Written By: Cassi Schaffer
Parkhurst, the food service and Restaurant Company best associated with the Smiley Face Cookie has been branching out in recent years. New concepts are popping up in the area with not a single Superburger on the menu. One of these new concepts can be found in Schenley Plaza.
The Plaza is a stunning mixed use location right in the belly of the Oakland beast. Sitting in this stretch of green, you are surrounded by the city’s architectural icons- Carnegie library, The Cathedral of Learning, Dippy the Dinosaur. A great river of humanity runs deeply through this open space and thanks to The Porch, you can relax with a beverage and watch it all roll by. Clearly the designers of this restaurant kept that in mind. There is abundant patio seating but, choosing to dine inside in no way makes you feel separated from the bustle of The Plaza and the neighborhood.
My first time at The Porch was a late evening reunion with an old friend. We sampled a few menu items. I was particularly impressed with an antipasti plate (modified to our vegetarian standards): sharp cheeses, oily olives, almonds, perfect little cubes of roasted butternut squash. And then there is the pizza. Of course The Porch serves pizza! This is Oakland, after all. But pizza here is handmade and open hearth fired and topped with ingredients that reflect the seasons. The Margherita pie is layered with homemade mozzarella and fresh basil and served on a very understated sheet tray. Pizza crusts should add something to the items that cover it not, simply serve as a vehicle. And indeed the crusty, fire scented bottom layer did just that.
On my second visit, an early spring dinner with my favorite seven year old sidekick, we were told that the special pizza of the day involved roasted asparagus. Those two words make us both giddy. While waiting for our favorite veggie to arrive, we indulged in the farm bread appetizer. Huge slabs of homemade bread served with honey and apple butters and raspberry jam. Oh the raspberry jam! Polite table manners dictate not inserting one’s tongue into a container to get at the last few dollops of something. But, we certainly gave it some thought.
Everything at The Porch is made in house. Including that raspberry jam. Employees can often be spotted harvesting produce from their rooftop garden. The beverage menu contains mixes of house made sodas and limoncellos and infused tequilas. In a neighborhood that often caters to the lowest common denominator, this is special. And when it comes to menu items involving meat, they cure and smoke their own. I no longer eat animals. But, I do appreciate the love that goes into such menu choices, and I applaud their chef for his use of pigs. You’ll have to order the “piggy pie” and form your own opinions. I can’t imagine that any disappointments would accompany your choice.
The Porch meets all of my criteria for a good restaurant: the food is tasty, lovingly prepared, and locally sourced. The atmosphere is relaxed enough to accommodate families. And the people watching is spectacular!
Thank you Cassi for such a great review!!!!!
Chef Chuck Kerber