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Dorsey's Locker- don't be scared

I had driven by this place a thousand times and while tempted, never stopped- maybe because the place seemed to have no windows, maybe because eating in a bar (with lingering beer, cigarette and ammonia fumes) didn't appeal, perhaps it was the memory of a shooting 10 years or so ago when it was Bosen's locker.. but finally made it over there yesterday for lunch and realized my fears were for naught. The restaurant is next to the bar, not in it; clean and tidy as can be and sun streaming in the, yes, windows.
I had the short rib special which was the boneless variety cooked fork-tender and served with a beefy brown gravy. Loved the sides including tender but somewhat acrid collards with a satisfying pot liquor perfect with the corn muffin which I must say is one of the better corn muffins- Southern style..fresh but dense, not sweet, not one of those jiffy cakey cornbreads- great black eyed peas with shreds of ham, cinnimon-y but not cloying sweet potatoes and GREAT sweet tea. I'll be back to try the oxtails and made to order fried chicken.
I've never made it to Nellies at JLS but this seems like a great North Oakland option without the drive and wait.

5817 Shattuck Ave near 58th Street; 510-428-1935

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  1. Thanks so much for the report. I too always go past this place and have never gone in. How are the prices? Was it busy?

    1 Reply
    1. re: Hunicsz

      Most of their business is takeout, although there are maybe 10 small tables. It can get very busy weekend evenings. There always seems to be a wait to get fried foods, but I'm more interested in the specials anyway.

      For you Rockridgers, Dorsey's is surprisingly close, 1 freeway exit from Claremont and 2 from Broadway.

    2. Did you say oxtail stew?? Is it a special or on the menu all the time?

      1. Prices were about 10-11 dollars for a generous main with 3 sides and cornbread. My only gripe was that the tea does not come with refills. But it was great tea (or I wouldn't have asked for a refill) Some items are daily such as the fried chicken and a lot of sandwichy things and then everyday they have about 3 specials and the sides are always available. The oxtails were on Tuesdays, I think. (I would call ahead to make sure.)
        Honestly it was the most cheerful little place, I feel so silly about my previous qualms..

        1. Interestingly enough, Nellie's was originally located in the back of Dorsey's Locker but they grew popular enough that they relocated to their newer, larger digs.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Morton the Mousse

            Hi Mr. Mousse,
            I've been going to Dorsey's Locker, nee Bosun's Locker, since the late 80's. As I understand it Nellie was a cook at Dorsey's and she left to open her own place, but Dorsey's has always been Dorsey's (except when it was Bosun's). As I recall there are photos of the longtime owner near the register.

            On Friday's Dorsey's has gumbo, which is on the salty side but very flavorful and packed with crab, chicken, sausage and shrimp. I get the large and usually can't polish it off in one meal. Also good is the humble turkey wing and dressing plate. Like Thanksgiving all year round.


          2. Good for you for stepping in the door of a place we ALL passed by a zillion times. Sounds like a find ... especially the fact that there are windows.

            Do you remember the hours?

            2 Replies
            1. re: rworange

              well... no..so I gave them a call.

              Tues/Wed 1130-9pm
              Th-Sat 1130-11pm
              Sun 12-7pm

              I've had fried chicken and cornbread on the brain all day...

              1. re: berkeleypie

                Thanks so much. Sunday dinner is sounding good.

            2. How funny! I stumbled into Dorsey's Locker last week after trying to follow a Chowhound recommendation of Nellie's. I typed in Nellie's into my car's GPS and it took me here...I just figured they must have changed the name and went inside. I ordered the Wings plate - the fried chicken was tasty (especially with dabs of their Louisiana hot sauce) and their iced tea was syrupy sweet and superb! I asked the waitress where they got the tea, and the answer was Lipton...but they must be lying because I've never had Lipton tea that tasted that good!

              It is a questionable area in town, but the staff was warm and friendly. They must not see many young Asian women though (especially those eating alone) since I got quite a few shocked stares by patrons entering the restaurant. :)

              4 Replies
              1. re: alina555

                Nellie's was originally located in Dorsey's Locker, but they grew too popular for the small location. Here's their new address:

                1155 3rd St, Oakland, CA
                (510) 625-1350

                1. re: alina555

                  Yes, in the many times I have been there I have rarely seen a non-Black face. The Black friend who turned me on to them, said she went in once and saw the back of an Asian man's head and was sure it was me. It wasn't!

                  The waitstaff have always been very solicitous towards me and I am always on my best behavior. I certainly wouldn't go in there with an attitude. If you do go there in the evening, I would use normal caution and I feel better when I park on the same block.

                  1. re: alina555

                    I was once in a soul food place with some Asian friends and an African American dude said to his girlfriend, "what are they doing here?" The GF answered, "the same thing we do at a Chinese restaurant, eat."

                    1. re: ML8000

                      Dorsey's is my soul food restaurant of choice and when I first started going I wondered if they might view me (as a non-Black) as being intrusive. I decided no because the highest compliment to a cook is when people seek out their food, be they Black, White, Yellow, Neapolitan. The wait staff has always been very friendly.

                  2. Good call on Dorsey's haven't been there in awhile, but my cousin used to live a couple of blocks away and it was always a neighborhood favorite. (Oh and I never had a question about the neighborhood so don't let it deter you 'Hounds :) Now that I know they've got Oxtails, mmm, poor ole Nellie's might see less of me since Dorsey's is closer to my house.

                    a sante,

                    1. I used to go to this restaurant when it was located in West Berkeley (my friend reminded me that it was called Gram-Tees) several years ago. My friend and I marveled at the amount of fried chicken they served there.

                      I've only been to Dorsey's Locker twice, and while the Southern neighbor charm (old tables, counter, wisea$$ woman serving you) wasn't there, I thought the food was good, but not as good as the old location.

                      Sounds like it's time for another trip! BTW, I'm about as white as they get and I never had any issues at either location. They were as friendly as all get-up to my friends and me.


                      1. Killer ribs, oxtails & mac-n-cheese. I used to drive all the way from Modesto for the ribs. Cannot comment on chicken yet. Side dishes, other than the M&C I love, nothing to write home about. I think the yams are way too sweet, though my roommate digs them. Collard greens are OK if you avoid the tasteless chewy ham-hock chunks. Bar is usually hopping, restaurant for families & quieter couples.

                        1. I checked it out this past Friday afternoon...the one lady working the counter and dining room seemed frazzled, and almost made me wish I had not ordered and thus had to wait in there. I had some fried chicken and catfish, which was good if not dazzling. Prices were fair, place seemed welcoming, no sweat.

                          The specials were tempting, quite varied and good deal...I'll try it next time

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Munching Mark

                            Thanks for the update

                            Dorsey's Locker
                            5817 Shattuck Ave, Oakland, CA 94609