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Jul 14, 2010 12:53 PM

Cafe Gabriela, downtown Oakland- pork adobo sandwich

I was on my way to the heart of Chinatown when I noticed that Cafe Gabriela, a newish coffee-centric spot on the same block as the Courtyard hotel, had a sign out advertising sandwiches, the first of which was pulled pork adobo- I immediately stepped inside.

It appears to be a one-woman operation; the charming young lady who took my order from behind the register donned plastic gloves and stepped to the side to assemble my sandwich.

I barely had time to flip through half of one of the copies of Juxtapoz sitting on the long, narrow counter fronting the sidewalk before my sandwich ($7) was ready.

Said sandwich, on a Bread Workshop baguette with perfect balance between resistant yet crunchy crust and pillowy dense interior, was a revelation.

I'm not an authority on adobo but this pork tasted what I imagine Filipino home cooks would hold out as a fair standard. I would gladly eat this with rice. The faint yet identifiable aroma of laurel carries subtly through into the flavor of the shredded pork, where it meets a nice vinegary tang. A note of soy occasionally steps forward from the background to add a slightly salty note to the tender yet toothsome, porky meat. A hint of braising liquid just begins to flirt with the baguette's interior, coyly seeping in to provide counterpoint to the not-quite crusty crust. A tangle of sauteed onions atop the meat adds sweetness; this is a well-balanced sandwich.

There was a vegetarian offering and a turkey-cranberry affair as well, but I can't imagine myself getting beyond the adobo. Between this and Uncle Dougie's, I could be persuaded to eat sandwiches for lunch every workday.

Today I walked in by happenstace; next time, which will be soon, will be by design.

Cafe Gabriela
988 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94607

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  1. Thanks for the recommend, PA3. I tried Cafe Gabriela today and the adobo sandwich was excellent.

    They toasted my baguette so that it was plenty crusty even after the 5 minute walk back to the office. The pork adobo was plentiful and tasty. Loads of sweet sauteed onions on top. I swear there were juniper berries popping up here and there adding a delightful snap. I'll definitely get this sandwich again - and soon.

    Can't agree with you on Uncle Dougies though. I've been there 3 times now and pretty much tried the entire menu and there is nothing that spoke to me in the least. Oh well.

    Cafe Gabriela
    988 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94607

    1 Reply
    1. re: 10foot5

      I just tried the Pork Adobo sandwich for the first time and agree with the both of you! I can't go beyond the perfect description by PA3 above. The pork was tender and well-balanced between vinegar and soy and the baguette was nice and crusty. THere were loads of sauteed onions but I'm not an onion fan so I didn't care when several fell out of my sandwich. ;-)

      The cafe was really quiet when I went at 12:15 p.m. I'm kind of worried for this place because it's so small and not in a prime spot on Broadway. It's part of tired looking business tower so wonder if people walk right past it. But you shouldn't because the sandwich is only $7 with tons of pork! I'm going back to try the turkey and cranberry sandwich. (The other option right now is the vegetarian selection of tomato salad with mozzarella and basil.)

      10foot5, I have to disagree with you and say Uncle Dougies' meatloaf sandwich is very comforting and I like his sauce he slathers on it. I just can't eat it often because I try not to eat red meat too much.

    2. This is a great sandwich - thanks for posting on it!

      I also appreciate their perfectly made cappuccino (Blue Bottle) and their nicely curated pastry selection (from Arizmendi, Pepple's Donuts, and cakes from a woman whose name I can't remember but who I know sells at some local farmer's markets. The Basque cake is particularly good - incredibly rich but still light as air).