Barbecue Restaurant Crave BBQ arrives for the Historic California Hotel in Oakland


West Oakland History California Hotel is in the middle of a major revitalization project, and with it will come a new barbecue destination.

The central restaurant with 1,800 square feet of space will be Fancy a barbecue, which debuted in 2017 as a pop-up. Rashad Armstead grew up for its slowly smoked meats and classic sides at a former West Oakland gas station – better known now as a common pop-up spot for Horn Barbecue – but stopped after less than a year to start looking for a permanent brick. and-mortar. Before Crave, Armstead ran a private catering business called Artistic Taste 7.

For Armstead, the California Hotel is a perfect fit. Her family has deep roots in West Oakland – her great-grandmother Sarah Rawls opened her first restaurant in the neighborhood and continued to operate several other Bay Area restaurants, writing a few cookbooks and producing. a cooking show. “She was Oprah before Oprah,” Armstead says. “I take what she left us – it’s her legacy – and I take it where she would have liked it to go.”

Crave BBQ will serve a menu similar to its pop-up days, with ribs, brisket, chicken and hot links alongside cornbread, yams and collard greens. Armstead points out that its macaroni and cheese, red-skinned potato salad, and pulled pork are especially popular. The latter is marinated and then rubbed dry before being smoked for 12 hours on walnut, cherry and pecan wood. It hopes to open in February 2019.

Fancy a barbecue

“I always say it’s California style because it’s a mix of everything. I have family from Arkansas, Texas, Georgia, Mississippi, so it’s all these different flavors that have been passed on to me, ”he says. “It really feels like eating grandma’s cooking, but it’s a 30-year-old man cooking.”

Armstead also hopes to add rotating specials, like smoked lamb and oxtails. He envisions Crave BBQ as part of Oakland’s burgeoning barbecue revival, drawing crowds from across the Bay Area alongside Smokin ‘Woods BBQ and Horn Barbecue.

But it also has a concern for social justice towards its economic model, which makes it particularly suited to the efforts of the California hotel.

In the 1930s and 1940s, the hotel featured legendary blues and jazz musicians like Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Duke Ellington, but it closed in 1971 and fell into disrepair. The East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation renovated the building with social housing, a community garden and on-site social services. Now the organization – with the San Pablo Area Revitalization Collaborative – is also transforming the hotel and its surroundings into a cultural, artistic and musical campus. It’s the new home of Grammy-winner Fantastic Negrito’s studio as well as the Oakland Public Conservatory of Music, which will also collaborate with Armstead for a separate blues café. Details are scarce on this, but the opening is scheduled for late 2018.

The non-profit music school and Crave BBQ will also collaborate on a youth program. Every Monday, the kids will organize stage performances and also host pop-ups at the restaurant. The latter stems from Armstead’s Youth Employment and Entrepreneur Training Program, Street Degree.

“The world of cooking, being a chef – it’s beautiful, it’s great, but there are so many crazy things going on in the world of chefs,” he said. “The suicide rate, the addiction rate is crazy. It is very easy to get there if you have no way out. My escape is to give a young chef the opportunity to take back what I know.

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