One of the most popular menu items is the Sideshow Burger, shown here with a side of garlic fries. (Alan Chazaro)
¡Hella Hungry! is a weekly conversation with Bay Area foodmakers, exploring the region's culinary culture through the mouth of a first-generation local.
When you order at Sideshow Kitchen’s street-facing window in North Oakland, you might hear Larry June’s “Smoothies in 1991” lazily playing in the background. Above the counter, a collection of old-school Mac Dre, Spice 1 and Tupac albums overlook the cash register like a holy trinity of Bay Area saints.
The workers move rhythmically—cranking out burgers, frying fish and tossing fries—while the owner, Mike Beatrice, pours draft beers and takes orders with the collected coolness of someone accustomed to swinging a V8-powered machine.
At this neighborhood kickback, you can grub on the popular Sideshow Burger, a double beef patty with all the fixings. Or you can mess around and get the 12-piece Hyphy Hot Wings, which come dolloped with their housemade “Hyphy Hot Sauce” of mild peppers, smoky Jamaican jerk seasoning and other spices. Or you can try my personal favorite, the Hella Hyphy Fried Chicken Sandwich—a heavenly stack of fried chicken, jalapeño-infused coleslaw, honey mustard and, of course, more of that saucy Hyphyness, all piled on a soft La Jolla bun. You’ll definitely want a side of the paprika-dusted crinkle-cut garlic fries, too.
No matter what you decide, the choices at Sideshow are aplenty (yup), so it’s impossible to leave the place feeling empty-stomached (nope).
The restaurant’s hyphy-era vibes are unmistakable, and they’re as flavorfully sprinkled with Bay Area culture as E-40’s ice cream brand—a dessert option that Beatrice hopes to offer soon.
Recently celebrating its five-year anniversary—and having just signed a new five-year lease—the spot feels authentic and lively, with an aim to not only serve smackin’ plates, but to represent the local community.
“Over the years, more commercialized shit has popped up around here and Emeryville, and it loses the Bay Area spirit,” says Beatrice, who runs the restaurant with his wife Salma and best friend Jose Luis Leon, who functions as the head chef. “I want to preserve that [spirit]. This is for the community, the people who deserve it and have been here for a long time. This is for the real Town people.”
I sat down with Beatrice to get a sense of what makes his restaurant worth a trip to the North Pole.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
KQED: Tell us about yourself and your history with food. What inspired you to get into the culinary arts?
I grew up with my pops in the restaurant business. I’m originally from the East Coast, and my first experience was working in [my dad’s] restaurant when I would get in trouble at school. I’d get suspended and have to wash dishes and do grunt work, cleaning bathrooms. The chef would bring his son, too, and I saw that that kid got paid, but since I was on punishment, I wasn’t getting paid. So I wanted to get money and started taking it more seriously. After that, I always kept a restaurant job growing up. I’ve also worked night clubs, bartending, fine dining. From 2016 to 2020, I ran Homegrown Oakland as a smoothie and salad shop. I decided to close that during the pandemic and focus on Sideshow. Now I’m here everyday.
What’s your connection to the Bay Area? When did you arrive here, and what’s your favorite thing about the Bay’s culinary scene?
I moved to San Francisco from East Boston when I was younger. Fifteen years ago I settled into this specific neighborhood. I live right down the street and have been here for hella long. At first I felt a little lost in California coming from the East Coast. But as soon as I pulled up in Oakland, I felt like it was home. It felt like what I grew up around—independent people just hustling and grinding. It felt natural to me.
In terms of food, the Bay has lots of folks who aren’t classically trained chefs, and I appreciate that. That creates a rawness from the heart and soul. The people here are cooking what they grew up with, maybe something their grandmothers would cook. It’s also just so diverse and competitive. There are lots of people making burgers and fried chicken everywhere, so you have to figure out what sets you apart. It’s a hybridization of many things.
As an Italian American from the East Coast, has anyone ever questioned the name choice behind your restaurant?
To keep it simple, no. I lived and breathed all the culture I’m portraying. I grew up driving a [Mustang] 5.0 and my brother had a [Camaro] Z-28. We rode motorcycles and dirt bikes. We had a studio growing up and used to rap, and I always listened to Bay music. It’s a natural representation of myself. Even though I moved here from the East Coast as a teen, I still grew up in this lifestyle and would always go to sideshows, drove the cars, was at the events. To me, this is normal life.
While we were [building out the restaurant], people were always slapping music outside, and we were thinking of a name at the time, and since there was basically just a sideshow happening right there in front of us, the idea was super organic and natural and on the fly. We rolled with it, and we haven’t stopped. I know it’s a bold name, but ever since we started out, local people pull up on us to see if we check out. Sideshow is a neighborhood spot. We’re preserving the culture, not erasing it.
What has been a highlight for you during your time at Sideshow Kitchen?
Just knowing that we made it through COVID and made it even better than before. We went from nothing happening at all to finding a way to build it back ten times stronger. We built a camaraderie and trust that helped push our business forward. We had a no-quit attitude.
This is the beginning of year six now. It was an interesting road because we built this place with our bare hands, me and my brother. My brother has a business called Sons of Salvage. We demolitioned this place together and rebuilt it from scratch. The tables, the walls—we made all that.
What Bay Area rappers do you listen to who have influenced your culinary craft?
Shit. Mac Dre, J Stalin, Yukmouth, Fab, Keak da Sneak, those are the pillars. Nowadays, I like Offset Jim [now 22nd Jim], AllBlack, G Pop. G is a local dude, lives right in the neighborhood. I listen to him a lot. Depending on my mood I might be slapping Luniz or Berner. Also Pac, let’s claim that. And The Jacka, RIP.
I like the vision and hustle of all those artists. I love watching anyone go from something small to something huge. That’s why I always fuck with Bay Area rap. I grew up in the East, and it’s more industry—more rappers are signed to major record labels. But in the Bay, people are independent and selling out the trunk. Everyone bites that style now, but it started out here.
Oh, and Larry June. I fuck with Larry June.
Sideshow Kitchen is open Tuesday–Saturday, noon to 6 pm (Thursday through Saturday, they close at 7 pm) at 942 Stanford Ave. in Oakland.
Care about what’s happening in Bay Area arts? Stay informed with one email every other week—right to your inbox.