Pork belly hash at Grand Lake Kitchen Shelby Pope
Pork belly hash at Grand Lake Kitchen (Shelby Pope)

Craving Breakfast Hash? BAB Reviews 6 East Bay Spots Serving Up This Classic Dish

Craving Breakfast Hash? BAB Reviews 6 East Bay Spots Serving Up This Classic Dish

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.

Corned beef hash at Cafe M
Corned beef hash at Cafe M (Shelby Pope)

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.

Cafe M
1799 Fourth St #F [map]
Berkeley, CA 94710
Ph: (510) 526-4429
Hours: Mon-Sun 8am-4pm
Facebook: Cafe M in Berkeley, CA
Price Range: $$ Entrees ($11-$17)

Tempeh hash at Portal
Tempeh hash at Portal (Shelby Pope)

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.

Portal
1611 2nd Ave [map]
Oakland, CA 94606
Ph: (510) 663-7678
Hours: Closed Monday; Tue-Sat 11am-11pm; Sun 10am-10pm
Facebook: Portal Oakland
Twitter: @PortalOakland
Instagram: portaloakland
Price Range: $$ Entrees ($11-$17)

Beef hash at Sequoia Diner
Beef hash at Sequoia Diner (Shelby Pope)

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.

Sponsored

Sequoia Diner
3719 MacArthur Blvd [map]
Oakland, CA 94619
Ph: (510) 482-3719
Hours: Closed Monday-Tuesday; Tue-Sun 8am-2pm
Facebook: Sequoia Diner
Twitter: @sequoia_diner
Price Range: $$ Entrees ($11-$17)

Carnitas hash at Doña Tomás
Carnitas hash at Doña Tomás (Shelby Pope)

There are plenty of reasons to love Temescal’s Doña Tomás. A wallet-friendly happy hour. An incredible amount of seating, making it both group and family-friendly. And, for the brunch crowd, a menu full of intriguing Mexican twists on standard brunch fare. Their beautifully presented carnitas hash was the most unusual one on this list. Instead of a concentrated mass of meat and potatoes, it was souplike, with pork and a selection of vegetables--zucchini, corn, tomato and okra-- in a rich, salty broth. The carnitas are wonderful, falling-apart tender, but the highlight is the vegetables, a rare sight on too many brunch menus. Unlike many dismal vegetable soups, the vegetables are properly cooked, maintaining their flavor and crunch. It’s a wonderfully messy dish, but thankfully they provide you with housemade corn tortillas, tender and chewy, to mop every delicious last bite.

Doña Tomás
5004 Telegraph Ave [map]
Oakland, CA 94609
Ph: (510) 450-0522
Hours: Closed Monday; Tue-Thu 5:00pm-9:30pm; Fri 5:30pm-10pm; Sat 9:30am-2pm, 5:30pm-10pm; Sun 9:30am-2:30pm
Facebook: Dona Tomas
Twitter: @DonaTomasOak
Price Range: $$ Entrees ($11-$17)

Smoked pork hash at Brown Sugar Kitchen
Smoked pork hash at Brown Sugar Kitchen (Shelby Pope)

Ask anyone in Oakland: the thing to get at Brown Sugar Kitchen are the waffles. It’s the West Oakland institution's signature dish, and the recipe has since made its way around the internet. And sure, they’re excellent. But although it may sound treasonous, the smoked pork hash is worth cheating on the waffles. If you’re not a fan of aggressive smoke and heat, order the beignets. But if you like to start your morning with a zippy burn, order the hash. Chunks of smoky pork maintain their tenderness even while transformed into a crispy browned patty. A slash of red, dairy-based sauce adds color and a moment of relief from the hash’s subtle, consistent heat. Liberally seasoned with cayenne, black pepper, red peppers and green onions, it's complex, layered and altogether satisfying.

Brown Sugar Kitchen
2534 Mandela Pkwy [map]
Oakland, CA 94607
Ph: (510) 839-7685
Hours: Closed Monday; Tue-Sat 7am-3pm; Sun 8am-3pm
Facebook: Brown Sugar Kitchen
Twitter: @BrownSugarKitch
Price Range: $$ Entrees ($11-$17)

Pork belly hash at Grand Lake Kitchen
Pork belly hash at Grand Lake Kitchen (Shelby Pope)

The waits are long, the restaurant tiny, with tables squeezed almost on top of each other (when will the promised expansion next door finally begin?). Yet there’s a reason while the faithful line up for brunch at Grand Lake Kitchen every weekend. The wide ranging menu from that miniscule kitchen produces an eclectic mix of breakfast and lunch fare, dishes that balance the decadent with piquant bites of acidity. One such dish is the pork belly hash. From the first taste, it’s salty, fatty and rich. A drizzle of hollandaise almost--but not quite--pushes it over the the edge into depravity. A welcome sprinkle of chives helps cut through the richness.

Unlike many hashes, the potatoes don’t lose their identity, disappearing into a starchy base layer. Instead, a variety of whole small potatoes--yellow, red and purple--are slathered with tangy, slightly sweet grainy mustard. Lightly smashed, they’re folded in with with the crispy pork belly, with large chunks of the pork and potato competing for your affection. And although rushing out of bed to eat this decadent-yet-balanced dish might might seem like the antithesis of a lazy brunch, get there early: the menu warns that quantities are limited.

Sponsored

Grand Lake Kitchen
576 Grand Ave, Oakland [map]
Oakland, CA 94610
Ph: (510) 922-9582
Hours: Mon, Wed-Sun 9am-9:30pm; Closed Tuesday
Facebook: Grand Lake Kitchen
Twitter: @GrandLakeKitch
Price Range: $$ Entrees ($11-$17)

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