Korner Kitchen & Bar Wants to Be the Anti-Ghost Kitchen

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Customers mingle on a bar's outdoor patio.
Korner Kitchen & Bar has at least one thing ghost kitchens don't have: an outdoor bar and patio where customers can sit down to eat. (Korner Kitchen & Bar)

On the string light–bedecked back patio of Fruitvale’s newest food hub, customers can sit down to a meal of chimichangas, garlic noodles or Vietnamese fried chicken. They might throw back a Kingfisher—Bangalore’s finest—and, if they have a sweet tooth, they’ll almost certainly order a pint of the Bay Area’s buzziest lactose-free ice cream for the road. 

Welcome to Korner Kitchen & Bar, a kitchen incubator and outdoor cocktail bar where multiculturalism is baked into the business’s identity. Located adjacent to the Fruitvale BART station, the space quietly opened in May as a production facility for 10 up-and-coming Bay Area food and beverage brands: There’s garlic noodle specialist Noodle Belly, a restaurant centered on one of the Bay Area’s most iconic dishes. There’s Fish N Bonez, which sells charcuterie and serves a hip, stylish Latinx-American brunch. There’s Bad Walter’s, the aforementioned ice cream company that’s already built up a legion of fans, both lactose tolerant and intolerant. There’s a pasta pop-up and a company that specializes in fresh-pressed sugarcane juice.

Now nine months in, Korner Bar is holding its grand opening this week, Jan. 20–23, with DJs, live music and giveaways each day. 

An outdoor bar lit up by blue neon lights with the Fruitvale BART station in the background.
The outdoor bar area is located adjacent to the Fruitvale BART station. (Korner Kitchen & Bar)

At its core, the business operates as a commissary kitchen, explains co-owner Alex Tejeda. In many ways, it’s the spiritual cousin of West Oakland’s Magnolia Mini Mart, Tejeda’s brainchild and a breakaway hit during the early stages of the pandemic. Currently closed for construction, the mini mart was created to provide an outlet for chefs who’d been laid off during the pandemic, and it wound up becoming a kind of food-enthusiast hotspot—the place you would go to discover the latest cool local pastry or snack brand before it blew up. Korner Bar plays a similar role of curator and tastemaker and hopes to serve as a “one-stop shop,” Tejeda says, for folks who want to grab a meal and a drink and also support small businesses that are just starting to get off the ground. 

According to events manager Jessica Seggman, Korner Bar can support as many as 18 different food and beverage entrepreneurs at once. What the vendors like, she says, are the flexible contracts and the relatively low hourly rates that the kitchen offers.


As co-owner Eugene Lee (who also runs Noodle Belly with his partner Kevyn Miyata) puts it, “I like to think of our space as a turnkey solution for people like myself, who always wanted to dabble in the food world but don’t want to invest in a three-year, $6,000-a-month lease on a space to do it.”

Korner Bar bears some resemblance to another big trend that has proliferated during the pandemic: the ghost kitchen—an umbrella term for restaurants that don’t have any brick-and-mortar storefront and only exist in the virtual world of DoorDash and UberEats. Like a ghost kitchen, Korner Bar also houses multiple brands within a single large kitchen facility. Many of them do a brisk business via the delivery apps.     

But Lee says he believes Korner Bar is the opposite of a ghost kitchen, which he sees as being these “huge, money-making cash-grabbing facilities.” The ghost kitchen approach, he says, is to cram as many vendors as you can into a gigantic, anonymous, warehouse-like building in order to generate as much rent as possible. 

“Our facility shouldn’t be about that,” Lee says. “We want to highlight our community.”

A bartender shows off an array of international beers, including Beerlao, Kingfisher and San Miguel.
Bar director Fred Acebo shows off an array of international beers. (Korner Kitchen & Bar)

By “our community,” Lee is referring, in part, to the diversity of Korner Bar’s vendor lineup, which largely pulls from the Bay Area’s communities of color. That didn’t necessarily come as a result of any kind of explicit outreach or requirement, Lee says. If anything, it was just the natural result of the diversity at the top of the company—for instance, Lee is Korean American; Tejeda is Filipino; Seggman is half Mexican. “Every single person here looks like me and my friends,” Lee says. “We might not be directly saying we want this type of customer. But if we say, ‘Let’s go out for lunch,’ people are going to say, ‘Let’s go for kalbi, let’s go for pho or banh mi.’”

He and Tejeda both cite Korner’s bar program as a prime example: Lee’s one request was that the bar carry not just your typical craft microbrews but also the beers that are beloved by the Bay Area’s various immigrant communities. So, it’s one of the few places in the Bay Area where you can find Beerlao, the Laotian cult favorite. It carries Kingfisher and San Miguel. Meanwhile, bar director Fred Acebo, who is Filipino, has put together a cocktail list that includes a drink inspired by halo-halo and a version of Tejeda’s favorite drink—a Hennessy and horchata, made with Red Bay coffee and horchata from Obelisco around the corner.

Of course, Korner Bar also offers something that ghost kitchens, by their very definition, do not: a lovely, expansive patio and outdoor bar where customers can order food and drink from whichever in-house food vendors are on rotation, and enjoy a nice sit-down meal. In person.

Korner Kitchen & Bar is open Thurs.–Fri. 3–10pm, Sat. 11am–10pm and Sunday 11am–9pm at 1014 Fruitvale Avenue in Oakland.