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Jun 27, 2011 06:16 PM

Point Richmond: Hidden City Cafe revisited - as American as pot roast, shortcake and salsa

After a year living in Guatemala, I’ve been craving American comfort food. There are few places that fit as well as Hidden City Cafe with omelets, hash browns, pot roast and shortcake.

Hidden City is still the top restaurant, IMO, in this part of the East Bay. There’s nothing comparable unless driving to Berkeley.

Chef and co-owner Shellie Bourgault, once worked at Chez Panisse. The food is simply prepared, often using organic ingredients. Bourgault is also a nutritional coach.

There is a small core of standard dishes, but order the specials that change weekly.

It is mainly classic coffee shop fare gone organic, but there are a few dishes with Mexican touches.

Here's what I had on two visits rated from A+ to F -

B …... Tomato, mushroom, Hobb’s smoked ham and jack cheese omelet
B - ..... Chicken and vegetable soup with ginger
B + … Pot roast with stewed vegetables, paprika potatoes and fresh horseradish sauce
B …... Strawberry and peach shortcake
B …... Mimosa
B - ..... Wine
B …... Coffee

Service: B + … Very, very good
Ambiance: B … Above average
Price: $$

Flickr photostream

Details in first reply.

Hidden City Cafe
109 Park Pl, Richmond, CA 94801

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    This was a nicely made omelet using three organic eggs. Often omelets with tomatoes can get watery, but not here. This was everything I wanted in a omelet. The classic hash browns were crispy outside. There’s a choice of toast. The sliced sourdough I had was fine.


    The soup had lots of chopped chicken and some surprise veggies such as brussel sprouts, which surprisingly worked well. The sprouts weren’t overcooked. There were colorful bits of red bell pepper. The only minus was that the ginger seemed extremely restrained … or missing


    There was a generous serving of thick slabs of long-cooked, fork tender pot roast. I remember some lovely sweet carrots, but I was focused on the meat. The potatoes seemed to be hash browns with a bit of paprika for color. There was a bonus of a small green salad.


    I liked the simplicity of this biscuit shortcake. It was just goof quality slices of the fresh fruit with lots of soft, not too sweet whipped cream.

    MIMOSA: B … Above average

    This was a generous size ($5.50) and a sparkly, tasty drink.

    WINE: B - ... Very good

    There are there or four wines that change on the menu. I don’t remember the name of the red wine I chose, but it was a nice companion to the pot roast. The pour could have been a little more generous on this one.

    COFFEE: B … Above average

    Hidden City serves McLaughlin coffee. While I usually think McLaughlin is too acidic, this roast was mellow with flavor.

    Service: B + … Very, very good

    The service is casual and friendly. It is perfect for this particular restaurant.

    Ambiance: B … Above average

    I feel like repeating … the ambiance is casual and comfortable. It is perfect for this particular restaurant.

    There are comfy booths, counter seats, two sunny window tables and center tables that can be configured for different group sizes. There’s one table on the sidewalk.

    The restaurant accommodates groups and children very well. There is a back groom with some large tables. The two tops in the center of the front restaurant can be pushed together to seat, I’d guess, over 20 people.

    A wooden shelf runs the length of one brick wall. Under the shelf, copper pots and cookie cutters hung between a changing picture gallery. On top were little household odds and ends like cookie jars, vases, dishes, egg cups, etc.

    Each table had a fresh garden rose and a vase of pretty pink peonies was at the door.


    Hidden City is a restaurant with its roots in Chez Panisse. It is simply good but not showy. However, there are occasionally those dishes that stand out and burn in your memory.

    A year or two ago, there were some complaints that the quality had slipped. There have been recent changes in the kitchen to address that, with one former chef returning.

    Reading my first report in the OP, I almost had the exact same dishes and they were identical to this visit … as good as ever … and that’s a good thing.

