Why is it that some restaurateurs feel compelled to give common breakfast dishes names better suited to a Pornhub search? Is it a desire to sex up the wholesome meal? A need to edgily prove that they’re no IHOP or Denny’s? Or is it simply a canny marketing move, designed to serve as a memorable hashtag and something easy for Yelpers to remember? In Southern California, there’s Egg Slut, a “chef driven, gourmet food concept” with locations in LA, Glendale and Venice. On a recent trip to Seattle, I enjoyed a “Straight-Up Bitch” biscuit and egg sandwich from Biscuit Bitch, a “trailer park to table” eatery with three locations across the city. And now, in Oakland, we have the #Baconslut sandwich, from new breakfast and lunch spot Gastropig.
“Honestly, it was a selfish want,” co-owner Ann Thai said of restaurant’s focus on breakfast sandwiches, ranging from a simple scrambled egg version to an elaborate avocado toast. “I love breakfast sandwiches, I love breakfast for dinner.” Gastropig is her and business partner Loren Goodwin’s first restaurant, though the two have lots of industry experience: Thai opened and managed restaurants, while Goodwin was a cook at Chez Panisse. Gastropig is conveniently located a few blocks from BART in Uptown, in the shadow of the Pandora office. The space is spacious and modern, with posters of the Oakland skyline and a combination of communal tables and counter seating. They opened on January 2, and just a few days later, it’s already packed with hungry office workers on their lunch break (“Twenty Yelp reviews already,” someone behind me in line noted.)
Both Thai and Goodwin live in Oakland, and Thai said she wants Gastropig to become a local institution--like beloved, recently shuttered Genova Deli, which they’ve named a deli sandwich after. The sandwich is one of the few traditional lunch items on the menu, and while they do plan to expand to a full lunch menu in coming months, the current focus is eggy breakfast and brunch dishes. There are hashbrowns (made in a waffle iron and spiked with cheese and green onions), biscuits, and a few items that fall in the You Could Probably Make It At Home But Not As Well category: avocado toast with pickled red onions and cilantro crema, and a PB&J featuring seasonal jam and chunky peanut butter on a Firebrand croissant. They offer fresh squeezed orange juice and coffee from Vallejo roasters Moschetti, and their cold brew is hearty and full-bodied from a mix of light, medium and dark roasted beans.
And, of course, there are the breakfast sandwiches. The #Baconslut is obviously being positioned as their signature menu item, and the hype machine seems to be working: during my visit, every few minutes the chef yelled “Two more BS’s, with avocado!” and “Four more BS’s!” Yes, the sandwich is good enough to suffer the mild awkwardness that comes with saying the name aloud (I believe the # is silent). It comes with a good amount of crispy applewood bacon piled on a fluffy brioche roll from San Francisco’s PANoRAMA, topped with cheddar and a perfectly cooked, runny egg. The only disappointment is the aioli. Its orange hue suggests spice, but tasting it reveals none. Aside from that lack of heat--which you can add yourself via their multicultural hot sauce collection--it was a rich, satisfying meal.
(And in case you’re wondering about that name, Thai said it comes from her and Goodwin’s obsession with bacon--there are bacon-themed posters all around the restaurant proclaiming that “Bacon makes the world taste better” and “When in doubt, add bacon”--and isn’t a reference to the LA chain. They did, however, drive down just to try it once they realized the similarity between the names).
Their sausage sandwich was also delicious: your choice of chicken or pork sausage, smoked gouda, an over easy egg, on the same brioche roll. The sausage is homemade and flavorful, tender, juicy and well-spiced--a far cry from the masses of salty gray matter that usually serve as breakfast sausage.
And while Gastropig is a decidedly pork-centric restaurant, even down to its name, it’s nice to see that despite the menu’s small size, it’s adaptable to most diets: there are vegetarian, gluten-free, and even pork-free options.
It’s a good time to a breakfast sandwich fan in the East Bay. Around the corner from Gastropig, there’s the wallet-friendly version at LocoL, their egg-in-the-hole “melty”; and in Temescal, there’s Cracked, a newish pop-up inside Blackwater Station, offering Spam and corned beef breakfast sandwiches in addition to more traditional versions. Eventually, Thai said, they hope to expand, opening other Gastropig locations in other cities. But until then, it’s just for downtown Oakland, and we’re lucky to have it: a simple, reasonably affordable spot with a menu of creative dishes that manage to be filling and inclusive enough to feed any modern Bay Area group.
2123 Franklin St. [Map]
Oakland, CA 94612
Ph: (510) 817-4663
Hours: Mon-Fri, 7am-3pm; Sun, 9am-2pm; closed Sat.
Facebook: The Gastropig
Price range: $ (Entrees $10 and under)