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Brown Sugar Kitchen - West Oakland

Dropped by this morning to have a late breakfast at 11am ..... they start the lunch menu at Noon..... enjoyed a nice plate of stone ground grits and two poached eggs with some cheddar cheese. Also had to try the black skillet cornbread with brown sugar butter.
I don't often order grits ( but I love polenta ) so I don't have a lot of past dishes to compare to but these were almost fluffy .... creamy, with still some texture .... the cheese was an added dimension. the eggs were cooked just right - tender whites and runny yolks. The seasoning was satisfying but not over the top .... good comfort food for a chilly day. Enjoyed their version of cornbread - the cast iron skillet gives it a real crust but it's still moist in the middle .... with a touch of sweetness from the brown sugar butter. The cornbread itself is not particularly sweet - it's got a background of richness but is not dripping with butter like the last version I had at T-Rex. (which I enjoyed for the first few bites) The style of food is relatively simple but well executed. The place was filling up as I left. They are off to a good start .... they only opened recently.
I look forward to returning to try the gumbo or the ribs, etc.....


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  1. Thanks for the heads up, Gordon, this place really looks great. Hope to hear more reports soon, especially on the ribs and on the sweet potato pie!

    Brown Sugar Kitchen
    2534 Mandela Pkwy, Oakland, CA 94607

    1 Reply
    1. re: susancinsf

      Thanks Gordon. This sounds really great.

    2. Thanks will definitely check it out. Looking at the menu, it really does look like they've thought about it.

      1. I just came from an absolutely fabulous lunch at the Brown Sugar Kitchen, thank you so much for posting the menu. First of all, the place is really cool, kinda like 900 Grayson in terms of looks. While it is a smallish place, with about 10 or 15 tables or so, there is a great long bar with maybe 15 or so red vinyl stools that looked supercomfy. I had a shrimp po-boy that was out of this world. It came with 4 big shrimp, lightly coated but I wouldn't say breaded, with some coleslaw and drizzled with a remoulade sauce on what looked like a small Acme torpedo-shaped bun. The shrimp were perfectly cooked, really really perfect. I chose mac-n-cheese as my side. It came in a side dish and was covered in bread crumbs and had been heated up to crisp the top. Followed with an americano and a huge piece of pecan pie. The pie was scrumptious and the coffee was BlueBottle!

        Everything the kitchen was turning out looked so good. There was a composed salad of smoked trout with beets. A hanger steak with mashed potatoes and something else. A pulled pork sandwich. A veggie special.

        I am so excited about this place because it is in my neighborhood. I've lived in West Oakland since the mid-90s and never thought we'd get to see something like this here. And it was bustling with folks, all kinds of people, some who worked down the street, some who looked as if they lived around there, and some who looked as if they were in the know and came from Berkeley. I'm also guessing some work at Pixar. It was great to see. Let's support this good restaurant in what the BSK calls "sweet west oakland"!

        1. I was SO looking forward to trying BSK. Finally went a couple of Saturdays ago. Called to see if there was a wait...told no wait...10 minutes later when we arrived there was a 45 minute wait. So we waited, but I was really hungry so we asked if we could get a biscuit or cornbread while we waited. Answer, from a hostess with no customer service training, was no, we could buy whatever was on sale at the counter. Bad! All they had at the counter were desserts which we didn't want before breakfast so I got a cup of coffee. The coffee was excellent. However, after about 20 minutes the hostess came outside and told everyone waiting that there were no breakfasts left, but we could wait for lunch. Everyone was disappointed, but we decided to try the lunch. Once we were seated and saw the breakfasts at the table next to ours, we were glad they'd run out. The eggs looked like rubber...sort of the texture of those fake vomits sold in gag stores. So we ordered the corn bread (it was good, not great) and ribs (these were very good, meaty and falling off the bone, and came with a pineapple salsa which was tasty, but the ribs had no sauce of their own) and a pulled pork sandwich. The sandwich was uninteresting and lousy. Each main dish came with a side so we chose the molasses baked beans and the mac and cheese. These were so bad that we left them both. The billed "molasses" baked beans had no molasses taste whatsoever, but instead were heavily tomatoey and seriously undercooked. The mac and cheese may have been the worst I've had next to the blue box variety. It was dry as a bone and had no discernible cheese flavor. My empty coffee cup (I'd finished my coffee while we were waiting to be seated) sat on the table throughout our entire meal and not once was I asked if I wanted a refill. Our server, while pleasant, seemed like she was floating through a Qualuud haze. She smiled constantly and hardly did anything else. Our bill, when we were finally able to flag her down for it, was seriously wrong, but, since it was in our favor and we felt so mistreated, we just paid it and left. The place, while cute enough (I especially liked the stools w/backs at the counter) is nothing to write home about and the staff is in need of some serious training. The food is heavily flawed...some dishes being tasty and worth returning for, others being god-awful. This is an example of a place either opening too soon, before they have the big kinks worked out, or not taking care to get the important stuff right. I don't think I'll be going back to BSK in its vast wasteland of a neighborhood until I hear from someone I trust that they've made substantial improvements.

