Housed in the historical building with the distinctive clock tower that's an architectural homage to St Mark's Campanile in Venice, Italy, Tribune Tavern is a throwback to both old-fashioned American comfort food and classic British pub fare. It's been several months since their opening in April, and I'd been meaning to stop by the latest venture from co-owner Chris Pastena that now resides in the former stomping grounds of the Oakland Tribune.
From the stylized menu that resembles an old broadsheet and a wall lined with letterpress blocks, Pastena (Chop Bar, Lungomare) and Temoor Noor (Grand Tavern) teamed up with building owner Tom Henderson to recreate some of Oakland's storied past and merge it with present-day Californian cuisine. The interior reflects this old-meets-new mindset, with a liberal use of dark woods, leather and vintage-inspired light fixtures.
Carnivores will swoon over the meat-laden menu from Chef Huw Thornton (formerly of SPQR). Our group of 6 assembled an array of small plates to share: potted rabbit that you spooned from a miniature French canning jar onto toast with cornichons and mustard ($8); savory grilled ox tongue, cauliflower puree, tarragon, capers, radish ($11); creamy chicken liver pate served on toast points ($7).
But to balance out the beginning of our meal, we also sampled some vegetarian options: carrot-ginger soup with crème fraiche and chevril ($8); goat cheese on toast with roasted corn, grilled romano beans and marinated summer squash ($9); kale, roasted cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, pickled onions, walnuts and clothbound cheddar ($10).
All were delightful dishes, and I recommend starting off with the ox tongue and potted rabbit if you're seeking a unique set of starters to kick off your dinner.
Moving onto the entrees, we ordered smoked trout salad over frises, escarole, beets and dill dressing ($11); roasted beef sirloin with barley pilaf, almonds, horseradish creme ($19); shepherd's pie with lamb mince, braised beef, English peas, broiled Parmesan mash ($16); lamb sausage with spiced chickpeas and braised spinach seasoned with cumin and mint ($17); roasted broccolini ($6). With the exception of the lamb sausage being a tad too salty, all of the plates were executed perfectly -- though our rich feast left us with no room for dessert. While their sidewalk seating was filled up to capacity on this summery evening, I predict even more diners will seek out Tribune Tavern during the winter season when their cravings for savory, stick-to-your-ribs food strikes on chillier days.