Egg on my face for not blogging for close to two weeks. A simple post about breakfast at Brown Sugar Cafe in West Oakland should have been easy to dash off. But this was no ordinary breakfast. Actually, it was lunch. And there were no eggs. Unless you count the eggs used in Tanya Holland’s crisp-on-the-outside-light-as-heavenly-air-on-the-inside cornmeal waffles with brown sugar butter and apple cider syrup – yes, they are THAT good. There were probably eggs in the batter Tanya uses to marinate that juicy, crispy-coated goodness of buttermilk fried chicken that goes so well paired on the fork with a bite of waffle – mmmmm.
Who thought to combine these two foods? I’ve heard a couple of stories, but I like the one about jazz musicians in Harlem famished in the wee hours of the morning after a night of playing and scatting and finally craving both breakfast and dinner. Chicken and waffles would sure do the trick.
There must also have been eggs in the bacon cheddar scallion biscuit I felt the need to order, and that was so ridiculously redundant. At least Tracie had the sense to order a salad, because I was eying the BBQ shrimp and grits. That could possibly have just killed me. Thumbs up for Tracie who is the voice of reason among the three of us. Alyssa is more like me, and ordered a side of mac and cheese. That was awesome, too. And naturally we saved room for dessert. Strawberry rhubarb crisp and sweet potato pie. In the past, I’ve been ambivalent about sweet potato pie. For me, it’s like pumpkin pie, but not as good. I think it’s because every version I’ve had has been kind of gritty. Not so this version! Brown Sugar’s sweet potato pie is smooth and creamy with a delicious buttery crust and topped with fresh whipped cream. The tangy and sweet fruit crisp was also excellent, and inspired Alyssa to make her own version the next day.
When we arrived at Brown Sugar at about 12: 20 PM on a Wednesday, there was a forty minute wait. Tracie and Alyssa were on Spring break, and I had a little time on my hands, but we wondered about the hordes of other diners waiting for a table. “Don’t they have jobs?” Tracie asked. Well, she asked the wrong person, because I was happy to take a survey to find out. This is the kind of behavior that mortifies Tracie. I think it makes her feel something like this:
Well, from my informal survey, there are enough young software engineers and other hipsters working from home, plus stay-at-home moms and tourists to keep Brown Sugar pretty packed on a regular basis. I can only imagine how crowded they are on the weekend.
I actually think we may have turned a corner with Tracie so that in the future she might be more accepting of what she affectionately calls my badgerific behavior. One of the diners I approached was a woman who was eating with a gentleman at the counter. They were both older (full heads of grey hair) and dressed very casually so I thought they might be retired. It turns out the man recently moved to Sacramento from New York, and had heard of the restaurant, even before moving here. The woman lived in San Francisco and volunteered that she was in the neighborhood showing an apartment at 2:00 PM. It so happens, Tracie and Alyssa were considering moving to the East Bay, so I told her that we wanted to come see the place after lunch.
Well the apartment turned out to be gorgeous. It was the second floor of an old Victorian, with all of the original wood details, renovated with stainless steel appliances, washer and dryer in the unit and this fantastic spiral staircase. The tenants would also have access to a huge, enclosed yard. It seemed to be too good to be true, but it wasn’t. It was just a great find. Unfortunately, the landlord did not allow dogs, and Tracie and Alyssa have a little French bulldog. Alyssa explained that Brooklyn was small and well-behaved. Well, it was a no go. Apparently, the previous residents were model tenants who would make jam for the landlord. The only reason they were no longer there was that they wanted to get a dog. The landlord was disappointed. She liked Tracie and Alyssa. So Alyssa mentioned again how well-behaved Brooklyn, but the landlord cut in, “Don’t you understand? My last tenants were great! They made me jam! What if they drove by and saw a dog? I’d have egg on my face!” So much for my badgerific ways resulting in the perfect apartment for my friends. The story didn’t end there, either. The woman had a house she was renovating in San Francisco, and there, she would allow dogs. But in the end that didn’t work out either. I was disappointed because had it worked out, Tracie might never have had to ask me that question again:
Scrambled eggs all over my face. What is a girl to do. Goodnight, everybody. Deirdre has left the building.