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new Oakland lunch place - Uncle Dougie's

Find out what a "real Italian hero is" says the flyer. This is the second time I've wandered in looking for something substantial to bring home for hungry teens. I have to give props to a new business that makes the place a New York experience - a subway graffiti mural on one wall and a nighttime NY citylights photo on the other.

Friendly Brooklyn born Uncle Dougie is selling only New York Style sandwiches at a spot formerly Fish and Chips. The menu is Sausage & peppers, Italian meatloaf, eggplant parmesan and chicken parmesan sandwiches. Served with a bag of chips - $7.50. I think he's open Mon- Fri from 11-3PM and I just noticed he added spaghetti and pizzabread.

The sausage & peppers were a hit with the meatloaf running close behind. Dougie says the secret is his sauce. He missed the NY hero so much that he had to open his own place. (When I was there they were filling an order of a dozen sandwiches for Pixar.)

Uncle Dougie's Italian Hero Sandwiches
362 17th St.

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  1. is there seating, or strictly take-out?

    1 Reply
    1. re: Rapini

      There are a handful of small tables and a long counter for standing.

    2. So how is the hero sandwich? How does it compare to the local version like Genova or Ratto's?

      2 Replies
      1. re: ML8000

        These sandwiches are a totally different animal from Genova or Rattos.

        Uncle Dougie offers 4 sandwiches only - Sausage (which they were out of the day I went), meatloaf, eggplant parm and chicken parm.

        These are saucy, gooey sandwiches slathered with tomato sauce. We tried the meatloaf and eggplant parm. Both sandwiches were a soggy mess by the time we ate them 5 blocks away, 5 minutes later. I don’t think they work well for takeout.

        The meatloaf was very tasty, and a generous portion. The tomato sauce was good also. The eggplant was less impressive - it was hard to tell the soggy bread from the soggy eggplant.

        The only pepper they have available is crushed red pepper, which is a shame as these types of sandwiches can benefit from some banana peppers or peperoncini.

        The atmosphere in the restaurant is not very inviting. I would think the meatloaf sandwich would be fine if eaten there but I'm not sure I'm going to rush back. I'm sure I'll try the sausage sandwich some day.

        1. re: 10foot5

          I am so excited--I've never understood why I can't get a decent chicken parm here. Dying to try!

      2. Just ate at Dougie's last night - fantastic late night treat. On Fridays and Saturdays he opens from 9pm to 2am. I had the chicken parm and it was perfection, a perfect salve for my NYC nostalgia.

        1. I like Uncle Dougie's. It's become one of my regular lunch spots. I've gotten the pizza bread a few times. French bread cooked with their tomato sauce with peppers and cheese. It takes a little bit longer to make than their heros - about 5 minutes. Comes out nicely crisp and cheesy. A tiny bit more salt than I'd like, but still yummy. Pizza break, at $5.50, is $2 less than their heros. To the poster who said the restaurant was not too inviting, they've fixed things up a bit. Some fun NYC photographs and graffiti art.

          8 Replies
          1. re: Martin Strell

            Pointed here by Daveena's response to my query on the Manhattan board for a good eggplant parmigiana sandwich, we met Martin and his family for $12 all you can eat dinner last night.

            Uncle Dougie's is the real deal. We enjoyed everything including the atmosphere and red and green jello.

            But the winner for me was the eggplant and the sweet tomato sauce, exactly the way I remember it from corner joints with red checkered table cloths. The bread is perfect (Dougie was a baker.)

            Friendly atmosphere, easy parking, and Friday nights the Oakland museum is open late (free shotglasses with your bourbon at the bar by the sculpture garden).

            Dougie mentioned he's at the Layover Thursdays and Fridays selling sandwiches. And a second location is coming to Bowditch in Berkeley within the next couple of months.

            Former New Yorkers should check it out. This is food that will make you happy.

            Uncle Dougie's
            362 17th St, Oakland, CA 94612

            1. re: Windy

              great to hear about the new location coming soon. sounds like it will be a nice addition to the short list of places to go for dinner before a film at the Pacific Film Archive.

              1. re: Windy

                Dougie used to run the Maria's Bakeries in the Bay Area, but he has this bread made for him daily, I believe by the Italian French Baking Co., in SF. But yeah, I think the bread is perfect for this kind of sandwich.

                Anyway, I like the eggplant Dougie's, but my favorite (as noted in my post downthread) is the meatloaf - drenched, of course, in his good tomato sauce.

                FYI, the new Berkeley location is going to be takeout only - just a window where you order, I think.

                Italian French Baking Co
                1501 Grant Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

                1. re: abstractpoet

                  The Berkeley location is open, as of I think yesterday. They have (minimal) table service, and might put in a couple of outdoor tables in a while. Chicken parm was delicious as described above, very saucy. Free soda with your sandwich this week. Official grand opening coming soon!

                  1. re: heidipie

                    Where on Bowditch is this? I walked the block between Durant and Bancroft Monday and Uncle Dougie was not to be seen. Is he in the same block as Henry's?

                    Uncle Dougie's
                    362 17th St, Oakland, CA 94612

                    1. re: chocolatetartguy

                      just off of Durant, the other direction from Bancroft.

                      it's in the building on the corner. there's a sign above the door that i was able to see from the intersection.

                      i just added a restaurant listing with the address

                      Uncle Dougie's
                      2328 Bowditch St, Berkeley, CA 94704

                2. re: Windy


                  I had a lot of bad red sauce growing up (either too acidic or too sweet), so I don't tend to crave it, but Dougie's sauce is so good I've developed retroactive nostalgic cravings. I need to get to that Friday night all-you-can eat - do they take walk-ins, or do you have to RSVP? Also, do most people get there at 6, or can you roll in around 7:30 and still get a decent selection?

