Monday, April 7, 2014

The Politeness of Strangers in Oakland

Piedmont Cafe and Bakery is just the sort of unassuming-looking, hole-in-the-wall diner that immediately made my mouth water the first time I passed it. Even on a street packed with every type of restaurant, and literally across the street from the incredible Caffe Trieste (all in due time, my foodies!), the Piedmont Cafe screamed out for a low-key, high-calorie breakfast experience. Just the kind I like! Piedmont is a cool little street, the area between MacArthur and where the street literally dead-ends into one of the most beautiful and sprawling cemeteries I've ever seen, the Chapel of the Chimes. Along this little stretch of street there's three bookstores, five coffee shops, one theatre, any food you could want, a handful of boutiques, and one hundred places to get your nails done. On one of our first explorations of Piedmont, the Lady and I began talking to a local in the A.G. Ferrari's, an impressive Italian deli. One of the first questions he asked of us upon hearing we'd moved to the area was "Have you found your closest Trader Joe's yet?" That's kind of the vibe of Piedmont... lots of chai lattes and North Face jackets.
But not the Piedmont Cafe and Bakery! It is salt-of-the-earth, greasy spoon diner at its best. And by best, I mean they bake their own donuts! I'll wait while you process that.
The Lady and I walked in and stood awkwardly in that way that one does upon entering a new restaurant, when a guy behind us came in and sat down at the bar. We looked at each other, shrugged, and sat in between him and an elderly gentlemen reading on his iPad. We eyed the menu and got coffee in mugs plastered with ads for other businesses, most I suspect are no longer functioning. The Lady ordered a stack of pancakes, while I opted for a chili cheese omelette with home fries because chili cheese omelette.
This would typically be right around the part of the blog where I post a photo of the food, but something happened. I forget how it started, but we ended up striking up a conversation with our bar-mate, as it were, the gentleman named Darryl that had entered behind us and guided us, Moses-like, to our seats. This is a fact about the Bay Area. Everyone is nice here. Everyone will talk to you. Whether it's the guy at Ferrari's asking us whether we'd found our Trader Joe's, Darryl telling the tale of how he stole his dad's comic books back from his mom after the divorce, or the cyclist riding up to me to tell me that I had his name (Read, pronounced like, y'know, the name) on my shirt, strangers will start conversations with you and it does not mean that they are crazy. It's a wonderful thing.
So my omelette arrived, delicious and with two neat slices of melted cheddar on top, the potatoes fabulous if not novel, and the Lady's pancakes floated down from Heaven like a half-stack of clouds, and Darryl got pancakes AND a bacon omelette, I think, because he is a champ and it is a biological law that unless you write a breakfast blog on the regular, if you are a human being you always think you want an entire stack of pancakes but you always, always forget that it is almost impossible to complete them. Also, at least one of the employees had a shirt emblazoned with "Piedmond Cafe," perhaps signaling that he is from an alternate reality.
The bathroom, semi-hidden behind a curtain at the back of the diner, is covered with a pastoral mural, which the Lady and I deduce was executed by the same artist that has painted the entire inside of the Coffee Mill, which if I recall correctly, boasts being the first coffee shop in Oakland. This mural, in turn, has been rather expertly graffitied with unicorns, a couple of creatures which are either flying spaghetti monsters or mi-gos, and a bit of metagraffiti which declares the farmhouse is "HELL." So what I'm saying is, it is awesome.

  Atmosphere: 4/13
Clean: 2/3
Structural: 0/3
Decor: 1/3
Signage 0/2
Service: 1/2

  Menu: 7/8
Variety: 1/2
Size: 2/2
Beverages: 2/2
Prices: 2/2

  Food: 5/9
Presentation: 1/3
Portion: 2/3
Taste: 2/3

  Bathroom: 4/5
Clean: 1/2
Structural: 1/1
Decor: 2/2

  Overall 20/35

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