          1. Went to BSK for my birthday breakfast on Saturday. We nearly got lost trying to find it (coming from Berkeley), but once we were there, we were glad we stuck it out.

            I had the chicken and waffles with warm apple cider sauce, a side of biscuit and jam, a fresh-squeezed OJ, and a made-to-order Blue Bottle coffee. My friend had the cheddar cheese grits with poached eggs, biscuit and jam, OJ, and a coffee.

            Everything, and I do mean everything, was fabulous. The chicken was lightly battered and crispy, but not dry, the waffle was light as air, and the accompanying syrup complimented both the chicken and the waffle perfectly. The biscuit with Blue Chair Fruit jam was out of this world. That alone was worth going back for. Perfectly fluffy buttermilk biscuits that, while they didn't need it, I slathered with butter and Rachel's perfectly balanced jam (in this case it was blood orange marmalade). To top it all off, freshly squeezed orange juice and Blue Bottle coffee that was brewed to order. It couldn't have been any better.

            I didn't try my friend's meal, but she commented many times during the course of our breakfast about how well she liked it. She said that the grits were light and fluffy inasmuch as grits can be light and fluffy, and that the eggs were perfectly poached. She also said that the coffee was delish.

            I'm dying to get over there for lunch. Tried to go today, but didn't make it in time (they close at 3pm). You better believe I'm going to go soon!

            If you haven't tried Brown Sugar Kitchen, don't wait! Its been all over the food blogs lately, and once word gets out, its going to be harder and harder to get in. (I can't believe I just said that, but I really want to see this place do well).

            4 Replies
            1. re: chemchef

              A friend and I had the chicken and waffles on Wednesday and we concur. These are corn waffles, and I certainly didn't expect them to achieve the light, airiness that they did. Pretty amazing. The fried chicken was excellent, though a bit under-spiced for me. Still, it was lovely and crisp and I was happy.

              Only real downside is the slow service, though some of that may have been caused by our being caught between batches of chicken. It took a bit over thirty minutes for our food to arrive after ordering. Definitely had to throw up a flag to get the server's attention for additional coffee.

              The shrimp and rice the guy next to me had looked great, and there's lots more I'd like to try. I'm simply going to be certain to bring friends who like to talk, so I don't die of boredom waiting for my food.

              1. re: lexdevil

                Is there anything on the menu that you can order while you wait for the main course? BSK is on my list...just haven't been yet.

                  1. re: ML8000

                    BISCUITS and BLUE CHAIR FRUIT JAM!

              2. Went to BSK for lunch yesterday and really enjoyed it. I had the fried chicken and waffle, and my husband had the oyster po' boy with a side salad of black-eyed peas and bell pepper. The cornmeal waffles were good, and lighter than I expected, though I didn't really care for the apple cider syrup -- next time I would ask for maple ($1 extra). The chicken was also good, but needed salt. The sandwich was terrific -- like the waffle, lighter than expected, and with a nice slaw. I saw the catfish on someone else's plate, and may try that next time. Didn't get any dessert because of the waffles, but might on another visit. Desserts are on the bready side -- sticky buns, cookies, muffins, cake + sweet potato, apple, and pecan pie. We arrived around 12:30 and sat at the counter.

                1. The food was delicious. There's all the usual smack talk that things are disastrous, but if you thoroughly consider and understand the enormity of the project--opening a restaurant in a neighborhood where not much else draws customers--and giving it all your spirit and love and vision--you will appreciate the deliciousness of Tanya's food, and not jump onto the yelp-driven hyper criticism of service.
                  Sure, service needs work. The staff seems new, some seem green, but there are a lot of veterans on that floor, and many who know and care and give good service. For a new place, open only 3 months, that is inundated with blogs, press, and buzz,
                  they are doing a damn fine job. We waited a bit for our table, and a bit for our food, but we were happy to see the creativity and joie de vivre right here in "sweet west oakland". Go Tanya!
                  The cornmeal waffle was beguiling. Light, airy, without any of the heaviness or grittiness often found in cornmeal. Nothing stuck in my teeth. The fried chicken was delicious (although my salt shaker got busy), and juicy inside, and crispy crust. The cornbread was a bit dense and not as interesting. We would have enjoyed a fuller portion of brown sugar butter.
                  My only other thoughts about the menu were that it was a bit "bready-starchy". I wanted more egg choices for brunch, or more fresh, salad, or vegetable choices for lunch.
                  All the food around us looked great, and that it had been made with lots of thought and attention--and plated with skill and care.
                  Good luck, BSK, and keep up the great work!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: culinarian

                    Thank you Culinarian! I appreciate and agree with your post.

