The Half Orange [Oakland]
I'd read a bit about, but not been to Jay Porter's the Linkery in San Diego, as I'm always plotting escape from inside my hellish yearly conference there in Hotel Circle, but rarely make it out.
The Half Orange, near Fruitvale BART (in the former Taco Grill space) offers a brief menu with one sausage, burger, fried cheese curd po-boy, salads, salchipapas, Ensenada-style beef tongue, and a grilled Baja shrimp sandwich with 'rustic relish'. It had been on my list to stop by for a burger or sausage, but somehow when I made it through the door it was a day I didn't feel like eating meat. I got the Baja shrimp sandwich and a side of fries (I was offered the option of fried in lard, which I accepted). Everything was well executed, from the toasting of the bun to the shrimp doneness. The 'THO' sauce served on many menu items seemed to be a nutty style salsa plus mayo, or emulsified on its own. The house-made cucumber pickles were bread and butter style, not overtly sweet, but not my favorite style. The fries appeared floppy, but were actually had a nice crispness, with a soft interior, definitely double fried.
I liked my meal, and like that there is a careful attention to ingredients and sourcing, but at the time the $19 total was expensive. The shrimp is the most expensive thing by a bit, and I'll be back to try a sausage, burger, or the 'lengua asada fries' mentioned on the website, perfect to enjoy with a beer, the liquor license was not in place yet when I stopped by but is now.
Eater reports the couple that own The Half Orange are opening another place on 42nd and Market in Oakland for California Cuisine.
There's a $9 combo special thru the end of this week, draft beer + a serving of one of the various topped fries (e.g., lengua asada fries).
Jay Porter has been a member of the chowhound community for the better part of a decade, if not longer. I've appreciated his commentary, learned a lot, and now that his restaurants are in the Bay Area, will finally have a chance to try his food.
(off-menu special, Ensenada-style shrimp fried in lard!)
in the early days, the half orange didn't have beer.
burger(6.99) ordered med. rare, got medium at best
-meat dry, no juice, gristly, just 4 oz. of meat.
-condiments just ketchup and mustard, no grey poupon seen.
food ordered at "desk" at front door, brought to table.
food may have improved by now. no a fries fan, but like the suds. may try special. certainly the food has improved.
tried the 8.95 special ("small" topped fries & draft beer.14 oz)
-sign on left of wall next to listed beers (14 oz, 5.5)
firestone walker, henhouse, speakeasy, hanger 24, magnolia, moonlight, ale. (list looks more robust than Jack's)
offerings: salchipapas, lengua asada, estate wagon, papas locos, Fenix-ensenada. no description given. have no idea what items contains...
eats: lengua asada.
-looked like an "okonomiyaki"
shoestring hand cut fries baked with cheese, chewy lengua,avocado, pico gallo sauce?
*small portion, fries soggy, one solid piece, average tasting.
brew: death & taxes: good stout.
food is fresh, innovative, not loving half orange style. not my preference
*ur mileage may vary
-pay before food is served.
-food not a good value.
-open kitchen looks better, "bar" seating cramped. patio seating-no beer allowed, (yet).
Not an encouraging report, oh well. Jives with the reviews Porter got for his previous restaurants before he came to Oakland: his heart may be in the right place about "why tipping is bad" (he's quoted in the current issue of Edible East Bay about the Minimum Wage ballot initiative for this Nov's election), but his food just isn't that great.
Doesn't bode well for Salsipuedes, which he still plans to open.
I have been a couple of times. It seems to me that the neighborhood, at least during lunch, doesn't quite get what THO is trying to do.
I have tried the portabello mushroom sandwich. It was quite good, pretty acidic. Definitely a nice change of pace from other local offerings. I have also tried the market salad (that day it had cotija, peaches and pepitas). The service has been very friendly and helpful.