Woodminster Cafe - Home cooked Persian food in the Oakland Hills!
At the top of Lincoln Blvd (above the Mormon Temple and slightly South of Montclair) hides a culinary find.
Before reviewing the food, let me be clear about the place: it’s normally a sandwich shop, with sandwich shop décor from the early 80’s. There are a few tables spread about, and there’s a little outdoors seating area between the café and the beauty shop. Ordering is at the counter.
During the day, they serve the best chicken salad sandwiches I’ve eaten in California. Complex flavors enhance the chicken without overpowering it. Garlic is top amongst the middle-eastern flavors that suffuse this delight, so don’t eat one before you propose. They have a great tuna salad sandwich as well, but the chicken is king.
During the day it's an unassuming sandwich shop, but on Friday nights, they stay open and offer terrific dinners. They serve Persian classics, such as lamb shank, lamb and chicken kabobs and various cold salads. The star of the menu, however, is their lamb stew. The thing here is that they don’t just have one stew. Each week they change the offering. I’ve been through the cycle of about 4 recipes and they are all delicious.
Tonight’s version was lamb and eggplant with lentils in a saffron-infused broth. My wife and I usually get ours to go, and they always thoughtfully separate the stew bits from the bed of saffron-sprinkled white rice, so that it can be combined at the table.
What more than makes up for the ambiance is the great family that runs the joint. Mom (who does most of the cooking), her son (front-man) his wife and two of their great kids are always there in some combination. They are always happy to see us and they make going there a pleasure.
So, don’t go there for the décor, but for the great food and wonderful hospitality.
Food: 8.5 (way beyond expectations)
Service: 9 (unforced friendliness, what a delightful change)
Price: 6 (a real bargain)
Ambiance: 4 (it’s a sandwich shop!)
(out of 10 – 10 being highest)
5020 Woodminster Lane
Oakland, CA 94602
Open 5 to 8 pm for dinner on Friday nights only
Great tip! I'm so used to that area being a culinary wasteland I never would have thought to look there.
The prices are currently about $1 higher than the report from last year (still a crazy bargain), the guy who runs the place is one of the nicest people you're likely to ever meet, and he *really* hopes that you'll call beforehand (Friday morning or earlier) to make a reservation so he can figure out how much to cook.
Good place for a sandwich at lunch, too. The chicken salad is absolutely reeking of garlic. But in a good way.