                  2. mmm...mmm good — Coconut Cream Pie for breakfast with a cup of Blue Bottle coffee. Made in Heaven, that Pie! rich-not too sweet, just perfect. not one speck left on my empty plate— sorry my photo did not attach! Ribbons of toasted coconut atop creaminess-like-silk, flaky buttery crust shatters and explodes, coconut cream to shake the taste buds awake and lull them into a state of happiness.
                    Service was charming, warm and friendly - and attentive. Smiles were exchanged, at least five from our server, two from the line and a big smile with eyes a-twinkling from Tanya as we cooed over our pies while seated at the counter this morning. My mantra is Pie for Breakfast.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Cynsa

                      Thanks to the kindness of JoanN, here's the pie photo!

                    2. Lunch there today. VERY noisy. The service was attentive and very pleasant except for the hostess, who took our name and then accused us of seating ourselves at what was not her choice of table. Actually, another young woman took us to the table and left us with menus to peruse. After that, waitstaff came to ask if we were ready and were gracious when we weren't and often came around to refill water. The muffaletta was tasty but very oily, so it was treacherous to eat and at $9 a bit pricey. It wasn't on a long roll but on a proper round one, though a fairly small proper round one, speaking muffaletta . Chicken and waffles: the waffle was wonderful, light and tasty--and I'm not a fan of waffles but I would have eaten more. Must have been a lot of butter or oil in the batter. I don't know if I would have had known they were corn waffles if I hadn't read it on the menu. I loved the apple cider syrup. I thought it went better with chicken than maple syrup. The vinegar gave it a bit of a tang. The chiken was juicy and tasty enough, though needed a touch more seasoning, but the portion was VERY skimpy. The two pieces were a very small breast without most but not all of the bones and a wing, which I handed over to dining companion. For $12, one waffle and that amount of chicken wasn't quite the "downhome" experience. The macaroni and cheese was very rich and flavor-wise probably the best I've had in a restaurant in years and an acceptable $4. Unfortunately, my companion burned her mouth fairly badly on it as it was sitting in boiling butter. We took a cup of ice to go.

                      Would I go back? If it were close to my house, yeah. But if I'm going to travel I'd rather go to DeClancy's and get a more generous serving. There's something about that funky '70s decor, too. A less yuppified experience.

                      1. I had brunch at Brown Sugar Kitchen today, and while the food was good, it was ultimately an incredibly frustrating experience because of the amateurish and confused service. There was a very long wait for a table, which is one thing if the restaurant is packed, or if you are told that there would be a long wait. But there consistently empty tables and empty seats at the counter throughout the wait, and the hostess seemed to have no idea what was going on, and couldn't give any information about when tables would be seated. I tend to be very forgiving of service issues in restaurants, but this general incompetence even bothered me.

                        We were finally seated at the counter, which is indeed a very comfortable place to sit -- the seats are great, you can look into the open kitchen, and it's not a cramped counter space. One note about the menu: it says to check their daily specials on the specials board, but there was no specials board, and the waitress told us of no specials, so I'm not sure if the board is coming, or if there were specials that we had to ask for (I was planning on it but forgot). I ordered the vegetable egg scramble with potatoes, and I got a biscuit with that. The scramble was great, and the potatoes were tasty, though you get a pretty small serving of them. I loved the biscuit, and wished that I had been able to try the bacon/cheddar biscuit, but they were out. The fried chicken looked fantastic, the man sitting next to me at the counter had it and was enjoying it (although he also reported some service confusion with his order). Ultimately, I'll go back for the food, but only at off hours, and not when I'm really hungry. On the strength of the biscuit, I'd also stop by to just get some of the sweets from the front counter: there was sweet potato pie, sticky buns, and apple cake all up there, and they all looked delicious.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: JasmineG

                          This place has been open for about nine months--they should have their service issues resolved by now...

                          1. re: JasmineG

                            I was also there this morning and, I agree, they definitely have service issues. When we arrived (around 9:30), it was busy, but not packed, and there was a sign saying to seat yourself. During the few minutes that we looked around to decide on a table, three (!!) different people came and tried to seat us. One said, "just a moment, I'll be right with you", another said, "would you like to sit at the counter" (we said yes), and the last told us that they'd have a table ready in just a moment. We'd have preferred to sit at the counter, but we were ultimately seated at a table.

