It seems that everything that Chef James Syhabout, Oakland’s shining son, touches turns to gold. It’s not just his Commis, which boasts two Michelin stars, the only restaurant in the East Bay to garner that illustrious ranking, it’s also the care he puts into his other more casual restaurants in the city.
Case in point: Old Kan Beer & Co.
This brewery-gastropub is in an old industrial area of the city off the beaten track. It’s welcoming from the get-go and feels like a genuine part of the community.
My husband and I visited one lazy, sunny Sunday afternoon, paying our own tab at the end. A DJ was spinning tunes outside. And a pop-up had been invited to grill Japanese street-food specialties on the deck.
Syhabout teamed up with Adam Lamoreaux, who founded the pioneering Linden Street Brewery in Oakland with his wife Alice. The Old Kan Classic goes down easy with a good hoppy kick of an IPA. The Old Kan Light Cream Ale is brewed with corn, and is light and refreshing.
Order at the counter, then take a seat until your food is ready. There’s even a stack of classic board games you can bring to your table.
The OK Fried Chicken Sandwich ($14) is a golden, battered piece of pounded chicken thigh snuggled inside a sesame roll with vinegar slaw, hot oil and aioli. It’s super crunchy and the vinegar slaw really wakes it up. You can get it with a side organic greens salad ($1), which are primo plucked leaves dressed in a champagne vinegar-honey vinaigrette.
The OK Cheeseburger ($14.50) with tater tots ($2 extra) is a thin patty, cooked more well done than my husband would have preferred, with a cap of melty cheddar on top. The tots are addictive – their crisp exterior giving way to an almost custardy interior.
The real star is the Fish & Chips ($16). Two huge pieces of fish arrive with a substantial crisp armor. In fact, if you glanced at it quickly, you might mistake it for crackling pig skin. I don’t know if the kitchen twice-fries it to create this knockout crunch, but it sure tastes like it is. This is probably the best rendition of fish and chips I’ve ever had.
Smack Sauce, a vibrant vinegar-fish sauce-cilantro sauce, is like a Southeast Asian version of British malt vinegar. Also alongside is a ramekin of oyster mayo. It’s a little like Green Goddess, but with a briny note. Dip the fish and French fries into one or the other with abandon — and all is good in the world.
You can’t ask for a better Sunday than that.