Now open: 371 30th St. (between Summit and Webster streets), Oakland
Opening on July 18: 555 12th St. (the ground floor of 555 City Center), Oakland
“It’s a full circle moment right now,” Latorra Monk said. Standing in front of the former Specialty’s Cafe and Bakery store in downtown Oakland, the owner of Oaklandia Coffee felt a bit nostalgic: In 2006, Monk was working the counter at this place of sandwich and cookie chain closed since, and even met her husband there. Starting July 18, Monk will once again welcome diners inside the building, when she opens her popular restaurant’s second location in the space.
The original Oaklandia Cafe opened at 371 30th St in June 2020, just as the region was beginning to realize the pandemic was here for the long haul. While many businesses big and small couldn’t stay afloat during the lockdown, Oaklandia managed to find its footing thanks to a loyal fan base that kept coming back for breakfast and lunch again and again. “God, my clients have been amazing,” she said. “That’s actually how I can get to this level right now, thanks to a client who really believed in my vision and decided to invest.”
This client, whom Monk declined to name, helped Monk expand his business to a second location on the ground floor of the 21-story 555 City Center, adjacent to the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building and a new luxury apartments. It’s an expansion that promises to introduce Oaklandia’s menu of lunch staples, like barbecue chicken in the south or chicken torta, sweets like almond pie created by the husband of Monk (now Oaklandia’s pastry chef) and coffee drinks like black and brown latte (a bourbon caramel). and dark chocolate caffeine concoction) or Tiger’s Eye (a chai latte with an espresso) to a whole new audience of hungry lunch seekers.
The expansion also offers Monk the chance to achieve even more of his dreams for his business. At present, Monk said, she has only been able to accept catering gigs on a case-by-case basis due to the small size of her Pill Hill location. “We wanted a bigger cooking area to fully expand and offer more because I’m constantly being asked to do more catering,” she said. “In this space, we can fully expand and respond to the level that I want.”
Oaklandia Cafe is a dream business come true – if it can survive COVID-19
The second location also allows Monk to flex his interior design muscles. “I bring color; I bring a punch Aftershe said, going against current cafe trends for white subway tiles and minimalist decor. Instead, Monk plans to use her affection for flora and foliage as design inspiration. While touring the space (which Monk asked Nosh to refrain from photographing until its completion), she showed me new tree-themed wallpaper adorning the walls, as well as the places where the living trees and plants will adorn the interiors.
“We’re in the middle of a bunch of buildings, so I want to bring nature in,” she said. The café’s large glass windows will create an open and airy atmosphere, and to better blur the lines between indoors and outdoors, the second Oaklandia will be outdoors.
As for the food, everything will be prepared in-house, with a new chef in the kitchen, while her husband – you know, the guy she met when they worked together at Specialty’s over a decade ago – will prepare Always everything from the pastries and pastries of Oaklandia. While Monk knows who this new chef will be, she’s willing to drop a few clues, saying “The chef we’re hiring is a California Culinary Academy graduate family member.” The mysterious person also “worked as an executive chef in San Francisco for many years [and] came out of retirement to help launch this new venture.
“The other thing I’m adding is an art space,” Monk said. “I partner with the community to showcase the work of rotating artists.” Monk said he misses the days when cafes also served as makeshift galleries for budding artists. “I feel like a lot of cafes these days have avoided having artwork in their spaces,” she said, “either because they want to keep the aesthetic of Somehow either, as is the case with my little cafe, they just don’t have the wall space.
In Oaklandia’s second grand opening, the local art gallery pays homage to black female educators by focusing on works created by Oakland teachers. It’s because, says Monk, a teacher made an indelible impression on him. “When I was in fifth grade, I had my first African American teacher,” Monk said. “It was important for my life; when you see yourself for the first time in a teacher, it’s really an incredible moment.
Brock Keeling is an award-winning writer covering California.