Two years in the making, notable restauranteur Doug Washington finally opened the doors to his next truly grand project: the 3500-sq.-ft. Grand Fare Market located on Oakland's Grand Avenue. He was a whirlwind of activity on the morning of the market's debut as he wiped down tables, dusted off shelves and greeted customers strolling in at the beginning of lunch service at 11:00am.
First Look: Oakland's Grand Fare Market is Now Open
Customers can choose two areas to dine outdoors: there's table service offered with marble-topped café tables and metal chairs cushioned with sheepskins; or patrons can order food to go and sit in the quieter communal area that's sequestered away with a collection of potted trees and succulents.
The rest of the al fresco space is lush with plants due to Washington's wife, Freya Prowe, a 20-year veteran of the flower business. She's transformed the popup stand she launched last spring into the full-fledged Brother & Sisters Flower Shop that's located within a cozy nook on the premises.
The kitchen is led by Ben Coe, who was most recently head chef at James Syhabout's now-shuttered Box and Bells. Cold sides are sold by the pound; otherwise, the prices match the all-day menu of salads, hot sides and sandwiches, which range from $8-$14. There's pre-packaged options available, too.
There's also cheese and charcuterie boards ($17), meat entrees ($15-$28) and a raw oyster bar ($9-$36).
Or if you want to just pick up some gourmet groceries, there's an ample amount of cheese, wine, beer and other specialty items for sale.
The market's small bakery corner is overseen by Cristina Pejoro, formerly of Local Kitchen and Wine Merchant in San Francisco.
Servers smartly dressed in waxed canvas aprons will take your order in the dining area, and dishes emerge as they're ready. While some items will remain menu staples, there's seasonal items such as persimmons and chicories salad with pomegranate, persimmon vinaigrette and shaved parmesan ($12) and cherry tomatoes with farro, feta, Thai basil, ginger and lemon ($12) that are sure to disappear come wintertime.
While a bit on the spendier side for lunch -- as the sandwiches and entrees come with no sides -- the porchetta Reuben with red sauerkraut, Russian dressing and Gruyère cheese ($14) and the confit of fennel-cured albacore tuna with fennel slaw and pilpil aioli ($13) were outstanding.
The fried whole okra in a light cornmeal batter, dusted with parmesan and served with a Green Goddess dressing, was a delicious accompaniment ($7).
Once the weekend arrives, the crowds packing into Grand Fare Market will probably rival Rockridge's illustrious Market Hall. And with the establishment open until 10pm, guests will want to linger over dinner and wine, especially in fine weather.