                            Indeed, the biscuits, and the chicken and waffles are the stars there and are always worth going for, but I definitely think that the service issues should be ironed out by now. They didn't even seem to be short-handed this morning; the servers just didn't seem very organized or "on the ball". They are genuinely nice, but nice doesn't always cut it. Especially when three people around us got their beignets and we ordered ours first!

                          2. After dining at Aunt Mary's Cafe
                            @4307 Telegraph Ave. in Oakland.

                            BSK in comparison is just another average breakfast dive with really bad service.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: Mission

                              While you may prefer Aunt' Mary's, BSK is far from average and far from a dive. The service is uneven. As mentioned, friendly but sometimes confused.

                              1. re: rworange

                                I've been to BSK 3 times.

                                My friend has a live work around the corner on Helen.

                                Had Waffle and chicken 1st time.

                                Chicken was a wing and thigh.

                                Reminded me of the boring, lame "fantastic" chicken at Casa Orinda.

                                I lived in Tennessee for 2 years ...I know fried chicken and Southern cookin.

                                Waffle tasted like air and flour.(it sat around a while before it was served)

                                2nd time I went down at 11:00 AM to a near empty place ,middle of the week and it took over 15 minutes to get two cups of coffee to go.

                                (I'll take Cole Coffee any day over Blue Bottle)

                                Went for the 3rd time and had the boring Jerk Chicken ZZZZZZzzzzzzzz. friend had the POboy thing that tasted fine (however it was too small for price and anyone with a average appetite).

                                I felt like a "jerk" for coming to this over priced "don't you just love the multiculturalism" restaurant for the 3rd time.

                                Needless to say the service almost ruined my day each visit.


                                1. re: rworange

                                  Late breakfast today not bad at all - poached eggs with toast, potatoes, Adell's chicken apple sausage, grits; Calistoga water.

                                  Delicious really, even the Adell's, which sure wasn't at good or large as Costco Adell's; left me wondering if it was Adell's.

                                  Wouldn't write home. Decor pleasing. Price not out of line. Service OK. Will be back.

                                  1. re: Waterboy

                                    There are two types of chicken and apple sausages from Aidells. The smaller one is a breakfast link.

                                  2. re: rworange

                                    or not friendly and VERY confused.

                                2. Here's a follow-up to my post of last March. After 10 months, I decided to give BSK another go. Figured if their flaws were attributable to recently having opened for business, they'd be worked out by now. Some good news and bad news to report. I walked in while my friend parked the car and saw someone who appears to be a hostess or manager hanging out behind the counter. She looked at me and didn't smile or welcome me and just stood there. Throughout our lunch, i saw her hovering around the register w/an air of management about her, doing nothing. And, believe me, there were things that needed someone's attention! Waitress took our order of chicken and waffles w/the maple syrup ($2 extra!) and an oyster po'boy w/a side of mac & cheese. The food came promptly and looked delicious. And the kitchen had split the dishes for us so we were each served healthy portions of both sandwich and chicken/waffle. The oyster sandwich was lovely..no grease at all and a wonderful slaw stuffed into the roll w/the oysters. The mac and cheese was creamy and on the lighter side, which was a great accompaniment. The chicken and waffles looked delicious. My friend poured the syrup...remember, we paid for maple...over his waffle and I was about to pour mine when I noticed something floating in my little pitcher. I smelled the syrup and realized it was their apple cider syrup, not the maple. I told my friend and he tasted the syrup on his plate and said "no way" so we called the waitress over. She said she'd bring the maple syrup to which my friend replied that his waffle was now ruined so he needed a replacement. She didn't look happy, but agreed to accommodate him. We waited and waited and waited and my friend wanted to eat the chicken WITH the waffle so he just sat there while I ate my lunch. Finally, he called the waitress over and asked her to please bring him a fresh piece of chicken w/the new waffle because by now this piece had grown cold. She looked even less thrilled now. Don't get me wrong; there was no eye rolling, but neither was there an apology or any semblance of understanding the plight of a wronged customer. So we waited some more. And continued to wait and wait. When I next asked her what was happening she responded that they'd had to make a "whole new batch" of chicken in order for my friend to get his fresh piece. But she didn't keep us informed about any of this and only responded when we roped her over to the table. After an interminably long time, my friend said to just bring the check and cancel the order. She seemed more than happy to oblige which made me wonder whether they were actually frying any more chicken or whether this had been a ploy to get us to cave and leave. She said she'd only charge us for half an order!!!! Well, how sweet of her. There was no coming of anything. I was mortified. I don't care if it was "the kitchen's fault" or her fault or whatever. Her waiting skills were seriously in need of an overhaul. We paid the bill and left no tip. And when we got a cookie at the counter as we were leaving, they charged us for it!