger (Wendy Goodfriend)

Salad bowls are thoughtfully composed, too. We tried an all veggie version (vegan, in fact) with organic greens, grilled asparagus tips, carrots, radishes, mint, snap peas, pickled red onion, fried onion, and toasted peanuts with a light citrus vinaigrette. I loved the variation on the theme that comes with Vietnamese-style chicken sausage and vermicelli.

Paradise Salad with Vietnamese-style chicken sausage
Paradise Salad with Vietnamese-style chicken sausage (Wendy Goodfriend)

The kitchen’s signature dessert is a fried ice cream burrito! It’s kind of like a dessert chimichanga, a secret recipe of ice cream rolled up in a flour tortilla and flash-fried, sure to please kids and likely rev them up.

Ice Cream Burrito
Ice Cream Burrito (Wendy Goodfriend)
Starter Bakery cookies
Starter Bakery cookies (Wendy Goodfriend)

The shell of the former space remains, but Paradise Park has a much cleaner look and feel. The graffiti in the bathrooms has been freshly tiled over, a loungey area with a charging station has gone into a far corner, and a generous playspace for kids stretches across the back. What’s cool is that the room is big enough so you can see them from all the way across, allowing for some independence for both parents and children.

The dining area at Paradise Park Café
The dining area at Paradise Park Café (Wendy Goodfriend)

And the old Victory Burger space in the back retains the kitchen seating for those who want to be in a smaller section away from the main dining room, looking out onto the patio (which has a big communal table). The outdoor space, which opens onto the kitchen with the click of an electric garage door, will be used for themed pop-ups.

Lead chef Edwin Che and his crew in the back kitchen at Paradise Park Café
Lead chef Edwin Che (foreground) and his crew in the back kitchen at Paradise Park Café (Wendy Goodfriend)
Back kitchen seating area
Back kitchen seating area (Wendy Goodfriend)
Outdoor space will be used for themed pop-ups.
Outdoor space will be used for themed pop-ups. (Wendy Goodfriend)

While they’ve kept the wall of stickers that evolved throughout Actual Café’s tenure, the other walls have gotten a serious upgrade with brain-stimulating isometric illustrations from Berkeley artist Nigel Sussman.

Local artist Nigel Sussman's artwork and kid-friendly space
Local artist Nigel Sussman’s artwork and kid-friendly space (Wendy Goodfriend)

Oakland and Berkeley residents will welcome this happy, laid-back space, and I hope the newly reclaimed neighborhood nomenclature sticks. Paradise Park sounds like a good place to live.

Paradise Park Café
Paradise Park Café (Wendy Goodfriend)

Paradise Park Café
6334 San Pablo Ave.
Oakland, CA 94608 [ Map ]
Ph: (510) 756-4141
Hours: Daily, 7am-8pm (brunch served Sat-Sun, 8am-3pm)
Price Range: $-$$ ($8.95-$14.50)
Facebook: @parkcafelife

Hello Neighbors!
Hello Neighbors! Grand Opening August 17! (Wendy Goodfriend)

Join Paradise Park Café for their Grand Opening Thursday, August 17, 7am–8pm
20% of the day’s proceeds will benefit the East Bay College Fund and Oakland Promise.
Ribbon Cutting @ 5pm with Jose Corona, Director of Equity & Strategic Partnerships for Mayor Libby Schaaf and Diane Dodge, Executive Director of East Bay College Fund.
Live music & surprise swag giveaways to follow.

First Look: Paradise Park Café Offers a Diverse All-Day Menu And a Welcoming Neighborhood Vibe 2 September,2017Kim Westerman

Author

Kim Westerman

Kim Westerman has been writing about food and wine for most of her adult life. Originally from North Carolina, she moved to Berkeley in 2006 to pursue the California dream, which, it turns out, is all it’s cracked up to be. She’s a farmers’ market junkie, a lover of all things tomato, and Champagne-obsessed. She loves to cook with her kids, eight and three, and she makes frequent pilgrimages to International Boulevard in search of her next favorite Mexican dish. She spends an inordinate amount of time thinking about food and wine pairing, often starting with the wine and working backwards when planning menus. She is a Level I Sommelier and a Licensed Q-Grader. Her work has appeared in KQED’s Bay Area Bites, Forbes.com, the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, Tasting Table, Fodor’s Travel Guides, and lots of other publications. You can follow Kim on Twitter and Instagram @throughtraveler.

Author

Wendy Goodfriend

I am the Senior Interactive Producer for KQED Food. I have designed and produced food-related websites and blogs for KQED including Bay Area Bites; Check, Please! Bay Area;  Taste This; Jacques Pepin’s websites; Weir Cooking in the City and KQED Food. When I am not creating and managing food websites I am taking photos and video of Bay Area Life and designing online navigation systems. My professional education and training includes: clinical psychology, photography, commercial cooking, web design, information architecture and UX. You can find me engaged in social media on Twitter @bayareabites and on Facebook at Bay Area Bites. I can also be found photoblogging at look2remember.