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Tasty and Cheap Catering- Are We Asking the Impossible?

I'm hoping the Chowhounds can help with ideas for a catered lunch for Wednesday next week.

We have a non-profit (read: low paid) group of about 20 people who’d like to have lunch together for the holidays in our conference room for under $10 each, and pizza just doesn’t sound too exciting.

We can pick up within a reasonable distance to downtown Oakland; say within 15 miles.

We were going to use the New Mecca in Pittsburg, but they’re closed on Wednesdays. We’re grateful for any input from you Chowhounds.

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  1. What you need shouldn't be referred to as catering... not knowing your area, here on the east coast you would not get a typical caterer to do something for $10 a head: you just can't make any money.

    What I think you need is a place that will do quantities to go. That could be a deli, like an italian deli, or it could be a place like Stew Leonards (sort of a big specialty crazy house with groceries, a big meat market, a big fish market and a big prepared food capability), that does quantity cooking in house. Some of the big "higher end" supermarkets do this, I think. Will this be a gourmet lunch? No. But it can be quite yummy and fun, depending on what you get. Good luck.

    1. Maybe Cafe 15? They offer catering. Their regular lunches are about $10, maybe a bit more than that, but the food and quality is so wonderful. They do not have a catering menu, but are open to working with clients to create something appropriate.


      Cafe 15
      597 15th St, Oakland, CA 94612

      1. What about Oasis market in Oakland on Telegraph? I bet they do big orders, and you could get lots of their kabobs, falafel, hummus, dolmas, etc. along with a lot of their housemade pita, some olives, and other treats, and I bet you could pay significantly less than $10 a person.

        Oasis Market
        3045 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

        1 Reply
        1. re: JasmineG

          Great recommendation on Oasis. The price is right and you can get vegetarian options, carnivore options and something not the usual (pizza, sandwiches, etc.) and lots of extras that make it way more interesting...maybe a pre-made platter or something.

          Use to get Askew Grill stuff for lunch meetings (not as good...but way better then the norm) but the idea is the same: protein option (kabob), large shared salad, bread and the extras like hummus, dolmas aren't much. Oasis will be better and should be less expensive and generally travel/carry out friendly.

        2. I agree with the other posters. You're looking for big take out, not for catering.

          What about Taco Grill near Fruitvale BART? I use them fairly regularly for large take out. They'll make big pans of rice, beans, salad, a meat, tortillas, salsa, etc.

          I love the Mediteranean idea. You could also try Holy Land or Amba.

          Are there any local Chinese or Vietnamese restaurants your office mates like? If you asked, they'd probably be happy to do large trays for you.

          Taco Grill
          3340 E 12th St, Oakland, CA 94601

          1. How about Tamales Unicos de Cuernavaca, or banh mi from B C Deli, Cam Huong, or Ba Le?

            Or if you don't have vegetarians in the group, carnitas from Jalisco Cafe or barbecue from Uncle Willie's.

            1. I was also struggling with the same set of considerations when I had to feed a group of ~15 or so PhD students and professors recently.

              What about Gregoire (Piedmont Ave. location would be convenient for you!) since their salads/sandwiches are under $10. Perhaps they can put something together something in bulk for you. Much of their food is exceptional for the value. http://www.gregoirerestaurant.com/

              I ended up ordering an array of Indian naan wraps from Urbann Turbann on Euclid in Berkeley. Their organic veggies and free-range/grass fed meat wrap are quite amazing. Huge, tasty and fresh, with fantastic freshly made chutneys. Nothing is over $7 and I everyone raved. http://www.urbannturbann.com/

              1. Yes, I agree w/ everyone else, big take-out: for my 2 cents, Viks! You can get big trays of pakoras, samosas, whatever you want & tubs of sauce to dip them all into. Cheap & delicious!

                Also, perhaps Scends fried chicken & sides? Haven't done that myself before, but I imagine it would be good.

                1. picante in berkeley does a really fab job both of catering, and large take out orders.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: escargot3

                    Wonderful! These sound like great choices and are a far cry from Subway Sandwiches or pizza. I'll reply back to let you know what we chose. Thanks everyone!