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Oct 29, 2011 10:55 PM

Oakland: Since 1979 - Day of the Dead Coffee and char-grilled hot dogs

It is almost Halloween and 'tis the season. So when the Day of the Dead Coffee sign caught my eye ... finally ... it seemed like a good time to drop in and pay my respects.

It is one door down from the Grand Lake Theatre and in all these years I never once noticed it. I asked if they REALLY were in business all that time. Smokey , the owner, said they were at another location. Five years ago they they bought the hot dog store at this location. Still ... five years and I have never noticed it.

DOD roasts its own beans and the coffee is named after dead celebrities ... Janis Joplin, Che Guevera, Bone Marley, Jimi Hendrix (velvety dark roast), Elvis, Billie Holiday (bluesy), Gerry Garcia (strong psychadelic brew). Smokey is a musician and his CD's are available for sale at the shop.

I don't know which was the coffee of the day, but it was a respectable cup, strong but not over acidic.

Let's say the "Chicago" dog was a homage to that frank ... no poppyseed bun, neon relish, or sports peppers. The onions were red.

BUT ... the plump hot dog was char-grilled. I'd go back again and order a regular hot dog with hot saurkraut.

How do I know there is saurkraut? I was asked if I wanted it on the Chicago dog ... ummm .. no ... classic, please. I was told the kraut changes the flavor. I'll bet.

Other sausages include: Polish, bratwurst, veggie, hot links, chicken artichoke and chicken apple.

Every inch of the cafe is packed with Day of the Dead memorabilia. Even the glass mugs holding straws, spoons and such are in the shape of skulls. There are a few sidewalk tables.

DOD has an agreement with the Grand Lake Theater, so you can bring food and drink from the cafe into the movie.

This blog writes "Smoky says he likes the idea that death isn’t something to fear, that we should celebrate it a bit as a part of life, which is why he and his partner settled on Day of the Dead as the theme of their shop."

There's a charming quirkiness about the place. You order hot dogs at one counter and coffee at the other. Smokey both takes and makes both orders.

This East Bay Express blurb states " This isn't a get-in, get-out morning pit-stop kind of place, but rather one that invites and encourages patrons to stay awhile. Don't miss Smokey, the beloved and knowledgeable proprietor."

So, order a java, frank or both ... take a seat ... and rest in peace for a while

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Day of the Dead Coffee
3208 Grand Ave, Oakland, CA 94610

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  1. I was just checking out their business card to see if the info on the Chow restaurant record was correct. Anyway, they deliver beans to your home for free and there is a discount for orders 2 pounds and more.

    2-3 lbs 10% discount

    4-6 lbs 15% discount

    7-10 lbs 20% discount

    11 + lbs 25% discount

    The card also says they use organic or estate grown beans.

    Also, reading thru the yelp reviews it seems like it is an old-time artsy cafe with musicians dropping in and poetry readings and such.

    It is not a place for everyone. The people who are into the new wave coffee roasters might not appreciate it. But it is similar to the old time North Beach roasters such as Caffe Roma.

    1. Yeah, it's a weird place. The one time I stopped by it was a weekday evening, and it took me about 15 minutes to get a cup of coffee to go because everyone in the shop, including the employees and/or owners were in the thick of a mildly embarrassing karaoke session. It wasn't really my kind of scene. The coffee wasn't memorable at all.

      Glad to hear the hot dogs are decent, especially in light of the theater deal, which is a great tip -- I didn't even know the place sold food, actually. Otherwise, it's probably tough being in the hot dog biz with Top Dog right around the corner now.

      1 Reply
      1. re: abstractpoet

        Former site of Colonel Mustard's, RIP. Having legit Chicago dogs down the street from me was great- I still use their emptied ChiPiCo buckets to store things.

        Allen Michaan (Grand Lake Theater owner) is the landlord; he kicked Mustard's out and immediately thereafter the site was briefly Aimee Allison's campaign HQ. Now it's the weird coffee/dog combo.

      2. The original comment has been removed
        1. ketchup is also a punishable sin on a Chicago dog :)

          haven't been to DOD, but Glenn's on MacArthur also does respectable char-grilled dogs & sausages

          1 Reply
          1. re: drewskiSF

            Yeah, I guess the only think near Chicago was the pickle. Good to know another place with a char-grilled hot dog. It made me forgive the un-Chicagoness of the dog.