    Chez Panisse
    1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

    Hidden City Cafe
    109 Park Pl, Richmond, CA 94801

    3 Replies
    1. re: rworange

      Thanks for the review...its sounds great!
      I lived in the Pt. Richmond for 6 months back in the late 80's.

      However your photos kinda give me second thoughts....

      1. re: Mission

        Me too. The food looks like typical greasy, haphazardly thrown together breakfast crap. And I don't think it even sounds good, let alone great. And likening this place to the food at Chez Panisse seems a spectacular "spew your coffee" moment. Out of curiosity, are there any entrees other than pot roast, what are prices like, does it accept credit cards, etc, etc?

        Point Richmond, to me, has always been a problematic place to eat. Decades ago Hotel Mac was a very good place to have dinner, drinks, etc. Since then many restaurants have popped up and gone downhill or were not worth going to in the first place, and failed. It would be truly great if a good restaurant would open and manage to survive there. I keep hoping and trying new or recently recommended ones, but I'm close to giving up.

        Chez Panisse
        1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

        Hotel Mac
        50 Washington Ave, Richmond, CA 94801

        1. re: dlglidden

          Wow, why the hate unless you try it.?

          The chef started at Chez Panisse and the food is very similar ... simple, seasonal and orgainic. If you had followed the link to the Flickr photostream in the first link, the entire menu is online. Breakfast doesn't change much. There is often, but not always, a breakfast special.

          The Flicrk photostream has two lunch menus. The lunch menu changes weekly depending on what is seasonal.

          If you had bothered to look at the restaurant record, which also has the link to the menu, you would see three other glowing reports about Hidden City over the years. I don't usually do the legwork for things, but because your post so unfair to the restaurant and based on seemingly nothing but your imagination, here they are for other posters who might be misled by your negative comments even though you have never even walked in the door of this restaurant

          Hidden City - Gosh-a-mighty!

          Hidden City Cafe is one of the East Bay's best brunch spots. Who knew?

          Hobb’s chorizo, Niman Ranch lamb hash, carnitas @ Hidden City Cafe in Point Richmond

    2. I do remember seeing a couple of downhill reports a year or two ago, which might be part of why we've never ventured out here - that, and the fact that for the most part Sunny Side Cafe and, if we manage to avoid peak hours, Bette's scratch this particular itch (well-executed, slightly old-fashioned all-American breakfast fare) pretty well already. Rico's Diner, too, though apparently that's gone downhill as well.

      That said, I am intrigued by the polenta scrapple with bacon on the breakfast menu, and I'd be interested if they do a good meatloaf. Glad to hear that the recently reported downhill trend may have been addressed with the return of a former chef.

      Sunny Side Cafe
      1499 Solano Ave, Albany, CA 94706

      Rico's Diner
      400 15th Street, Oakland, CA

      1 Reply
      1. re: abstractpoet

        Unfortunately for me, no meatloaf ... unless they have it on special ... though I've never seen it.

        I'm not sure if it is worth the drive from Berkeley, but for anyone living in this part of the Bay, it saves that drive to that area to get a good American breakfast of that sort.

        I was looking at the Yelp reviews and while the food gets good mentions, it seems that there are lots of reports of slow service. I didn't have that problem, but just a note.

        About the only other place is Cafe Soleil which really doesn't do organic or seasonal ... not that there's a problem with that, but IMO Hidden City is so muh better. .

        Tina's Place moved to Pinole and is getting slammed for service on yelp as well ... actually some of the slams are pretty funny.

        Of the three in the area, Tima's was always at the bottom of my list. Will have to check out the new location to see if anything has changed other than the location. Driving by on Saturday lines were out the door.

        I do have to say though, that looking at the online menu for Tina's, I'm a little put off about "No Substitutions" plastered at the end of each menu. We're not talking Gjelina, after all. It's like a joint like Fatapple's having a no substitution policy ... and Fatapple's is way superior to what I've had in the past at Tina's. Will have to check that out too to see what that's all about.