Hashes don’t get the same kind of love as other breakfast and brunch foods. They’re not as decadent as pancakes, as 90s-nostalgic as Benedicts, or as Instagram-worthy as a $10 slice of avocado toast. That’s unfair, because--at least in the East Bay--they’re consistently one of the most satisfying dishes on the menu. Just think of the random-but-good dishes you’ve made from throwing together whatever is about to go bad into a skillet and putting an egg on top. That alchemy is magnified in the restaurant kitchen, where chefs can stretch their creativity in ways not afforded by yet another pancake dish. Here are five hashes we tried in Oakland and one in Berkeley. And if we didn’t include your favorite, let us know in the comments.
Fourth Street’s Cafe M features a large breakfast menu that focuses on standards with several interesting flourishes: cinnamon-twist stuffed French toast, “Aztec” pulled pork in the huevos rancheros, blue corn pancakes. Their corn beef hash--a pretty, Christmas-y riot of red and green-- follows the same pattern, taking the familiar dish and adding thoughtful tweaks: the potatoes are thinly sliced instead of cubed, the bell peppers are charred, the corned beef cut into huge, tender chunks that more resemble ham. Those charred peppers--there are so many of them!--make it an almost peculiarly sweet dish, although the sweetness is tempered by the aggressive bite of two types of onions.
I typically like the food at Oakland’s Portal, and I (obviously) like hashes. So when I saw a maple tempeh hash on their menu, it sounded intriguing--I even like tempeh!--and I ordered it. What I got was a savory tempeh hash with nothing maple-y or sweet about it. Even setting the false advertising aside, it’s a miss. Large chunks of crispy tempeh are flecked with caraway and a pitiful amount of green onions. Perfectly poached eggs added a welcome richness to the dry tempeh, but the flavor of almost--burnt tempeh distracted. I’ve heard that their previous versions of this dish were better--tempeh and goat cheese sounds like a much better combination--but for now, I’d stick with their vegetable garbage bread for your vegetarian brunch needs.
1611 2nd Ave [map]
Oakland, CA 94606
Ph: (510) 663-7678
Hours: Closed Monday; Tue-Sat 11am-11pm; Sun 10am-10pm
Facebook: Portal Oakland
Price Range: $$ Entrees ($11-$17)
Newcomer Sequoia Diner has a simple, traditional diner menu improved by housemade sausage and bread products. It’s trendy (lots of succulents, waitresses with bright lipstick and cool shoes) but not precious (old school leather booths, a very family-friendly attitude). Their beef hash shows off their ability to punch up old favorites with subtle improvements. Potatoes and big chunks of tender, well-seasoned beef are formed into a sizable crispy patty, and topped with two wobbly poached eggs. My favorite part were the small colorful piles of tangy accompaniments: pickled cabbage, sliced carrots and dressed arugula. Hashes can sometimes be a slog, piles of potatoes that never seem to end, and these sides were a wonderful contrast, adding sharpness and acidity to each bite.