                  1. re: daveena

                    We didn't get there until 7, and while some things were finished (the spaghetti with garlic oil), they continued to put out fresh chicken cutlets and a few other dishes later. They reopen for sandwiches at 9 (until I think 2) Fridays and Saturdays.

                    We emailed to RSVP, but you can probably show up, and they'll be happy to see you.

              2. Seems like the bag of chips is optional now, and so the price is down to $6.50 a pop, which is a good deal, I think. Tried the meatloaf hero and thought the meatloaf was nice and moist, if a tad bit blander than I would have liked. The sauce and the bread were really, really good. This isn't refined food, but tasty and comforting. Definitely hit the spot.

                He's doing an all-you-can-eat buffet now, from 6 to 8 every other Friday night for $12 a person (reservations required). Sounds like it'd be worth checking out. Lasagna, sauteed veggies, and some other items that might vary from week to week, in additional to the usual offerings.

                1 Reply
                1. re: abstractpoet

                  I'm glad they dropped the chips inclusion. I never ate the chips so felt cheated having to pay for something I didn't pick up. So like the new pricing. And I agree, the meatloaf hero is still good but tasted a bit bland than before. I thought it might have been more because of the tomato sauce? Still, very enjoyable.

                2. I had been eating-in only due to portability concerns owing to the heroes' saucy nature but today I rolled the dice and carried out an eggplant parm- the bread is serious enough that it stood up to the sauce and cheese nearly to the last bite even after a 7-block walk. The workmanlike wrapping in stout butcher paper, which the sauce didn’t come close to dampening, surely helped.

                  As noted by abstractpoet, there have been menu/hours tweaks (I'm glad they ditched the automatic inclusion of chips). The $12 bi-weekly Friday buffet (which I haven't tried) is all-you-can-eat; here’s the menu they were offering March 11:

                  Tossed green salad
                  Chicken Parmesan
                  Eggplant Parmesan
                  Italian Meatloaf
                  Sausage and Peppers
                  Marinara sauce Pasta
                  Garlic & Butter sauce Pasta
                  Stir-fried Vegetables
                  Garlic Bread
                  Soda & water
                  Beer or wine for additional $3
                  (menu subject to delicious changes)

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Pius Avocado III

                    The family dinner buffet was advertised as an RSVP event since the place is small. Better to call and find out. Don't expect an heirloom salad and the veggies are steam table. But if you like the hero sandwiches, you'll have a chance to sample all the fillings with pasta or lasagne. Uncle Dougie didn't make any money with my hungry teens. The dinner was a relaxing evening with many neighborhood regulars. We'll be back.

                    Uncle Dougie's
                    362 17th St, Oakland, CA 94612

                    1. re: Pius Avocado III

                      Oh man, this Friday night buffet is a great, great thing if you like this kind of food. We went tonight and the quality definitely exceeded our expectations. My wife said it reminded her of Easter Sunday lunches at her best friend's house growing up, when her friend's Italian-American mother would fill the table with massive portions of red-sauce classics.

                      The menu was pretty much as listed above, and everything was great--sometimes surprisingly so, like with the garlic-butter spaghetti, which was lush with garlic and perfectly al-dente, or the sauteed green beans, which were tender-crisp (not soggy as you might expect of steam table fare).

                      Aside from a full spread of all their regular sandwich fillings, there were two different kinds of lasagna, one with meat and one without. The meat version was pretty good, lots of ricotta.

                      Probably my favorite item was still the meatloaf. Tonight's batch was even better than what I'd had in my hero a few weeks ago--plenty flavorful on its own, even better when drenched in Dougie's good marinara sauce. I helped myself to three big pieces.

                      Oh to be a college student again, when I would have downed three or four heaping plates easily and still had room for dessert (none offered or necessary at this particular buffet). I felt like a bit of a sissy giving up after just two, but hey, it was a lot of carbs. Needless to say, we left completely stuffed, and at $12 a person, there can't be many better deals in town.

                      The owner mentioned that he's opening up another location in a couple months right near the UC Berkeley campus--takeout window only. I imagine he should do pretty good business over there.

                    2. Oakland location seems to have closed. I don't know the story. I noticed it wasn't open today when I passed by at lunch time. I looked in, and it looks like it's being dismantled.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Martin Strell

                        The Oakland location wasn't making enough money. According to the owner, a few other restaurants on that street closed as well.

                        Definitely check out the Bowditch location. For $7 you can get two different half sandwiches, and it's more than enough food. The eggplant is particularly good. They no longer do the $12 Friday dinners.

                        1. re: hyperbowler

                          I have gone to the Berkeley spot twice in mid-evening and they have been closed but with a sign promising to return that day for late night hours. They may have a problem because the AC transit buses used to stop at Bowditch and Durant, but no more. That means there is less foot traffic on that corner. I used to pass by there at least twice a week on my way the Le Petite Cheval. With the missing bus stop, I seldom am at that corner..

                        2. re: Martin Strell

                          According to the SF mag Oakland 100 list discussed in another thread, Uncle Dougie is plying his trade at the Layover, 10pm-2am Weds-Sat. 15th & Franklin.